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BATTLE FOR PEREGRINO HOUSE
Paul Obi argues that Gershom Bassey holds the ace
In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger, I do not shrink from that responsibility – I welcome it – John Fitzgerald Kennedy
As the build up to the 2023 governorship election in Cross River State gathers momentum, the stakes are high and critical. And given the degradation of governance in that state, a repeat of the megalomania and the All Progressives Congress (APC) neo-feudal politics in the state will amount to self-destruct. Under Governor Ben Ayade, the choruses that often bequeath Cross River as a flourishing state have moved from the rein of a frontline state to a shambolic ruin. In all facets of governance, Cross River has nosedived with regret and shame, while occupants of Peregrino House dance to the rhythm of quabalistic perfidy. Every nook and cranny, that Cross Riverians turn to, home and abroad, it’s about questions of failure and shame, a deplorable state of affairs unknown in the annals of the state’s history.
In effect, that is a cogent reason why the next gubernatorial election is definitely crucial. Crucial in the sense that, no semblance of and linkage to Ayade should ever come near Cross River’s seat of power. There should be every effort by all Cross Riverians, even the diasporic ones to depart from and erase the last seven years tragedy that has brought us not laurels but odium. It’s a public duty that every citizen of that state should consider topmost as the 2023 general election beckons. Because, with the current state of things, it has been an ill-fated trip for Cross River since 2015.
In replacing Ayade’s sad orgy of misgovernance, there is every need to deconstruct and interrogate such candidate(s) in order to avoid the pitfalls of the incestuous bliss and blush brought about by the administration. It is a departure that every citizen in the once-loved state should crave for and embrace with nostalgia. Granted, Sen. Bassey Otu, propped up by Ayade has emerged as the consensus candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC); the 2023 governorship poll will therefore not be a walk in the park. Otu is a tough fighter. But the power dynamics of Cross River State does not have a place for the kind of kill-quick politics that APC plays. Cross Riverians across board have continually rejected APC and its monstrous broom symbol. A repeat of that rejection is somehow in the offing in 2023.
By 2019 general election, Cross River State had the Minister of Niger-Delta Affairs – Usani Usani; Chief Justice of the Federation (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen (rtd), Chief of Naval Staff (CAS), Vice Admiral Ekwe Ibok Ete Ibas (rtd), Director General, Women Development Centre – Barr Mary Ekpere-Eta; Chairman of the Niger-Delta Development Commission (NDDC) – Sen. Victor Ndoma-Egba, SAN; SA to the President on Prosecution – Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, among other strategic positions. At the end of the elections, PDP resoundingly defeated APC, leaving the party with only one Federal House of Representatives seat of Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency through protest votes and deliberate anti-party activities. What this holds is that the people of Cross River State have no partnership with APC as a political party. More reasons why PDP still has an edge despite Ayade’s defection.
Thus, ahead of the 2023 gubernatorial race, the political calculus points to a PDP victory particularly if Sen. Gershom Bassey is the standard bearer of the party. Gershom is not new to the political terrain of the state. Over the last 20 years, he has been part of the centrifugal force that has pulled Cross River forward as a state with huge potential. As part of the Strategic Policy Committee (SPC), Gershom was one of the policy wonks that tilted Cross River to sound policy initiation and implementation. As the Chairman of Cross River State Water Board, his legendary contributions in elevating that agency remains a masterpiece in governance architecture.
On policy intelligence, and given his understanding of how government works and policies implemented, Gershom is arguably the best pick for the state’s top job. Since becoming a senator in 2015, Gershom has widened his horizon and equipped himself with the requisite skills needed to retake Cross River from the current doldrum to an economic hub. With one of the last surviving forest reserves in Africa; highest second producer of Cocoa in Nigeria after Ondo State; palm oil, and other raw materials, it will be incumbent on Gershom and the PDP to be more creative than being lazy and stealing forest resources and timber in the state as it’s presently being done. Already, Gershom has conceptualized his campaign slogan to be “re-imagine, revive and restore.” There can be no thematic focus and blueprint better than that in the fight to revive and take Cross River from this monumental drift.
Politically, Gershom is electorally competitive as history has proven. Having defeated Sen. Bassey Otu in two rounds of senatorial elections in 2015 and 2019, Cross River PDP do not need a soothsayer on who can overrun APC and Sen. Bassey Otu. In terms of delegates count, Gershom is far ahead, having consolidated his grip in Central Senatorial District, the South and parts of the North. From Boki, Ikom, Abi, Yakurr, Bekwara, Ogoja, Obanliku, Biase, Odukpani, Calabar Municpal; Calabar South, Gershom is the leading PDP aspirant. Although, the influence of former Governor, Sen. Liyel Imoke still stands tall to rely upon, more politicking lies ahead of the PDP primary in the state.
Overall, elections are unpredictable, likewise candidates. No one is sure of what winners will do. But at least, with Gershom, Cross River can return to its former stead as one of Nigeria’s frontline states.
Obi is a journalist, researcher and fellow at the Abuja School of Social and Political Thoughts interested in media, elections and democracy