By Nsan Ndoma-Neji, Calabar

Top Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, supporters in Cross River State have threatened a protest vote in favour of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in 2023, if the party fails to zone the governorship ticket to the South senatorial district.

The PDP stalwarts were reacting to the emergence of Prince Bassey Otu of the APC from the South and a recent statement by the state PDP Chairman, Mr. Venatius Ikem, that the 2023 governorship race should not be zoned to any specific senatorial zone of the state, saying, “I still stand by zoning by elimination, because it is what we have practised before. I don’t know why people are making a big deal out of it.”

The former member representing Abi\Yakurr federal constituency in the House of Representatives, Mr. Bassey Ewa, said, “In 1999, after Donald Duke, Liyel Imoke, and after Liyel Imoke Ben Ayade. As a party, it is agreed it should go back to the South. Courtesy demands that we go back to the South and start from where we started the first time. You use the importance of the past to understand the present and then predict the future. You and I were here in Cross River State in 1999; Donald Duke was an unpopular candidate. The people of Southern senatorial district had in mind then Prof. Eyo Etim Nyong. He was a household name. Even in PDP, we were afraid of him, because he is a name that is already a household name. Duke just came. Nobody knew him. But it took just one mistake and what was that? They took away the ticket of APP from Eyo Etim Nyong and gave it to somebody who was not from the South

“In fact, it didn’t take one week before everything changed and of course by the providence of Almighty God, Duke won. That is what I see playing out again. Unfortunately, it is those that should advise us well that are even making the mistake. The APC has done the right thing. They have got Bassey Otu. For me it is a lesson for PDP to say come let us sit back and address the issues that are coming up within the party. I read a piece, a paramount ruler said if the has good intention, it would have been to say every other candidate who is not from the South should step down. All the delegates that are going to vote, select somebody among the 13 from the South and vote for them. That’s why I’m in support of the Obong of Calabar’s statement. It speaks volume.”

He pointed out that “the fact that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria did not talk about it, has not excluded zoning. PDP has zoning. It is in the constitution, and that’s why I was very happy when I heard Wike, the revered governor of Rivers State talking about it. He speaks about the PDP constitution on zoning. There is zoning. I have been in the party as a caucus member from 1999 till date. I was privileged to be elected the first majority leader. We have met and agreed that there should be rotation. When this senatorial district takes, the next time it should be the other one. If we do that I don’t think APC will win us.”

On who he thinks can match Otu of the APC, Ewa, who was also one-time Speaker of the state House of Assembly said, “Gershom Bassey is a seasoned politician that has ran elections a couple of times and won against Prince Otu. Gershom Bassey is a household name. He has been in politics even before my dear brother and friend, distinguished Senator Prince Otu came into politics. In Gershom Bassey I see those qualities of Prof. Eyo Etim Nyong then. He has touched lives across the state, not limited to the Southern senatorial district and therefore he stands a better chance to give Senator Bassey Otu a good fight. So if the PDP is smart, we have our choice to be Senator Gershom Bassey to give us the victory we want in the state.”

On his part, the former Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General of the state, Barr. Attah Ochinke, said, “We in PDP expected APC to come up with a strong candidate. Our contention has been that we should also come up with a candidate that should supersede the candidate of the APC in terms of competence and capacity and in all the indices that people desire in a governor. It is my personal opinion that the choice of Prince Otu from the Southern senatorial district reflects the general geo-political sentiment of people that the governorship should come to the Southern senatorial district of Cross River State.

“I am certain that my party members in the PDP are taking note of this to ensure that we make no mistake on the choice of our own candidate. We are not bound by what APC has done, we are going to run our own race and the choice of our candidate according to how we believe it will be in the ultimate interest of the people of Cross River State. But certainly the emergence of Prince Otu is reflective of the mood that the Southern senatorial district should take the governorship.

“The PDP is not in the politics of matching what the APC has done. We are in the politics to move Cross River State ahead. We are not going to be reactive to the moves and steps or strategies of APC. Like I said earlier, we are going to run our own race according to how we believe it will give us victory and that victory will impact on the people of Cross River State in terms of good governance. We are taking note of the developments in APC.”

A onetime member of the House of Representatives,who represented Calabar South/Akpabuyo/Bakassi federal constituency, Dr Patrick Ene Okon, stated, “There will be a very big undoing by the party, PDP, to take a candidate outside the Southern senatorial district. Remember what happened in 1999, when the defunct APP dumped its candidate from the South and went for a candidate from the North. We in the South, including myself, carried out a protest vote and worked for the PDP, which Donald Duke was the flag bearer and we won in all the local government areas in the South apart from Biase. In Akpabuyo, where I hold sway, Duke had 59,000 votes, while our APP candidate, Mark Ukpo, had a little over a thousand votes; and if the PDP makes that mistake, that is exactly what will happen in 2023.”

On those in the South who can face the APC in 2023, he said, “We have very strong aspirants from the South; we have Gershom Bassey, Daniel Asuquo, Arthur Jarvis and others. The masses do not want any person Governor Ben Ayade has brought. Prince is my friend but in this election, the mere fact that he is Governor Ben Ayade’s candidate, I will not support him and that is the position of many people in the state, except the PDP does not pick a Southerner as candidate.”

A former member of the state House of Assembly, Hon Maurice Edem, popularly known as Big Baba, said, “I don’t think my PDP is thinking of not picking a candidate from the South. I don’t think so. The party is very conversant with the political situation in the state. But I want to warn that there will be a very big revolt or protest vote if they want to take a candidate outside the South. In the South we have formidable candidates. I remember what happened in 1998\1999. We had three parties then – the AD, APP and PDP. Initially, APP picked Prof. Eyo Etim Nyong, as its candidate, PDP picked Donald Duke as its candidate, but because APP dropped Eyo Etim Nyong, we turned our votes for PDP and Donald Duke. Same will happen if the PDP makes that mistake.”


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