If the by-election for the Obudu Constituency was a test of the ability of those vying for the APC’s governorship ticket from the north to show they can deliver the state in 2019, it was a test they failed.
In that by-election held on August 11, the PDP candidate, Mrs. Abbey Ukpukpen, scored 12,530 votes to beat the All Progressive Congress’ (APC) candidate, Mr Adah Ishamali who polled 4,349 votes.
This defeat has prompted APC chieftains, especially those from Cross River’s Southern Senatorial District, to ask the party to shelve the party’s zoning agreement that would see the governorship ticket being zoned to aspirant from Cross River’s Northern Senatorial District.
Their argument is that in the by-election, none of the aspirants from the North: Hon. Paul Adah, Barr. Venatius Ikem, Hon. Tony Ushie, Comrade Odey Ochicha and John Upen Odey could even organise resources to win one ward for the APC. The logic goes: if they cannot even win their wards, how can they win the state in 2019?
There is also the issue of numbers. In terms of registered voters, the Northern Senatorial District has by far the smallest number, while Cross River South possesses nearly 50% of registered voters in the state. It stands to reason that a candidate from the South will be in a better position to win the governorship.
By itself, however, merely being from the South is not enough. At a stakeholders meeting of APC in Cross River South, Comrade Iso Bassey Edim said: “the South must put it’s best foot forward by producing a person with proven record of capacity, integrity and acceptability across the state to emerge as the governorship candidate of the party.”
Whoever the APC decide on must be a clear departure from the incompetence and corruption of the Ayade administration, and not just a continuation of same. Such a person must have the capacity to recover and restore the promise of Cross River as the people’s paradise, and its status as a top tourism destination both within Nigeria and globally. Nothing else is good enough.
What currently exists in Cross River is a state run by Ben Ayade’s unelected and unaccountable brother, Frank, who has been given free reign over the state’s resources. Cross River has also become a state overrun by cultists, leading a rise in kidnapping and robbery. Many have now moved their businesses to neighbouring Akwa Ibom in response to the heightened insecurity.
For these and several other issues, there is an urgent need for a candidate with the right track record to put Cross River back on track. One option the APC should consider is Eyo Ekpo.
After a career as a successful lawyer, Eyo Ekpo joined the Bureau of Public Enterprise. While there, he led the design and implementation of the electric power sector reform programme; and later laid the groundwork for the successful privatisation of Eleme Petrochemicals Limited.
In 2003, he answered the call to serve his beloved Cross River as Attorney General in the Donald Duke administration. In that role he instituted several reforms to reposition the Ministry of Justice to better serve the people. Chief among these reforms was creating the Department of Citizen Rights.
He went on to perform creditably as a Commissioner for Market Competition and Rates at the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), a role in which he was responsible for the creation of efficient and competitive market structures through fair pricing in the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry.
He returned to the private sector as a Business Development with General Electric Transportation, playing a leading role in the signing of a concession with the Federal Government to construct narrow-gauge rail.
As a man who has been on both sides of the table, Eyo Ekpo understands how to position the state for prosperity and reverse the last few years of decline. His administration would mark a return to the days when Cross River worked, and was seen to work. His administration would #RecoverAndRestore a state that at the moment seems to be racing towards destruction.
It is quite true that there are murmurings of discontent about Ayade, but this by itself is not enough to unseat him. Only a credible candidate can. If we are to take Comrade Edim at his word that Cross River South should put its best foot forward, that foot belongs to Eyo Ekpo.