The Battle for the Political Soul of CR Central Senatorial District – Putting the Record Straight

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Preamble
There has been an interesting on-going debate as the 2019 elections approaches about who should be the rightful candidate to represent Cross River State Central in the upper legislative chamber (The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria). The Nigerian Senate is the highest law making body in Nigeria, and as is obtainable in every  presidential system of government, it is the best and brightest brains that are elected into the upper legislative chamber. It is not a house for jesters and comedians, not a place for inexperienced newcomers in the game of politics!

It is for this reason that in the United States of America for example, you have veterans of the game of politics populating the revered upper legislative chamber at different political epochs! In the past, you had the likes of Robert C. Byrd, Daniel K. Inouye, Strom Thurmond, Edward Kennedy, and the highly respected John McCain.

We’ve also maintained that tradition in the central senatorial district, as Cross Riverians from across board and Nigerians all over the world can attest to. It is for this excellent representation and quality donated to Nigeria that we had the privilege of Sen. Victor Ndoma-Egba emerging as the leader of the Nigerian Senate until 2015!  We have a track record of having our best and brightest represent us, we’re not going back to Egypt!

 

Political Structure/Representation from Inception of the Fourth Republic in 1999

The recognised statutory political structures in Nigeria are its six (6) geopolitical zones, thirty six (36) states, and three (3) senatorial zones structure. Within each senatorial zone are federal constituencies allocated according to the estimated population of any area in question. In the Central Senatorial District of Cross River State for instance, there are three (3) federal constituencies which are Boki/Ikom, Etung/Obubra, and Abi/Yakurr federal constituencies.

From inception of the fourth republic in 1999, Ikom/Boki federal constituency prominently held the senate seat for a record sixteen (16) years from 1999 – 2015. Sen. M. T. Mbu Jnr. was elected senator in 1999 – 2003 and then Sen. Victor Ndoma-Egba SAN, CON, CFR replaced him in 2003 – 2015. The Ikom/Boki federal constituency therefore had an unfettered 16years in the senate!

In 2015, former Governor Liyel Imoke felt it was unjust for one federal constituency to hold the senate seat for more than a period of 16years and for the purposes of equity and fairness supported Sen. John Owan-Enoh to replace Sen. Ndoma-Egba in the upper legislative chamber in order to ensure that the senate position is rotated between the three federal constituencies that makeup the central senatorial zone. Sen. John Owan-Enoh has long ported to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), however, if Senator John were still in the PDP, the political establishment within the PDP in CRS would’ve given him a second term seeing that a second term in the PDP fold is a given. One then wonders, why anyone will be advocating for the senate seat to be taken out of the Obubra/Etung federal constituency and a return of the same to Ikom/Boki federal constituency having held the position for a record sixteen years!

It is therefore, only natural, that the Obubra/Etung federal constituency be allowed another four years in the senate. It is the least thing to do, especially if we’re truly considering equity and fairness in the distribution of the dividends of democracy and equitable sharing of political positions and representation! When that’s done, we can then move the senatorial seat to the Abi/Yakurr federal constituency to create the required political balance needed in political representation within the senatorial zone.

 

Unwritten Misconception of the Old Obubra/Old Ikom Accord

There has been wide speculation by those who intend to benefit from the rumour that there exist an unwritten accord by the people of Old Obubra and Old Ikom, which in the course of writing this article and through findings from many stakeholders and the political class in the state has been proven to be a misconception widely held and popularised by those who intend to skew the debate and political calculation in their favour. There exist no such accord and/or zoning that stipulates that power be shared between the two non-existent blocs of Old Ikom/Old Obubra. The understanding is that Ikom and Obubra were the two mother LGA that gave birth to Abi,Yakurr, Etung and Boki LGA respectively and as such power be shared accordingly between the two mother local government areas. This however, has not been the case as power sharing is now done on the basis of the statutory federal constituencies in the senatorial zone!

In looking at how political appointments have been shared and elective position emerged traditionally from the senatorial zone, one can see clearly that there was and has been no accord, agreement, nor political pack previously entered into by the stakeholders that speaks to the now myth or narrative, what exist now especially from the fourth republic in 1999 is the political direction earlier mentioned orchestrated by Gov. Liyel Imoke. To buttress this point further, recall that in the botched transition of General Ibrahim Babangida in 1992, Liyel Imoke (Abi) and Clement Ebri (Yakurr) both men from Old Obubra extraction emerged senator and governor of the National Republican Convention (NRC).  This certainly does not reflect any Old Obubra/Old Ikom accord whatsoever!

The picture of political representation and appointments in the central senatorial zone from fourth republic in 1999 was viz: Ikom/Boki federal constituency produced its first senator in the person of Sen. M. T. Mbu Jnr and Obubra/Etung had a deputy governor in the person of Chief John Oyom Okpa (even though for a brief two year period), and the Abi/Yakurr federal constituency had Liyel Imoke as SA to the President on Utility and Power. These were the key appointments in the senatorial district and there represented the three federal constituencies in the senatorial zone without recourse to any accord whatsoever! When in 2003 the political equation changed as a result of new alignments and the death of Chief John Okpa, Senator M. T. Mbu Jnr got replaced by Sen. Victor Ndoma-Egba SAN, CON, CFR, with Ikom/Boki federal constituency maintaining the senatorial slot, Abi/Yakurr had Mr Liyel Imoke becoming minister and the same federal constituency had Rt. Hon. Bassey Ewa as Speaker, Cross River State House of Assembly, Obubra/Etung federal constituency was vacant with no strategic appointment. Again, when in 2007, Sen. Liyel Imoke became governor, the Abi/Yakurr federal constituency moved several steps ahead in political representation, the Ikom/Boki federal constituency had Sen. Ndoma-Egba return to the Senate and became Deputy Senate Leader, while the Obubra/Etung federal constituency remained loudly vacant. As if that was not enough, Gov. Imoke had a second term in 2011 from the Abi/Yakurr federal constituency, Sen. Ndoma-Egba was returned for a record third term and became Senate Leader from Ikom/Boki federal constituency, meanwhile, the Obubra/Etung federal constituency was worrisomely without any strategic key political representation in the state. This accounted for the very loud cries especially from the Obubra angle which saw themselves as being short-changed in the political game until Gov. Liyel Imoke in his wisdom shifted the senatorial slot to Etung/Obubra federal constituency through Sen. John Owan-Enoh thereby creating the needed political balance within the senatorial district. Having achieved this required balance especially within the PDP, one would expect that the Etung/Obubra federal constituency be allowed to continue after which Abi/Yakuur will be supported to produce a senator also in line with that rotational arrangement, after all, Abi/Yakurr federal constituency had Liyel Imoke as senator in 1992 and should not be overly agitated to have the senate returned to it yet as the Etung/Obubra federal constituency is yet to enjoy its statutory second term let alone the wholesome sixteen (16) years enjoyed by Ikom/Boki federal constituency! As we now know, Sen. John Owan-Enoh has long left the PDP, otherwise, the political establishment in the state would’ve supported Enoh-Owan for a second term in office. However, having left the PDP, it is just natural that the PDP still throws the senate slot in the Etung/Obubra federal constituency where the incumbent senator hails from and from where the opposition ticket will very likely emerge from.

Way Forward

The PDP in Cross River must be warned of the clear consequences of returning the senatorial ticket to Ikom/Boki federal constituency which has so far held the senate seat for a record period of sixteen (16) years otherwise it would lose the senate seat to the opposition APC in 2019, which seemed to be well prepared and the incumbent Senator John Owan-Enoh working assiduously with PDP collaborators according to insider information gathered from political players, observers and pundits, to clinch a second term in the senate. The PDP in Cross River State must be told that the years of PDP impunity and political rascality are over as the opposition APC is well positioned to benefit from their impunity and political insensitivity come 2019 if it decides to return the senate ticket to Ikom/Boki federal constituency.

If the PDP is likely to win the election, it must allow the Etung/Obubra federal constituency to produce its candidate for 2019, where the incumbent Senator John Owan-Enoh hails from and strategize properly to get the support of the Abi/Yakuur and Ikom/Boki federal constituencies. Anything short of this will be a smooth sail for the opposition in the state.

Kennedy Nsan
Writes from OAU,
Ile-Ife
Osun State

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