From Judex Okoro, Calabar
Cross River All Progressives Congress (APC) stakeholders from the central senatorial district have kicked against Governor Ben Ayade’s pronouncement of zoning governorship to the South ahead of 2023.
Ayade had in different fora stated categorically that it is the turn of the southern senatorial district to produce the next governor that would take over from him in 2023.
The Governor had argued vehemently that the state has operated the zoning principle since 1999 and, therefore, it would unfair, unjust and against equity to jettison zoning at this crucial stage, adding that he is also “a product of zoning.”
But barely a month after Ayade re-stated his support for back-to-south at a rally held at Mary Slessor Avenue Calabar to welcome defectors to the All Progressives Congress (APC), there are indications that he may have quietly backed down on the push for south as some stakeholders are said to have raised eye-brows against such moves, describing it as anti-central and not in the best interest of the party.
The stakeholders are said to have spoken up against it in separate meetings with the Governor where they advised him to pipe low on zoning and allow all politicians to jostle for it while he watches from behind.
The stakeholders, especially from the central senatorial district, are piqued that their district, which parades political heavyweights including the former Senate Leader, Sen Victor Ndoma Egba, former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Uguru Usani, Sen John Owan Enoh, Barr Okoi Obono Obla, former board chairman of NPA, Akin Ricketts, and the incumbent Reps member representing Yakurr/Abi federal constituency, Hon Dr Alex Egbona, were sidelined in the zoning arrangement even when they have contributed to building the party before Ayade defected on May 20, 2021.
It was learnt that most of the above-listed personages are interested in taking a shot at the governorship race and have been making wide consultations across the state.
Our correspondent gathered that, during the Yuletide, the like of Pastor Usani Uguru Usani, Sen John Owan Enoh and Chris Agara, Ayade’s close ally, had series of meetings with their core supporters just as they doled out Christmas gifts to their communities and party members, an indication that they are coming soon.
It was learnt that the above names, all governorship aspirants from central, have made up their mind to throw their hearts into the ring, no matter the consequence, claiming that they were not consulted and cannot be bound by’Oga’ decision to zone only to the south.
To douse the tension in the central, sources said the Governor has already commenced discussions with some of the stakeholders and has had meetings with some of them on the need to sheathed their sword as every interest would be accommodated as the political processes unfold.
The source revealed that the Governor had gone a step further to contact Sen Ndoma Egba to initiate an-house meeting where zoning issues and other subtle disagreements would be sorted out amicably before dabbling into congresses to elect party standard-bearers ahead of 2023.
The source said the alleged commissioning of Sen Ndoma Egba to carry out a peace talk is an indication that Ayade may have conceded to competitive contest, thereby abandoning the zone-to-south mantra which has rent the air in the last two months.
Speaking with our correspondent, an APC chieftain, Chief John Agbor Agbor, from the Ikom chapter, said the central district is unhappy with the public pronouncement by Ayade zoning governorship to the south as it is capable of rocking the fragile peace in the party.
Agbor said: “I can tell you that critical stakeholders of the party are aggrieved by the Governor’s singular action with regard to zoning and this is already generating crisis and bad blood between south and central.
“We had expected a meeting of state caucus where issues affecting the party after the last congress including zoning would have been discussed extensively. Availing every opportunity to pronounce zoning to the south means forclosing the electoral process against everybody in our zone. It is undemocratic and we would not abide by it.
“When the Governor defected to APC, he promised to consult and he has reneged on that. INEC has released time table on party activities ahead of 2023 and it behoves him to initiate caucuses’ meetings to decide on the next line of action. So, now is the auspicious time except if they want APC to go into another round of crisis.”
Also speaking, a member of the state working committe of APC, who don’t want his name in print, said he is totally against exclusively zoning governorship to the south and excluding central because it would generate more internal problem.
The party official from central revealed that Owan, Usani and Agara are all oiling their political machinery to run for governorship and are only waiting for the APC national convention in February so that they can roll out their campaigns in full swing, adding that denying such calibre of politicians opportunity to contest would be suicidal for the party.
He added that APC does not engage in exclusive zoning but believe in democracy tenets which give everybody and every segment the right to aspire to any political office as long you meet the constitutional provisions.
According to him, the party needs the best material to run for the governorship and every position because PDP is very strong and ready to challenge APC on all fronts.
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