The battle grounds for the 2019 governorship election in Cross River state would certainly be the central and southern senatorial districts. Interestingly, regardless of what anybody would say, any governorship candidate that can grab substantial votes from the two zones will cruise to victory. This indication emerged after
heavyweights were picked either as governorship or National Assembly candidates of the leading political parties from the two zones in the state. The two zones have always ruled the roost in the past and the 2019 elections won't be different.
Senator John Owan Enoh's entry into the governorship race on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC) changed the political equation in the state and even rattled the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) camp as he is seen as a very formidable opponent that could give incumbent governor, Ben Ayade, a big fight. The fact that Enoh emerged from the central zone indicates that the zone would be one of the battle grounds where the governorship election would be fought.
His supporters in the zone, which has a very strong APC base, will go all out to ensure he emerges victorious, while supporters of other candidates in the zone will equally take the fight to their candidates' opponent in the zone.
Although Ayade comes from the northern senatorial district, his return in 2019 will be largely determined by the events that will play out in the central and southern senatorial districts during the governorship election.
In the north, he is going to face a tough challenge from opposition APC which is waxing stronger in the zone, especially in Yala local government area where Ayade's former security adviser, Jude Ngaji, recently defected from PDP to APC and clinched the House of Reps ticket for the Ogoja/Yala Federal Constituency.
The envisaged situation in the north notwithstanding, the fate of the governorship candidates of the political parties will be decided mainly by these two senatorial districts. The political clout or electoral value of those who are running for various elective positions in the two senatorial districts will, to a large extent, influence the outcome of the governorship election.
Political heavyweights in the central zone such as Senator Victor Ndoma Egba of APC, Alex Egbona of APC, Sandy Onor a.k.a. Caterpillar of PDP, John Gaul Lebo of PDP and in the south, Prince Bassey Otu of APC and Gershom Bassey of PDP, all in the National Assembly race, would deploy their political structures and support base to determine the outcome of the governorship election; likewise, House of Assembly candidates in the political parties.
The numerical strengths of the two senatorial districts in terms of number of local government areas also place them above the northern senatorial district which has only five local government areas. The central has six while the south has seven. Besides, APC has a very strong base in the central, with key party leaders such as former governor, Chief Clement Ebri, Wilfred Inah, Barrister Utum Eteng, Cletus Obun among others holding sway with their teeming supporters.
And in the south, APC leaders such as Prof. Eyo Etim Nyong, Bishop Alex Ukam, Hilliard Eta, Dr. Ntete Esu, High Chief Edem Duke, Ambassador Nya Asuquo, Sir Maurice Effiwatt, among others would pull their weights to influence the outcome of the governorship election. PDP equally has big wigs in the two zones who have teeming supporters that could turn the table against their political opponent.
Zoning could also determine where the pendulum of victory could swing. Though it is not a serious issue in APC, it is in PDP where the north are enjoying their turn and are to complete it in 2023 if the incumbent Governor Ben Ayade wins in 2019.
Southern PDP leaders under the aegis of 7 Alive group have made it clear that it will be their turn to produce a governor in 2023 and as such they have thrown their weights behind Ayade for his re-election in 2019. The resolute stand of the southern group that Ayade must have his way in 2019 to pave way for their turn in 2023 will greatly influence the governorship election. The group, however, have their match in the Southern APC Leaders group that are supporting Owan Enoh's governorship bid. The APC group comprises stalwarts of the party in the south.
Because of its large voting population and the dominant political inclinations of the electorate, the south has always decided the winner of governorship election in the state. The cosmopolitan city of Calabar brims with an enlightened electorate who may not easily be hoodwinked by sweet-talking politicians to vote against their consciences. Most of the electorate here are very enlightened and discerning. Donald Duke got a paltry 8,000 votes from the north in one of the elections yet he went ahead to win with massive votes from the south and a substantial number of votes from the central.
The large number of aspirants for various elective political offices in the central and southern senatorial zones shows the strength of the zones in terms of determining the outcome of the governorship election. In the south, at least four aspirants sought the APC governorship ticket. They were Prof. Etim Nyong, High Chief Edem Duke and envoy Nya Asuquo and Emmanuel Essien. The last two later stepped down. There is also Mr. Eyo Ekpo who is in the race on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). He is from the southern senatorial district. In other words, some of the leading party stalwarts are from these two zones.
Aspirants who lost in the primaries may collapse their political structures in support of the candidates that emerged from the primaries. For this to happen, the disposition of affected aspirants will be the main determinant. However, supporters of aggrieved APC governorship aspirants in the two zones who lost out in the party's primaries will also influence the outcome of the governorship election if the aspirants refuse to embrace reconciliation or be pacified.
With the wealth of the state concentrated more in the south and the central senatorial zones, they are bound to influence what happens during the governorship election. Money plays a major role in an election in our clime where vote buying is being entrenched. Money is used to oil the party machinery. A candidate without enough financial capacity could suffer setback when pitched against a candidate who is a moneybag. That is the nature of our politics.
Above all, the alignments and realignments that would be witnessed in the two zones during the impending campaigns would go a long way in deciding who wins. It could be a two- horse race between Governor Ben Ayade and Senator John Owan Enoh, though Eyo Ekpo of the SDP could cause some ripples during the governorship election