There are speculations that Senator Florence Ita-Giwa may have started subtle moves to reclaim the leadership position of Cross River south, just a few days after her decision to return to the PDP. She had left the PDP to the APC.
On Wednesday, the former presidential adviser had called a meeting of some persons from the senatorial district believed to be her allies, and also invited the leader of the 7-Alive Initiative, Chief Asuquo Ekpenyong as part of the meeting.
In attendance also were Asuquo Cowan, Orok Ironbar, Bassey Mkposung, George Bassey, Eback Tony Boco, among others, according to a newspaper report, which also claimed Ekpenyong had pilloried a former governor of the state, Donald Duke, at the meeting.
TNN learnt that the meeting may have been convened as part of efforts by Ita-Giwa to become leader of the south. She was the assumed leader of the senatorial district while in the PDP as senator representing the zone. She defected to the APC in the early days of the present government of Prof Ben Ayade.
While she was away in the APC, Ekpenyong had floated the 7-Alive Initiative, a group that has been canvassing for support for support for the governor’s re-election in 2019. The group believes that Ayade should be supported to win a re-election.
Since the birth of the Initiative and the consequent rallies organised by the group, Ekpenyong has been seen as the leader of the south, especially within the ranks of the PDP. Major stakeholders from the south, especially in the PDP, belong to this group.
The entrepreneur and chattered banker had said at various fora, that he was committed to the Ayade re-election project and that he already had the backing and support of well-meaning sons of the senatorial district.
The belief is that Ita-Giwa may have been threatened by the rising leadership profile of Ekpenyong as the emerging head of the senatorial district, considering the followership he now enjoys in his capacity as initiator and leader of the 7-Alive. Ayade himself is believed to have made glowing remarks about Ekpenyong’s initiative in galvanising the south for his re-election.
Ita-Giwa’s invitation of Ekpenyong as the only major leader from the south for the meeting was therefore seen by Mr Orok Ekeng Ekong, an opinion leader as a move to gradually position herself as leader of the senatorial district.
Ekong said Ita-Giwa needed the presence of Ekpenyong to give credence to the meeting. But he was much more furious that a newspaper report of proceedings at the meeting claimed that Ekpenyong had pilloried his in-law and former governor, Duke, for not supporting Ayade’s re-election.
Ekpenyong was also quoted in the newspaper report to have castigated Cowan for his alleged role in mediating between two APC gubernatorial aspirants from the south, before the party’s primaries.
Besides, the report also created the impression that Cowan was furious with Ekpenyong and even said that Ekpenyong was not from Cross River State.
Ekong, who said he was privy to discussions at the meeting wondered why people would always insinuate that an Efik son or daughter was not from Cross River, once the person had risen to the top.
He gave instances, where the likes of Duke, Ita-Giwa herself and many others were accused of not being from Cross River, at a time that they rose to positions of stardom.
He said: “I was privy to discussions at the meeting in question and I can tell you that what the newspaper reported, especially as it has to do with comments by Asuquo Ekpenyong is not true. maybe I will agree with the reporter that Ita-Giwa is trying to find her way into the heart of the governor so that she can be taken as the leader of the senatorial district and then later, as deputy governor. But we are watching and waiting to see how this comes to pass.
“What is however shocking to me is that anytime somebody rises to the top from Efik land, the next thing people will begin to say is that the man or woman is not from Cross River. I don’t know how this started, but it is unfortunate.”
Ekpenyong himself would not want to comment on the issues in question. When TNN reached him on Thursday, he only confirmed that he was invited to the meeting and that he also attended it, but said he was too busy with important business and state related issues affecting the senatorial district, to talk about the matter.
Ita-Giwa herself did not take TNN’s calls when she was contacted for comments.