These are indeed trying times for Senator Rose Oko, the senator representing the Cross River Northern senatorial district of Cross River State. The odds seem to be against her re-election dreams. Her constituents say they do not want her again as their senator; they argue that neither has she attracted development to the senatorial district, nor do they have access to her as their senator. One of them is Mr Igba Raphael Igba, a chieftain of the ruling PDP from Obanliku. He said in a telephone interview that the youths have taken a position on her and that even the party won't go against it, except they do not want to win the 2019 election.
But is the senator truly not accessible? TNN made efforts to confirm this. For about a week, we made calls to her and sent text messages to her. She did not pick the calls, neither did she respond to the text messages.
A few days after, we tried to connect with her on whatsapp. The only response we got was when she asked what we wanted to talk to her about. She was told. But till date, she has not said anything again, even after reading all the whatsapp messages sent to her.
Here are excerpts of the Igba interview.
Let's talk about Cross River north and the 2019 politics
I am from Obanliku Local Government Area of Cross River State. I am a stakeholder in the politics of Cross River North Senatorial District and Cross River State as a whole. As stakeholders, we have analysed the politics of Cross River State and we have come to the conclusion that in 2019, we want young people to take over governance. We have been following the politics of the state since 1999 and it is time for us to support the youths to govern us.
Take a look at representation of the Cross River North senatorial district since 1999. How has it been?
Kanu Agabi was elected in 1999 and was later appointed as minister for justice by the federal government and Musa Adede succeeded him and was there for four years. In 2003, Senator Greg Ngaji became a senator representing the senatorial district. He was a very dynamic and wonderful man; a man that the people loved so much. He delivered his campaign promises to the people, a man that whenever he appeared, the people listened to him.
Let me use myself, I am not saying this because I am being interviewed now; I am a living witness. He was a senator, a serving senator and I was in Abuja there and I went to see him. There was crowd in his living room. He sent for me. I am not from Yala. I was asked to climb upstairs and I went directly into his bedroom and he was right on his bed and he was talking to me right there. It has never been so. That is someone who is transparent, who did beyond our imagination as a leader. He continued till 2011. If you go to the north today, that is one name that is being talked about for good. The man performed beyond imagination. In 2011, Senator Ben Ayade succeeded him. As I speak, the whole northern senatorial district, it was free healthcare for everyone.
Senator Rose Oko has been there. But what we are saying now is that it is time for the youths. Precisely on May 20th, I will be 37 years of age. She has been in power when I was in primary school. This is the same person that wants to still continue to be in office. We are saying no. She has tried her best, but we want the youths this time.
In the last three years, how will you rate Rose Oko, objectively?
I am from Obanliku and I am a grassrooter. I must be realistic to you, I am not saying it because of politics. I have not seen her for once in Obanliku where I come from. I have not seen any impact in Obanliku. I have not seen any development, anything, to say that this is what Rose Oko has done for Obanliku. That is one of the local governments that she represents. I have not seen anything to show that this is from the senator representing the northern part of the state. It is possible for you to come and interview the people in the villages. They will tell you that this woman has not been there. The woman has failed us as a people and I am telling you the practical truth. If given the opportunity, we have young people who will take over. I am not saying that Rose Oko has not worked, but I am saying that where I come from, there is nothing to show.
What did you expect from her in the first place?
Quality representation. Let her come and tell us what she has done. We sent her there to go and make laws and to bring development to our people. That is lacking .
Are you saying that in three years, she has not done anything?
Her impact has not been felt in Obanliku where I come from and that is the truth. Just go round and talk to people. The people will tell you there is nothing to show. I am not just talking about Obanliku, I am speaking as a stakeholder in the northern senatorial district. Go to any part of the five local governments, i can assure you, most people will tell you they don't even know who is Senator Rose Oko, because they don't see her. That is just the truth.
As we get ready for the next round of elections, what are your expectations from whoever is going to be the next senator?
It is for the in-coming senator to do what the one that is there has not done, to make laws for the people. That is the most important thing. We don't need anything from him. Come down from time to time let the people see you. We made a mistake in 2015. We voted for a candidate that during primaries, the person was nowhere to be found. We didn't see her. We don't want such a thing to happen again. During the main election, we did not see her. We don't want such a thing again.
But people have said it was the PDP family decision to sponsor her, even when she was not in the country. That same PDP is still in power at the state level.
The system has changed because we have a young man in government who knows the need of the people. We have over 3000 political appointees; I can assure you that young men have taken over governance. That is what we want. I was in primary school as far back as then, these people have been in government. We don't want it again.
What can you as a person do, if the family says they want Rose Oko?
No. We are the electorate. You must be on ground first. A situation where they take decisions without the people, we don't want those things anymore. That era has gone. We don't want that to happen again.
Is there anytime you tried to reach her to talk about these grievances you are expressing now?
Let me be honest to you. When you have a representative that you do not have access to, how do you talk to the person? She doesn't come home; the only time you see her is during festive period and when she comes, you see security all over. You have no access to the person. What do you do when you don't have access to her? We as a people have made up our mind. We held a meeting this afternoon and we have concluded that not even the party can stop us as a people. We must take our destiny in our hands.
How do you mean that the party can't stop you? The party is always supreme.
If you come out and tell the party that this is what we want, I am sure the party will listen, except they want to fail election. The PDP is a minority today. We are not in Abuja. So we must do things right. If we impose candidates on the people, the people will revolt. And we don't want that to happen. Cross River is a PDP state.