There has been much buzz about the governorship ambition of the senator representing the central senatorial district of Cross River state, Senator John Owan Enoh.
The senator has, for weeks, implored his teeming supporters to pray for divine direction to enable him take the right decision on his next political move-either return to the senate in 2019 or seek the governorship seat.
The people of Cross River are waiting for his next political move. Will he contest? Will he not? Will he seek to return to the National Assembly?
His body language looks confusing though. But what are his chances if he settles for the governorship ticket under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC)? The answer is not far-fetched, considering his glowing record of service to humanity.
Many believe he is a governorship material, because he has what it takes to govern the state-vast legislative experience and unimpeachable integrity and being an astute administrator. After he drank from the spring of knowledge and bagged his first degree in sociology from the University of Calabar in 1988 and his M.Sc in Demography and MBA also from the same university, he taught there for seven years after which the parliamentarian from Agbokim, in Etung local government area of Cross River state, plunged headlong into politics. Since then, he has had a long spell in the legislature. He started his political career as far back as 1997, when he was elected into the state house of assembly on the platform of the Grassroots Democratic Movement (GDM). That democratic era under the late military head of state, General Sani Abacha never saw the light of the day as it was truncated by the military dictators themselves.
After the restoration of democratic rule on 29 May, 1999 the senator was elected again into the House of Assembly under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and was there for two terms of four years each, till 29 May 2007. From the state House of Assembly, he won his election into the House of Representatives also on PDP ticket on 29 May, 2007 and was there till 29 May, 2015 when he was elected into the Senate where he currently is. He was a member of PDP until 2017 when he defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
As a federal legislator, he has proved his mettle through his robust contribution to debates on the floors of the House of Representatives and the senate. He sponsored several bills such as Emergency Powers Bill, Foreign Exchange (Control And Monitoring) Bill, Payment Systems Management Bill, The Nigeria Police Academy (Establishment, etc.) Bill, Law Officers Bill, etc.
As part of his proactive inclination, he raised a motion of urgent national importance when Cameroonian Gendarmes brazenly breached Nigeria's sovereignty by invading Danare village in Boki local government area of Cross River state. This prompted the immediate deployment of security personnel to protect the village and repel the foreign invaders.
As a legislator, he has given so much back to the society through his various empowerment programmes, one of which is the YEPs (Youth Empowerment Programmes). Through Senator Owan Enoh's Educational Assistance Programme, N70 million was disbursed to 4025 in the six local government areas in the senatorial district. Also, 198 youths in the six local government areas were trained in ICT business, with the first batch of 66 youths given branded laptops. The empowerment has helped to a large extent curb youth restiveness which is a recurring menace in the senatorial district.
Even people with disabilities and women have equally benefited from his empowerment schemes. He established the JOE Diabetes Foundation for people suffering from the ailment get medical assistance. Twenty-nine communities in his senatorial district also benefited from solar powered water projects.
His football fiesta is a rallying point for youths in Obubra. Through the fiesta a strong bond is created between the youths as they get together in an atmosphere of conviviality and camaraderie and in the process stay away from all forms of vices.
The senator, who believes that the absence of peace impedes progress and development in any society, has gone to great length to broker peace between warring communities in the senatorial district. On one of such occasions, he organized a security summit involving all segments of the society in his constituency to enthrone peace and went further to assist victims of communal clashes.
Owan Enoh was partly instrumental to the confirmation of Justice Walter Onnoghen as substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria when his confirmation was being politicized and delayed unnecessarily. An advocate of true federalism, he seized the moment when he gave a speech on the Imperatives of True Federalism recently as chairman of International Conference on Nigerian Federalism at the University of Calabar. In his lecture, he said the theme of the conference, 'Revisiting the Structural Foundation of Nigeria's Federalism', was quite apt and “we couldn't have had a better time than now to advance the discourse on our governance structure as a nation.”
He is going into the governorship race with this intimidating record of selfless service. Ordinarily, his ambition would have been a done deal.
However, the odds against him, which are surmountable anyway, are three-fold. The power of incumbency, the fact that his party, APC, is not in power in the state, and the issue of zoning could count against him.
In terms of the incumbency factor, the governor in power is seeking a second term at all costs and so he will mobilise all resources at his disposal to ensure he returns to power. Those who will contest against him will have to surmount all odds to defeat him. These odds could be surmounted if the right thing is done and if a popular candidate gets the ticket of APC to contest against the incumbent. But then, incumbent governors were defeated in some states such as Abia and Ekiti, in the past. So, anything can happen. In fact, it also happened at the federal level where incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan was defeated in 2015 even with the federal might and huge war chest at his disposal.
Another obstacle against the senator's ambition is the fact that his party is not in power in the state. The PDP has been in power since 1999 and it will seem a tall order to dislodge it. PDP has entrenched itself in the state and boasts of sustaining its presence and acclaimed massive support base in 2019 and beyond. APC has to give PDP a run for its money to turn the table in 2019.
Also, very daunting is how an aspirant could overcome the zoning obstacle that appears to stare everyone in the face. Even though Owan Enoh is not in PDP where the zoning arrangement appears to be sacrosanct, his senatorial zone produced the immediate past governor, Liyel Imoke on the PDP platform. So, there is this belief in some quarters that it would be difficult to produce another governor from the zone within a short period after the previous one from the same zone left power. But again, people are quick to point to what happened in Rivers State, where two governors emerged in quick succession, from the same ethnic group and same senatorial district.
The foregoing could turn out to be mere conjectures which in reality may not decide who clinches victory at the end of the day. Anything could happen in politics when the chips are down since a lot of factors come into play during primary and main elections. The strategies adopted by an aspirant and his commanding presence in all the wards and local governments and above all if the party upholds internal democracy in the election of the candidate could determine the outcome of his pursuit. The stakes are very high and the senator could only rise to the occasion to defeat other governorship aspirants in his party for the ticket and go ahead to win the main election.