Is the build up to the 2019 governorship election in Cross River State really splendid or absurd? If the game of politics is generally splendid, the motive is absurd, at least in Nigeria. Two basic ingredients lacking in the Nigerian political climate are the magnanimity on the part of winners to share their victory and the equanimity on the part of losers to accept defeat. The driving force in all this is free oil money and its concomitant corruption which has eaten deep into the fabric of the Nigerian society. Official corruption in Nigeria has made politics so attractive to evil men and women that they can easily bet their mother's head to run for any elective office. It is the only reason why politicians want to win at all cost and by all means. Aside from the morbid drive to carry profane party flags, most politicians in Nigeria now hug different contours of unbridled ambition; and so they go into politics as a "do-or-die affair." True, the political business corners a huge chunk of the ego market due largely to the enormous return on investment as the one most profitable business venture in the country. Indeed, politics is tougher than most professions to actually sort through the excess refuge since all manner of characters go into it with reckless abandon, hence no decorum in their approach to the game.
In virtually all the states in the country, paralleled political structures exist alongside the official party structures, all in the name of capturing political power. And one of the states in which the battle for supremacy is more ardent is Cross River. As always, the bone of contention is still who will call the shots at the palatial Governor's Office, Diamond Hill located at Leopard Town, Calabar after the rescheduled governorship election this Saturday March 9. Given the desperation among politicians to capture power as executive governor of the agrarian Niger Delta State, once christened the People's Paradise, but now sadly run aground by irresponsible leadership since the past four years, the issue is one for serious political evaluation and honest intellectual articulation. In it, sense and spirit must not be sacrificed merely to pedantic refinements. For a state known for its high sense of political sensibility and civility, now reduced to a haven for acute political imbecility and desperation, the schemings before the elections have been stringent.
The war, verging on conspiracy, rebellion, and betrayal, is indeed taking a toll on the soul of the state as the various interest groups that started beating the war drums soon after the sitting governor, Ben Ayade was foisted on the people in 2015, still waft their odium. Within the All Progressives Congress, APC family in the state, the infighting has been very dirty and between the opposition party and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which has mismanaged the fortunes of the state due to mundane political rascality, the contest is getting murderous. The result is the mindless polarization of the state along several contending divides. Three gladiators who have been spoiling for a showdown in the state power calculus, are Prof. Ben Ayade, the PDP sitting governor; Sen. John Owan Enoh of the APC whose looming presence and popularity are causing a stir in Ayade's camp and, of course, Pastor Usani Uguru Usani, a serial loser, spoiler and minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, an APC leader who unfortunately has been playing the role of Judas Iscariot against his party.
In a democratic environment such as ours, these people have the right to either exercise their franchise to vote and be voted for or their fundamental human rights to express alternative political opinions. Indeed, all of them have the legitimate right to aspire to occupy the office of governor of the state. What is reprehensible, if not outright nauseating, is the way and manner Ayade and Usani are going about the campaign and the process of convincing Cross Riverians to support their ambitions. The ubiquitous jockeying for power has assumed an incestuous frenzy in these two characters that they have resorted to blackmailing and intimidating Owan Enoh just to run him down. For now, the battle-line has been drawn between those who want the state to remain in primitive, hunger-prone capitulation and run it like a family estate and those who are determined to extricate it from wayward impotence to a rapidly developing state to be numbered amongst the first five best states in Nigeria. Sen Owan Enoh represents the latter group whereas his traducers are dreaming of empire consolidation.
Yet, until recently, Cross Riverians had not embarked on the search for new political icons. Given the absence of dynamic political, economic and social institutions in the state, instead of politicians to dwell on issues as the driving force of their campaign mantra, some of them are still swimming in the arcane politics of a departed era. With practically nothing to show the electorate for his four years in the saddle except media propaganda on Bill boards and dancing in the street as a court jester or circus clown, Ayade had chosen to employ the treacherous services of Usani to distract Owan Enoh who is on a rescue mission to extricate the state from his misrule. Ayade enlisted Usani who could not secure the candidacy of his party through legitimate means to jump from one court to another looking for judgment to buy in order to distract Owan Enoh who is the legitimate standard bearer of the party. Even as several court orders and rulings had tried to stop him from parading himself as the candidate of APC in the state, Usani was still announcing himself on radio and television as the party's candidate until Friday March 1, when the National Working Committee of the party suspended him over anti-party activities.
As we write, Ayade, unable to attract foreign investors to partner with him on the hollow super highway signature project, has made a volte-face, and has written to the Cross River State House of Assembly seeking its approval to borrow N648billion to fund the road project on the eve of an election he knows he would lose. This latest gamble is aimed at further subjecting an already cash-trapped state into dire financial straits in the event that he loses the March 9, 2019 governorship election. A letter written and signed by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Tina Agbor, acting on the directive of the governor, has exposed Ayade's latest resort to an Irrevocable Standing Payment Order (ISPO) to the tune of N648.8billion in favour of Messrs Sydney Construction Nigeria Limited, a company he has vested interest in. The State Executive Council meeting of Monday February 18, 2019 had already approved the issuance of an ISPO to the United Bank for Africa to the sum of N300million monthly to the company. The governor was also said to have tried to induce the state legislators with mouth watering financial gratification, although the Speaker, Rt. Hon. John Gual Lebo has denied. Is the Super Highway you claimed to have completed on billboards still in its infancy? Yet Ayade pays jobless youths N1,000 to campaign for him in the streets of Calabar with glee. Do you see what hunger can cause?
Because majority of the youths are idle, they are easily swayed with empty slogans and co-opted into mundane restive jamborees by separatist movements. There should be a deliberate policy geared as it were towards employment generation to accommodate our teeming graduates and empowerment of those who want to go into business. These are some of the issues that should engage the attention of those who want to govern the state. And these are the issues on which Owan Enoh's political philosophy is predicated. Politicians should test their popularity through the articulation of ideas and solution-delivery templates. The electorate in Cross River state are educated enough to be provided with educated alternatives in order for them to make informed choices. Not a recourse to frivolities, especially when those inanities are concocted to discredit opponents who have no time to swing anybody. Now, Sen. John Owan Enoh, having toured round the state with a message of hope on how he would rescue the state from underdevelopment, poverty and misrule, remains the only hope for the people. He who laughs last, they say, laughs best.
*Amor, journalist and critic, is the Media Spokesman for Sen. John Owan Enoh Governorship Campaign Organization