There are still speculations in Cross River State, that the state chapter of the APC is still going through leadership crisis. The concern has grown so much that people no longer know what to believe. But Dr. Chris Eyo Ojikpong, state treasurer of the party is one man who believes that those who are still talking about factions in the state chapter of the party are doing so out of ignorance.
He told TNN in this online interview that a gale of reconciliation had swept away the confusion in the party a long time ago and that normalcy had since returned to the party in the state, even as he spoke of their readiness for the expected rerun in the Abi Local Government on January 25.
The APC in Cross River State still appears to be without a clear direction. What is really going on?
This is not true. The APC, CRS, has a clear direction and focused. So I may not know what you mean by not having a clear direction. The party is properly channelled and sure of our destination, which is to dislodge the PDP in the state.
But the party is still battling with leadership and factional challenges
You see, this factional thing is mere perception. I give you an instance, during the elections, the impression was also created that APC, CRS, had “no legitimate candidates” or “two sets of candidates” or “factional candidates” etc. I also remember granting your paper an interview where I stated who the candidates were, particularly in the governorship, which had so much hype. I recall telling your paper that Senator John Owan-Enoh was the validly nominated candidate according to law. Today, that is the position. The election appeal tribunal confirmed our position, as many other relevant agencies of government. So, I get surprised when people start this all over again. Unfortunately, that perception, wrong as it may be, still persists in the minds of a few gullible people today. Maybe for some pecuniary reasons.
As for leadership, there are no challenges, except in the minds of the few who we know where they are coming from. I can tell you that after the unfortunate death of our state chairman, Dr. Matthew Achigbe, Sir John Ochala, being the deputy, took over the reins of the party as provided for in our party constitution. He has since been discharging the functions of his office without hindrance, both locally and nationally. This is verifiable. As a journalist, I challenge you to verify. No two people can discharge the functions of one office at the same time. This is where I get surprised when a few gullible people still allow themselves to be distracted unnecessarily. For the avoidance of doubt, Atiku Abubakar contested and lost the 2019 presidential election to President Muhammadu Buhari. He challenged the election in courts and I am not sure if at this moment he has congratulated the winner. So does that make Atiku an alternate president of Nigeria known to law? That somebody, for whatever may be his reasons and that of his sponsors, decides to challenge the leadership of Sir John Ochala, does not make him or her an alternate chairman. If he so succeeds in his challenge and is accepted by party members in the state according to law and becomes chairman, then he will also discharge the functions of that office solely. That’s the way it works. Only recently, the national chairman of APC, His Excellency, Adams Oshiomhole, wrote to all relevant government agencies, including the Cross River State Independent Electoral Commission clarifying this issue and presenting the Ochala-led exco as the representative of the party in CRS.
So as it stands now, where do people like Usani Usani belong? Who is the leader of the APC in Cross River?
Dr. Usani Usani, to best of my knowledge, belongs to APC as a member of the party. Only recently, the NEC of the party lifted the suspension on him. So he is a member of APC in CRS.
The APC, CRS leader? Please permit me to answer this question in three folds. First, as a member of the state caucus of the party, I recall that the caucus had formally adopted and put forward His Excellency, Chief Clement David Ebri, as the leader of the party in the state. This was during the chairmanship of late Dr. Achigbe. The choice of Chief Ebri was unanimous. The consideration was that he is a former governor and also sits at all strategic, up to the highest decision making body of our party at the national. So, able to protect the interest of the state. This is in addition to his personal mien and pedigree, his humility, etc. I am not aware if any formal decision has been taken otherwise by relevant party organ(s) in the state.
Secondly, as an individual, I also do not believe so much on ‘conferred’ leadership. To me, leadership emerges naturally. In fact, one can be conferred with leadership and you find another actually performing the leadership. The question is, do you find people naturally gravitating around you? If they do, how do you treat them? Do you listen to others? Do you share in the circumstances of others? Do you show respect to others? Even the Bible tells us that God resists the proud. So, what I am saying is that those who it is given to be leaders are doing so, sometimes quietly, with or without official title and that’s why the system is moving and will continue to move.
On the third aspect, I believe that leadership is collective. No one is an island. No one individual knows it all. So, in this respect, leadership is inclusive. Therefore, HE Chief Ebri, Ntufam Hilliard Eta, Sir John Ochala, Hon Minister, Prince Jeddy Agba, Senator John Owan – Enoh, Senator Victor Ndoma Egba, Dr. Usani Usani, High Chief Prof. Eyo Etim Nyong, Chief Mary Ekpere, Chief Wabily Nyiam, Odey Ochicha, High Chief Edem Duke, Elder (Dr) David Okon, Chief Ekpo Okon, Mr John Upan Odey, Chief Alex Irek, Dr Alex Egbona and Prince Otu etc., are all part of leadership. So, you can agree with me that we indeed, have a rich leadership
A rerun is expected to hold in Abi LG. How ready is your party for this? What is the party’s position on the local government elections expected to hold soon?
As every responsible and law abiding political party, the APC is ready at all times to participate in every election organised according to law. We, as a party, are already involved in the election process but will continue to monitor the process to ensure that it confirms to the laws governing elections as specified in our laws, both in the state and Nigeria. Where we see infraction, we will seek redress in court of law. For instance, the state electoral body issued a notice of election which fell short of the law on the number of days such notice should be given. I am aware this has been challenged in the court of law. Well, I later learnt that notice and timetable was revised. I cannot tell if this was in response to that challenge. I also cannot tell if a retrospective revision (that is after a legal challenge) can be deemed to be lawful. That may be left to the lawyers to determine. Whatever be the case, the APC, CRS, under the chairmanship of Sir John Ochala, is always ready for elections because that is what we work daily for; and APC, by the enormous achievements of President Buhari, has become a preferred brand for Nigerians everywhere, including CRS.
Again, as a party, we are ready. APC won before and will win again. Like the party APC, Dr. Alex Egbona, the APC candidate in the rerun election, is a good brand. He is wonderfully loved by his people. Fortunately, the rerun is occurring in his own ward, if you like, community. Dr Alex is at home with his people any day, anytime. The party is proud of him. I read that it’s a slave that will point to his father’s compound with the left hand. Be sure that Dr. Alex’s people, not being slaves, will proudly point at their own with the right hand come January 25, 2020. By his cerebral nature and kind disposition, his people, CRS and the nation will be better for it. Alex is a good bargain for everyone.
What does the future holds for the APC in Cross River?
The future has never been brighter. We are hopeful. The sky looks so clear and beautiful. Peace is returning to our party, that’s those who still had grievances. Discussions are on-going. Those suspended have been recalled. Leaders of the party are working harder to move us forward. You may have read of the enormous goodwill shown by Chief Mrs Mary Ekpere-Eta just last week to Cross Riverians, the vulnerables. This cuts across party lines. You may be aware of the mammoth crowd and the smiles on their faces. These acts by her in addition to what other leaders do, put APC ahead in the minds of Cross Riverians. The other day, Senator Owan Enoh had a meeting with his staff, as a senator. They were over 200. Really amazing. The Hon Minister has also been known to be a man of tremendous goodwill even before he became minister, and all others. So in APC, CRS, you have a collection of society’s best. Men and women of goodwill. With them in our kitty, the sky is there for us.
How ready is the party for the battle with PDP considering the speculations of use of state might, money and all?
The greatest might is the will of the people. The APC and indeed Dr Alex enjoy enormous good will of the people even in Ekuruku where Dr Alex comes from. Our victory shall come from the good will of the people and the people shall and are ready at all times to defend their will against any tyrannical opposition to their goodwill. Otherwise, APC is law abiding party as exemplified by our national chairman and the president of Nigeria. This is what they preach and practice, so we all follow suit. Above all things, we look up to God, the ultimate giver of victory who gives back generously to good men, as Dr Alex Egbona.
How committed and involved are all the leaders you mentioned above to the rerun?
I can assure you from my vantage position, by the grace of God, that all hands are on deck. There is a saying that when the soup is sweet, the food seems to eat itself, this is because the eater may not even notice when he/she has finished the food. Dr Alex is like sweet soup. Everyone is in a hurry to have a hand in. Every APC member is committed to this one. Again, we all know that one palm nut being roasted cannot be missing inside the fire. Being the only nut, the whole attention is paid to it. Dr. Alex is the only nut in our fire and that is not lost on all APC members, leaders inclusive
The party is equally poised to win the Abi state house rerun. Again, we will win because we have worked hard for it and we present a good candidate accepted by his people. The Abi people are sure to show this love by electing Mr Iwara Inah to the state assembly. He will serve as the beautiful and credible APC voice in the house for the good of all of us.