Tension has heightened in Cross River State over the issue of zoning of the seat of governor in the state. While many people from the southern senatorial district are clamouring for the zoning of the seat to their senatorial district, others are of the view that zoning was nonsensical and should be jettisoned.
But there are others who are of the view that if the zoning principle must be adopted, it should be thrown open, and any of the three senatorial districts allowed to freely contest for the position, since all of them have already produced a governor.
Donald Duke, from the south, Liyel Imoke from the central and Ben Ayade from the north, have been elected governor between 1999 and 2015. Ayade is in his last days in the office and will leave in 2023.
In 2015, Duke had granted an interview to a national television, where he spoke against zoning. He had said “I have never subjected myself to zoning. When I ran for governor, I was not afforded zoning. Everyone and anybody was about to run in Cross River. Besides, it is my constitutional right to run, and you can’t zone my right. I think it is unconstitutional to the zone.”
But the same Duke, in May 2021, was quoted as having spoken in support of zoning at a meeting of southern senatorial district stakeholders held in Transcorp Hotel Calabar, when he said that “zoning is a convention now and l go with it. ”
But he he went further to say “it shouldn’t be limited to the governorship alone. Let’s zone all of the seats. If you take, for example Akamkpa/ Biase, let it swing across. It shouldn’t be limited only to one side. If you take Municipality/ Odukpani, let it also swing. It can’t reside in one place only. We trivialize it when we limit zoning only to the governorship. Zoning must go all through. I’m not a born again zoner but if it’s the convention I will go with it.”
Unfortunately, the former governor never picked all the calls made to his phone on Sunday night, neither did he respond to text messages sent to his verified MTN line. TNN had tried to hear from his on the issue.
During the weekend, some stakeholders from the south had assembled in Calabar where they deliberated and took a position on the zoning issue. One of those who canvassed that the seat of governor should be zoned to the south was Senator Prince Bassey Otu.
He had said “the discourse on zoning in our body politic is natural. We recognize that we are a rainbow society with beautiful colours of ideas, competences and visions dotting the landscape. The responses to zoning are not to conjure any negativisms. They constitute wholesome reminders to our nature as a people given to justice, equity and fairness as the bedrock of our corporate existence.
“We all have the Cross Riverian blood in our veins right from the farmer at Otukwang Hill to the fisherman in Adiabo creek.We are our brothers’ keepers, a loving kindred and a godly heritage.
“Our shared problems of inadequate development, scanty resources and deficit supplies are felt by all. Our collective desire to build a strong and virile state that guarantees happiness is a burden borne by all.
“When the train took off in 1999, the aggregate agreement was to start from the Southern District. The Central and the North bore the weight of waiting for their turns while lending the necessary support to the governance structure then. The Central waited for 8years while the North had to wait for 16 years, pretty long time one would say. But they went through it with joy and understanding that 16years is not eternity.
“If the axiom that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander is anything to uphold, it behoves all to raise all the fingers and say yeah to the South’s turn for the Diamond House. The labours of our past heroes, the Eyo Itas, Margaret Ekpos, Okoi Arikpos, the Murphys, the Mbus, the Samuel Imokes are ringing loud in our ears. As the successors, we must sustain the heritage of peaceful coexistence and pass it on to our tomorrow carriers. This is the way history will be magnificently kind to us in generations yet to come.”
But Senator Jarigbe Agom Jaribe who represents the northern senatorial district believes zoning had been jettisoned, noting that he won his election by conquest and not by zoning.
“ God gave me the grace to clinch the Senate Seat by conquest not through zoning. Some of those who fought against me and the zoning to Ogoja, are now crusaders of zoning. You all forgot that Ogoja never had an opportunity of producing a senator before I fought and emerged, against all odds.
“Anyone who wants to be Governor of CRS in 2023, should get in to the field and prove his or her worth to the electorate. That includes even the north of Cross River State. Power is not donated to anyone or group. I am not an ethnic jingoist but a crusader of good governance and effective representation. No one can have his cake and eat it. Let us get practical in the field.”