Ahead of the 2023 gubernatorial elections, governors of Cross River and Akwa Ibom States appear to be at a loss on the likely persons that will succeed them. A sea of aspirants are already showing interest in the coveted seat in both states.
Within the APC in Cross River State where the governor, Prof Ben Ayade holds sway, there appears to be confusion on the governor’s likely preferred candidate. This is even moreso following last week’s comments from the governor, that his successor will have to come from the southern senatorial district.
Although, critics have argued that the governor could not have singe-handedly taken a decision on the matter because he had no such powers. The argument has been that as an APC governor, he could not take such a sensitive decision for the entire state, when he had no control over what happens in other political parties, including the PDP.
One of his close associates, Chief Chris Agara, from the central zone, is believed to be seriously angling for the office. In 2019, the governor and Agara, known to be bosom friends, nearly had altercations when the governor failed to give the senate ticket to him.
This time, according to findings, there has been a silent understanding between the governor and Agara on the governorship project. For now, Agara is yet to make any public pronouncement on the speculated intentions.
Sources said with the governor’s pronouncement on zoning, the implication is that he has no plans to support Agara to pick the APC ticket. Political observers told TNN that the governor is actually in dilemma as to what to do between his friend and the zoning question.
Last week, there were speculations that the governor was looking towards the direction of Mr Bassey Ndem, a former managing director of the Tinapa Resort and one time commissioner for lands. Ndem left the PDP to join the APC just last week.
His defection fuelled speculations that the governor must have decided to look at his direction. Ndem is a key player in issues of Efik Nation and is known to be very close to the Obong of Calabar.
But before Ndem’ s defection to the APC, there were speculations that the governor was considering his commissioner for finance, the youthful son-in-law of Donald Duke, Mr Asuquo Ekpenyong Jnr.
It was learnt that Ayade had considered him because of his youthfulness and the link between his family and Duke. Ayade is said to be holding in Duke in high esteem, though it is not clear if the romance was still active, as Duke chose to remain in the PDP.
Ayade has however said he would not impose anybody on the APC and that he would only allow a candidate to emerge through consensus, the same way party officials were produced from the wards to the state level, even though there has been so much discontent on the outcome of the congresses in the state.
The governor who spoke to TNN through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Christian Ita said he stood by his decision on zoning and that he was not in a confused state on the matter. He added that he had nobody in mind as successor.
His counterpart in Akwa Ibom, Mr Udom Emmanuel appears to be in a similar shoes. While people of the view that the governor is confused about who to handover power to, within his PDP, the governor says he is not under any form of pressure on what to do.
One of his media aides, Mr Uko Umoh said over the telephone that the governor would take decisions based on what the party and stakeholders would say.
But he also said he and other loyal members of the party were waiting for the governor to show them the way to follow when the time approaches.
As it is now, Mr Udom Inoyo, a former top official of Mobil Oil Producing, is believed to be the governor’s anointed one. He is believed to have the governor’s ears at all times, just as specualtions are rife that political structures of the governor were being oiled and preserved for Inoyo.
But then, there are other very close allies of the governor who are also said to be interested in the race, including some of his commissioners and aides, among them Mr Ini Ememobong, commissioner for information, Mr Akan Okon, the commissioner for Economic Development and Ibom Deep Seaport, Mr Umo Eno, the current commissioner for lands, among others.
The governor, before now, had announced that God would choose his successor, but many Akwa Ibomites tend to see the governor’s body language tilting towards these three personalities in Etinan Federal Constituency- Eno, Inoyo and Akan Udofia. The trio are believed to be very close friends of the governor.
Unlike what is going on in Cross River on the issue of zoning, all the aspirants that have so far indicated interest appear to be coming from the Uyo Senatorial district. It is believed that the district will produce the next governor.