Chiemeka ADINDU, Calabar
The race for the replacement of late Senator Rose Oko in the National Assembly has continued to gather momentum as the two major parties contending for the seat are beginning to mobilize forces to ensure that they grab the Cross River Northern Senatorial District seat.
The race which is a straight battle between candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Dr. Stephen Odey and that of the All Progressives Congress, Joe Agi, SAN has witnessed new and stronger campaign strategies since the postponement of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC as a result of the #EndSARS protest in the country.
There are a few factors that may determine who gets the seat at the end of the day. The first is the unresolved issue surrounding the candidate of the PDP. Odey has however been accepted by INEC candidate of the PDP. But Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, currently a member of the House of Representatives, is not giving up the battle for the ticket of the PDP for the election. He believes that he won the primary and should be the party’s flagbearer.
From the look of things, Jarigbe is not willing to give up. There are fears that he and his supporters may be working against Odey’s interest whenever the election holds. Besides, his supporters are also likely to cast protest votes against the PDP, as a way of showing their anger over the party’s handling of the primary election that ended up producing two claimants to the ticket. Ironically, it was a division of this nature that led to the poor outing of the APC during the last general elections in the state.
Odey may have seen the handwriting on the wall, hence his plea that Jarigbe should forget the past and give him full support.
In a telephone conversation, Odey, a former chairman of the State Universal Primary Education Board, SUBEB, said his new deal promise, which he said was a rescue mission, was specifically targeted at the challenges confronting the people in the district. He stressed that his antecedents while in SUBEB could attest to his capacity to cause needed changes when bequeathed with responsibilities.
“In terms of preparations, I’m the only candidate who has taken my campaign to three local governments, ward by ward and I’m left with just Ogoja and Bekwara to conclude which we were supposed to do before this sudden postponement came. And I’m just waiting for the umpire to fix a new date and don’t forget that this postponement has also helped me to also galvanize more support. So I need to reach the places I was unable to reach at the first instance to actually restrategize and then wait for a new date”, he believes.
He also said he was the only candidate for the PDP and had been cleared by the INEC for the election, appealing to his rival party man, Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe to give him the needed support to ensure that the party will sweep the elections with less stress.
He said: “The party has not produced two candidates. When you say that he is a candidate that is misrepresenting and as far as I’m concerned as a member of the PDP, the party does not make provision for two candidates. Have you ever heard that before?
“He’s in court but as far as I’m concerned my name has been published as the only candidate of the People’s Democratic Party. You are aware now, you are a journalist. Go to the INEC website and check whether there are two candidates there. My message for him is to team up with me so that we can work as one united family. He is my personal friend. Don’t forget that I was his Director General Campaign organization for the last election that took him to the House of Reps. I have a personal relationship with him and if I have served you, it is time for you to also support me and then join hands with me so that we can move the party and the state forward to the next level.
“He is my very good friend. Apart from political interests, I think we are friends and he is a young man so we still have the future to build together. During his own turn we supported him. If it’s my turn, let him also support me”, Odey appealed, disclosing that his election ground is not in Calabar that is why he is always at home with his people. “Don’t forget that I was the SUBEB chairman. I am a grassrooter, I go to the nooks and crannies of the state.”
The APC seem to have learnt their lessons and have taken steps to resolve their party’s internal hiccups. Before now, Prof Zana Akpagu, vice chancellor of the University of Calabar had battled to get the party’s ticket for the election. He fought gallantly but lost, he took steps to fight Agi, after he was declared the party’s candidate. But he was to drop the fight and then declare his support for the party’s choice, an indication that the party was going into the election as a united body.
APC’s chairman in the state, Senator Mathew Mbu underscored this when he said that the party stakeholders were united to win the Cross River North bye-election which would be a lead up to the party’s takeover of the State in the 2023 general election.
On his part, immediate past Chairman of the APC in Cross River state, John Ochala said the pedigree of the candidates of the PDP is in way close to that of Agi. He added that allowing the PDP win the election will pave way for the governor, Prof Ben Ayade to continue with his bad governance when his tenure ends as he believes that Odey was going to reclaim the seat for him against 2023. Ayade was on that seat for four years before emerging governor. he is believed to be nursing the ambition to return to the senate at the end of his tenure in 2023. This is another reason why Odey may not be able to win the seat. The anger against anything and anybody that is promoted by Ayade at this time can be felt and touched.
He said in an interview that “the All Progressives Congress in Cross River state has been looking very positive towards clinging, especially the senatorial district and state house bye-elections. The Peoples Democratic Party has not got their candidate in Cross River state. They don’t even know who their candidate will be.
“Apart from that, the pedigree of both aspirants in PDP is nowhere close to that of the candidate of the APC. Joe Agi, SAN is an authority in the legal profession who has made his mark both nationally and internationally. And it is only wise that someone who has such expertise in the field of law should be one of those making laws for the good governance of our dear country Nigeria. Good should be those days where mediocre are brought forward as aspirants and candidates.
“Stephen Odey has promised and sworn to the governor that he will just spend the one and half year left for this tenure and he is going to hand over to the governor because the governor has the inordinate and desperate ambition to go to the senate by 2023 so that all his evil acts, all his stealing and looting of public funds will not be caught and he has a stooge who is ready and willing to hand over the governance to him come 2023.
“You will recall that Dr. Stephen is the Chairman of SUBEB. SUBEB is one of the greatest conduit pipes in Cross River state government as at today.
“All sorts of slander are going on in SUBEB, so is that kind of a person that governor Ayade can bring forth to say he wants to be a candidate. He is no match in any way to the candidate of the APC and the people are getting wiser by the day. Our youths are becoming by the day. In summary, even when INEC comes up with a final timetable, I can assure you that our candidate will be placed above the candidature of the PDP,” Ochala maintained.