May 15, 2021

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C’River: Who succeeds Rose Oko in the Senate?

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A few weeks ago, news broke of the death of Senator Rose Oko, who represented the Cross River North Senatorial District in the National Assembly. Her death came as a shock. It was actually her second term in the senate. But she had spent only a few months in the second term before death came calling.

Nature does not allow for vacuum. It is moreso in politics. Her seat let another take…that appears to be the refrain. And so, even before her body is brought back to Nigeria for burial, many of her kinsmen are already warming up to succeed her. So far, aspirants from the two main political parties-APC and the PDP- have indicated interest to take her seat.

Although, the minister of state for power, Goddy Jeddy Agba has advised those with intentions to keep calm until she has been buried. Besides, the COVID-19 lockdown and the attendant non- existent open political activities have not allowed the aspirants to engage in any form of open political campaigns. It is not even clear when INEC will be able to conduct the election, neither is it certain when the political parties will be able to produce their candidate for the election.

Who are the aspirants?

Among those who have indicated interest, openly of secretly for the seat are Prof Zana Akpagu, Wabilly Nyiam, Larry Odey, Tom Agi, Dr Steven Odey, Joe Agi, SAN, and Odey Ochicha. From this list, only Dr Odey is of the PDP. The remaining are from the APC.

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How they stand

Anyone who has indicated the interest to contest the election must have considered himself as fit, qualified and properly suitable for the office. They must have also been ready emotionally and financially for the seat. But how the electorate sees them is a different case. This is, however, the first part of the analysis.

ZANA AKPAGU

He is current vice chancellor of the University of Calabar and a former commissioner of education in Cross River State. Until recently, it may not have been known to many, that he belonged to any political party. Twice, he has performed as state returning officer in governorship elections. He is a sound academic and administrator who has written the name of UNICAL in gold since 2015 when he took over as the 10th vice chancellor of the second generation Nigerian university. Akpagu is not just the first UNICAL VC from the northern senatorial district, he is also the first UNICAL alumni to become VC of the same university. But whether he will also become the first vice chancellor in Nigeria to resign from office to take up a seat in the senate will be seen in the coming days. Akpagu, an Obudu son and kinsman of the governor, Prof Ben Ayade, hopes to run under the APC. He is a power and a principality, says a senior official of the APC.

WABILLY NYIAM

Nyiam is not new to the struggle for political power. He has been on this road before. In 2019, he fought for the same seat against the late Oko, under the banner of the APC. He lost. He challenged the outcome of the election in court but also lost out.

Many see him as a foundation member of the APC. But his many years of membership of the party contributed nothing to his political dreams during the last general election. It is not certain if the party will give him its ticket again, when the time comes, for the epic battle. He has goodwill.

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LARRY ODEY

He is a former speaker of the Cross River State House of Assembly, a position he held that catapulted him to the position of acting governor of the state, at the time that Senator Liyel Imoke was removed from office as governor of the state.

He has strong links with many APC chieftains from parts of the country and is believed to be strong in his Yala Local Government. Until November 2017, Odey used to be a member of the PDP.

But does he have what it takes to grab the APC ticket? Can he produce the needed funds for the primary election? Maybe, maybe not. This will be clearer in the coming days.

TOM AGI

He is a former commissioner under the regime of Senator Liyel Imoke. Before then, he was a member of the state house of assembly. At a point, he was the director-general, Cross River State Road Maintenance Agency. Agi is known as a very easy going person with some level of followership in his Yala Local Government. He left the PDP for the APC before the 2019 election, thus effectively abandoning Rose Oko who later won the senate election. It is not clear if he is really serious about the race. He seems to be flying a kite, according to an official of the party in the state.

STEVEN ODEY

At the moment, Odey is the only known aspirant for the seat from the PDP. He is a close ally of the state governor, giving room to speculations that Ayade may be plotting to send him to the senate to hold his brief, so that immediately after his tenure as governor, he can return to the seat. Odey is from Yala Local Government, but the governor appears to have so much confidence in his ability to run the state education board, which he has headed since the first term of Ayade.

Considered as a very intelligent lawyer, Odey may not be allowed to face other opponents in his party. but he sure will meet a serious opposition in the APC, if things remain as they currently are, and he is given the ticket of the PDP ahead of the bye-election.

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JOE AGI, SAN

This man is a fighter. He is equally connected in high places across the country and is known to be very principled and dogged. The inclusion of his name on the list of aspirants must have shocked a lot of people. Even though he has not made any public statement regarding the aspiration, Agi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, is certainly someone to watch out for. He it was, who rattled Ayade during the governor’s first term and almost got him out of office over issues of alleged forgery. If he gets into the race as is being speculated, then whoever underrates him will be doing so at his own peril. He may not be known in the APC as a member, but Agi, an Abuja based lawyer, is believed to have got some financial muscle and the needed cover within the APC to make things happen.

ODEY OCHICHA

He is a former governorship aspirant in the state and now wants to run for the office of senator to represent the northern senatorial district under the APC. Born on September 9, 1959 in the Bekwarra Local Government of Cross River State, Ochicha, believes he can step into the shoes of the late Oko. In 2019, he could not win the ticket of his party to contest the governorship election. His loss was Senator John Owan Enoh’s gain. So, will he get a senate ticket from the APC this time? My have sympathy of some party leaders. Can he face the PDP candidate and the sitting governor? an official of the party in the state raised some doubts about this.

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