October 1, 2023

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C’River: Who Wins 2023 Presidential, National Assembly Elections?

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The political dynamics in Cross River has changed. For the first time after a very long time, there will be a visible contest. What used to be a familyaffair ended the day the PDP lost total control of the state, as the governor, Prof Ben Ayade defected to the APC.





Since then, there have been movements into and out of the two parties. And then recently, a third force sprang up in the Labour Party, when Daniel Asuquo, a member of the House of Reps left the PDP after he was unable to get the party’s gubernatorial ticket, to join the LP, where he grabbed the party’s senate ticket. And, in the central, Usani Usani, a former minister, brought in the PRP, the platform that he intends to use to realise his ambition to become governor. As it is, the presidential election will be contested between three political parties-the APC, the PDP and the LP.


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The three parties will have a good fight. The APC is not likely to do well in Cross River because of the disappointing outing of the party at the federal and the state level. The level of hatred for the APC federal government is still high. In Cross River, the failure of Prof Ben Ayade to deliver on his promises, about eight years after, has made matters worse. Besides, the presidential candidate of the party is not also helping matters. The man is not liked because of the general impression that he is not fit physically, and from the look of things, not also fit mentally. So, the race will be largely between the PDP and the Labour Party. The likes of Senator Liyel Imoke and Senator Gershom Bassey are pushing the Atiku agenda seriously in the state. How far they can go can only be imagined. It is even worse for Atiku here because the entire party structure is not for him. Most of the people are still very loyal to the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike. Regardless, Tinubu will still garner some votes here and there, especially because the senate and House of Reps election will hold same day. There will be the possibility of mistaken votes that will go to him, from those who may want to cast their votes for other APC candidates in the state. Obi is likely to have a very good outing here.



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Cross River Southern Senatorial Seat
The three major players here are very strong in their own right. But as is always the case, one person will win here. It will either be Daniel Asuquo of the LP or Asuquo Ekpenyong jnr of the APC or Ekpo Okon of the PDP. It promises to be a tough fight. LP’s Asuquo is the current member of the House of Reps for Akamkpa/Biase Federal Constituency. He is known to have a good following in Akamkpa where he reigned as local government chairman many years ago, before going to the National Assembly. He is not very free with money, even though it is believed that he has a fair share of it. He is also seen as a proud person who snubs people at will. It is said that he only values people when he needs them and after that time, he is done with them. What he has in his favour is his youthfulness and the youths appear to be with him. He is likely to win Akamkpa and Biase and will pick some votes in the other local governments. It does not appear that he will win the senate seat.






Ekpenyong, the immediate commissioner for finance is new to partisan politics at that level. He is young and married to the daughter of a former governor of the state, Donald Duke. His father, Asuquo Ekpenyong has a good name and also has cash, having been involved in various businesses in the state. Ekpenyong is humble and reachable. He is extraordinarily intelligent and had presented himself to the APC for its governorship ticket, before the table turned and he was advised to run for the senate seat. His father’s goodwill and political affiliations may do the magic for him. He is likely to do well in the core Efik local governments and stands a better chance to win the election. It will be surprising if he loses the race.


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Okon is equally very strong. A former commissioner of works under Duke and one-time commissioner in the NDDC representing the state, he is very free with people and laughter is his trademark. He comes from Odukpani and was said to have attracted plenty of NDDC projects to the area while in the commission.
He is a PDP member and is not as loaded financially as Ekpenyong. He will be depending on others for funding, whereas Ekpenyong can fund his election through and through. But he still stands the chance to win, based on his past. The race will certainly be between Ekpenyong and Okon. It will be surprising if Asuquo takes the day.





Cross River Central
This senatorial district is seen as the home of the APC. Most of the major players in the APC are from here. Ordinarily, the speaker of the state house of assembly, Eteng Jonah would have grabbed the seat without any sweat. But it is said that he has not done well for the people as speaker. He could not use his position to compel the governor to do anything for the people of Agoi and other parts of the state constituency that he represents in the state house of assembly. Agoi is known to be the food basket of the state, but there is no road to the place. Even Afafanyi/Igonigonmi people in Abi local government will not also want to vote for him willingly, because of the same issue. During a visit to one of the traditional rulers recently, the monarch looked at him in the face and told him that he was a bad son, because his impact was not really felt there as their representative.


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But he has too many people of goodwill that may make things easy for him especially in Abi and Yakurr. He is likely to win here. He is also likely to do well in Ikom and Obubra, though it is not clear if he will have a good showing in those places. If Jonah wins, it will just be because of the people working for him, and because of the strength of the APC in that senatorial district.




In the PDP, Bassey Ewa, another former speaker will be fighting for votes here. He was in the House of Reps for 12 years, representing Abi/Yakurr and it cannot really be said what he did for the people during the 12 years. He was also in the state house of assembly for eight years and left as speaker. Even the Obol Lopon Ugep and paramount ruler of Yakurr, his own traditional ruler is not happy with him. He said in a recent interview with TNN that “Bassey Ewah has been in that position (House of Reps), has been in politics for 20 years. And he is still coming back to take another eight years. When you see things like that, they are not good at all. When one thing is owned by a lot of people, you take your turn and leave it for the other person. When you take one turn and come back and come back for the same person, it’s not fair at all. Like every human being, you will feel bad.”




The only comforting thing for Ewa is that he is popular in the Agoi area, and he belongs to the PDP, where the candidate of the PDP, Senator Sandy Onor comes from. If he ever wins, it will because of Onor and the PDP. It will actually be his first major competitive election.


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Cross River North
There will be political tsunami here. The battle is between two giants, Senator Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, the sitting senator and Senator Ben Ayade, the sitting governor. While one giant is very popular with the common man for his deeds, forthrightness and service to the people, the other is a giant in big promises and high sounding grammar.





Jarigbe is of the PDP while Ayade is now of the APC. A few months ago, Jarigbe wrestled with Ayade for the same seat. Then, Jarigbe was in the House of Reps and the senate seat was vacant. Ayade brought Dr Steve Odey to run against Jarigbe. To get the PDP ticket was the major issue. The PDP won the main election but the issue was about the candidate. Jarigbe fought up to the Supreme Court and eventually took the seat from Odey. Ayade was angry. But there was nothing he could do.





Now, it is directly between him and Jarigbe. In that senatorial district, some say Ayade has done well for them as governor, but others say he has not. Most of the projects he started are half done, just like the ones in other parts of the state. But Jarigbe as member of the National Assembly is reported to have done so much, attracting roads and other tangible projects to the northern part of the state. This explains why he is loved in the north.



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If Ayade has money, Jarigbe is also said to have got some. If Ayade has touched lives, Jarigbe is said to have touched even more. So, as the people file out on Saturday to vote, they are likely to queue behind a man that has impacted them practically, than the one that gave them more of promises. If Ayade defeats Jarigbe, then something would have gone wrong. However, it will be a tough fight between the two contestants.




Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency
There is a rock of Gibraltar in this federal constituency and his name is Dr Alex Egbona of the APC. He will be running against Eko Atu of the PDP, Echeng Eworo of the PRP. There is uncertainty around the candidacy of the LP. There is the perception that a certain John Ifere is the LP candidate, though INEC is yet to up load a name like that on their portal. He was said to have approached the court for the inclusion of his name but it is not clear if INEC or the LP really knows him because the name displayed by the LP as its candidate is Sunny O. Ifere and not John Ifere.





Among the four, Egbona stands out. He is the enfant terrible of the politics of Abi/Yakurr. In 2015, he stood against a sitting member of the House of Reps that had the support of a sitting governor and was said to have won under the LP at that time, that was barely unknown. He had left the PDP a few weeks before the general election and made so much impact. Even though he won in the field, the result was not announced on the orders of those that didn’t want him to emerge. The returning officer was kidnapped and prevented from announcing the result. When they had subdued him, he was released and made to announce figures that were handed over to him. Egbona lost. But it was generally known that he had the day.


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Four years later, after he had joined the APC, he ran again, this time against the PDP that was in power in the state. It was a very tough battle, having to run against a sitting speaker of the state house of assembly who was part of the government in power at the state level. He defeated the PDP candidate, Mr John Gaul, to the shock of the sitting governor.




They took him to the tribunal and he lost. He went to the appeal court and got a partial victory. A rerun was ordered and he emerged victorious. His opponent didn’t see his back. It was a show of force and referendum on his popularity. The governor, then in the PDP, hailed him in the presence of his colleagues in the National Assembly when he said that any politician in the state who had not gone through the tutelage of Alex Egbona was a non-starter. He spoke of Egbona in glowing terms.




During the primary election of the APC, he emerged unopposed. Nobody in the party had the courage to come out to challenge him for the party’s ticket. There is a general belief that Egbona will win his re-election with so much ease and for many reasons. He is known to be a giver, for which reason they have nicknamed him Mr ATM machine. During his a little over three years in the House of Reps, it is reported that he has touched all the 23 wards of the federal constituency with tangible projects in the areas of water, health, education and electricity. Solar powered street lights dot all the wards, just as solar powered boreholes attracted to some of the wards by him. It is said that there is hardly anyone who comes across him with a problem that he does not try to assist, even though he does not know the person. He is tipped to win the election fair and square.


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However, Atu of the PDP, a former chairman of Abi local government, will put up a good showing, but may come a distant second, while Ifere of the LP is also expected to come a distant third. PRP’s Eworo is not likely to make any serious impact.





The battle here will be fairly between the APC and the PDP. Jude Ngaji of the APC will face Godwin Offiono of the PDP and it promises to be a wonderful experience for the duo. While Offiono will be expected to reap from Jarigbe’s good deeds, Ngaji may be having sympathy votes because he has spent only a few months on the seat. He took over from Jarigbe when the latter moved to the senate. The race is too close to call.





Friday Okpechi of the PDP will be having it hot against Irom Etaba Michael of the APC. This is the federal constituency of the PDP governorship candidate. So, Okpechi will be expected to do very well, at least because of Onor’s influence. But the APC is equally very strong in Obubra and that may give some advantage to Etaba. The election will go either way here.



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This is also in the north where Jarigbe is held in very high esteem. His influence may work some magic for the PDP candidate, Mr Peter Akpanke. But his opponent, Legor Idagbo, the sitting member of the House of Reps, is not a push over at all. Idagbo is known to be a very strong ally of the governor. This is the governor’s federal constituency and it is expected that he will go the extra mile to get victory for the APC, ordinarily. But it will not be an easy game. Victory will go either way.





Calabar South/ Akpabuyo/Bakassi
This is where Essien Ayi comes from. He has been on this seat since only God knows when. He is of the PDP. It is possible that he may not even remember how many years he has spent on the seat. He is hardly seen on the floor of the House of Reps. He is hardly known to have sponsored bills as a legislator. But he is extraordinarily popular with the masses.




There is hardly any weekend that Ayi is not in Calabar to spend time with his followers. He sits out with them every weekend and goes back to Abuja the following week. Ayi is one person that hardly went on public campaigns for the 2023 elections, but his face is everywhere, with his boys campaigning for him all the way. People have said that he will be retired this time, but it is not clear if Bassey Joseph of the APC or Edem Dominic Aqua of the LP have what it takes to retire Ayi.


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Calabar Municipality/ Odukpani
The APC, the LP and the PDP will have a hot fight here. Akiba Bassey Ekpenyong, known to be an astute politician is in the race for the LP, Edim Inok, a former state chairman of the PDP will be seeking under the banner of the APC and then the incumbent, Eta Mbora will be fighting the battle of his life to return to the seat for the third time.
Mbora will be facing a tough battle here because of the strength of Edim. But he is likely to do well, while APC’s Edim is tipped to win.





Attach Ochinke of the PDP is likely to carry the day in this federal constituency. The PDP is seen to be very strong here, even though many forces from the APC are also from this part of the state. But Ochinke, calm and humble, a former attorney-general and commissioner for justice, is known to be very intelligent. He may not have so much money but he has a likeable mien and this may work the magic for him. However, Abang Victor Bisong of the APC and Kanong Augustine Onya of the LP will not let him have his way easily. It will be a tough fight but the PDP candidate looks good to take the seat.


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Emil Inyang of the APC, Igwe Augustine of the PDP and Olumba Ekpezu Obu of the LP will be fighting for this seat. But Inyang looks good to grab the seat. He has been around since his days in the PDP and is known to be very popular with the system. Akamkpa is also known to be the base of the APC, but with the influence of Asuquo, the man popularly called Dansuki, it will not be an easy ride for him.

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