In March next year, the picture will become clearer. The people of Cross River State will know who their next governor will be. Right now, the battle appears to be between Senator Sandy Onor of the PDP and Senator Prince Bassey Otu.
Here, Onor is generally known as The Original Caterpillar. They believe he has so much energy and verve. They believe he can bulldoze and conquer territories. They believe he can open up roads whre there were forests. They believe he has the courage and heart of a lion, to tread on rough grounds and conquer.
His campaign organisation is called The Caterpillar Movement. He has been moving since. He is known to have gone round the entire 18 local governments at least thrice since the day he emerged candidate of the PDP.
He has inaugurated his campaign council, with over 1000 members, led by two prominent sons of the state-a former governor, Mr Donald Duke as chairman of the council-and a former deputy governor, Effiok Cobham, as campaign DG. They have been moving, devising all kinds of strategies to reach out to all those that ought to be reached, for votes ahead of next year’s election.
He is about the only one with so much action in the entire state. Whether he is physically present or not, people are campaigning and reaching out. And he has the backing of people from within and outside the state, one of who is the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike.
Buses donated by Wike are everywhere in the state and is enhancing movement by the caterpillar campaigners. It is said that scores who believe in his capacity are donating funds, materials, campaign offices and all, to him.
On the streets of Calabar and in the rural areas, many people talk about Onor’s governorship as the next best thing that will happen to Cross River State and its people. They see him as the light that will take away what they call the current darkness in the state. They believe he has the integrity and finesse to lead the state from 2023.
Every time, there are reports of people defecting from the APC, the party in power in the state, to the PDP. Onor himself speaks often about his readiness to govern, to restore the dignity of the state, to govern with the fear of God, to be sincere and truthful to the people at all times, to embark on projects he knows will benefit the people and to finish such projects, to be different from the current governor who has been accused of embarking on mega projects for the entire life of his government without completing most of them.
Onor looks serious, much more serious than every other contender. That is how it appears. And the projects he has attracted to Cross River Central Senatorial District may also speak for him, in volumes. He is believed to have done so much for the senatorial district in about seven years.
Onor, an Ejagham man from Etung, is a former local government chairman, a former commissioner, a former chairman of local government service commission, a former lecturer at the University of Calabar and professor of history. He is believed to be enjoying the support of the Efiks and Ejagham people of the southern part of the state as well as the support of his people in the central senatorial district. And in the north, sources say he has a very good followership and support base. In fact, it was the support he got from the north that made it easier for him to win the PDP ticket. Onor looks good to go, perhaps of his simplicity, record of generosity and how open and accessible he is to all those who encounter him. They say he is straight forward and simple to a fault. Whereas the APC campaigns with the back to south mantra, Onor is campaigning with the back to us slogan. To him, as governor, power will not just be for the south, but will be for the good of all the people.
His major opponent, Otu, of the APC, is however, not a push over. He enjoys the support of the Efiks, especially those who run with the back to south song. His major strength appears to be his past deeds as senator. Sources say he did well for the youths while in the National Assembly.
He has the governor by his side and it is believed that the governor will give him all the support to pull through. He also has many credible people of integrity and financial standing with him. Otu goes by the nick name-Sweet Prince. His followers believe he is sweet and also accessible. They believe he can hardly hurt a fly. They believe Otu is generous and open-minded.
Otu, many people believe, is a good man. A very good person. He has the youth, especially those of the south, by him. But his major challenge may be funds related. As it appears, the governor who is believed to be his major financier, may not have released funds for campaigns. Twice, the party’s campaigns flag-off has been put off. No real reasons have been given.
This aside, the party is still battling with internal legal crisis. Senator John Owan Enoh is still in court against Otu, over his candidacy. Otu had won at the lower court, but Owan Enoh, a dogged politician with so much following, has approached the court of appeal, seeking to collect the party’s ticket from him. He believes he is the fit and proper person to have been given the ticket. He has vowed to fight to the end. This is a serious distraction for Otu.
Not just that, Onor and the PDP are also in court against Otu and his running mate, Mr Peter Odey, currently a member of the state house of assembly. Onor’s grouse is that since Odey is having dual citizenship, he is not qualified to contest the election as running mate to Otu. And if Odey is truly not qualified, it means it Otu will equally be affected. The court of appeal is also expected to adjudicate on this matter. Onor and the PDP are ready to fight up to the apex court. Again, this is a distraction to Otu.
How he will wriggle out of all this is yet to be seen. But outside the various court cases and the issue of funding of his campaigns, there is also the issue of the APC’s record of performance, both at the federal and state level. The general perception is that in Cross River, the government has not done well. Critics of the government believe that the government has not delivered on all the campaign promises made to the people. For example, the various signature projects of the governor have not been completed and put to use. One of them is the super highway, then the spaghetti flyover, then the deep sea port, then the new Calabar city across the other side of the sea, which he called Calas Vegas, among many others. Calas was meant to be a world class resort. But just as the governor abandoned the Tinapa Business Resort built by Donald Duke, he equally abandoned the Calas Vegas project, even before it started.
The governor himself had admitted that he had failed to deliver on his campaign promises. He wept openly in front of the cameras, for failing the people. So, it is believed that having not done well as governor, he would not be able to face the people to ask for their votes for Otu. And Otu cannot go alone, on his honour, to campaign, without the APC and the governor.
But then, Otu himself has very good programmes for the state and from his track record, people believe that he is a man of honour and can keep his promises.
Following them closely is Pastor Usani Uguru Usani, candidate of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP)’s candidate. Not much has been seen or heard of him though. But the only thing that cannot be taken away from him is the fact that he is a serial contender for the position and has always played the role of a spoiler. In 2019, he almost destroyed the chances of the APC. His activities led to the confusion and ill luck that his party, the APC at the time, suffered. It is not clear who will win in March next year. In the second part of this analysis, we will tell how the various candidates stand in each of the three senatorial districts and in each of the 18 local governments.