There may be many contenders for the seat of governor in Cross River State. But clearly, the contest is between the candidate of the PDP, Senator Sandy Onor and that of the APC, Prince Bassey Edet Otu, the man that is called Sweet Prince.
Both of them are senators. Onor is still in the senate, but Otu is no more. Onor is from the central senatorial district, while Otu is from the southern senatorial district.
While Onor’s campaign mantra is ‘ back to us, that is to say that power should return to the people, Otu’s mantra is back to south, that is, power should return to the southern senatorial district.
Before now, Cross River used to be a PDP state. But with the defection of the governor, Prof Ben Ayade, the state is now jointly under the control of the APC and the PDP.
Going by last week’s elections, though, the APC appears to have more strength in the south and in the central senatorial district of the state. They won two of the three senatorial seats in the state and also won majority of the House of Representatives seats. But the Labour Party defeated them all in the presidential election. Unfortunately, the LP is not a factor in Saturday’s election. All those who voted for the LP did so because of Peter Obi.
With the presidential election over, permutations are changing. There are alignments and realignments. To a larger extent, the two leading political parties are receiving supporters from everywhere, though the PDP appears to be getting more people into its fold.
The Sandy Onor Factor
Even those who hate his guts must like his carriage and candour. Onor, a former commissioner, former local government chairman, former chairman of the local government service commission, former acting president of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, is very generous with smiles. And he laughs graciously. His fans say he is very open-minded and jovial.
Backing him is Mr Donald Duke, a former governor, and Mr Effiok Cobham, a former deputy governor. They have been campaigning with and for him everywhere. In fact, Duke followed the Onor campaign train to all parts of the state and sold him to the people as the best man to take over the reins of Cross River. According to Duke, the only man that can fix Cross River at this time is Onor. From Obanliku to Odukpani, Duke marketed Onor and would speak the Efik language to his people as a way of convincing them to queue behind Onor.
The PFN Endorsement
On Monday, March 6, 2023, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, endorsed the candidacy of Onor and vowed to get their members to mobilise support him. They see him as the messiah that will deviate from the Ayade path. It is also believed that other Christian leaders, including those of the catholic faith, have endorsed him.
A prominent traditional ruler from the state was said to have invited him to a private meeting where he told him of various dreams he had about his victory, and then blessed him ahead of the governorship election. The monarch was said to have also told him that the race would be tough, but that he would emerge victorious.
Growing Support Base
Even though a lot of people had defected from their political parties to the PDP before now, prominent politicians are believed to have collapsed their structures for him, after last Saturday’s elections. Among those who have collapsed their structures are politicians who got angry that the APC did not keep to the terms of agreement they had before last Saturday’s election.
In the southern and central senatorial districts where the PDP did not do well during the last election, more political gladiators are forming alignments for the PDP, with the main aim of getting victory for Onor, whom they see as an independent minded person with the capacity to take the state back to its days of glory.
His Major Threat
There appears to be a gang up against him by some people in the southern part of the state, majorly because of the thinking that power ought to return to that part of the state in 2023. They are the people behind the back to south mantra. However, this is being punctured by those who believe that it is only Odukpani LGA that is taking everything in the APC.
For example, the senator-elect for the southern senatorial district, Asuquo Ekpenyong jnr, is from Odukpani. The governorship candidate of the APC is also from Odukpani, while the same Odukpani is also producing the House of Reps member. This seems to have angered those from Akamkpa/Biase, the Ejagham speaking people of the south, who now believe that Odukpani has taken everything in the present dispensation.
even with the back to south mantra, Onor is likely to have a good showing in that region because of the choice of his running mate, Mrs Emana Emawhe, an Efik woman with grassroots appeal. The women are said to have mobilised seriously for her in the south and in other parts of the state.
Sweet Prince Otu
Prince Otu is of the APC. A former member of the House of Reps and the senate, Otu is known to be humble and approachable. His fans believe that he is generous and likeable. On a good day, Otu looks good to win an election of this nature.
But his major setback is the luggage of the sitting governor who is believed to be his number one supporter.
The state governor, Prof Ben Ayade, is known to have failed in virtually all the promises he made to the state in about eight years. It was for the same reason that his people rejected and voted against him during the February 25 senate election in which he was a major contender. Apart from voting him out, the northern voters also rejected some of the candidates considered to be very close to him. It was the people’s way of telling the governor that they were unhappy with him for failing them in eight years. The fear is that should Otu succeed to succeed Ayade, the state would remain stagnant, as the governor would still be dictating to him how he should run the state.
The Back To South Mantra
One good music that Otu seems to be enjoying is the back to south song. But it is not clear how far the Efiks can go with this. It is even getting to that point when serious ethic sentiments are being brought into the politics. The fear is that with the way the southerners are going, they may not consider the other two senatorial districts if they succeed in securing the power they have clamoured for. It is also not very clear, if the people who have been singing the song are still singing and will continue to sing it on Election Day.
There have been insinuations that the governor may not be willing to come all out with funds to back Otu, after failing his own election. Those who are close to the system believe that Otu does not really have the needed funds for the election and would be depending on the governor for funding. They may be right. Or it may not even be true. But sources said Otu was unable to carry out his campaigns the way he ought to, because he was waiting for the governor to provide the funds.
As March 11 beckons…
This Saturday’s governorship and house of assembly elections will be very interesting and keenly contested. The major players will try to undo each other as they strive to get votes. By Monday next week, the winner would have emerged. Would it be Onor or would it be Otu?