The leadership of the All Progressives Congress appears to be on its toes in an effort to reconcile all those who may have been aggrieved as a result of the outcome of the just concluded primary elections for the various elective positions as a way of wining the general election scheduled for next year.
And on its part, the PDP is seriously working and adopting politically strategic means to unseat the incumbent government in the state. Cross River had been a PDP state since 1999, until last year when the governor, Prof Ben Ayade who was elected under the party’s platform decided to defect to the APC.
The PDP has already taken steps to keep the members together, after the governorship primary which was almost rancour free, as all those who contested the election that produced Prof Sandy Onor as candidate had congratulated him immediately after.
The PDP has also taken deliberate steps to ensure that the choice of its running mate was made almost without rancour, as all major stakeholders were on the same page on the matter. It was learnt that former governors-Senator Liyel Imoke and Donald Duke-for the first time in a long while, agreed on the choice of the running mate, Mrs Emana Ambrose Amawhe.
Although there are pockets of dissenting voices in the party, largely from those who felt that their personal interests were not being protected and have vowed to work against the interest of the PDP. While some of them have already concluded plans to leave the party, a few others say they would remain in the party and work against it.
In the APC, there are also serious issues. But the party leadership says they are working hard to calm fraying nerves. Part of the moves includes considerations for people like Senator John Owan Enoh who is already in court against the party over the controversy that trailed the screening of the party’s gubernatorial candidate, Senator Prince Bassey Otu.
Also, the party caucus is said to be insisting on the choice of Peter Odey as deputy governorship candidate. Odey is from Ogoja and it the leadership believes that with him and Otu, the APC will defeat the PDP.
TNN learnt that top personalities have been talking with Owan Enoh on possible out of court settlement, although it is not clear if the senator is willing to withdraw his case from the court.
Sources said the party chairman, Mr Alphonsus Eba has met Owan Enoh as well as other aggrieved party members and that more of such reconciliatory meetings would hold in the coming days.
It was gathered that Owan Enoh has however told the party that he was not out to destroy the party or its candidate, but that he needed the party to strengthen things and deal with all grey areas, so that its candidate would have a smooth sail devoid of litigations after the elections.
One of his media aides told TNN that “senator Owan is not a troublesome person. He is open to discussions and has spoken with leaders of the party. He wants the good of the party and is open to anything that will bring peace to the party and give it victory in 2023.
“It is unfortunate that people see him as a wicked person who wants to run the party candidate down. His court case is a matter of principles. All he wants to achieve is for the party to do due diligence because if we all fight and win the election, it will be too painful if someone goes to court and pulls the rug off our feet. Talks are going on and I can assure you that everything will be sorted out.”
Penultimate week, the state party chairman who has become popular as a result of his “political evangelism” tag had hinted that he was ready to engage all aggrieved members of the party and work towards victory for the party in the 2023 elections.
It was learnt during the week that the party leadership is considering ways of placating Owan Enoh, in view of his contributions to the prosperity and progress of the party over the years. One of the things being thought of is to see how he can get the senate ticket, ahead of the 2023 elections.
It was learnt that the speaker of the state house of assembly, Eteng Williams, is to be approached and pleaded with, to withdraw from the race so that Owan Enoh or Chris Agara who lost out during the senate primaries can get the ticket.
Although this option is being considered at a very high level of the party leadership, it is not clear if all those to be affected by the decision have bought into the idea.
This is coming even as a member of the House of Representatives, Daniel Asuquo, who contested the PDP governorship primaries but lost to Senator Sandy Onor, is said to be plotting to defect to the APC, as he dreams to grab the senate ticket.
Already, the ticket is in the safe hands of Mr Asuquo Ekpenyong who is preparing to occupy the Cross River Southern Senatorial district seat. Sources said there are plans within the party to plead with Ekpenyong to withdraw from the senate race and go to the House of Representatives instead.
TNN made efforts to reach him for his opinion on the development but he did not respond. Ekpenyong, a former commissioner of finance in the state, had earlier presented himself to the people of the state for election as governor, but was told to step down for Otu.
One of his close aides however said even though information had leaked, of a meeting that took place in Abuja that lasted into the early hours of Sunday, where the matter was discussed, the news was still considered a rumour.
The source said “we have heard something like that, that some people are saying that Asuquo Ekpenyong will be approached to withdraw from the senate race for Dansuki. By the way, it is still in the realm of speculations that Dansuki will be joining the APC soon. We hear he was even at the said Abuja meeting where that issue was discussed.
“Our party is a party that believes in due process. Our party respects rules and so I really doubt it, that such a matter was discussed. You know this is the time that you will hear all kinds of things. For us, it is one of those Watt Market gist.”
However, barring last minute change in plans, the governor, Senator Ben Ayade may, very soon, emerge as the party’s candidate for the Cross River Northern Senatorial election ticket. It was learnt that talks are already going on with Mr Martins Orim to pull out of the race and allow his boss to grab the ticket.
The thinking is that if Ayade wins the general elections, he stands the chance to become the next senate president. The amended Electoral Act provides that a candidate can voluntarily write to INEC indicating their willingness to withdraw from an election.
Once that happens, a fresh primary election will have to be conducted where a different candidate will emerge. What it means is that if the chief of staff, Government House accepts to withdraw, a fresh primary election will be conducted and Ayade will emerge winner.