Political mathematicians have already started numbering the days left for Prof Ben Ayade to remain in office as governor of Cross River State. He has so far spent a little above six years. His critics believe that it has been wasted six years, as he is yet to formally inaugurate any project in any part of the state during the period.
But his admirers score him high in the area of industrialisation and what has now popularly been referred to as the food on the table appointment of the people of Cross River. It is believed that up to 5000 people are on the payroll of the state government. Most of them have no offices, though. Most of them have no job schedule too. But at the end of the month, their phones must beep and as it beeps, the people would rejoice. If the alert is dropping for a man, then it means madam must go to the market and there must be food on the table. No governor has beaten this record.
So, what the people are losing in the area of infrastructural projects, they are gaining much more in the form of free money; just that they may not have good roads to drive their cars, or potable water, or a clean environment, or a buoyant economy and all that.
The industries credited to him are yet to become productive. But it can be seen that some efforts and resources have been invested in the establishment of structures believed to be industries that are supposed to employ the unemployed and also revive the economy of the state. This may happen before the return of Jesus, or before Ayade leaves office. If not, then it means his successor may be the one to complete those uncompleted projects and put them to use, for the benefit of the people.
So, who will that person be? Who will be good enough to succeed Ayade? Who will be credible enough in the eyes of the sitting governor, to take over the governance structures in the state?
Before now, Cross River used to be a one party state. The PDP was fully in charge. Once you were in custody of the PDP ticket, you were as good as governor. But old things have passed away. A new era is here. The APC has taken over the state, following the defection of the governor alongside scores of his supporters and appointees. So, the state will now be a hotbed of political manoeuvring between the APC and the PDP.
There are clear signals on the likely contestants. In this first part of the analysis on the credentials of some of those who are likely to take over from Ayade, OFONIME UMANAH attempts to identify those considered to be top on the list of possible contenders. The list is not on any particular order.
Senator Sandy Onor
He is one of those believed to be nursing the ambition to run for the office of governor of the state. He is currently a member of the PDP and there are no signs that he will quit this political platform.
Onor, a professor, is known for exceptional brilliance and natural intelligence. He did not only graduate top of his class with BA degree in History in 1987 from the University of Calabar where he also obtained PhD in African History in 1993, he exudes phenomenal intellectual capacity at every point in time. Onor, currently representing the Cross River Central Senatorial District in the National Assembly was recently crowned with the title of orator of the senate, for his oratory prowess.
In political circles, he is called the original caterpillar. Those who are close to him believe that he bulldozes effortlessly. Onor is well endowed by nature. He has an intimidating build and a large heart. You can easily have a view of his heart when he smiles. And when he is laughing, you will just know, that it could not have been any other. No two persons are gracious in smiles and laughter as Onor. He is hardly ever in a sad mood. Once you are around him, you can forget your sorrows because you will surely be infected by the air of excitement around him.
At various times, he had served as the Executive Chairman of Etung Local Government Council (1999-2002), Chairman, Cross River State Local Government Service Commission, Commissioner for Agriculture (2010-2011) and Commissioner for Environment (2011-2013) among other public offices. He has authored several books, including The Ejagham Nation in the Cross River Region of Nigeria (1994 & 2015) and Local Governance in Nigeria (2005) as well as several scholarly articles which have expanded the frontiers of knowledge. He has been highly recognized and decorated for his scholarship and other achievements.
Onor is believed to be enjoying grassroots support largely because of his openness, large heart and mien. As serving senator, he is reported to have touched lives in many ways than one.
To encourage the technological advancement of Students in his Senatorial District, Onor donated 250 sets of desktop computers, split unit air conditioners, standing fans, printers, generators and UPS to various secondary schools in his senatorial district. He also donated school desks to Community Secondary School, Ebom, Abi LGA and Community Secondary School, Idomi, Yakurr LGA. It is also to his credit, that he facilitated the renovation of some classroom blocks Boki and Abi local governments. As part of his constituency projects, he undertook the construction of boreholes in various parts of the senatorial district, as well as the construction of community halls at Yakurr, Boki, Etung as well as the renovation of the palace of the Obol Lopon of Ugep.
Various roads have either been graded, bulldozed, resurfaced and asphalted in Ikom, Boki, Obubra and Yakurr, apart from the installation of street lights in Boki in critical parts of the senatorial district, among many other achievements.
Senator John Owan Enoh
Owan Enoh is not a stranger to politics in Cross River State. Since the advent of the current political experiment in 1999, Owan Enoh has been there. He started off as a member of the state house of assembly, from where he moved to the House of Representatives before moving to the senate.
In 2003, as member of the House of Representatives, he was Vice Chairman, House Committee on Finance. In 2007, still in the lower chambers of the National Assembly, he became Chairman of the Finance Committee. In 2011, having made it to the House of Reps for a record third term, he was made Chairman of the Appropriation Committee of the house. Within this period, he attracted several projects to his constituency ranging from street lights, roads, health centres, education facilities, ICT centres and many more.
He was one of the arrowheads behind the establishment of the Budget Office. His passion for transparency and accountability gave light to the setting up of the Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC) through an Act of parliament. Guided by the need to blockade revenue leakages at the federal level, Owan Enoh helped in providing new vibe to revenue collecting agencies like the Nigerian Customs and Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). It is to his credit, as the Chairman of Appropriation Committee, that the country now enjoys a discreet system in national development through the long term annual budgetary planning.
Owan Enoh is known for one thing-he makes extra effort to answer his calls and would deliberately respond to missed calls and text messages. He is currently of the APC and hails from the same Etung local government as Onor.
Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba
He started his life in public service as director, Cross River Basin Development Authority [1981-1983), before he was appointed commissioner for Works & Transport in 1984. He was acting Attorney General, Cross River State 1985 – 1986; Director Chief Executive DFRRI [Cross River State) 1986 and so many other privatization exercises.
Ndoma Egba is an outstanding politician and is very knowledgeable in legislative affairs, as he is in leadership at the executive level. He was leader of the 7th Senate and Deputy Senate Leader of the 6th Senate of the Senate of the 5th to the 7th Assemblies, that is from 2003 to 2015. He was also called to the Nigerian Bar in 1978 and started his professional career with Kanu G. Agabi & co in 1979.
He also had the distinct and unique privilege of being elevated to the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria(SAN) from the National Assembly.
He served as chairman of the NDDC and from there, contested to return to the senate under the banner of the APC but was stopped by Onor who won the election for the PDP.
Senator Prince Bassey Otu
Born 18 October 1959, Otu is a Nigerian politician who represented the Calabar Municipal/Odukpani constituency of Cross River State, Nigeria in the House of Representatives from 2003 – 2011.He was elected Senator for Cross River South in the April 2011 elections, running on the PDP platform.
He grew up in his home city of Calabar and in Jos, Plateau State, where his father had been assigned to the mission of the Church of Scotland. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences from the University of Calabar. Before entering politics, he was engaged in banking and also had a stint in the petroleum sector and farming. He has since moved into the APC whose ticket he hopes to use to test his popularity in 2023 during the governorship election. He left his seat in the senate for Senate Gershom Bassey.
Senator Gershom Bassey
Prior to his senatorial ambition, he was the Chairman of Cross River State Water Board. He was also the Chairman of the strategic Policy Committee in the State. He belonged to the group of three friends who used to determine the political fate of everybody in the state in the early years of political leadership in the state; the other two being Donald Duke and Liyel Imoke.
He is known to be very close to Imoke. There are speculations that Imoke, who is seen as the leader of the PDP in the state is favourably disposed to his candidacy. But this has remained where it is-the realm of speculations. But Bassey has turned out to be one of the active members of the senate.
He began his academic journey at Federal Government College, Kano for his secondary education but completed same at Hope Waddell Training Institution (HWTI) in Calabar, Cross River State. At Hope Waddell, he sat and passed the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) in 1978. He proceeded to the University of Calabar, Cross River State where he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Banking & Finance in 1998. He also attended the Cross River College of Education and graduated in 1997
Born on May 29th, 1962 into the family of Ntufam Asuquo Ukpong Eru and Evangelist (Mrs.) Comfort Asuquo of Akamkpa Town in Akamkpa Local Government Area of Cross River State, he belongs to a royal family. He is a financial expert, businessman and politician and currently represents Akamkpa/Biase Constituency of Cross River State in the House of Representatives.
Before now, Asuquo had served as Chairman of Akamkpa Local Government Area from 1999 to 2002. That was after he had served as the Director of the Cross River State Electrification Agency. He first got into the House of Representatives in 2011 and won a re-election in 2015. He remains a strong member of the PDP and is seriously contending for the party’s ticket ahead of the 2023 election.
Born on September 25th 1985, he is the current Cross River State’s Finance Commissioner. He attended King’s College, Lagos, before proceeding to study Economics at the University of Reading, UK. He also bagged his Msc. in
International Banking and Financial Services from the same university.
He attended the Key Executive Programmes at the Harvard Business School. He has also attended the Global Executive Leadership Program at Howard University Business School; the Executive Management Development Program at the University of Pretoria; the Euromoney Oil & Gas School London, etc.
He is also a member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria. After a brief working stint in England, he returned to Nigeria to work as a Financial Analyst in Lagos and then relocated to Cross River to become a lecturer in the Banking and Finance Department of the University of Calabar.
He established Iquasu Ventures Ltd in 2010; he later took over as the MD of Chamley Bureau de Change Ltd. He was later appointed as the Executive Director for finance at Pearland Energy and Non-Executive Director at Ekondo Microfinance Bank Ltd.
His father is one of the most prominent businessmen in Calabar. He got married to the daughter of a former governor of the state, Duke. But two of them are now in different political parties. While Ekpenyong has since joined Ayade in the APC, Duke recently returned to the PDP. So, it is not clear if Duke will be campaigning for his son-in-law in the APC, or whether he will stay with and give all his support to the PDP when the time comes.
Christopher Agam Agara, an embodiment of modern philanthropy, was born on the month of May 27, 1963 and hails from Ikom Local Government Area in Central Senatorial District of Cross River State. He is one man grass to grace story can make you shed tears.
Agara studied Law at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RUST) for his first degree. He went further to clinch a Master Degree in Law (LLM) at the University of London on a full time course to enrich his already acquired knowledge in Law. Due to his passion for business and academics. He proceeded to obtain a PGD in Business Studies at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RUST) which gave him the opportunity to grab another Masters Degree in Business Administration (M. Sc) from the prestigious University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT).
He is a seasoned administrator, a business man and CEO of many outstanding companies in Nigeria and abroad such as the Garagam Nigeria Limited, TITAN projects (an Oil serving company), AA universal (Agric base company) etc.
He is believed to be a philanthropist, politician, peace ambassador, president of various multipurpose cooperatives, a contractor, teacher and is married with children.
He is reported to have more than six orphanage homes in Cross River State under his monthly payroll for over 20 years now. He also has a scheme for the physically challenged that has been running in the state for several years.
His company, AA UNIVERSAL, is currently partnering the Cross River State Government for the construction of ultra-modern cocoa processing factory in ikom and the Rice Processing Mill in Ogoja.
In 2015, he presented himself for election into the senate. He contested the PDP ticket with Onor, but wasn’t that lucky, as Onor grabbed the ticket and eventually won the election. Agara has also joined Ayade in the APC.
Not much is known about Akak, especially in political circles, in Cross River State. But of recent, there have been reports about his humanitarian gestures under the banner of his foundation. The foundation is said to have impacted a lot on the less privileged in the state. He used to be a member of the PDP but the defection gale caught up with him and he left the party for the APC, with Ayade.