By Inyali Peter
Since Nigeria’s return to democratic rule in 1999, Cross River State has enjoyed smooth transition of power for three different administrations led by three Governors from the three Senatorial Districts of the state.
The circle started with Mr. Donald Duke, from Southern Senatorial district. He ruled for 8 years; between 1999 to 2007. Duke handed over to Sen. Liyel Imoke from central senatorial district. He was also in power for two 8 years, that’s between 2007 to 2015. The mantle left Imoke to the incumbent Governor, Sen. Ben Ayade from Cross River North. He assumed office in 2015 and like others, won his second term bid in 2019 to remain in power till 2023 which would make him 8 years.
In 1999 when Duke came on board, there was no agreement by stakeholders on which Senatorial district to produce Governor. This was why it was a free-for-all battle among people across the three senatorial districts. Duke, however emerged and won his reelection bid in 2003. In 2007 when he was leaving, the governorship was realistically opened for the central and North.
Then again, the power deciders at the time couldn’t come to an agreement on which senatorial district to produce Duke’s successor. The Central and North wrestled it out but it was the former that emerged victorious at the end.
By the time Imoke was leaving in 2015, natural justice had zoned the position to the North. The then ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP which was the only party at the time with the spread and structure to win such election also cemented the position of natural justice by formerly zoning the position to the North.
Then the burgeoning opposition, the APC which is now the ruling party at the centre equally followed the line of natural justice and PDP by zoning the governorship to the North. By the time the two major political parties; the APC and PDP concluded their primaries, the two top contenders; Sen. Ben Ayade of the PDP and Mr. Odey Ochicha of the APC were all from the North.
No doubt, some people, much of whom were pretenders contested as candidates under the umbrella of some mushroom parties within this period, but even though it’s said that nobody is to be underrated in the game of politics, they themselves knew they were not real contenders. This is evidenced in the fact that only a handful of them could pull reasonable votes in their polling units not to talk of winning.
Notwithstanding, by the time Gov. Ayade would be completing his second tenure in 2023, all the three senatorial districts would have completed 8 years each in power. This would mean that the circle of power that started with Duke, to Imoke though not expressly planned, would be completing in 2023.
But that’s the power circle that will complete. The waiting circle will still be a pilgrim. That is, in 2023, the South will complete it 16 years wait like the North while the central would just be completing 8 years and would have 8 more years to wait to complete the circle.
The current rotation plan is such that each Senatorial is supposed to wait for 16 years to enjoy power for 8 years. The wait started from the North but the power circle is ending with them. If all the senatorial districts have enjoyed power for 8 years each, why can’t all also wait for 16 years?
This question, although sounds rhetorical, it’s something that requires answer to correct the misconceptions that have dominated the political discourse in the past few days in the social media.
Some social media commentators have come out with skewed arguments that since by 2023, each senatorial district would have done 8 years, the rotation arrangement should start from anywhere. This argument is without recourse to the fact that the whole zoning thing is not a one way traffic. It doesn’t start and end with power but the years out of power also count and even more important.
The agitation for North to produce Governor became heavier after waiting for 16 years. For producing Governor after those number of years, the zone has naturally set a benchmark which the South have followed. This goes to say that, when the South complete it 16 years wait in 2023, the same natural justice that zoned the position to the North in 2015 and other agreements that followed would and should be maintained.
The North cannot wait for 16 years and produce Governor and another senatorial district waits, fifth columnist would say it should go to anywhere. Any attempt to scuttle the current rotation formula which has ensured cohesion and smooth transition of power may backfire and would kill the very essence of zoning.
It was for fairness and equity that the stakeholders sat and agreed that power should rotate among the three senatorial districts. What would be the fairness and equity if after 16 years, South is denied governorship for others who will be leaving power or have waited for just 8 years?
The simple and obvious truth is that, the same way the circle of power would be completed in 2023, the circle of waiting should also continue till 2031 where each of the Senatorial districts would have waited for 16 years out of power. This is where Cross Riverians can beat their chests that indeed, they’ve been fair to all.
The South, however, must put themselves together knowing that power is not given but taken. Even when Isaac promised to bless Esua, his eldest sons as encapsulated in Genesis chapter 27, Jacob, his younger sons who was more desperate for it got it ahead of his elder brother.
That natural justice would smile on them in 2023 is not enough and doesn’t mean that they should go to bed and sleep. They need to begin to put their house in order, reach out to other people, align and realign because for those playing the ostrich, the game started since the day Gov. Ayade took oath of office for second tenure.