By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
Senator John Owan Enoh is the All Progressives Congress, APC, governorship candidate for Cross River State. In this interview, Enoh, who is currently representing Cross River Central in the Senate, says about 50 per cent of members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, are working for him. He accuses Governor Ben Ayade of destroying the legacies of his predecessor.
There is a gentleman’s agreement in Cross River for power rotation. The South served eight years under Mr. Donald Duke, the Central served eight years under Senator Liyel Imoke. Now it is the turn of the North which is serving four years. Why should you from the Central contest this time?
I think what is going on in Cross River is because of the tragic administration we have. Cross River faces unusual situation and responses to unusual situations always require some unusualness. So I am glad you are talking about gentleman’s agreement. Beyond the kind of unusual situation that we face, there is also no time since 1999 that you had all the candidates running the governorship elections come from one zone.
When Donald Duke ran, you had people from the North running; when Liyel Imoke ran, you had people from both North and South running, so it was only because the two zones have produced governorships by 2015 that you had all the candidates coming from the North and that was the first time it was happening.
By the way, I believe, for example, that a second term is earned based on performance. I understand that the incumbent governor is harping on zoning. If zoning made you governor in 2015, by 2019, it is your performance in office that should give you back that governorship, you don’t go back to the sentiment. Virtually every Cross Riverian appreciates the fact that if this governor gets second term, the state will become irrecoverable. And I think that the politics of the state has gone beyond sentiment.
Why did you think the state is becoming irrecoverable?
Because of how terrible the present administration has governed. I can give you a few statistics. By 2015 when Liyel Imoke’s administration was leaving office, Cross River had been rated as the 11th largest economy in Nigeria. As I speak to you, the indications are terrible. The fiscal sustainability index for the country places Cross River the 36th state out of 36 states. Obudu cattle ranch, which has been the pride of Cross River and the country, was developed by Donald Duke who comes from the South; Governor Liye Imoke sustained that development. That was when you began to hear International Mountain race that attracted the world’s attention. This governor is from where the ranch is located; the ranch is today at zero level.
Cross River used to be regarded as the safest state; that is not what is happening today. Check across the country, various states have been inviting different people to commission projects. There are no projects to commission in Cross River outside for example the sham. The President has gone to Cross River twice. The first was to flag off the construction of the super highway, go and find out what is happening there. It stopped immediately after that flag off.
The President was there a few months ago to commission what they called rice seedlings factory. Immediately the President left, all the machinery that were used for the show were taken out. The garment factory is what this government has showcased the most, find out what is happening to the factory, how much was spent to build the factory, how much has come in since it was built and commissioned. My slogan for the campaign is better days are possible again because we had better days before. We need to get Cross River back to those better days.
The Minister of Niger Delta Pastor Usani Usani claims he is still the All Progressives Congress, APC, governorship candidate in Cross River State. What is your take?
I will be shocked if he made that kind of claim. But I will like to be as civil as possible in my response because he is my brother, we come from the same state, we are in the same party and we need to work together to be able to get our state out of the mess it is presently. But having said so, I am going to mention a few things on why it is unnecessary to make that kind of claim. I won the primary election organized by the party. The panel that came to Cross River to do the primary was unanimous in its verdict that l won. My name was sent to INEC, my name was published by INEC.
In the South-South presidential campaign rally that took place in Uyo (Akwa Ibom State), the party flag was given to me. The court judgment on the primary after he went to court to challenge the outcome of the exercise was dismissed. So, it is out of place for him to still claim he is a candidate.
Don’t you think that what is happening will affect the chances of the party in the elections?
The governorship election comes up on March 2. I believe we don’t have too much time but we still have some time to get this thing sorted out. A few days ago, I made a statement extending an olive branch to him. I am going to follow up with some personal efforts to get across to him because what our state needs today the most is a united APC because more than 80 percent of the people see salvation in the APC because of the kind of administration that we have had since 2015. So, I am positive that the party will come together, especially since close to half of those in the PDP today are going to work for my candidacy and I think we can’t afford as APC to be divided.
How did the minister respond to the olive branch you said you extended to him?
Well, there is no response from him but since after that judgment, I have received calls from a lot of his supporters because they are also coming back to reality. I am not going to say that because his supporters are calling me, I therefore don’t need to reach out to him; no, I need him and I need to speak with him and I am hoping that, at the end, the interest of our state and our party will make all of us who need to make the sacrifices do so.
What do you think gives him the confidence?
I don’t think there is anything really; I thought it was the court thing. Although, in terms of the merit of the case, nobody who had followed the matter and the primary would expect that anybody would have had any confidence to get a judgment that is otherwise because it was clear, the victory was unanimous. In fact, he didn’t take part in the primary organized by the party. He had organized his separate primary with a local committee.
What is the leadership of APC at the national level doing to resolve the crisis?
The party has set up reconciliation committees and the one for South-South visited Cross River. I think they have submitted their report. This is part of the continuous efforts of the party to try to make sure that there is harmony and peace across the states.
What role are Cross River elders in APC playing to resolve it?
They have made efforts. I proposed some weeks back that we should set up reconciliation committees at the senatorial districts to reach out and respond to this kind of situation.