By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor
As President Muhammadu Buhari considers top Nigerians to form his cabinet, no fewer than 15 persons in Cross River State have indicated strong interest for the position, which would automatically make the person the ruling party’s highest political leader in the state.
Findings by Vanguard indicated that the contenders are mostly top All Progressives Congress politicians who contested for governorship, national and state assembly posts but lost to the People’s Democratic Party in the state.
Investigation also reveals that the fierce rivalry and factionalisation of the state chapter the APC, which eventually cost it victory in the last election, have also heightened as the selection of a minister from the state begins.
According to a credible source, the major contenders are counting on their ‘assumed closeness’ to either President Buhari or the leadership of the APC at the national and regional levels and are unwilling to back down even with reports that the president will only pick cabinet members strictly on merit and not on party membership and contributions.
One of the contenders, who is reported to have begun serious consultations to reconcile with those he might have offended in the build-up to the last election in the state, is a National Assembly member, while another belongs is a close friend of Buhari.
But as the race to pick the top post hots up, Vanguard learned that prominent members of the party, who are upset by the loss of the state and national assembly seats to the PDP, have begun moves to stop any of the politicians and their backers, who contributed to the factionalisation of the party and the loss of the state, from being rewarded with the appointment.
The party leaders, according to sources are said to have made a strong position to the President, reminding him of the betrayal caused by those who now seek to be appointed into his cabinet.
A chieftain of the APC in Cross River State and Deputy National Treasurer of the Presidential Campaign Council, Chief Utum Eteng, while reacting to the development, cautioned President Buhari not to reward any of the politicians who caused him and his party defeat in the state with a ministerial post.
Utum, who is also a member of the Legal Committee of the Presidential Campaign Council, told Vanguard that the people of Cross River State would only appreciate the appointment of a top technocrat, who would dedicate time and energy to work for the state rather than a politician.
Utum said: “Any elected/appointed party leader, who did not deliver his polling unit and ward to the party in the last election should have no business talking about ministerial appointment because if others did not deliver for the president to emerge victorious, there would have been chance of forming a cabinet.
“Those who used their positions at the state, regional and national levels to work against the success of the party and its candidates should not be seen to be rewarded with the top post for any reason,” Chief Eteng said.