By Iheke Awa Solomon

CROSS River politicians and political actors, power-grabbers and ambitious self-seeking soldiers of fortune from the two major parties have returned to their trenches, with increased momentum in frenetic tongues of self-serving, divisive and deceptive arguments on zoning and or rotation agreement that is supposedly in place.

These power-players who have occupied the political space since 1999, and have recycled themselves and their surrogates, are back on the trail for another round-tripping exercise to corner the commonwealth through an invented device of governorship power rotation.

The issue of zoning and or rotation of political offices is not one sanctioned by the Constitution of Nigeria. It’s a conventional political arrangement of individual political parties, which is not even provided for by the constitutions of the parties involved.

At other times, zoning and or rotation is an unspoken and unwritten geopolitical arrangement for the sake of equity, fair and just distribution of political offices within the given geopolity. I know of such articles of faith among the people of Cross River State since my political engagement, even before 1999.

It has always been a matter of dialogue for accord and consent within each political party with the view of maximising comparative advantage for victory and producing the best candidate possible to implement the party’s manifesto. In 1979 the defunct main parties in old Cross River engaged this process to produce Dr. Clement Isong of NPN, Chief Ambe Bassey of UPN and Chief N. U. Akpan of NPP, all of whom are from Akwa Ibom. In 1992, the two military imposed parties of NRC and SDP produced Chief Clement Ebri and Ntufam Dr. Matthew Ojong both from Cross River central, applying the same process.

In 1999, the PDP led by the conclave of the triumvirate of Duke, Imoke and Gershom, appeared to have gifted themselves an agreement to cycle among themselves in the office of Governor. But providence punctured their mischievous arrangement by bringing political disagreement and separation between Duke and Imoke not long after Duke had passed the baton to Imoke.

Consequently, Gershom was shortchanged to the benefit of Ayade, and thus restoring equity for our northern kinsfolk. It must be noted that every political watcher in the state must have observed and known that since 1999, there was never any agreement, written or unwritten, by any section of our people, either by our elders, youths and or any association of persons, endorsing and or subscribing to zoning and or rotation of the office of governor.

It has been a PDP arrangement that was never even implemented with good faith as aspirants within PDP have always insisted and contested the governorship primaries notwithstanding the zone which lays claim to office as their turn.

Check it out. I have never been in PDP but I have been a major political player to know of the contemporaneous events under reference. I was the running mate to Etubom Bassey Ekpo Bassey in 1999 under the platform of Alliance for Democracy, AD, and we never discussed zoning and or rotation of the office of governor in the process that produced the flagbearer.

Ditto in 2007 as the governorship candidate of PPA, nothing about zoning and or rotation was discussed in the process through which I emerged. Even in 2011 where Chief Patrick Okomiso arrived in ANPP from PDP to steal the show from me, nothing about zoning and or rotation was on the table. Zoning and or rotation is a ruse and a political cloak.

I make bold to declare without fear of any contradiction that there has never been nor is there any abiding articles of faith regarding zoning or rotation of the office of governor in our state. Providence had carefully guided the thoughts and actions of our people to ensure equity, justice and fairness to all, to the end that all the zones have taken turns in the occupation of the office of governor.

Now let me tell four cardinal truths to our people with regard to the contending political parties, the PDP and the APC, and their prospective governorship aspirants from the various zones or senatorial districts, that are unnecessarily heating up the political temperature of our state with deceptive inanities of zoning and or rotation of the office governor, against 2023. 

First, if there has been any zoning and or rotational arrangements, it has been entirely a PDP affair, and no such arrangement can be said of the APC. I was not only at cradle of the party but also its foundation leader in the state and seised of everything that that party represents, at least at its conception and birth.

I am aware that a lot has changed since its coming to power but one thing is certain about it: the party has no zoning and or rotation arrangement. If anything, the party has been groping in the darkness of frightful disorder and leadership crisis of anything goes.

Second, the two political parties are the two fingers of the same leprous hand, and by operation of political logic, the two parties have ruled the state since 1999. This is difficult logic! But truth be told, all the political leaders of PDP that managed and or mismanaged the affairs of our state are the leading ‘lights’ of the rival APC.

I beg to avoid naming names because these names and personages are all in the public domain, and well known. In fact, these former PDP leaders have hijacked the APC and emptied the genuine foundation leaders of the party. It’s no news now that the PDP government of the state has emptied itself into the APC, and this has aggravated the zoning and or rotation contention brought to the party, while the contention within what remains of the parent party, the PDP in the state, is made worse as the struggle to regroup for 2023 gathers momentum.

Third, the return of Duke to the PDP fold after years of political excursion into various political groups and cleavages in search of his political future, is for no other reason than to accomplish the original mission of the conclave of the wise triumvirate applying the contentious zoning and or rotation formula which they foisted on the people of Cross River.

The leadership of these two fingers of the same leprous hand believe that our people have short memories and cannot identify their dubious selfish self-succession plan by replication through surrogacy, cronyism, agency, recycling and or adoption.

Fourth, final but not the least truth is that programmes and policies of these parties vide the PDP parent party in the state has left the state in ruinous deprivation, cluelessness and rudderless bewilderment, to the extent that the state entered into the proverbial ‘one chance‘ vehicle of kidnappers.

One example which the major political beneficiaries of the ‘one chance’ vehicle would want to evade will suffice as an example of the mischief and horrendous economic pillage that has rendered prostrate the commonwealth of our state, and plunged generations of our people into colossal indebtedness that is only parallel to the Buhari-led APC Federal Government debt profile of our time.

In 1999, the Duke administration took off with the Obasanjo federal administration, both men belonging to the same party, with the same programmes and policies founded on the same party manifesto, save for minor details tailored to local circumstances of each state, implemented the received global economic policy of privatisation and commercialisation of government enterprises, business investments and estates.

Duke’s administration set up the state’s privatisation bureau, and our own brilliant legal luminary, Chief Victor Ndoma-Egba, was the czar in the same vein as Malam Nasiru el-Rufai was the czar of the Obasanjo’s Federal Government equivalent, BPE. Under this PDP divestment programme, the state government sold off all our enterprises, business investments and estates with the rationale that it’s no longer fashionable and profitable for governments the world over to engage in the running of business ventures.

That the private sector should be encouraged through enabling policies and conducive infrastructural facilitations to drive the economy from which governments can earn appropriate taxes whilst acting as the economic ombudsman to all players. I refrain from detailing the less than transparent ways the privatisation and commercialisation process was carried out both at the state and the federal level. I do not also pretend to be blind to the opacity of the accounts, the proceeds of the sales till date. That may be the story of another day, and at the appropriate occasion.

However, methinks that after the government has divested itself of its business holding, the attention of the government will turn to creating the necessary enabling business environment with appropriate infrastructural development, policy incentives and proper monitoring to ensure that the new owners of these investments carry out the core vision behind the privatisation and commercialisation programme: alas how wrong the events turned out to be, leading to utter failure of this programme.

The programme suffered debilitating haemorrhage because of it fundamental lack of altruism and transparency. But worse than this was to come. The same Duke administration that supervised the divestment programme made a policy somersault or relapse to venture into another round of government investments in pineapples farms cultivation, direct investment in tourism, and worse still injection of untold state and local governments funds along with massive bank loans to build Tinapa.

All failed in sequence. The Tinapa conception was no doubt Duke’s truly ingenious economic masterstroke for the state. But it was a total reversal of the divestment programme, and also tainted by lack of altruism. Today, the true ownership of Tinapa is not only in dispute. The bank loans, principal and interests, are indeterminate as the exact status of the loans is shrouded in obscurity. It remains a failed investment project till this day.

This is the inconsistency, lack of continuity of party programmes, lack of altruism, crises of leadership character and failed vision with which the two fingers of the same leprous hand had superintended over the affairs of our state and mismanaged both the bright political and economic fortunes of the state from 1999 till date.

Not to talk of the loss of our oil wells and Bakassi whilst in the same party that controls the state and the central government. These parties are now trading recriminations and remonstrations, and each attempting to exculpate itself from this bogey of failure and ruinous economic recession whilst engaging the contentious issue of zoning and or rotation of the governorship office against 2023.

The deceit is made all the worse by the Ayade APC/PDP administration’s duplicitous investments in 46 bogus and supposedly state enterprises, which yet again runs against the rationale for the divestment programme of the parent party, and for no other justifiable reason than the tainted malevolent intent for the original conceptualisation of these investments.

That has become recently very clear with the public offer for sale of the said 46 enterprises that includes such rancid economic activities as toothpick production, garments and tailoring outfit, and cocoa processing factory among others. Of course, needless to guess how all the sale transactions will pan out into an exercise in opacity.

From the above truths, one inevitable conclusion commends itself to my mind, and it is that these parties and their leadership with all their major beneficiaries at all levels of governance, have run their course in the mismanagement of the affairs of our state from 1999 to date. It will not be out of place to ease the two parties out of our political space to allow for meaningful change to take place in 2023. Let Cross River reject PDP and APC at the 2023 polls. Let us try new political parties, and let the governorship race be open to all the zones.

The common people of our state, the poor peasants, the artisans, the army of unemployed mass of graduate youths, the petty traders and market women, the Okada ridders and Keke Napep drivers, the road transport workers and motorparks operators, the itinerant daily hawkers and even the physically challenged must not be allowed to keep silent out of ignorance of the truth and the absence of a voice to speak for them.

Enough of the deception and toying with the lives and destinies of the mass of our people. Sixty percent of votes of the masses are stolen at every election, and because most of the elite and ruling cast are in conspiracy, with the costs of justice in our legal system being beyond their pockets, this evil machination and fraud never gets to be exposed and redressed.

Let true compatriots, lovers and friends of our masses come out on the opposite side against these fat cats: the ‘macavities’ and the ‘mongojerries’ of our political space, to fight for the soul of our dear state. Apologies to William Blake. Let the truth confront the contraptions, and light against darkness. It’s only the truth that is capable of setting our people free.

Solomon, a pastor and lawyer, wrote from Calabar, CRS.

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