Kenneth Hartley Blanchard, an American author, business consultant and motivational speaker, must have had Cross River’s immediate past Commissioner for Finance, Asuquo Ekpeyong Jr. in mind when he penned this famous quote: “The greatest leaders mobilize others by coalescing people around a shared vision.”

Actuated more by a common vision and mission, the need to galvanise and pull together could not be more urgent for Asuquo Ekpeyong Jr. when he set sail on a tour of the18 council areas of the state to thank Cross Riverians for their overwhelming turn out at the recently held Cross River State Youth Summit held at the U.J. Esuene Stadium, Calabar.

Organised under the auspices of Asuquo Ekpeyong APC Lobby Group, the almost two weeks tour was aimed at not only mobilising and coalescing Cross Riverians around a shared vision but also at sensitising the various stakeholders in the state.

With the 2023 general elections a few months away, Cross River APC can ill-afford apathy from its huge army of faithful across the 18 local government areas, especially as INEC ramps up voters registration exercise ahead of the polls.

For what was initially planned as both a thank you and a call to action, the tour turned out to be an acceptance and a popularity showpiece for a man who has since acquired the sobriquet SUKI.

At Sankwala, headquarters of Obanliku, where the tour was flagged off in the Northern Senatorial District of the state, a vast concourse of party faithful and SUKI supporters had thronged the venue as early as 8.30am to behold a man they know represents the now, the vision and the future.

His entry into the arena was greeted with thunderous chants of  SUKI,! SUKI! SUKI.

The atmosphere became more elecrifying when he mounted the rostrum to speak.Lavish smile could be seen boldly etched on the the faces of the enthusiastic crowd.

It was clear that there was a connectivity with an appreciative young man who had come to physically say thank you to the people for risking their lives all the way from Obanliku to Calabar to attend the February Cross River Youth Summit. 

Even before he could bellow the popular party slogan, “APC, Progress, “APC, Progress”, to rouse them to the import of his tour, the crowd had drowned him with the vociferous chorus of “Na you we know”, “Na you we go follow”, a clear message that they were on the same page with their young guest, whom they insisted they will mobilise with their voters cards to ensure his smooth sail into Diamond Hill Government House come 2023.

Akin to the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem, SUKI’s entry into the Northern Senatorial Zone bore obvious imprints of triumphalism, as a broad spectrum of stakeholders, youths, market women, men, artisans, traditional rulers and People Living With Disabilities (PLWD) literally laid siege to voice their support and partnership in the 2023 project as the tour train entered Obudu, Bekwarra, Ogoja and Yala Local Government Areas to conclude the first leg of the Thank you and voter sensitization tour. 

The spectacle was no different in the Central Senatorial District, comprising Boki, Etung, Ikom, Obubra, Yakurr and Abi, where the tour caravan had its stopover. 

Just as in Obudu, Bekwarra, Ogoja and Yala, the interaction in Boki was greeted by a mammoth turn out of SuKi supporters and party faithful displaying their voters card, as a way of reinforcing the essence of the rendezvous and a further demonstration of the unflinching commitment to what Asuquo Ekpeyong represents for the youths and Cross River as a whole. 

Evidently, for the first time, the youths were determined to put their future in the hands of a fellow youth of their age, Asuquo Ekpeyong Jr., whom they vowed to stick their necks out for.

Profiling his background, various stakeholders at the Boki event were in accord that coming from a humble and comfortable background such as his, he will sincerely put service above personal interest.

Against this background, a new slogan was coined for him, “Asuquo Ekpeyong, that’s the standard”, as the irreducible minimum for anyone gunning for the exalted office of the governor of Cross River State. 

Other monikers such as “Youths for Youth”, “Asuquo Ekpeyong for our secure future”, “We will deliver for SUKI”, were boldly emblazoned on posters that swarmed the Boki, Ikom and Etung venues of the Thank you and voter registration sensitization. 

Addressing a sea of heads in Ikom, SUKI said: “We have been going round the state to encourage and support the youths to take advantage of INEC on going registration to register and get their PVC’S so as to elect good leaders in the upcoming elections.”

Rounding off his tour of the Central Senatorial District,  the SUKI Thank you train which made its final anchor at Obubra, Yakurr and Abi, was received by the various paramount rulers, with showers of prayers and anointing for the actualization of the SUKI 2023 project.

Specifically, the Obol Lopon of Ugep, His Royal Majesty Obol Ubana Eteng, Paramount ruler of Yakurr, while receiving Asuquo Ekpeyong in his Palace, said: “”Before you got here, they have called me and said the next Governor of Cross River State was coming.” 

Continuing, His Royal Majesty said: “As you have come today with your group and we accept you, we will not turn our backs on you. We will stand by you.”

In what could be likened to an epiphany, Ubana Eteng paramount ruler of Etung told his guests that “Today is a wonderful day. I was lying on my bed at about 4:47am and my late father appeared to me in my dream and gave me a word that someone special will visit me today and I must bless that person. He said to me ‘when you see that person, you will know’. I have just seen that person and now I know the truth in that vision. What I saw in my dream, I have seen physically and I thank God, whom I hope will complete the already good work He has started in you.”

He prayed for long life, as well as his accomplishment in his desire to offer his leadership to the state. He assured that he and his subjects were solidly behind his governorship aspiration having seen through his sincerity of purpose. 

Similar prayers and wishes poured in from Ubana Eteng’s opposite numbers from Abi and Obubra. 

Berthing finally in the South, the SUKI sensitization wagon was welcomed by a jubilant army of supporters and staunch APC faithful who emptied into their local government headquarters to vouch their support for what they described as a bankable project in 2023. 

At Odukpani, SUKI’s own council area, he was treated to carnival-like reception amidst display of various banners with such inscriptions as: “The Eagle has landed”, “This is our beloved son, in whom we are well pleased”, “SUKI tu tu mkpong”,

Effusive words and acts of support from the people were indeed in sumptuous display. 

Earlier, the train had had its stopovers in Biase, Bakassi, Akpabuyo, Calabar South as well Calabar Municipal council areas for similar felicitations and vouching of supports for SUKI 2923 project.

At the event in Odukpani was a member representing Bekwarra, Obudu and Obanliku in the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Legor Idagbo and he had this to say: “With all due respect to everyone contesting for the governorship in Cross River State, I believe that power should return to the South. I believe in a paradigm shift to a younger generation and that Odukpani is well positioned to produce the Governor Ayade’s successor.”

Keen watchers of the unfolding gubernatorial race in Cross River are of the view that if the tour was a test of Suki’s popularity and a measure of acceptability, then the statistics spoke loudly for themselves.

They averred that the train which undertook a 12-day voyage across the 18 local government areas of the state was truly on the right tracks to offer enough coaches for all to hitch a ride on. And that indeed, Odukpani is well poised to provide a driver in Asuquo Ekpeyong Jr.

Like a heir to a throne, SUKI, given the state-wide appeal and acceptability he enjoys, it is safe to conclude that he is merely waiting for a formal coronation as the next governor of Cross River come next year.

Vanguard News

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