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2023: Newcomers battle old hands for senate seats in Cross River

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2023: Newcomers battle old hands for senate seats in Cross River.

The race for different elective positions in the 2023 general election in Nigeria is now in full swing. Cross River State is not an exception. However, our correspondent in Calabar takes a look at the senatorial races in the state and the likely persons that will occupy the three seats in 2023.

The three senatorial seats for Cross River State at the National Assembly is currently occupied by members of the People Democratic Party (PDP) even though the State is governed by an All Progressive Congress (APC) governor who decamped from the PDP to the APC barely a year ago.

Last year, precisely in the mo nth of May, after almost four years of speculations, foot dragging and denials, Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State finally dumped the PDP and joined the APC. He formally declared for his new party at the State Executive Council Chamber after a two-hour meeting with seven APC governors led by the then interim chairman of the party and governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni.

Before then, Ayade and his media team had vilified newsmen for on many occasions reporting that the embattled governor was on his way out of the PDP. The reports were because his body languages after he lost control of the PDP structure to the National Assembly members and stakeholders in the state, following a general loss of favour in the PDP at the national level, kept pointing to his defection to the APC.

When the PDP reconciliation committee led by former Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki visited him two months before his eventual defection, Ayade expressed his anger with the party and said he was sitting on the fence. Weeks earlier, as the plots for his decamping thickened, all the 18 local government chairmen, vice-chairmen, 196 councilors, and more than 6,000 appointees, at the Millennium square, staged a solidarity rally for Ayade, saying they were ready to “swim or sink with him”.

But when he defected, National Assembly members in the state, led by the three senators, disowned him and refused to follow him to the APC. Senator Gershom Bassey (PDP Cross River South), immediately told the world that the governor’s defection will have little or no effect on support of Cross–River People to PDP. As it turned out, majority of the National Assembly members and numerous other leading political players in the state did not to follow Ayade to the APC but pitched their tent with PDP. They berated the governor for ditching the party that made him what he is today politically, from Senator to Governor.

The development set the stage for the 2023 political war between the ruling APC and the opposition PDP in a state that hitherto had been a stronghold of the PDP since 1999. While Ayade is battling to show the world that the people of the state are with him in his decision to switch parties, the National Assembly members and other PDP leaders are eager to expose the governor’s error in dumping the PDP.

Many openings

The current Senators representing the three senatorial districts of the state, by ranking, include, Senator Gershom Bassey who is the caucus leader of the State in the National Assembly who has served in the Senate for two terms. He is currently vying for the position of governor of the state, leaving the Senate seat of his southern senatorial district up for a likely new face.

Barely 24hours after the PDP opened the doors for sale of nomination forms to aspirants for all positions, Senator Bassey got his Expression of Interest and Nomination forms of the party from the National Secretariat in Abuja.

Reports say the nomination and expression of interest forms were picked for him by coalition of support groups and supporters from donations on his 60th birthday. His supporters say his coming into power will change the narrative of Cross River State and restore the lost glory of the state.

In the Central Senatorial District, Senator Sandy Onor, a first term senator and highly cerebral academician turned politician is also going for the governorship race in Cross River State instead of seeking a second term. That has also opened the central senatorial seat of the state for someone else to occupy in 2023.

Last December, Senator Onor declared his interest in contesting for governor of Cross River State, 2023. The senator made the declaration at the state Peoples Democratic Power (PDP), Secretariat Complex, Calabar. There are talks that Senators Bassey and Onor may have agreed on sharing the governorship and deputy governorship slots of the PDP between them.

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But Senator Jerigbe Agom Jerigbe, who is barely a year in the Senate having been elected through a by-election, is seeking re-election to the Senate. A court judgment ousted Senator Steven Odey who was earlier declared winner of the December 5, 2020 by-election. Obey had served for about eight months before the Appeal court judgement handed the victory to Senator Jerigbe.

Jerigbe was a two term member of the Federal House of Representatives before his elevation. He is the only senator among the serving ones that is contesting the 2023 election to retain his seat. He may get the PDP ticket unopposed because of his towering popularity but he has the last huddles to cross at the general election with contenders from other political parties, particularly the now governing APC in the State.

Northern senatorial district  

This is a district where the incumbent senator (Jerigbe ) is seeking a return for another term. He is of the PDP and is likely to get his party ticket. His opponents from other political parties are not yet known but there are speculations that the APC may eventually field the state governor Prof. Ben Ayade who will have a proxy that will easily surrender the party ticket to him if he fails in his bid to get the presidential ticket of the APC.

Reliable party sources told The Nation that the governor already made his intention to return to the senate where he was before he became governor, in 2023. “He is in the presidential race but he is not letting his eye off the senate ticket of his district. Most party leaders are of the opinion that the governor should enjoy the right of first refusal as regards the Northern senatorial ticket.

Some analysts believe that Ayade had positioned Odey for the seat in 2019 in anticipation of the 2023 race. “The plan was that it would be easier to convince Odey to vacate the seat for Ayade. But with the court throwing him out and giving Jarigbe the seat, it is now going to be a contest of fierce rivals if the governor joins the race,” our source said.

“The governor is also in good stead for the senatorial ticket of the APC in his zone. Although there are a couple of contenders, they all understand the fact that Governor Ayade is favoured to take the seat if he decides to run. Currently, he is running for the presidency but it is still very possible for him to enter the senate race,” a source claimed.

When and if that happens, political pundits believe that Senator Jerigbe will have a strong contest to face. Should Ayade enter the race, the contest will largely be a test of popularity for the two politicians who had been at loggerheads since the run up to the 2019 general election in the state. But if the governor fails to contest, Jarigbe is tipped by pundits as the only serving senator that may return to his seat in 2023.

Central senatorial district

There are a number of new entrants here from the two frontline parties; the APC and the PDP. In the APC, former presidential aide, Chief Okoi Obono Obla, is seeking the party’s senatorial ticket. He is a foundation member of the party and knows the big and the mighty in the party while keeping base with the mass of party members and the electorate in his constituency.

Last month, he urged the APC not to close its doors to genuine aspirants who have not taken public funds or have been sponsored by wealthy people. “Genuine Aspirants who have not helped themselves to public funds or been sponsored by wealthy people cannot afford to buy nomination forms with such exorbitant and astronomical amounts,” Obono-Obla said in a statement. It is not clear whether he has obtained the nomination forms of his party as at press time.

Another contender for the APC Central Senatorial district ticket is the current Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Eteng Jonas-Williams, who was elected as the Speaker of the 9th Assembly in 2019. Since his emergence, he has displayed total loyalty to the governor, Senator Ayade. He led members of the Assembly to endorse the governor’s defection to the PDP last year. Observers of the politics of the state are suggesting that the governor may have decided to reward him with the senate ticket of the party.

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But that alone may not be enough because there is another heavy weight in the race who is currently the Chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Chief Akin Ricketts. Speaking at stakeholders’ consultative forum held at Yakurr, Abi, Ikom and Boki while declaring his intention to contest for the senatorial seat, Ricketts promised to perform to their surprise as he has the capacity to represent the district in the National Assembly.

The former commissioner for information in the state, said: “I am not coming as a usual politician but from the private sector and that he has a record of delivering on his promises. I would help in reducing the level of poverty and joblessness which are rife in the senatorial district when he emerges as senator by engaging the youths in various training and building of functional skills acquisition centres across the zone.”

These three contenders are favored by arguments of zoning in the area because it is believed that of the two blocks that made of the senatorial district, that is Old Ikom bloc and the Old Obubra bloc, it is the old Obubra bloc made up of Obubra local government area and Yakurr local government area that should take the chance in 2023 elections.

Contenders under the PDP in the Central district are Godwin Etta, Hon. Bassey Eko Ewa and Wilfred Usani. They all are from the Old Obubra bloc. It is not certain who the party ticket may swing to but Godwin Etta, who had served as state secretary of party among other government cabinet positions, may get it over Hon. Bassey Ewa, who was former Speaker of the state assembly, before serving in the House of Representatives for two terms.

Southern senatorial district

In the Southern district, the two frontline parties seem to be looking at giving the chance to Akamkpa /Biase Federal Constituency of the senatorial district but that has not stopped other aspirants outside the Akamkpa/Biase axis who have strong pedigree from venturing.

For instance, in the APC, the current Deputy Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Joseph Bassey from outside the Akamkpa/Biase axis, is flaunting his pedigree as seasoned legislator who has grown from local government legislative council where he was leader to his experience in the state executive as the Special Adviser to former governor Liyel Imoke and a two term deputy speaker of state assembly. He is a grassroots politician and his admired by the electorate.

Another contender for the APC southern senatorial district ticket is the current Commissioner for Agriculture, Ntufam Okon Owuna, from Akamkpa local government area. There’s also Chief Emil Inyang from Biase local government area. The flag bearer will be known after the primaries and the next battle will be the general election. Whatever the case, a new face will likely take the seat in 2023.

For the PDP in the Southern senatorial district race, the former state party chairman, Ntufam Ekpo Okon is slugging it out with Joseph Edet. Ntufam Ekpo Okon has a towering political pedigree but none should be under estimated in politics. Sources fear group interests can throw up the lighter weight contender over the presumed heavy weight in the ensuing political race.

Okon, who was the deputy governorship candidate of the APC in the 2019 election in Cross River State, returned to the PDPlast December. He was PDP’s Chairman and a Commissioner during the tenure of Donald Duke, former governor of the State, cited bad governance and lack of inclusion by Sen. Ben Ayade’s administration as a reason for his cross carpeting.

Joseph Esoh Edet also known by his brand name as “La’shakara” is a philanthropist, serial entrepreneur and politician. He appointed Senior Special Assistant to His Excellency, Governor Ben Ayade on Job placement and Entrepreneurship and this became his political launching pad. He later became the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Obudu Cattle Ranch.

He was soon elevated as the Managing Director of SummitHills Estates. During the COVID 19 pandemic, Joseph Edet was called on to head Garment Factory in the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic as acting Managing Director.

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Jubrin’s exit, no cause for alarm – group

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Jubrin’s exit, no cause for alarm – group.

Tinubu Vanguard, a political support group, says the exit of Mr Abdulmumin Jubrin from the All Progressives Congress (APC) poses no threat to its mandate.

The Director-General (D-G) of Tinubu Vanguard, Dr Johnny Benjamin, in a statement on Sunday, said Jubrin’s decision to quit the APC was personal and should be respected.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Tinubu Vanguard is a support group for the presidential ambition of APC National Leader, Bola Tinubu.

Jubrin, who is the D-G of the Bola Ahmed Tinubu Support Groups Management Council (BATSGMC), had on Saturday, announced his decision to quit the APC.

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He cited irreconcilable differences within the APC in his home state of Kano as reason for his decision.

According to Benjamin, Jubrin has the right to decide which political party is best for him to pursue his ambition.

“We call on the leadership and members of all support groups to remain calm.

“Tinubu is committed to the project of repositioning Nigeria and we are determined to ensure that he gets the opportunity to do so by delivering victory at the polls.

“We call on him to urgently address pending issues within the support groups to enable us work effectively towards achieving success in the party primaries and the general elections,” he said. (NAN)

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PDP fixes May 9 for North West Zonal Congress

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PDP fixes May 9 for North West Zonal Congress.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has fixed May 9 for the conduct of the party’s North West Zonal Congress to elect Zonal Executive Officers and National Ex-Officio members of the party in the North West Zone.

The party announced this in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Debo Ologunagba, in Abuja on Saturday night.

Ologunagba said that the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party approved the conduct of the congress at the Zonal Headquarters of the party in Kaduna, Kaduna State.

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“The NWC requests all leaders, critical stakeholders and teeming members of our party in the North-West to be guided accordingly for a smooth and hitch-free exercise.

“The exercise will be conducted in line with the Constitution and Guidelines of our great party, and in adherence to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Protocol on COVID-19,” he said.

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2023: Battle of the titans for Senate seats in Imo

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2023: Battle of the titans for Senate seats in Imo.

The campaign for 2023 general elections is gathering momentum in Imo State. Interested political heavyweights and lightweights who want to represent their respective senatorial districts have been engaging stakeholders at the party levels. Aspirants for various elective positions have started marketing themselves to their people through presentation of their credentials and manifestoes. They are also talking to stakeholders to convince on why they should represent them for elective positions.

In Imo State, many of such political gladiators have lined up for the race to the Senate in 2023, polishing their images and updating their credentials for the race. Apart from some new entrants, a couple of the incumbents also want to go back in 2023. Talks about the need to represent them since they would be ranking members and possibly principal officers are now rife.

It is pertinent in this brief to present some of those who are getting ready to seek for nominations from their various political parties to serve their respective senatorial districts in Imo State come 2023.

He is the incumbent senator representing Imo East, otherwise known as Owerri zone in the red chamber. Onyewuchi, before his election into the senate in 2019, was a ranking member of the House of Representatives, having represented Owerri federal constituency for two terms (2011 and 2015). He is armed with experience, effectiveness and above all, the only member that would have the opportunity to grab a principal position if he goes back. However, political observers say he has not shown enough achievements to justify his retention of the seat. He is running on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu

Wife of the Ondo State governor and aspirant for the Imo East Senatorial District seat at the National Assembly, Chief Mrs. Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu possesses the wherewithal to successfully run the race. Akeredolu who is the only woman for the race in the whole of the three zones of Imo State, has the requisite education, mental and physical capacity as well as exposure to provide effective representation to her people. She is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

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Akeredolu focus is on the infrastructural deficit and haphazard planning of towns in the Imo East Senatorial District particularly the Emeabiam, Ihiagwa and Nekede axis who hosts two federal tertiary educational institutions namely Federal Polytechnic, Nekede and Federal University of Technology. Already she has kicked off by deploying her contact for the commencement of the reconstruction of the 10.5km Emeabiam-Eziobodo road being undertaken by the Nigerian Delta Development Commission, (NDDC) at the sum of N1.6billion.

She has also embarked on intervention in many areas such as girl children and women empowerment (with special interest in widows) and creation of awareness, care and treatment of persons afflicted with breast cancer. The odd favours her to pick the APC ticket.

Hon. Uche Onyeagocha

When it comes to outspokenness and vibrancy, Hon. Uche Onyeagocha has the oratory power to stand above his peers contesting the position. A former member of the House of Representatives, the PDP chieftain has the record of being the first All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) legislator in the Green Chambers. Onyeagocha had contested several elective positions including governorship in the past until he was appointment as the Secretary to the State Government under the Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha’s short-lived administration. He has to brace up because many politicians have their eyes on that seat.

Chief Basil Maduka 

Another PDP aspirant, Chief Basil Maduka is relatively an unknown figure in Imo State politics. He could be described as a green horn. However, from the abridged curriculum vitae, Maduka seems to possess the requisite credentials that would give him an edge. He is a businessman and people believe he will attract business into politics with his contacts.

Prince Alex Mbata

Prince Alex Mbata otherwise called PAM is a game changer in Imo politics especially the Owerri zone. Initially he was rumoured to be warming up for governorship until he cleared the air that his mission in the state was to join hands with the State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma to bring the desired security and development to the state. Recently he had an empowerment programme where about 3000 indigent people of Owerri zone were given equipment to start up business through his PAM Humanitarian Foundation. He is force in the game. He is an APC member.

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Chief Jerry Chukwueke

Another APC aspirant, Jerry Chukwueke, is a renowned Lagos-based businessman who has at one time or the other contested the governorship of the State. He has also gun for the president in 2019 presidential election where he was a running mate to the APGA presidential candidate. His aspiration this time around to become the Senator for Owerri zone under the All Progressives Congress (APC), might create an upset for his opponents. But some people feel he may surrender before the battle ends as he is a mobile politician.

Hon. Jones Onyerieri 

Also a PDP chieftain, Onyerieri was a two term House of Representatives that represented Nwangele/ Nkwere/ Isu/Njaba federal constituency. He contested the 2019 senatorial election with incumbent Senator Rochas Okorocha, who he accused of forcing the INEC returning officer at gunpoint to announce the result in his favour. He claimed to have won that election. His experience stands him out.

Hon. ThankGod Ezeani

Hon. ThankGod Ezeani is a one-time member of the House of Representatives, he has experience of legislative job. He has the capacity to represent the zone in the Senate. Pundits believe he has what it takes to be an effective senator for his people.

Hon. Jerry Alagboso

A former controller of customs as well as a ranking member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Jerry Alagboso remains a solid politician to beat. He has the contact, experience and financial muscle to work his way to the Senate. However, he has to work extra hard to beat other contenders as they are equally not pushovers. He is of the PDP.

The choice is now for the party leaders and members to pick and present aspirants who would represent the parties at the election for the electorate to make their choices.

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