Recently the Democrats, a political pressure group in Cross River State called for shift of power from the Northern Senatorial District to the Southern Senatorial District on the argument that the administration of Professor Ben Ayade has failed the people of the state.
The group argued that since Governor Ayade who is from Obudu in the north has failed, it means a collective failure of the entire northern zone to provide quality leadership to the people of the state.
The Democrats led by Jonah Offre even stated that some leading voices argued in 2007 that the north was not yet ripe to produce a governor for the state. This conclusion from the Democrats, though provocative, is a fallacy of generalization deliberately designed to insult and harasses the psyche of the people of the entire northern senatorial district.
However, from the hindsight of the history of personalities from the northern senatorial district that have straddled the political and bureaucratic landscape of the state, even the conveners of the democrats would admit that north has produced, right from time immemorial men and women of substance that have contributed their quota to the development of the state and beyond in whatever endeavour they found themselves.
In this connection, a few examples would suffice; As far back as the colonial era down to the first republic. It is well documented that personalities such as Chief I.I Murphy, John Upan Odey, Uti Jedy Agba, just to mention a few who distinguished themselves as Ambassadors of the people of the area while rendering services as politicians, and public servants to the people right from the days of the defunct Nigerian’s Eastern region.
In the Second Republic, then Senate President Dr. Joseph Wayas from present day Obanliku, in the northern senatorial district, distinguished himself as a capable number 3 man in the country, and helped to stabilize the administration of President Shagari until the administration became short-lived in December 1983.
Lest we forget, it is to the credit of Wayas that the Bebi Airstrip was established and federal highway linking the other parts of the state, and the country to the Obudu Ranch Resort, one of Nigeria’s foremost tourists’ sites.
Of course within the same second republic, the north commenced the tradition of producing and capable and dependable deputy governors who were not only loyal, but supportive to their bosses, the governors in piloting the affairs; In this context, the Dr. Mathias Ofoboche who deputized Dr. Clement Isong been 1979 -1983, and Dr. Walter Eneji, who deputized Donald Duke from late 2003 to 2007 comes handy.
From the bureaucracy, it is well settled that towering public servants such as Ukani Gabriel Ogar from Obudu, now of blessed memory, and Ntufam Fidelis Ugbo, from Obanliku, as well as others not mentioned distinguished themselves while serving as secretary to the state government at various times.
In the military, the likes of the Anthony Ukpos, the General Unimnas from the north and a host of others, distinguished themselves while serving the nation, and many more of such officers are still rendering quality service in the defense of the territorial integrity of their motherland.
Even in the ecclesiastical world, the achievement of Dr. Joseph Ugbo from Yala, in the north, who rose to become Arch Bishop in the Catholic Church, after decades of service to God and humanity is every enchanting.
In summary, the replica of these great men abound in the north in all strata and professions and are capable of providing good governance and quality service to the people of Cross River State. Let me mention a few names here, the likes of Gerald Ada, Francis Bullem, Peter Oti, Fidelis Ugbo, Father Francis Eworo, Julius Okpotu, Paul Adah, Odey Ochicha and of course Goddy Agba just to mention a few for lack of space.
Therefore, the call for power shift to the south by Democrats can be described as arrant display of their disrespect of the principles of zoning of the position of governor among the three geopolitical zones in the state; south, central and the north, which has been in silent and gentlemanly practice since 1999.
The call from the democrats also negates the principles of justice and fair play. The argument is that if it was good for the candidates from the South and central ie: Duke and Imoke respectively to serve for eight years, why shouldn’t the North have their eight years, despite poor representation by Ayade? After all it is said what is good for the goose is good for the gander. Indeed it was towards cementing the zoing arrangement in 2015 that the major political parties, the PDP, the APC, and the LP, fielded Professor Ben Ayade, Odey Ochicha, and Fidelis Ugbo, respectively.
Put differently, if push comes to shove, would it be wrong for a man or woman from the north to succeed Ayade, and complete two term of governorship for the north as enjoyed by the south and central?
According to an African proverb, “There is no fool who is disowned by his family.” If the Democrats are frank to themselves, they should have acknowledged that justice demands that at worst, if Ben Ayade, has not performed as commonly argued and acclaimed, justice, equity, and fairness demands that his replacement in 2019 should come from the fertile pool of human resources from the north.
This becomes even more imperative when we recall that Ayade was clearly not a candidate of the north but was foisted on the north by Imoke who hails from central. What was his agenda? Perhaps to simulate the myth that the north is lacking in capacity and generate the current disharmony? Now in some quarters Ayade is seen is a candidate brought up by Imoke of the central to create disaffection for the north. It therefore goes that anything short of allowing the north to produce the governor in 2019 and complete their eight years tenure in 2023 will amount to treating the people with disdain, and defiantly an affront on the people of the area, and the consequences could be there for the unity of the state, and the future relationship of its people.
If truth must be told, we should not look far for a credible alternative to Ayade as a candidate from the north. Even though there is a plethora of aspirations from the north, the man with both street credibility, experience and capacity and who clearly was Imoke’s target for exclusion in the 2015 election, Prince Goddy Jedy Agba and who clearly will represent not just the aspirations of the north but bring quality leadership to the state is still very much around and history beckons on us to do the correct thing by creating an electoral legacy worthy of future reference. Even though this is not by law, we can draw wisdom from the NDDC law where each Board of the commission serves out its tenure by states not by individuals.
Consequently, even when chairmen, Managing Directors, members of Board are removed or the board is dissolved, before the expiration of their terms in office a chairman, MD or commissioner is replaced from the same state to serve out the tenure of his predecessor. That’s equity and it is justice!
Felix Otu Effiong writes from Lagos