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CROSS RIVER GUBER: WHO TAKES THE DAY?

By NBF News
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By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
The people of Cross River State go to the polls tomorrow to elect the governor that would superintend the affairs of the state for four years. The immediate past governor, Senator Liyel Imoke who was on January 28, sacked by the Supreme Court judgment is among the candidates contesting the election.

Already the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has published twelve names of political parties and their candidates contesting the governorship election, though political observers have expressed worry that most of the political parties that are vying for the election have nothing to show in terms of structure and readiness to win the election.

Opposition political parties in the state had ahead of the campaigns vowed to take power from the ruling PDP. Initially, they had indicated interest in adopting a sole candidate to face the PDP's Imoke but they obviously could not come to an agreement.

The parties that have been given the nod by INEC to contest are the Action Congress of Nigeria, ALP, All Nigerian Peoples Party, APS, Congress for Democratic Change, Congress for Progressive Change, Democratic Front for a Peoples Federation, Hope Democratic Party, Labour Party, Peoples Democratic Party, Progressive Peoples Alliance and the United National Party for Development.

Senator Liyel Imoke (PDP)
Imoke is undoubtedly the frontrunner in tomorrow's election. His party is in control of the state machinery and resources. He is being adjudged in the state as one of the best governors to have touched the lives of the poor and rural dwellers.

Besides, the PDP controls the entire local government areas, the legislators at the federal, state and local governments and the party has structures in all the 18 local government areas of the state. There are many political groups working for an Imoke victory and even struggling for supremacy. He enjoys the support of non indigenes in the state. All the ethnic nationalities in the state have openly expressed their support.

The most recent was the Ohaneze Ndigbo and the Federate Council of Igbo Youths, Cross River Consultative Forum. Besides, over 5000 supporters of the former Nigerian Ambassador to Mali, Ambassador Soni Abang who contested the party's primary against him have joined his camp.

The leader and coordinator of Cross River for Good Governance, Mr. Ekanem Ekpo who announced their support for Imoke said that the decision was as a result of his remarkable achievements within the last four years. Staff of University of Calabar who are indigenes of Cross River State have also turned themselves to prayer warriors for the re-election of Imoke.

Imoke is also being helped by the past activities of his wife, Obioma. The woman who is said to be kind hearted through many of her pet projects has empowered women and has brought them close to government.

Donald Duke factor is another plus for Imoke. Before now it was rumoured that Duke was not happy with Imoke's style of leadership and was supporting another candidate to unseat him, but towards the last days of the Imoke campaign rally Duke has become a big factor to boost his chances.

However, Imoke seems to have issues with some of the elite from the Cross River North which some are trying to use against him. The issue is who takes over from him after another four years all things being equal. Imoke had promised that for the sake of fairness and equity that he should be succeeded by someone from the Northern Senatorial district being that the South and Central districts have taken their turn.

His assertion nonetheless, reference is made to the famed pact among the three wise men in which the trio of Duke, Imoke and their mutual friend, Gershom Bassey were to take turns to rule the State for 24 years. Duke having kept to the pact by handing over to Imoke there are suggestions that the body movement of Imoke towards the Northern senatorial district may actually be a dribbling run.

Nonetheless, some believe that his gentle façade is a manifestation of an inner weakness with some alleging that such weakness led to the loss of 76 oil wells to Akwa Ibom. But many conversant with the politics of the state disagree.

Mrs. Mary Ogoba Ekpere (CPC)
This Ikom born legal practitioner cum politician is contesting the election on the platform of the Congress for Progress Change, CPC. She said that she joined the race to give hope to the people and provide employment to the teeming unemployed youths. Mrs. Ekpere promises to ensure free education and improved health system.

But CPC does not look like a party that could scare the ruling party in the state. There seems to be no leadership of the party across the state. It was during the April 2011 general elections that there was few posters of individuals to contest the election in different offices, but after that, nothing is heard of it.

Again, there is the belief that the party is for the Islamic fundamentalists and the killing of many Nigerians after the presidential election is still fresh in the minds of many who accused the party of being behind the killings. Her chances seem to be very slim.

Pastor Usani Uguru Usani of Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN

The ACN is the closest opposition party in the state since the ANPP lost grip after the 1999 elections. But the dream of the party to win election in the state presently seems to be a mirage. It is factionalized and as typical of the political parties in the state was in oblivion until few weeks to the election.

It is still having crisis and the faction controlled by the former chairman, Hon. Cletus Obun is in court battling to reclaim his position and at the same time has his own governorship candidate though both the national body and the INEC seem not to recognized the faction.

The party does not seem to have the financial muscle to rock the boat with the PDP and Imoke for now. It may be a miracle of the century if the party wins the election through the ballot.