Cross River State is one of the 15 states which the ruling APC at the presidency could not take over from the People’s Democratic Party(PDP), during the 2015 general elections. Therefore, since 1999 till date, Cross River state is governed by the PDP at all levels. The state Governor, Senator Ben Ayadeis of the PDP, so are all the members of the state House of Assembly and in the eighteen local government councils of the state, the council chairmen and all the elected councillors are from PDP.
But with the feeling of control at the presidential level, the leaders of APC and their members in Cross River State are hopeful they could win the control of Cross River State in 2019.That task going by statistics would not be an easy one for them. In the last presidential elections of 2015, the party did not win any elective post. The declared results by the Independent Electoral Commission INEC is another reason some of the party stalwarts believe they will get if right in 2019. The 2015 decleared results showed that after Edo state that is an APC controlled state in the South-south, Cross River came second in the percentage of votes earned in the Presidential election for APC.
They had barely 22% but that was a far improvement from what opposition parties get in previous elections. Besides other reasons and possibilities for the party to achieve its 2019 target, the task seem to be cut out for the new entrance or the members of the party who joined after the 2015 general elections. These include political leaders of repute such as the former Senate Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma Egba, former governor of the state, Chief Clement Ebri, Senator Prince Otu and Prince Goddy Jeddy Agba among others.
The combine strength of the new bigwigs of the APC in Cross River State is such that achieving their target can be argued to be an easy one but such argument could be risky as well and that is why the stakeholders are trying to put the APC family in Cross River State into order and bring about the much needed oneness of purpose. Internal divisions within the ranks of the opposition in the state have kept them where they are always at the polls. The party stakeholders, penultimate week in Calabar, the State capital organised and held the first quarterly retreat for members and party officials in the state in order the kick start an orientation and re-orientation exercise that would drum up a new message of sacrifice towards 2019 general elections.
The retreat with the theme, “APC, Cross River State: The Way Forward, Reconciliation and Strategies of Winning Elections”. The retreated was addressed by a guest speaker and other senior party stalwarts including the former Senate Leader Senator Ndoma Egba, the APC South, South Chairman, Mr. Hilliard Etta and Special Assistant to the President on Prosecution, Chief Obon Obla. Senator Ndoma-Egba predicted that APC will take over the state by 2019. According to him, “the PDP has given us a template of how not to be a political party. All we need to do is to avoid the mistakes the PDP has made. One of the biggest mistakes of the PDP is the issue of ownership of the party.
The PDP lost membership of its party and the governors became the only members and owners of PDP and the only people who matter in the party and owners of the PDP. In APC ownership of the party must reside with the common members of the party like you and me. We must protect the ownership of the party. “The second lesson we must learn from PDP is that impunity anywhere is not sustainable. There is nothing like doing the correct thing. The governors decide everything. Let us apply democracy in whatever we are doing in selecting our leaders at all levels. We must apply the rules and be fair to all…It is our choice to win but whether to win or lose is our choice, we have to make that decision.
I believe that we can win and I want us to win and we must win”. Recalling one of the immediate issues that led to his exit from the PDP, Senator Ndoma-Egba said, “if you remember what happened, quite a number of us; everybody who was sympathetic to me was shut out of PDP. For three years, I was not invited to any PDP meeting in Cross River State. “We were constructively evicted. So, if the party itself has evicted you, you can no longer be saying you moved from PDP to APC. I moved from the roadside to APC. PDP had already shut its doors against me and everybody who supported me in anyway. "Meanwhile the position of the caucuses was supposed to be statutory.
It was spelt out by law. They stopped following the law. All that was important was ‘are you for Victor or you are against him.’ If you are for victor, ‘remove him from the caucus.’ But that is in the past now, I have moved on”. he continued, “before now, what you use to hear was that there was no opposition in Cross River State. Yes, it may have been true, can anybody say that now? “Our intention is to put our house in order to avoid anybody sitting down to impose anyone they like just because he does not like the popular candidate. “If we are able to achieve this and collectively build the party from the grassroots, then the challenges to take power in Cross River State in 2019 will be minimal.” However, the Special Assistant to the President on Prosecution, Chief Obon Obla tasked members of the party to have unity of purpose and warned that in order for APC to take over power from the PDP in the state, they must practice true democracy by giving equal opportunity to everyone.
He stated, “if you must take over Cross River State from PDP, we must have unity of purpose, we all must be treated as equal. In a situation where a particular person would want to control the entire structure of the party will be strongly opposed, so we must be democratic to give equal opportunity to everybody whether as a Minister or as an S A, we must be treated as the same”.
The invited lecturer, Professor Yakubu Uchefu who is the Vice Chancellor, Kwararafa University Wukari, Taraba state in his speech stressed the need for the party in the state to continuously engage the populace and remain popular at the grassroots as “some people think being at the central and holding the power in Abuja means automatic victory at home, which is not so. “This is the reason why the young man presented by APC, Onjeh could not win this other man (David Mark) in the senatorial re-run. We must work.” Uchefu who based his lecture’s practicality on the ‘Operation SSA 2015’ employed by the APC in the build up to the 2015 general elections in Benue state also, described expectation management as “A key variable to midwifing opposition to power”, adding that, “There must be management of the aspirant to ensure he/she does not say things far from the realities on ground, management of the bureaucrats (public and civil servants) to win them over as they make up almost 70 percent of the informed voting population and the shadow individuals. All these must be managed properly with the party ensuring it carries out it plans in zoning with equity and fairness and without impunity.”
Earlier, the party’s gubernatorial candidate in the 2015 general elections, Odey Ochicha said at the moment, “The ultimate goal is to win the PDP which has dragged Cross River State backward.” Ochicha also averred that the party must close ranks to achieve their set objective, noting that “lack of cohesion cost us the last election.” However, the high challenge for the APC how to close ranks between the expectations of the old members and the interest of the new members who have brought in more political strength and clout into the state chapter. Analysts believe with the likes of Senator Ndoma-Egba, Chief Clement Ebri, Senator Prince Bassey Otu, Prince Jeddy Agba, Pastor Usani Usani and the Zonal Vice Chairman South-south, Prince Hillard Ettah amongst a host of others, APC can rally around the electorate and secure their trust to meet the party’s 2019 target. In addition to their cooperation, they also know that putting in place an active an vibrant state executive structure of the party is also paramount to their anticipated success.