… Stakeholders Reject Result, Protest Vote, Court Action Imminent
By Magnus Effiong
High level intrigues engulfing the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Cross River State have taken another twist as three of the party’s governorship aspirants are threatening to work against the interest of the party by aligning with Social Democratic Party, SDP, and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to frustrate any APC governorship candidate, out of the two, that the National Working Committee of the party would finally recognise.
The aspirants, who were said to have been defeated during the primaries, vowed to ensure they mobilise their supporters to vote for SDP’s Eyo Ekpo and Gov Ben Ayade of PDP in protest against what they described as daylight robbery and disenfranchisement of Cross River people in the worst primaries ever to be conducted in Nigeria’s political history.
Addressing Journalists in Calabar, High Chief Edem Duke and Prof Etim Eyo Etim Nyong accused zonal chairman of the party, Ntufam Hillard Eta, of conniving with mischief makers to hijack materials to conduct sham primaries in favour of Sen John Owan Enoh, insisting that no election took place anywhere in the State as postulated by the election committee.
Unconfirmed reports suggest that campaign managers of the aggrieved governorship aspirants were scheduled to approach organisers of PDP socio-political group, SEVEN ALIVE, on Thursday to work out modalities on how to nibble in the mud the ambition of Sen John Owan Enoh and Pastor Usani Usani, both of whom are from the Central Senatorial district.
Both Pastor Usani Usani and Sen John Owan Enoh had dramatically emerged governorship candidates of the party through two different governorship primaries believed to have been conducted by two governorship election committees, but latest reports indicated that the national body of the party recognised Sen Owan Enoh as party candidate.
However, in a news conference, monitored by Pillar newspaper, three of the governorship aspirants, Edem Duke, John Upan Odey and Eyo Etim Nyong asked the party leadership to cancel the primary and fix a new date for the conduct of a fresh one.
Speaking on their behalf, John Odey said,“Our primaries was scheduled to hold on Monday this week. Events leading to that primaries is the reason why we are here today to register a string denouncement about what happened in the state.
“A day before the primary was to hold, the Vice Chairman, South South of the party, Hilliard Eta came to the State and called a meeting of stakeholders. Before that, he invited the committee to his house and told them that the Presidency and indeed the leadership of the party has anointed one us and should be returned.
“We were disturbed about that and in the day of the stakeholders meeting, we asked him if it was true that he was supporting one candidate. He said he had a right to choose one aspirant over others and we felt there was something fundamentally wrong with that for a leader of a party to take sides in the middle of a contest.
“Arrangement was made for all aspirants to go and inspect the materials which was done, and agreement reached for the materials to be moved that night to the various Senatorial zones and local government and to be kept in the police stations in the various places.
“But shortly after, different people came and collected those materials for the various local government areas and incidentally, they were representatives of one of the aspirant, Senator John Uwa Enoh.
“Apart for materials for Calabar area that were kept in the police stations till the next day, other materials were taken to unknown areas. In northern Cross River where I was waiting to vote, the materials never got there. Northern Cross River has five local government with 53 wards and in all these wards, there was no single election that day.
“We complained about this and later that night, they took ballot papers to the home of one of the key supporters of Senator John Uwa Enoh in Obudu, where they kept those materials and brought people to thumbprint. What I am saying is that in five local government areas, without contradiction, no election held.
“In Central Cross River and the south, the materials were just carted away and results fabricated. In the few wards where semblance of an election was going on, very few number of ballot papers were allotted there because some of us had strength there.
“What we are saying is that the whole process was a fabrication, it was a hijack and we are saying that the right thing should be done in a party like the APC. Before now, three of us were opponents, but right now, we are standing together to fight a joint evil.
“We had this same problem earlier in the year when certain people tried to hijack the state congress leading to the issue of two state EXCO. We have again found ourselves in a similar situation where one person is again trying to take over the whole party.
“The APC in Cross River state is such a big party that no one person should take and put in his pocket. I am from northern Cross River and my brothers here are from Southern Cross River, while the other person involved is from Central.
“We represent two out of three Senatorial district and so, we can say that majority of Cross River State is standing here. One person cannot hijack what is meant for all of us. We are here to say that the collusion that has happened between the national Vice Chairman, south south and Senator John Owan Enoh is threatening to derail the possibility of the APC doing well in the governorship and Presidential election next. We are here today to register our protest.
“Outside our own group, there is also a parable group that purport that the Minister of Niger Delta is the candidate of the party. All these confusion we are getting from Cross River state is from one Senatorial zone, the two of them laying claim to the candidacy of the party are from the same Senatorial zone. So, we want the right thing to be done so that we can have peace. We are tired of the same people bringing confusion to the party in the state.
“We are going to submit a formal petition and if the leadership refuse to listen to us, our supporters will not be encouraged to work for this party. Let me add that in a whole Senatorial zone, there was no election and that is where the current governor comes from.
“So, we are in a situation. Where the party is not being helped with the activities going on in the state. You become uncompetitive if a party is chased out of a whole Senatorial district and this is what is happening because the members in that zone did not participate in the voting on that day.
“The guidelines says that in every ward, there should be committee which should be swapped. But in our own case, nothing like that was done. Materials were just handed out to individuals. In other words, we are saying that the primary should be cancelled and a new date set for another exercise in the state”.
Recall that Chairman of the Committee for the Godwin Etim John-led faction, Emmanuel Annom, had Monday afternoon announced that Pastor Usani, who is also the Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, polled 47, 313 votes to defeat Owan Enoh who purportedly scored 1, 486 in the primary which he claimed took place across the 196 political wards of the State.
Annom said the Minister, “having scored the highest number of lawful votes in the gubernatorial primaries held on Sunday is hereby declared the winner and governorship candidate of the party for the 2019 general elections in the state.”
According to Annom, Senator John Owan Enoh scored 1, 486 votes, Eyo Etim Nyong polled 1, 168 votes, John Ukpan Odey scored 1099 votes while Edem Duke, former Minister of Tourism, Scored 1, 322 votes in that order.
He said the State conducted direct primaries elections in compliance with directives of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party and that result were collated and entered in accordance and compliance with the laws and witnessed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) representative, Nkechi Ekweme.
Early Tuesday, Chairman of the Committee who conducted primaries for the Matthew Achigbe-led Exco, Ali Mohammed Magagi, also announced that Sen Owan Enoh won the election and therefore returned as governorship candidate of the party having scored 82, 272 to defeat Pastor Usani who allegedly scored 1778 votes.
He gave the breakdown of other result as follows: John Opan Odey 3,892, Prof Eyo Etim Nyong 5,786 and High Chief Edem Duke 7,367. He called on APC members in the State to regard the election as a family affairs adding “we seek to bring out a member of the family to represent the family and in a contest like this, it is only one person who can emerge.”
Magagi commended INEC for monitoring the election, saying the party was also deeply grateful to security agencies for maintaining the peace. He said the party would not relax until Owan Enoh is sworn-in as the next governor of Cross River State.
It was also observed that while thousands of the Minister’s supporters say Pastor Usani is the authentic candidate of the party, people from the other divide are dismissing that position, quoting the party’s constitution to back up their claims that Owan Enoh is candidate recognised by the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee.
Director General of John Opan Odey Campaign Organisation, Inyani Peter, in a press statement said, “after due review of the whole process, John Upan Odey completely rejects the results and disassociates himself from whatever thing that happened that day. For fairness and equity, we urge the national leadership of the party to cancel the primaries and order a fresh one where people of integrity will be sent to conduct. Failure to do this, we will have no option than to challenge this illegality in court.”