Issues surrounding the automatic ticket which the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Cross River State allegedly gave its National Assembly members may not have been foreclosed as many party members have vowed to work against the interest of the party.
Checks showed that the party is far from being the same after the primaries. While many party members are expressing disgust openly at the manner the automatic ticket debacle was implemented, others have decided to remain in the party to get their pound of flesh by surreptitiously working for the opposition SDP and APC.
Sources at the party secretariat in Calabar had told Pillar Today that the party decided to embark on automatic ticket debacle to appease NASS members who demonstrated rare loyalty to PDP during gale of defections at the National Assembly and to dissuade such members from defecting. The State chairman, Ntufam Edim Inok, had disagreed; saying defection in political parties is inevitable but that the party was managing the situation to ensure peace.
With initial signs of troubles after the party dangled the automatic ticket bait ominously, party leaders had attempted to explain that they were not shutting any aspirant out of the contest but that the hierarchy were only thinking that serving members in the legislative arm could be given the right of first refusal.
But the actual primaries were a different story. Violent clashes were reported across the State thereby giving credence to the strange songs that many prominent members of the party are now singing.
An aspirant and immediate past Special Adviser to Gov Ben Ayade on Branding, DornClaimz Enamhe, who was also disqualified, escaped death by whiskers. He is rumoured to be planning defection.
It was further learnt that the two PDP Senators, Sen Gershom Bassey, representing Cross River South and Sen Rose Oko of Cross River North were given automatic ticket by the party leadership amidst severe dissenting voices. The party never cared about whose ox is gored. In the Southern senatorial district, violence had erupted between supporters of Sen Bassey and his opponent, Ntufam Ekpo Okon.
In the Northern district, other aspirants were disqualified to pave way for Sen Rose Oko who, in 2015, never physically took part in any campaign for the exalted seat. The story however repeated itself in 2018. In the central senatorial district, the narratives were a bit different as the defection of Senator representing the area, John Owan Enoh, to the APC paved a way for new entrant.
But few hours to the senatorial primaries in the central, top contender, Chris Agara, was disqualified while the door was open for lecturer cum politician, Ntufam Sandy Onor, to beat Walter Ajogbor, Barr Wilfred Usani, Mrs. Blessing Egbara and Dodoye Arikpo to emerge winner.
For the House of Representatives, the party made it difficult for new faces to upstage incumbents. Hon Legor Idagbo was given an automatic ticket for Obudu/Bekwarra/Obanliku Federal Constituency after the party excluded his opponent, DornClaimz Enamhe, in the dying hours.
Hon. Jarigbe Agom, member representing Ogoja/Yala Federal Constituency was also given an automatic ticket after aspiring members were asked not to oppose him. One of the aspirants and immediate past State Security Adviser, Mr. Jude Ngaji, later defected to the APC where he picked ticket.
Reports say member representing Akamkpa/Biase Federal Constituency, Hon. Daniel Asuquo also benefitted from the controversial ticket but that a sort of mock primary was conducted through which Asuquo floored his opponents.
Hon. Eta Mbora of Calabar Municipality/Odukpani Federal Constituency and member representing Akpabuyo/Bakassi/Calabar South Federal Constituency, Pastor Essien Ayi, were given the automatic ticket apple. Ayi would be spending 20 years in the Green Chambers if he defeats Rt Hon Dominic Aqua Edem of APC in 2019.
It was only Abi/Yakurr and Obubra/Etung Federal Constituencies which conducted semblance of primaries. House of Assembly Speaker, Rt Hon John Gaul Lebo, picked the ticket for Abi/Yakurr after the incumbent. Bassey Eko Ewa, decided to leave the House for the Red Chambers. Ewa was defeated by Dr Sandy Onor.
For Obubra/Etung constituency, incumbent, Hon. Mike Etaba, floored two others in a primary election which many aspirants described as a ‘sham.’
Regrettably, the euphoria which greeted the emergence of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as the party’s presidential candidate seems to have caused PDP leaders to lose sight of the cankerworm eating the fibre of the party in the States by reason of imposition of the automatic ticket on loyal party members.
And, until something is done urgently to assuage the ill feelings of members who were schemed out of the race, the party may have many mountains to climb to actualize their dream of keeping the governorship seat in Cross River State, come 2019.