…Akobundu Insists Allegation of Bribery Mere Propaganda
By Andy Esiet
Efforts to recall the Senator representing Cross River South Senatorial district, Senator Gershom Bassey of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from the senate over crisis rocking the party has met with stiff opposition.
The Cross River South Stakeholders Group had, at weekend, said the people of Southern Senatorial district were intending to recall Senator Bassey from the Red Chamber but another group, Greater Calabar Heritage (GCH), yesterday, passed Vote of Confidence on the Senator, saying he should continue with his good work for the people.
Recall that Cross River South Stakeholders Group had accused the Senator of “abdication and dereliction of his duties, leaving the district with no representation at the Red Chamber and abandoning the people over the years, especially at this period when every representative of the people are with their people helping them battle the effect of COVID-19.”
The group, in its letter of intent to petition the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the planned recall, signed by High Chief Ita Ewa Henshaw, said “the ‘no love lost’ relationship between Senator Bassey and his people is something that may have started from when he first won the Senate election in 2015 to represent the people, as he was said to have neglected his people shortly after and irked by this, the people decided to deny him a second term ticket but was prevailed upon by the elders and leadership of the party, with the promise that he would change his ways.
“All Southern Cross Riverians can firmly attest to the level of unprecedented sufferings that we have endured since this switch…since his re-election to the Senate in 2019, Senator Gershom Bassey has completely abandoned and abdicated his role as a representative of his constituents. He had since his last term completely moved his entire family from Calabar to Lagos and when he is not outside the country shuttling between England and America, our Senator shuttles between Lagos and Abuja.”
According to the group, “What is even more painful is that during this nationwide lock down, when representatives of various constituents have spent time with their people or reached out to their constituents with palliatives and other basic food provisions, our Senator has never stepped foot in Calabar or bothered to reach out to us his constituents.”
The said group also accused Sen Bassey of “hobnobbing with the leadership of the party at the national level and members of the National Working Committee (NWC) in view of his governorship ambition in 2023…causing disaffection and division within the party at both the local and state levels, saying that he has taken over the party’s structure, working in partnership with the National Organising Secretary.
“Consequently, we, the people of Cross River State Southern Senatorial District having unanimously resolved that we have reached breaking point, do hereby tender our intention to recall Senator Gershom Bassey as our representative in Abuja so that he may rather represent his chosen constituent. We have put machineries in place to begin the process of collating the signatures of 51% of the total registered voters (597,541) across the seven local government areas of the senatorial district, with effect from this week so as to give teeth to its petition to INEC”
However, in a sharp reaction, different groups and individuals have risen in defence of Senator Bassey saying, “Senator Gershom Bassey is doing exactly what we sent him to the Senate to do, and that is effective representation. He is a 21st century leader, the kind of leader we need in the Government House come 2023”.
The Greater Calabar Heritage (GCH), in a statement signed by Chief Inang Owali and 30 others, said, “we impugn the entire concoction of lies and falsehood meant to distract and derail Senator Gershom Bassey (SGB) good intention for the people of Cross River south. There is no iota of truth and is borne out of excessive avarice and indoctrination.”
The GHC group, which has Ibos, Hausas and Yoruba representatives, after their emergency meeting, unanimously passed a Vote of Confidence on Senator Bassey, and described the Cross River South Stakeholders Group as ‘faceless.’
“The purported ‘Cross River South Stakeholders Group’ are faceless bunch of attention seekers and political jobbers whose type of politics has gone extinct and there are no more relevant in present scheme of things.
“This set of people have perpetually constituted themselves into leeches and bed bugs who only believe in milking politician dry via hand-outs, intimidation and threats but have constantly refused to develop themselves by building capacity and positioning themselves for opportunities when the crop up. E.g last year SGB offer 12 Slots into DPR.
“Seven stylishly declined by trading off the slot for a fee, two did not have the prerequisite qualifications. Senator Bassey does not drive the economy, he is a lawmaker who has won two back to back award as the 7th & 5th best Senator for 2017 and 2018 respectively
“We want to state here that welfarism is not doling out cash from the pockets. There are other palliatives he has been employing which all must shape in and key in. Having stated the obvious we hereby consensually affirm that their purported recall threat of SGB, is malicious, ill-spirited, encapsulated with excessive greed and powered by power drunk and derailed politicians that has nothing to offer but to keep the stakeholders busy with attrition and in-fighting, while they continue to loot.
“That we have accepted to test the veracity of their recall threat to a subjective reasoning and activity, in that the recall will fail as they are very unpopular. At this juncture we hereby conscientiously declare a vote of confidence on Senator Gershom Bassey to continue with his representation”.
Also, a top politician in the state, Dr. Ededem Asi, in another pressstatement, dated May 8, said the “Cross River South Stakeholders Group is an assemblage of sycophants and ignorant appointments seekers. Senator Gershom Bassey is a PDP senator holding the position of Chairman, Senate Committee on Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) in an APC dominated senate chamber. This is a feat that can hardly be achieved in the face of stiff opposition on the floor of the Senate, but Gershom did it.”
He listed several projects like MCC – Oban Ikang Road, Calabar – Ekang Road, Portions of Calabar – Itu Road which Senator Bassey instigated the speedy rehabilitation and noted that “despite the Covid-19 lockdown, Sen. Gershom Bassey has seen to the commencement and completion of Akim Akim/Esin Utok Esuk Road in Odukpani LGA within the months of March – May, 2020. This is a project he provided for in the 2020 budget and it is the only 2020 road project that has reached 90% completion.
“Apart from roads, in the face of stiff competition, Sen. Gershom Bassey brought the Oil and Gas Park to Cross River State, an everlasting legacy that will stand the taste of time. He has given employment to a lot of his constituents and has influenced the award of Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), oversea scholarship to many of his constituents. I challenge the so called Cross River South Stakeholders Group to point at any other representation that has brought federal government’s presence to Cross River State like that of Sen. Gershom Bassey”.
Also showing disapproval of planned recall, another elder, Archibong Edet, said he has done an extensive research on Senator Bassey and came to a conclusion that he “is calm, gentle and a silent achiever. That some social media agents are either ignorant of the achievements of SBG or are sponsored by their paymasters to sabotage the efforts of SGB which they have failed woefully.
“That some persons have defined effective representation to mean sharing of money and food items to constituents. I will state here clearly that SGB is a silent achiever and an honest man. He will not appoint hundreds of media aides to drum and praise sing him. He will also not involve or engage himself in giving audio palliatives which do not have significant effects on his constituents”.
Moreover, the National Organising Secretary of the PDP, Col Austin Akobundu (rtd), has dismissed allegations of bribery as mere propaganda, saying nobody can bribe the NWC.
“We have reconstituted the State executive into a caretaker and it is just for a short while. The idea is that once INEC allows us to continue with the congresses, we will continue with the process because State congresses are monitored by INEC national.”
On the planned impeachment of Bassey, Akobundu said, “I am not aware, but I learnt some groups wrote him a letter accusing him of bribing the NWC but that is not true. Gershom Bassey is not even somebody that communicates with us. I have not seen Gershom for about a year now. It’s all propaganda coming out from your system there because we are insisting on the right processes.
“We are not supporting anybody and all we are doing is to defend the process and make sure that the integrity of the processes of the party is maintained and those are the things we are after. We are not against anybody. We are not against the governors and we are not against the legislatures.
“We are only in support of our clean processes. It is just mere propaganda and if they have issues with their Senator, they should not bring the national working committee into it. There is nobody in this party who does not know my strictness when it comes to things like that. Nobody can buy this NWC.”