They said the two parties were allegedly promoting politics of exclusion, divide and rule and the marginalization they have suffered over the years.
This discontent is stronger in old Obubra part of the senatorial district where the people are bitter that they have not been able to produce a senator for Cross River Central since the return of democracy in 1999 in negation to the zoning arrangement entered into by both sections of the district.
They are wondering why senatorial candidates from old Ikom cannot act like Senator Ben Murray-Bruce of Bayelsa East who, though in his first term at the Senate has resisted the temptation of abusing internal zoning arrangement in his senatorial district, by declaring publicly that he would not be seeking re-election in 2019.
Cross River Central comprises the old Ikom and the old Obubra. These used to be local government areas until Abi, Yakurr, Etung, and Boki were added to the two. But about 20 years now since the return of democracy, old Ikom has been occupying that position.
The other half of the senatorial district believe now is their turn to produce a senator as they have been patiently supporting the old Ikom over the years to win the seat. This feeling is gaining momentum as the Social Democratic Party, SDP, has given their ticket to an Obubra son.
However, two other major parties, APC and PDP have picked their standard bearers for the Cross River Central seat in the Senate from old Ikom, causing disenchantment and concerns in virtually their entire district. Prominent leaders of thought in the senatorial district shared these sentiments with reporters over the weekend.
“The APC and the PDP picked their candidates from the Old Ikom section of the district which has been providing the senator since the return of democracy, but only SDP has moved to correct the injustice by fielding a candidate from old Obubra. We are going to vote massively for SDP because of that,” said Chief Victor Oyama from Obubra LGA.
Also speaking, Mr. Eval Ejeje Egbe from Abi LGA said, “The senatorial district used to have just Ikom and Obubra LGAs before the creation of other LGAs. Obubra was divided into three same as Ikom. Ordinarily, after Ikom enjoys the senatorial seat, it should swing to Obubra. As it stands now, the people of Obubra are very angry and thinks they are being taken for a ride.
“They have resolved to vote against any party that didn’t field a senatorial candidate from the old Obubra. In PDP and APC, aspirants from Obubra sought the ticket but they were sidestepped and the tickets of both parties went to persons from Ikom despite outcries of marginalisation from the Obubra people. So, the people have resolved that this time, it is their turn and are not ready to give listening ears to candidates from the other part of the district when they come for campaign”.
The community leaders also faulted one of the candidates who is leaving the chairmanship of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, to return to the Senate, lamenting that the candidate was shortchanging the entire Cross River.
Yakurr-born, Mrs Comfort Okoi said, “It’s unfortunate that one of the old Ikom native vying for the senatorial seat is abandoning a position bigger and more beneficial to the state than that of a senator. He is the chairman of NDDC yet he wants to drop it for the same senatorial seat the people of Obubra has not tasted. People have been telling him that he will be shortchanging Cross River if he drops his plum position at NDDC as it will automatically go to another state.
“After being a senator for three terms, he’s now chairman of NDDC which is bigger than a senate seat yet he wants to come and be struggling for the smaller opportunity for people of his senatorial district, robbing the district of the privilege of producing both the senator and the NDDC chairman. He wants to deprive Cross River state of the opportunity of producing chairman of NDDC and also deprive another people who are due to have one of their own in the senate. That is wickedness and callousness!
“We don’t want Egba at the senate, we want him to remain as NDDC chairman so he can be giving our people jobs and contracts. If he leaves that place, a Cross River indigene won’t be appointed as replacement immediately. Is it not foolishness for somebody to abandon a prime position in the country to come and be struggling for something that is statutory to his people? You’re a chairman of NDDC and you want to abandon for a seat you have occupied for a dozen years.”
On his part, Mr Enang Asu from Boki LGA said, “The PDP candidate is also from Ikom even when the governorship candidate of the APC, Owan Enoh, is from the same LGA as the senatorial flag bearer, meaning that if things go their way a local government would have produced the governor as well as senator in Cross River. That’s unheard of. Beyond that, his kinsman is the current senator representing Cross River Central, how then can the same LGA produce his successor to the disadvantage of the other five LGAs particularly those in the old Obubra who haven’t tasted the seat since 1999.
“At the return of democracy in 1999, the first senator for Cross River Central was Senator M. T. Mbu from old Ikom. He handed over to Ndoma Egba also from old Ikom. Ndoma Egba was there for 12 years and handed over to another Ikom man, Owan Enoh who is there for another four years making 20 years that the seat has been occupied by people of that area. Yet, both PDP and APC want to have the seat remaining in old Ikom, haba na!”
Also expressing concern is Ikom-born Moses Ojong, who said, “The people of Ikom have truly been enjoying the support of old Obubra and we expect that they should produce the senator this time around but it seems to me they are not forthcoming and are not ready for it.
“I can assure you that if anybody from old Obubra comes out now, we will give our support not minding the party because our people are understanding and there is indeed a zoning arrangement that should be respected. We don’t mind allowing them to enjoy what we have been enjoying since 1999 so that it can come back to our children, if not them now.
“It’s true that the status quo favours us but some of our people are worried. For APC and PDP to field candidates from old Ikom despite knowing the political history of Cross River Central seems as if they want to destroy the bond of brotherhood between Obubra and Ikom people; divide and rule if you like.
“The other section will now be thinking that all of us in old Ikom are power grabbers and we fear that when they eventually occupy the senatorial seat, they wouldn’t want to hand over to our children. So, justice should prevail.
“We heard that an Obubra person has just emerged as candidate of a major party, we are happy about that so that we can now balance the injustice people of Obubra has been crying for. But you know power is not just given to somebody but has to be struggled for. So, we are just watching to see how serious that SDP candidate is to take what rightfully should be for the old Obubra zone.
“It is true that we’ve enjoyed the support of old Obubra for about 20 years. Out of this, one of our sons has been there for 12 years. Some of us think the other people are not forthcoming so we should not just throw the juicy position away. But we’re now seeing some seriousness as SDP is fielding an Obubra man, we will reciprocate the support they have given us all these years in 2019.”