In 30 days from today, the governorship election will be held but the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Cross River State is still parading two factional governorship candidates: Senator John Owan Enoh and Pastor Usani Uguru Usani. In this piece, Patrick Andrew writes on likely implication of having two candidates.
Enoh receives flag
When President Muhammadu Buhari formally kick started his zonal campaigns at the Godswill Akapbio International Stadium in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, Senator John Owan Enoh was presented the flag as the authentic torch bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the forthcoming governorship, scheduled for March 2.
The handing over of the flag, a symbolic ceremony that formalised the receiver as the authentic candidate of the party, warp and all! was to drive the nail into the coffin and thus ended any controversy surrounding the authentic standard bearer of the APC in Cross River.
Only court will decide
But it seems a mirage. A factional candidate and current Minister of the Niger Delta, Pastor Usani Uguru Usani, who believes he remains the authentic governorship candidate having been given the mandate during the primaries.
Accordingly, following the release of official list of candidates by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), he dismissed his exclusion in the list stating that he remains the candidate of the party in the coming poll. Adducing reasons why the INEC list should be discarded the minister said until the matter is decided by the court and subsequently disposed of, the decision as to who is the flag bearer of the party remains in contention.
Pastor Usani is claiming that he is still in court with the party and still holding on to the governorship position of the party in the state, since, according to him, the court has not disposed of the matter.
In a swift though the state chapter of the APC on January 17, following INEC official recognition of Senator John Owan Enoh as the APC governorship candidate in Cross River State 2019, praised the Commission for acting in consonance with the law.
INEC has spoken
A statement signed by the party state Publicity Secretary, Mr. Bassey Ita, congratulated “Senator John Owan Enoh, our governorship candidate as well as all the Senatorial candidates, House of Representatives candidates and House of Assembly candidates for scaling through the tough screening hurdle of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and making the commission’s final list of candidates.
“Beyond making the INEC list, some of you were exposed to some sort of unnecessary tortuous situations which put undue pressure on your resources, energy and time that would have been applied early enough in quelling the rebellious opposition against our quest for change.
“It is indeed important to State that this has been a tough and tortuous journey for which you deserve the ‘succour’ of our appreciation. Congratulations and may God be for you and all of us the strength to carry on to the end which is victory in the coming elections”, the statement reads.
The state chapter of the APC has been enmeshed in factional crisis that have seen both Senator Owan Enoh and Pastor Usani Usani, Minister of Niger Delta, both laying claim to being the party’s governorship flag bearer in the 2019 election.
Nonetheless, the minister has insisted that he remains in the race and in fact has been out soliciting support from the electorate as Enoh whose campaign team has been everywhere giving reasons why the PDP government in Cross River should be voted out.
Court derecognised Usani
The state acting chairman, Sir John Ochala, however lamented the attitude of Pastor Usani saying the party’s hierarchy recognised Senator Owan Enoh.
In a statement signed Ochala Wednesday, the party said that “Our attention has been drawn to trending media reports credited to the Honorable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Pastor Usani Uguru Usani whereby he parades himself as the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress in Cross River State.
“We wish to use this medium to make some clarifications which further counters those misgivings by the Minister:
“All the institutions relevant to the emergence of candidates including the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the national secretariat of our party and even the law enforcement agencies have the name of Sen. John Owan Enoh as the party’s governorship candidate in Cross River State.
“That in a matter instituted by him (Pastor Usani Usani) regarding the issue of candidacy, a Federal High Court in Abuja presided over by Justice Olukayode Adeniyi delivered judgment rejecting his prayers to be made the party’s candidate.
“In fact, the court verdict derecognized him as having taken part in the process of party primary elections that led to the emergence of candidates.
Sir Ochala said Pastor Usani should tell the world at what point was he emerged as the party’s Governorship Candidate as he continues to parade as such.
“This latest attempt by the Minister to impose himself on the gullible public, in our consideration confirms our earlier belief that Pastor Usani was working had to actualize another agenda distracting APC from focusing on elections victory” he said.
“Otherwise why would Pastor Usani resort to self-help even with the window of opportunity provided by the law for him to ventilate his grievances and get justice, which we know he’ll never get!
“We, therefore, warn for the umpteenth time that Pastor Usani should desist from this criminal act of impersonation since he is not our governorship candidate!
“The fact that this tendency of the Hon Minister is capable of robbing the party of its chances of victory in the forthcoming polls, urges on the Presidency to call Pastor Usani to order to avoid the aftermath of such ugly situation.
He urged the general public to disregard the evil antics of the Hon Minister and only seek and get clarifications from relevant stakeholders as regards the status of the APC Governorship Candidate who indisputably is Sen. John Owan Enoh” he stated.
No acting chairman
But then to sustain the controversy, the minister dismissed the position insisting those that have sided with senator Enoh are his political cronies and especially were conversant with the law.
In fact, the Publicity Secretary of the minister, Mr. Emem Ikpeme, said based on viable authority the candidacy of Usani remains incontrovertible and thus counters the argument of the factional acting chairman supposedly presenting Enoh as the party candidate.
He disparaged the designation given to Ochala as acting chairman. “We don’t have acting chairman in the APC, our chairman is Nufam Godwin Etim John. Please don’t address any person as such.
“I am talking to you from the point of authority. Pastor Usani Usani is our governorship candidate, no other one”.
When he was reminded that Senator John Owan Enoh was given the party’s flag in Uyo, he said, “It was a ceremonial presentation but Pastor Usani got the ticket’ he stated.
Usani was declared winner by a faction of the party at its governorship primaries conducted by the Etim John-led executive in Calabar.
But the then chairman Matthew Achigbe had argued against his alleged election saying: “A seven member committee led by Aliyu Magaji was assigned by the national leadership to conduct the exercise in the state but was shifted from September 30 to October 1, 2018 for obvious reasons.”
“But Usani went to assemble some party members at various points across the state in the guise of conducting governorship primaries and as such, that exercise is illegal.
“It was not with the backing of the law, supervision and endorsement of the national leadership of our party, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) or law enforcement agencies,” he stated.
He maintained that Owan-Enoh, who represents Cross River Central senatorial district, was declared winner with 82, 272 votes to beat four other aspirants to get the party ticket.
Many however see in the controversy a house divided against itself which will never withstand any external opposition. The opposition in this regard is in the form of the PDP which in addition to the power of incumbency has the advantage of being less fractious and therefore focused on its campaign tours.
The PDP seems also to have the advantage of a performing governor in Prof Ben Ayade who is seeking to retain power armed with tantalizing credentials and therefore have more than a shoulder in the finishing line.
The APC whether at the national level or state at this moment neither needs political brinkmanship nor theatrics as seems to prevail now but sincerity in purpose and objective to amicably bring the arrowheads to a round table and talk or negotiate in the interest of the party. Only that holds any hope of peace and a likely unified front ahead of the election on March 2.