Sunday, 6 March 2022

Akpabuyo/Bakassi By-Election: A mock exam for Governor Ayade, APC and PDP

Kingsley Akpet | 7th March 2022

The Akpabuyo/Bakassi By-Election has come and gone and many iroko trees of Southern Senatorial politics have been shaken to their roots.

The seat has 129 polling units in contest out of which 43 are in Bakassi while the remaining 86 are in Akpabuyo and a meager 11,229  votes were cast with the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP winning by a close margin of 503 votes representing less than 5% of the votes cast. It is a slim margin but elections can be won or lost on the basis of 1 vote. Incidentally, the APC win in Ogoja/Yala is by the same 5% margin. 

This is a very good performance by the New APC government. In fact it has shocked PDP to the bone marrow. It is like a mock exam for 2023 and will give the serious students an opportunity to check their weaknesses before the upcoming WAEC- (general elections) in 2023. 

Any teacher marking their scripts would conclude that the incumbent APC government could have done better but some reasons advanced for the 50/50 performance are as follows:  

1. Historical Pattern: Akpabuyo has been a PDP stronghold for the last 20 years. Getting the electorate to change their mind and voting pattern within just few months will take a lot of propaganda and grass root politicking .

2. Security: The area is a known for insecurity and militancy. Yet the security services  could not prevent violence in known hotspots. There was total freedom of movement allowing teams of external moneybags to induce the electorate and armed boys to strike at will. This has not been the pattern in Akpabuyo and it seems security was compromised. 

3. Non performance of Local Government Administration: During the campaigns  APC couldn't point to a single project the LG Administration had completed in 2 years in office. Most of the State appointees too have nothing to show, they hardly go home and as such, they have lost touch with their people who saw this as an opportunity to teach them a lesson. 

4. BIVAS Machine and Vote Buying: The BIVAS machine introduced by INEC makes rigging impossible because of immediate electronic transmission of data. Therefore all parties had to resort to vote buying from angry citizens who want their share of national cake knowing they won't see their representatives till another 4 years. 
On election day, it was observed that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP far outspent  APC in the field as they were liberal in cash and vote buying.

5. Sycophancy: Whereas all Northern Senatorial District politicians ran to the North to support Hon Jude Ngaji, majority of top Southern politicians abandoned their Southern candidate and ran to North, where their presence had no electoral value, to show fake loyalty to the governor and advance their personal interest.

6. Immaturity and Inexperience: PDP politicians used their maturity and experience to teach the younger APC contenders a lesson in politics. First they fielded a mature politician, Ekeng Effiom Edet, who knows every part of Akpabuyo. Then on election day His Excellency Don Duke, Sen Gershom Bassey, Hon Essien Ayi, Hon Dansukis wife, Hon Eta Mbora, Hon Ekpo Okon, Nkoyo Toyo, His Excellency Effiok Cobham and their boys all landed Physically  in Akpabuyo. They divided themselves and visited various polling units to support their candidate. 

While APC on the other hand fielded a youth, Hon Bassey Ekpo Effiom. Although he is experienced, having been a Councillor and  leader of legislature, he was paired with  a politically inexperienced woman as DG of campaign. It was an experiment gone wrong. The two political heavyweights in Akpabuyo, who could match PDPs heavy weights, Bar Edem Ekong and Arc Bassey Ndem were tied down in their polling units contending with the new BIVAS technology that stopped them from deploying their usual rigging system that made Akpabuyo a no go area for other parties. Unlike PDP, no other heavyweight APC co-aspirants or Appointee came in to help in Akpabuyo on election day.

7. Conflict of Interest. Some legislators and  governors appointees have quietly left Calabar South and gone and registered in Akpabuyo. The reason is that they want to run for National Assembly in 2023 and they feel Cal South is over crowded and over favoured. But their chances will be spoiled if the Governorship candidate comes from Akpabuyo as people will say it is overloaded. So it became necessary for them to cut a deal with their friends in PDP to make sure no Governorship candidate emerges from Akpabuyo.

8. Governorship 2023: PDP took the Akpabuyo election very serious because they have done their calculation and believe that the aspirants from Akpabuyo will attract a lot of sympathy votes because their political baggage is small and zoning Favours them. Odukpani have had deputy governor and senator, Calabar Municipality have had Governor and a House of Representatives slot, Biase currently has Deputy Governor, Calabar South have produced two Senators and even a life member of the House of Representatives. Bakassi had produced a Senator and a House of Representatives member. Akamkpa currently have a House of Representatives member, So zoning favours Akpabuyo.  With this analysis PDP and some APC member who have interest in 2023 came together as friends of common interest to block the Akpabuyo threat. 

Still, with all the heavy arsenals, personalities and cash deployed by PDP, the 503 vote margin is a big disappointment. What will happen in 2023 when every one will be restricted and battling for survival in their polling unit? 

In all this, the Governor, Senator Ben Ayade, must be smiling because he has demystified all the big masquerades in Ogoja,Yala and Akpabuyo with his "operation defend your polling unit". 
This by-election created a level playing field for assessment of everybody in both old APC and new APC, because every polling unit had the same resources to work with.

Details are still emerging but a roll call of the big men and women of Akpabuyo who failed in their polling units include House of Assembly member of Bakassi, Chairman of Akpabuyo, Chairman of Bakassi, Commissioner of Commerce,  Chapter Chairman Bakassi, 3 Councillors in Bakassi, 4 councillors in Akpabuyo, Govenorship Aspirant Bar Edem Ekong, DG of the Campaign Organisation, DG of Basin Authorities, Commissioner in SUBEB, Hon. Inyang Nyong and even Mama Bakassi who was disappointed by her footsoldiers in  Bakassi 3 wards even after vigorously campaigning, giving Keke napep and other gifts. 

Those who won in their polling units include 
The candidate, Hon Bassey Ekpo,  Commissioner for Rural Transformation, Vice Chairman of Council Akpabuyo,  another Govenorship Aspirant Arc Bassey Ndem, 4Chapter Chairman Akpabuyo, former Chapter Chairman  Akpabuyo  and many others.

Shockingly, Arthur Jarvis, a PDP gubernatorial aspirant lost in his polling unit. 

This election has shown that the Governors effort in carrying Cross River to APC has not been in vain as CRS is now 50%APC and 50% PDP. 

For once, the electorate now have a choice and each party must go back to the engine room and map out winning strategy for the next election. 

In 2023, zoning, party cohesion, and candidates with minimum baggage who can build bridges, will be the deciding factors. Depending on past glory will be a big mistake.

It will be one man one vote and the time to pick a  candidate who can administer the state, revamp the economy and give the people hope for a brighter future.
The winner shall be Cross River State.