Pioneer governor of Cross River State in this present dispensation, Donald Duke, is currently suffering from a bleeding nose following his seeming unguarded intervention in the 2023 governorship zoning controversy in the state.
Duke dominated the affairs of the state from 1999 through 2007.
Now, a former member of the state House of Assembly, Patrick Ene Okon, who was Duke’s loyalist is giving his former political boss a bloody nose for allegedly opposing the zoning arrangement in the state.
For the daring Okon, Donald Duke was a beneficiary of rotation of the governorship of the state within the three senatorial districts.
Okon was former Chairman, Akpabuyo Local Government; former member of the state Legislature; former member, House of Representatives, representing Calabar South, Akpabuyo and Bakassi Federal Constituency, from 1999 to 2003.
The fine boy Duke recently drew the ire of 2023 power seekers from his Southern Senatorial District when he declared his opposition to their agitation for the zoning of the 2023 governorship race to the South.
During a courtesy call on him by Senator Sandy Onor, the ex-governor declared that his emergence as the governor of the state between 1999 and 2007 was not a product of zoning but his statewide acceptance by the electorates.
But, Okon is saying that in 1999, the three political parties in Cross River State voted for their gubernatorial candidates from the Southern Senatorial District: Alliance for Democracy (AD): Etubom Bassey Ekpo Bassey; All People’s Party (APP): Professor Eyo Etim Nyong; People’s Democratic Party (PDP): Donald Etim Duke.
“That was zoning – internally crafted and effected by the parties”, Okon insists.
Continuing, he said, “remember also that a few days to the election, the Southern District took a decision to support one of their own. I recall that in the night preceding the election, we in Akpabuyo invited Donald Duke to meet us in Etubom Nyong Effiom Okon’s house; and it was there we told him we were going to support him. He gave us N50,000 which we shared N5,000 to each ward. So, we supported him not because of money but our love for our son!
“For instance, in Akpabuyo, where the Senator-elect, member-elect, House of Representatives, member-elect, House of Assembly, Chairman-elect and all the 10 Councillors-elect were APP products, we turned the table against that party.
‘’As a result, Mark Ukpo of APP had only 159 votes in the entire LGA. We didn’t even want him to score up to 100 votes! Etubom Bassey Ekpo Bassey of AD was second with 3000+ votes. And Donald Duke of PDP garnered 54,0000+ votes. That was the first time in the history of Akpabuyo that the people voted that massively; and the votes were NOT for PDP but for a son of the Southern Senatorial District stock!
“What did we do to change the tide in Donald’s favour? We had decided in our LGA that no polling booth should vote for APP’s Governorship Candidate and that was it. I am very familiar with the results because I was the agent of APP at the Collation Centre!
“I believe this was replicated in almost all the LGAs in the South. We did it because we believed it was the turn of the South then to produce a Governor.
We did it because we believed in the silent and unwritten zoning arrangement. And my brother, Donald, was its beneficiary!”
The senator representing Cross River State Southern Senatorial District and a one-time political ally of Duke, Gershom Bassey, in his reaction insisted that “there is zoning and rotation in Cross River State.”
Between 1999 and 2007, Duke, Bassey and Senator Liyel Imoke were the political principalities in the state. They were the power brokers. They were popularly known as the ‘Three Wise Men.’ There were speculations that after Duke, Imoke will emerge as governor and then handed over to Bassey.
Only Bassey is yet to become a governor among the political triumvirate
Maybe it was zoning that might have influenced Bassey to keep his governorship ambition on hold in 2015 and decided to go to the senate while supporting a candidate from the Northern Senatorial district, current governor of Cross River, Ben Ayade, to run.
Bassey replied his erstwhile political buddy: “As the incumbent Senator representing the Southern Senatorial District, I currently hold the mandate to speak for the people of the South.
“My constituents in the Southern Senatorial District categorically and without equivocation, expect that power will come to the south in 2023, based on the rotation principle.
“In my party specifically, the PDP, we expect that the Governorship will be ZONED to the South in 2023.
“The reason for this is very clear. In 2015, when my brother, Donald Duke, was not in the party, there was a caucus meeting which zoned this Governorship to the Northern Senatorial District, with the understanding that after the North, the rotation would continue with the South.
“The vast majority of Cross Riverians agree with this rotation and agree that it is the turn of the South,” Bassey submitted.
Bassey, who has declared his intention to run for the 2023 governorship race in his response to Duke position on zoning stated: “My attention has been drawn to videos on social media of our Former Governor, my dear friend and constituent, Donald Duke, in which a courtesy visit was paid to him at his residence. He specifically talked, amongst other things, about the issue of zoning. I must comment on the issue of zoning and clarify the position of the people of the South.
“In the People’s Democratic Party, which is the party to which I belong, and even in the All Progressives Congress, it is very clear that the people of the south have insisted on zoning and the need to zone the Governorship position to the Southern Senatorial District in the upcoming election cycle. The reasons for this are not far-fetched:
“The Constitution of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), explicitly stipulates the Parties position on the principles of rotation and zoning in Party activities and political candidacy. Section 7(3)(C) of the PDP Constitution, mandates that in the pursuit of its aims and objectives, the party shall adhere to rotation and zoning policies in Public elective offices in pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness.
‘’Therefore, the significance and recognition of these principles by the PDP cannot be overemphasised. Moreover, the applicability of these principles in the Cross River State PDP Governorship candidacy selection process, are embedded in the Party’s Constitution.”
Bassey, who insisted that it is the turn of the Southern Senatorial district to produce the next governor in 2023 declared, “the people of the Southern Senatorial District have solidly stood behind the power rotation principle. After Duke’s tenure in 2007, they wholeheartedly supported a candidate from the Central Senatorial District. They did this in my party, by not presenting any candidate from the South in that election. Furthermore, they voted massively for the PDP candidate from the Central Senatorial District.
“Of course, power shifted to Central and Liyel Imoke became our Governor.
Thereafter, the people of the South stood solidly behind the North and the zoning principle that was applied in the PDP. The South did not present a candidate in 2015. They supported the North.
“There were potential candidates from the South who could have created a contest in the field in 2015, but the people of the South decided to go with the zoning principle and supported the North on grounds of equity and fairness.
“In 2023, we believe that now is the turn of the South, under the same rotation principle.
“As is now common knowledge, I am contesting the 2023 elections and I have said repeatedly that my candidature does not depend on zoning. I will contest the election for Governorship with or without zoning, confident that I have the capacity to win and win for the PDP”, Bassey said.