Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross River State and Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN) representing Cross River Central Senatorial District in the Red Chamber of the National Assembly are known to be very good friends. The duo, no doubt, can be said to have been working together for the overall growth and development of the state since the entrenchment of democracy in 1999.
There has been an extremely smooth cordial relationship between the two political heavyweights in the country, such that Ndoma-Egba was seen to be fully there for Imoke during the period he was out of the country for medical vacation.
Ndoma-Egba, it was, who constantly gave a true picture of the situation when Imoke’s absence became a thing of great concern to the people and causing some sort of tension in the state.
The three-term Senator and Majority Leader of the Senate was among the first to visit Imoke while he was on medical leave abroad. He was also the one that allayed fears of his possible impeachment by the state House of Assembly, on the grounds of ill-health, insisting that he fulfilled the necessary condition for a governor to go on leave, whether medical or otherwise, by transmitting power to his deputy via a letter to the Speaker of the state Assembly.
To now hear that these two leading politicians in Cross River State are at war over 2015 may be surprising to many. But then, it only remains one of the words of Benjamin D’Israeli (December 21, 1804 – April 19, 1881), a British politician, novelist, essayist and one time Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (UK), who had said sagaciously of politicians that, “We have no permanent friends. We have no permanent enemies. We just have permanent interests.”
Media reports indicated that the root cause of their quarrel is the Cross River Central Senatorial District ticket for 2015 on one hand, and the battle on who becomes the next governor after Imoke on the other hand. While Ndoma-Egba has spent three terms in the Senate and appears to want to continue to serve his people beyond 2015, there are insinuations that the Governor who is from the same zone with him, is equally preparing to occupy the seat, as if it has become a right for every governor after his second term in office to retire to the Senate. Some say he may present somebody against Ndoma-Egba should he decides not to contest.
There was the allegation that the Senate Leader took Mr. Godwin Jedy-Agba, a formidable governorship aspirant from Cross River North to President Goodluck Jonathan, introducing him as the most suitable person to take over from Imoke, without the knowledge of the Governor while he was outside the country on medical leave. But the number-three man in the Senate promptly denied it saying: “First of all, Mr. President is alive. We know, quite a number of Cross Riverians have access to him. All you need to do is to ask Mr. President ‘is it true that Victor Ndoma-Egba brought anybody to you?
And he will tell you no such thing has happened. It is just some fiction that they find very very convenient to peddle.”
However, commenting on the view of some political stakeholders from his senatorial district who came out openly to ask the Governor to single-handedly pick his successor from the northern senatorial zone, the Senate Leader, a complete gentleman and democrat, though in strong support of the next governor coming from the northern axis of the state, maintained that it has to be through consultation and not unilaterally by the Governor, noting that “I believe that whatever position the Governor takes at the end of the day would reflect the will of the generality of the members of the PDP, arrived at through a democratic process.”
It is definitely going to be a tough battle should Imoke eventually decides to vie for the Cross River Central Senatorial seat against Ndoma-Egba in 2015 or sponsor somebody to contest with him as also being speculated. I say so because the Senate Leader has succeeded in endearing himself to his constituents, such that they seem to be very willing and ready to allow him continue beyond 2015.
The Senator who has made his mark in the legal profession before veering into politics has graduated from digging boreholes to attracting World and Africa Development Bank to construct a world class road in his senatorial district, which has been in a deplorable state for decades.
Gabrial Eyo, a constituent of Ndoma-Egba, countering a recent mischievous publication that described the consummate lawmaker, astute politician and quintessential legal icon, as a political liability that has brought no meaningful development to his people said: “The truth of the matter is that no sincere constituent from Cross River Central Senatorial District will agree with you on this assertion, on account of the litany of developmental projects that have come to Cross River Central Senatorial District on the account of the Federal Government since 2003 when Ndoma-Egba joined the Senate.
Is it the Africa Development Bank sponsored –Enugu-Abakaliki-Ikom Transafrica Highway corridor, the World Bank intervention on the Ikom-Ogoja Road, the Specialist Hospital in Ikom, The Calabar –Oban-Nsan-Ajassor Road, the multiplicity of MDG projects, his acclaimed scholarship scheme with nearly 500 beneficiaries, his computer literacy programme with nearly 6,000 graduates, his recent intervention in public transportation to mention a few?”
With his numerous water supply schemes, drainage and erosion control works, construction of solar panel street lights and rural electrification projects across the six local government areas of his senatorial district, Ndoma-Egba can be said to have made significant impact on the lives of his constituents, no matter the picture anybody wants to paint of him simply because he has a clash of interest with his state governor.
Members of a group called Positive Impact (PI), in a statement jointly signed by their national president and national secretary, Ezeani Bruno and Joe Twigi respectively, had reportedly described Imoke’s supposed senatorial ambition as unfair, an act of mischief and conspiracy against the people of Cross River Central Senatorial District.
They said: “Liyel imoke should hastily drop his ambition to save us division within the party in the district to avoid the multiplying effect up to state level. The Governor should not forget that he is not instrumental to Ndoma-Egba’s emergence, but rather it’s the other way round. Senator Ndoma-Egba has left no one in doubt that he still wants to continue after 2015, while Governor Imoke continues to deny his ambition. Let us quickly remind the Governor that Senator Ndoma-Egba is not losing sleep over his (the governor’s) known ambition and plans to intimidate, but has vowed not to yield the seat to the Governor.”
Continuing, the group stressed that “The senator stands firm and resolute as no political machination by Liyel Imoke would frustrate him from seeking the mandate of his people to return to the upper chamber come 2015. Senator Ndoma Egba cannot be intimidated by anybody not only in Cross River state, but in this country.”
Apart from the recognition of his remarkable achievements by the people of his constituency, the Presidency and national body of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) seem to be quite pleased with the sterling performance of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), who is well-known for his valuable contributions on the floor of the Senate since 2003. He rose from being the Senate spokesman to Deputy Senate Leader and now the Senate Leader, making him the number-three man in the Red Chamber.
Citing loyalty and performance, President Goodluck Jonathan represented by his Chief of Staff, Mike Oghiadome, recently at the south-south zonal enlarged meeting of the PDP said the party needs Ndoma-Egba for another term.
In the same vein, the party’s National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur during the flag-off of the local council election campaign in Calabar gave the Senate Leader a clean bill for his re-election.
Hear Tukur: “If you have a person like Senator Ndoma Egba in the Senate, be rest assured that we have quality representative. If you are watching the debate and discussion in the Senate and Senator Victor Ndoma Egba has not spoken then you know that the quality is not guaranteed, so we need people like him at the Senate to continue.”
Michael Jegede, a media practitioner wrote from Abuja.