While the celebration of the court victory lasted, Otu, an honourable gentleman and peace-loving politician, was quick to call on his teaming supporters to be magnanimous in victory
Michael Jegede l Wednesday, November 2, 2022
PORT HARCOURT, River, Nigeria – It was celebration galore for supporters and loyalists of Senator Bassey Otu, when the Federal High Court sitting in Calabar, last week, duly affirmed his candidature as the authentic standard-bearer of All Progressives Congress (APC) for the 2023 governorship election in Cross River State.
The ruling brought great relief to Otu’s followers and admirers, who had been wondering why anyone would want to use the court to disqualify a man overwhelmingly supported by the masses and believed to be divinely destined to govern Cross State from May 29, 2023.
After the unanimous endorsement of Senator Otu, otherwise known as Sweet Prince, by leaders and stakeholders of Cross River APC in a meeting presided over by incumbent Governor Ben Ayade on May 9, 2022 in Abuja, of the 17 guber aspirants then, only Mr. Chris Agara and Senator John Owan Enoh had reservations for the consensus arrangement.
While Agara remained adamant in his rejection of Otu’s endorsement, Senator Enoh at a point mellowed and reportedly stepped down for the Sweet Prince on May 19, 2022.
Addressing members of his campaign organisation to inform them of his decision to withdraw from the race, Enoh, who in the 8th Senate represented Cross River Central, the senatorial district not currently favoured by the said existing zoning formula in the state, was quoted to have stated: “Today, I am saddled with the onerous responsibility of conveying to you, my decision to suspend our campaign for the Governorship of Cross River State on the platform of our great party, the All Progressive’s Congress (APC).
“After some deep reflection in addition to consultations, I have taken the decision to yield to the consensus arrangement of our great party in the firm belief in the supremacy of our party. I do this for the sake of the unity of our platform and my support for the leadership of our party under H.E Gov. Ayade.
“No matter how profound our vision is, no matter how brightly the light of hope burns in our hearts, as loyal party men and women, the supremacy of the party is sacrosanct at all times. And so, it is in full compliance and obedience to the decision of our party as well as your understanding that I suspend this campaign.
“This suspension is with immediate effect. Although the decision was not an easy one especially when I take into consideration the overwhelming support my candidacy and aspiration enjoyed across the state, it is in human nature for every engagement no matter how productive, enriching and rewarding to come to this point.
“It is therefore in this spirit that I urge you to throw your weight and support behind Sen. Bassey Otu, the consensus choice of our party. Having closely associated with him over the years, I have no doubt in his ability to deliver the dividends of democracy to our people. He’s no bad choice after all!”
In what came as a great surprise to watchers of political events in Cross River State, the same Senator Enoh made a complete volta-face and joined Agara to slug it out with Otu at the APC governorship primaries held on May 26, 2022, not minding his earlier open declaration of withdrawal from the race. In any case, Enoh’s participation in the primary election did not stop Sweet Prince from carrying the day as he won convincingly with 877 votes leaving the former Cross River Central Senator and Agara with paltry votes of 84 and 63 respectively.
Having been defeated at the primaries and unable to stop the submission of Otu’s name as the Cross River APC governorship flag bearer in the 2023 general election, Enoh resorted to litigation in exercise of his democratic right. He approached the court to challenge the process that threw up Otu as the guber candidate. He sought for the disqualification of Sweet Prince on the ground that he was not cleared by the party’s screening committee for supposedly failing to present his First School Leaving Certificate (FSLC) and West African Examination Council (WAEC) result in the course of the screening exercise.
However, delivering judgement on the matter, the presiding judge, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu reportedly maintained that evidence before the court showed that Sweet Prince was legitimately cleared by the National Working Committee (NWC) of APC to participate as a contestant in the primary election after eventually presenting his certificates. The court held that he remains the authentic candidate of APC as far as the 2023 Cross River governorship election was concerned.
Justice Ojukwu said: “The real issues involved in this case has been settled in favour of the third defendant (Senator Otu). In the final analysis, I find that the plaintiff (Senator Enoh) has failed to substantiate his claims to be deserving of a favourable judgment of this court in terms of reliefs sought. This honourable court is of the humble but firm opinion that the plaintiff’s case lacks merit, so this case fails and is accordingly dismissed.”
While the celebration of the court victory lasted, Otu, an honourable gentleman and peace-loving politician, was quick to call on his teaming supporters to be magnanimous in victory.
Welcoming the judgement that has been described by many as unambiguous, apt and sound enough to sail through the scrutiny of the higher courts, Otu in a statement remarked: “Let me say with all humility, that I wholeheartedly accept the outcome of the judgement, which is not just my victory, but that of our political party. This judgement is a confirmation that our political party, the APC is truly democratic in every sense.
“As we celebrate, I call on all our party loyalists, supporters and lovers of democracy to be magnanimous in victory, our brothers and sisters from the other end are not enemies but partners in the collective victory of our party come 2023.
“I appreciate the judiciary and all well-meaning Cross Riverians who have shown their love and support for me from day one. Let me also, very deeply appreciate the unwavering support of His Excellency the Governor of Cross River State, Senator Prof. Ben Ayade, our party leadership and members for the benevolence.
“In the spirit of sportsmanship, It gives me great pleasure therefore, to call on my dear brother, distinguished Senator John Owan Enoh to join hands with me and the leadership of our party as we prepare for the 2023 general elections. This is certainly, our collective victory. No victor, no vanquished.”
Many have continued to testify that Senator Otu will make a good governor capable of bringing the needed transformation to Cross River State and putting smiles on the faces of the people. Cross Riverians are being urged to remain steadfast in their firm support for Sweet Prince and never allow themselves to be deceived by anyone as the 2023 polls draw closer.
Describing Otu as a wonderful personality that must be backed by the entire Cross Riverians to take over the governance of the state from Gov. Ayade next year, a political stakeholder in Cross River, Hon. (Dr) Ekpo Ekpo Bassey, in an online video, said: “Senator Otu is well-known to me. I met him while he was serving at the National Assembly.
“Sweet Prince stands for peace, love, unity, justice, development and empowerment. I call him the father of empowerment in Cross River State. Because of the love he has for his people, he made sure he shared in the yearning and aspiration of those that were seen to be weak economically.
“I can tell you that many own houses, own lands, started small scale businesses from the benevolence of Senator Prince Bassey Otu. He is a man of the people. He is the kind of personality that we need in Cross River State to drive the economic and social development of the people, because he is a people-oriented leader. I want to use this opportunity to urge Cross Riverians not to make any mistake in the choice of the next governor of the state.
“Let me commend the effort of the governor (Ben Ayade) and other leaders of Cross River State APC, for choosing Prince Otu as the candidate of the party for the forthcoming election. I believe and I’m sufficiently convinced that Prince will be able to turn around the state for the better.”
NB: Michael Jegede, a journalist writes from Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja