The Cross River State chapter of the APC has been enmeshed in a protracted leadership crisis for years now. The factionalisation of the party led to the party’s poor outing during the last general elections, among others. In this interview with CHRISTIANA NWAOGU, Hon. Alex Egbona, the only elected APC federal lawmaker from the state, speaks about how the crisis affected the party and what the future holds for them.
Your party, the APC, now has a new chairman in Cross River State. As the only elected federal representative of your party from there, what does this mean to you?
You are aware that for a very long time now, the APC in Cross River State has been entangled in a web of leadership crisis. The crisis caused us so much. So much effort was made to end the imbroglio, but the more we tried, the more it escalated. It was the same leadership confusion that caused us victory during the last general election. Our political adversaries took advantage of that lacuna and did us in. It was so bad that as at the eve of the last general election, we were still not sure of anything.
Here we were, preparing for an election, only for INEC to go on air, announcing that a court order had restrained them from recognising candidates who were submitted to the electoral umpire by the leadership of the party that was recognised in law, as at the time. Even after we battled to set that so-called judgement aside, those who were benefitting from the crisis did not relax. They still pushed and kept pushing until very recently.
I only managed to survive that evil plot. It got so bad that at the time that I was in court against my opponent, this issue of real and imaginary chairman of the party was still hunting us. We became subject of ridicule. Do you know that even during the last local government election which the state claimed to have conducted, the issue of factionalisation was still our undoing? Our enemies never wanted it to end.
Obviously, some people were gaining from the quagmire. If the issue had not been resolved, it would have also affected our chances of victory during the forthcoming senatorial election. But to God be the glory, the darkest hours in our political life in APC have passed. We are now one united family and it means so much to me as a major stakeholder in the party. I lost sleep while the leadership crisis lasted. Of course , there is no sane leader who will have a sound sleep when his house is on fire. That was why other party leaders and I had to do all that we did to end that era of confusion in the state chapter of our party. I can tell you, I am a very happy man now.
But what and who do you suspect was behind the crisis?
Well, I may not know who was behind the crisis. But of course somebody or some people were behind it. However, certain people within our party allowed themselves to be used as agents of destabilisation.
If you ask me, what may have led to it, I will simply say either greed, or money, or the urge for power, or the wicked tendency to destroy the other political party, or all of the above. It was just a wicked strategy to make sure that the APC did not go anywhere in the state. Believe me, if not for that confusion, the APC would have made a very serious impact in this state during the last general election. So those who fought us knew that if we remained together and united, we would take over the state. So, they plotted division in our ranks and succeeded in tearing us apart. But that is now history. We are now back as one united political family.
How was this achieved?
All thanks to our leaders and supporters who made sure that the crisis ended. In the APC, we have very many top shots-a minister, a former governor, former senators, former Rep members, various past and present public office holders. It is just that at the moment, I am the only elected voice and eye of the party from the state. I did my own part, but it was a combined effort from all these leaders who also were very worried about the state of affairs in our party.
The good thing is that all the warring factions were present during the peace parley that led to the emergence of Senator Mathew Mbu Jnr, as our new party chairman. All those that matter in the APC in our state were also present. The leadership of the party at the national level were very much interested in how to end the crisis and they got seriously involved. So, I can tell you that peace has come to stay in Cross River APC. Those that were feasting on the crisis have been put to shame. Those that thought the crisis would continue forever can now look elsewhere for survival because the party is over.
Let me use this rare opportunity to commend and congratulate the leadership of our party at the national level, especially the south-south zonal chairman, Senator John Udoedehe, who took more than a passing interest in resolving the crisis, for their role in making sure that the crisis ended. They have helped us to midwife the birth of a new APC leadership in our state.
What does the future hold for APC in Cross River?
I can assure you that even our political foes are already jittery. Our loss in previous elections was just a fulfilment of the biblical saying, that a house divided against itself cannot stand. That was what happened to us. Now that we are united, there is no stopping us. We will show it in the next few weeks, as we get into the field for the senatorial election in Cross River north. Right now, the rebuilding processes are on-going. The new chairman is a grassroots politician, a very experienced man who has been a senator. He will lead us to victory during the Cross River north senatorial election. INEC has already fixed a date for the primary election. I am aware that some people have bought their nomination and expression of interest forms and are ready for the primary. We are upbeat for that election. Our people will choose a flagbearer for the election and we will queue behind whoever emerges candidate for the election. Our opponents are aware that we mean business. They could only deal with us because we were a disunited party. We will use this coming election to proof a point, that the APC in Cross River is back to life.
Let’s talk about your representation of Abi/Yakurr federal constituency. What is new?
So much, although the COVID-19 pandemic appeared to have dealt a very heavy blow on our plans, activities and programmes. And incidentally, the pandemic struck just a few months after the litigations against my election ended, thereby affecting all I planned to carry out. But I can tell you that I have not been asleep. We are on recess as you are aware. But even though we are not sitting, I have been up and doing, working quietly to attract development to my constituency. I am at that stage of legislative duties which I prefer to call lobbying for economic empowerment. I believe that if I can get my people gainfully empowered and employed, the constituency will be better for it. So, I am using the period of the recess to interface with the various agencies of government to explore opportunities for economic empowerment for my people.
Recall that from my constituency, we also produce the local rice that we consume in this part of the country. The rice farmers from my constituency are so many and they need assistance from the federal government in the area of a rice mill, so that when the harvest, the milling can be done around my constituency, instead of taking it somewhere else. The other day, some officials of the federal government were in the constituency and I took them round some of the large rice farms and also showed them how they needed to help my people. I am hopeful that with the discussions I am having with the relevant government agencies, something will happen very soon.
Between now and the end of the year, there are other programmes that will unfold. COVID-19 will not stop us from making progress.