Why Cross River PDP Cannot Ignore Gershom Bassey: An Expert View

Posted on April 16, 2022

BY BARNABY OFFIONG

Ex-Cross River State governor, Mr Liyel Imoke, said in Calabar on Sunday that the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) would be successful in the 2023 gubernatorial election, stemming from the fact that it had never lost any gubernatorial election in the state.


Imoke is indeed stating the obvious. PDP is in the Cross River State DNA. In essence, PDP is Cross River State and Cross River State is PDP.
Talking about the DNA of the Cross River State PDP party members, it is easy to see who they will reward.

This is what the Cross River State people reward – honesty, forthrightness, diligence, moral rectitude, loyalty and the fear of God. This translates to how Cross River State, nay PDP, politics is run. As for all these, there is one man who has been consistent in working to keep the Cross River State PDP together – actually, two because there is already a constant – former Governor Liyel Imoke. That man is Gershom Bassey. If you are to measure his contributions to the party in terms of psycho-socio-material support, he may be number one. If in doubt, please check the records.

Gershom Bassey is vying for the Cross River State gubernatorial seat. He not only has the master plan for a vibrantly successful Cross River State but he is also known very well, throughout the membership of the party, whether North, Central or South.

If all party faithful are to participate in the ward congresses and the eventual state primaries of the party, he would most definitely be the candidate of choice. In the ongoing permutations between PDP and the All Progressives Congress (APC), Gershom Bassey is considered the man to beat. But that can only be if PDP does its homework thoroughly.
What is this homework? They must ensure party unity, party affinity, party capital, and effective party leadership.

Gabriela Borz, a political scientist at Central European University, in March 2009 wrote that party unity, either in terms of attitude or behaviour is essential for electoral success.

Voters’ choice between the parties and the election of their representatives is directly related to party unity. This is so because, in any other way, they may be deemed incapable of translating their mandate into action and without unity, their electoral mandate will become ambiguous.

According to another political scientist, Peter John Loewen of the University of British Columbia, party affinity or identification is “about more than a preference for one party over another. Instead, it is membership in a social group. Moreover, it recognises that senses of obligation to others are likely to drive decisions to participate, especially when the stakes of participation increase.”

Loewen postulates that politics itself is “a competition between groups in which individuals are concerned not only with their own well-being, but also the well-being of others.”

He continues: “Elections are not contested by parties that appeal to a disaggregated collection of atomised individuals. Rather, they are contested by parties who compete for the support of groups of voters. In doing so, they often portray the supporters of other parties in an unfavourable light. As the story goes, an election win for an opposing party is thus likely not only to perhaps make aggregate welfare worse off but especially to comparatively enrich those who gave the party their support.”

Directly related to party affinity should be party capital or party finance. Or simply put the party’s war chest. Normally, parties are financed by their supporters through membership dues and contributions but because of the peculiarities of politics in Cross River State, and indeed Nigerian politics, party finance is dictated by the benevolence of big givers, or more interestingly, by the contesting aspirants.

Election periods are normally the most lucrative for the political parties because this is when they have the opportunity to draw down from the big givers. Of course, there is a trickle-down from the national 0, but it comes too little and too far in between. But let us assume that all aspirants have a suffice of funds to make the difference in party funding. Cross River State PDP has a plethora of aspirants, so there should not be a funding crisis during this period.

This now brings us to effective party leadership. The governance structure of the Cross River State PDP is headed by the State Chairman, who has other officers that make up the party executive.

The state executive of the party is in effect the party ‘government’. They see to the day to day running of the party, making sure that all its components are working.

During electioneering periods, the state executive works closely with the aspirants or candidates to ensure electoral success. The state executive and candidates are key stakeholders in the elections – they are the ones carrying out campaigns, monitoring the process, and ultimately gaining or losing elected office.

It is in the interest of the party and candidates to maintain good relations throughout the process. Therefore, members of the executive must not be seen to be partial in the period leading up to party nominations as this could affect the way that the synergy expected of them could work.

Again, this depends on the aspirants. Most of the aspirants want to win at all costs, including holding the party to ransom. Most times, they try to suborn the party executive; the one with the bigger largesse gets their favour. This often backfires because well-rooted aspirants, who have a good standing among loyal party members, emerge successfully to the chagrin of such relentless political manipulators. Interestingly, for anyone who wants to influence the selection or election process for candidate nomination in Cross River State PDP in such a questionable way, there is only one piece of news.

They have failed. The Cross River person is resolute and not easily swayed against their beliefs, no matter how juicy the alternatives are.
But is not yet Uhuru. Gershom Bassey must continue to do the work.

He must continue to traverse the terrain, pumping hands and genuflecting before royalty. Bassey must articulate his manifesto convincingly so that no one is in doubt about what he intends to deliver. And when he gets there, he must remember his promises. He must be true to the DNA.


•Barnaby Offiong is a political scientist and lives in Abuja

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