Since the birth of the All Progressives Congress, APC in Nigeria in 2013, the party has won just one election in Cross River State. That's the Abi/Yakur federal constituency election where candidate of the APC, Hon. Alex Egbonna defeated the then Speaker of the state assembly and candidate of the People's Democratic Party, PDP, Rt. John Gaul Lebo
One of the major advantages the APC had over the PDP in the election was that Egbonna, who was the Chief of Staff to former Governor Liyel Imoke for eight years enjoy goodwill that cut across board. As a former member of PDP and a very popular and powerful figure in the Imoke's administration, he had people who believed in him and loved him in the two major parties.
Even in APC, the election was the only one that the party fielded one candidate. In other elections, the two factions that existed in the party at the time fielded one candidates each. And this was basically because a lot of party members disagreed with some candidates presented by even the faction that had the support of the national leadership of the party.
As APC candidate, Egbonna calvanized support across board to defeat a serving Speaker who had the support of the state government and former Governor Imoke. Gaul, Egbonna and Imoke are all from Abi.
The Egbonna's election, where a lot of PDP members came out openly to drum support from him showed clearly that Nigeria politics is gradually growing to a point where premium is placed more on who flies parties flags than the party itself.
Many had thought that the APC will continue with this strategy of fielding candidates with this attribute since it was what worked for them, but from the Cross River North Senatorial by-election, it's obvious that the party did not learn anything from what would have been adopted as its unique winning strategy!
Beyond the Egbonna example, the last Edo State governorship election is another instance. Governor Godwin Obaseki didn't win his reelection solely on the support of the PDP. Both APC and PDP worked for him to win.
Besides, with the defection and cross defections dmoninating Nigeria politics, there appear to be no significance difference between the APC and the PDP. Infact, remove President Muhammadu Buhari and Senator Bola Tinubu from the APC, what would be left as APC would be PDP with another name.
Nigerians have accepted this reality which is why there no longer care about party name or logo, hence, political parties too, like APC that's gearing to win it first mass elections in Cross River in 2023 must learn do adapt. The party, going forward should make it a policy to field candidates with over-the-board appeal.
Those familiar with developments in Cross River APC before Governor Ben Ayade defected with his supporters to the party know that, beyond funding, wrong choice of candidates have prevented the party from winning many elections, including those with obvious advantage.
So, as the party prepares for the forthcoming Yala/Ogoja federal constituency by-election, the leadership needs to move beyond imposition of unpopular candidates to fielding people with grassroot appeal across party lines.
Recall that the House of Representatives seat became vacant after the Court of Appeal declared its former occupant, Rt. Hon. Jarigbe Agom as the duly elected Senator for Cross River North.
As both the PDP and APC are warming up for another titanic battle for the seat, the APC which three National Assembly members from the state is minority compared to PDP seven must work to add this to their fold.
This election is very important to the party because no matter how APC supporters try to pretend, it's clear as crystal that the PDP will not be a ppushover in the election nor in 2023.
Besides, a lot of people in APC today are APC in the mouth but PDP at heart. So, to convince such people to stay true to the party during elections, the party must avoid giving them reasons to follow their "heart" by fielding candidates who is loved, appropriated and supported across party lines.
Ostensibly, the choice before the APC now is to either emboldened the PDP by fielding wrong candidate that will give the opposition party an edge or identify someone with the Egbonna's acceptability that can win the election to strengthen its ranks and files ahead of 2023.
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