From Judex Okoro, CalabarIn this interview, a chieftain of Cross River All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Sam Bassey, took a swipe at the call for back-to-south political zoning arrangement adopted by the ruling party, saying such rotational policy has totally marginalised the minorities in Cross River South.Bassey, a legacy member of APC and former Cross River South senatorial and House of Representatives aspirant, decried the monopolization of the senatorial and governorship seats by the dominant tribe in the South leaving the people of Akampkpa/Biase federal constituency with nothing since 1999, adding that such arrangement is against equity, natural justice and good conscience.What is your impression about the political atmosphere in Cross River State?With candidates having emerged, I think the political atmosphere is trying to take shape and the atmosphere gathering momentum front runner candidates and non-starter candidates traversing all the nooks and crannies. We have candidates APC, PDP, PRP and others. The frontrunners for me are that of the APC and the PDP. APC candidate is a force to be reckoned with, but for me Prof. Sandy Onor of the PDP is a very strong contender. Recall that the PDP held sway in the state for 16 years until Governor Ben Ayade defected to All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2022. So, the situation right now is almost 50-50 for both parties. The truth about it is that it’s not going to be business as usual again for one political party whether PDP or the APC and whichever party that wins in 2023 is going to be by dint of hard work. The era of once one emerged as candidate in the PDP, it’s as good as having won is over. For APC too, it’s not going to be that because the governor is from my party, we’ll win. Not at all! Every party has to be in the field this time and that’s the truth.However, what we need to tell the candidates is that the era of engaging in mudslinging and campaign of calumny is also over. We are tired and sick of politics of mudslinging; it does not go anywhere in this world. We want issue based discussions, debate and arguments. It’s not abuses and insults that are going to change the fortunes of the state. We need people who can turn things around. Anyone who want to make abuses and insults the foundation of his or her campaign, no one will listen to that. Some of us will work against that candidate. We have come a long way; tell us your manifestoes, blueprint and action plan so that we can examine it and see if we can buy into it. Specifically, we want a candidate who has solutions for some of the hydra headed problems as seen – roads, energy and the health sector are virtually comatose as our hospitals are becoming mere consulting clinics.Zoning or rotation seems to be at the centre of the campaigns. The APC is talking about back-to-South for governorship while PDP says it’s on merit. What’s your view on this?First of all, I will marry the two-merit and zoning. The fact remains that there is no zone if you are talking about Cross River State that does not have competent hands. Every zone has enough human and material resources, but the zoning should not be done in such a way that a particular tribe will continue to dominate the other section that make up a zone. And as we talk of back-to-South, the question is back-to whom?The Southern senatorial zone is made up of Efiks, Akamkpa (Ejagham) and Biase (Ekois). So, if you say back to South, to whom in the South? Is it permanently the Efiks? And if so, then I disagree with that. Among the Efiks, Akamkpa and Ekois, there are competent hands. Recall that in 1999, we have had Donald Duke as governor from the South (Efik) and we had Florence. It’s Giwa as the senator from Efiks. After Sen Giwa, we had Sen. Bassey Ewa Henshaw and then Sen. Prince Otu all of Efik stock. After Sen. Otu, we now have Sen. Gerahom Bassey (Efik) for about eight years. So, what is the meaning of that?That is, there are no competent leaders from Akamkpa/Biase that can go to the Senate. Now, they are back to the South in which both the APC governorship and Senatorial candidates are from Efik and even from one local government area. Is that right, fair and equitable? If we are talking of back-to-south and our Efik brothers are serious, why can’t they say if we take the governorship seat, let the Akamkpa/Biase federal constituency take the Senate? Or why can’t Akamkpa/Biase provide the governor, they take the Senate seat? Are we no more brothers, so why should we continue to work? I am vehemently opposed to this kind of arrangement where some people will remain underdogs and cannot occupy certain offices.So when we are shouting that the majority tribes are marginalising us at the national level, then back home, then the small majority edge that you have, you use it to oppress those you see as minority. Why then are you attacking the Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba at the national level when you are marginalising those of us at home? Charity begins at home.Therefore, I am 100 percent opposed to the back-to-South-zoning arrangement because it marginalized those of us from Akamkpa/Biase federal constituency. I marry both zoning and competence but both of them must be such that equity is not only done but seen to be done. What they are doing now is against equity, natural justice and good conscience and I am not interested in this thing anymore. If I cannot occupy a particular office because I come from a particular area, then forget it, it’s not just about me; it is about my people and our children.We are very uncomfortable and will not succumb to any blackmail. We cannot continue like this, from 1999 till today, nobody from Akamkpa and Biase is qualified to be governor or Senator and we say we belong to the same state.From what you just explained, it seems you and your people are helpless. So, what do you people expect in this election to see if the cries of your area can be heard?Having looked at the candidates jostling for the governorship especially, I believe that Sen. Sandy Onor, the PDP governorship candidate, can help us and I am by this interview endorsing his candidature. I have the backing of my people before making this pronouncement and we have discussed with Onor. Onor is very approachable and has a listening ear and I believe he will listen. We cannot continue to be enslaved and anybody who does not like it should come out and let us know why it should be otherwise. We would try our best to mobilise for the election of Senator Sandy Onor. Before now, we have been speaking with our brothers since 1999 and they are not prepared to listen to us, they have not heard and it’s not now that they will hear. As far as some people are concerned, the South is made up of only the Efiks.You are still in the APC and will it not be seen as anti- party working for a PDP governorship candidate?I am still in the APC and a legacy member of the party. I have not defected, but the truth is that I am supporting the governorship candidature of Ntufam, Professor Sandy Onor, that is where the happiness of my people comes from. Besides, if my people are not happy in politics, I cannot even call myself a politician. Yesterday, there was NCNC, ACN, and today they are not there but my community is still there. When we did pro-party, what did my community get? Does party politics mean that if you see something, that is working against the interest of your people, you should continue to support it? Is that what proper party activity is?