Effiong Awatt emphasizes the importance of voters education in Cross River State, in order to afford them an opportunity to take informed decisions
The political timetable all over Nigeria, nay Cross River State, is in a flurry. Ward congresses are already being held and, pending appeals, the outcome of the various primaries can already be projected. This is the situation in Cross River State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with gubernatorial aspirants already claiming victory in places where their supporters seem to have been selected by the wards as delegates to the state congress. Following a series of postponements, national delegates were expected to be selected at the local government congresses on May 10, 2022. Obviously, it will be a tenacious fight-to-the-finish between Senators Gershom Bassey and Sandy Onor as their performances during the ward congresses can be deemed as quite outstanding. The state gubernatorial primary on Monday, May 23, 2022, will finally quieten all the noise and we shall know the eventual winner.In the meantime, the horse-trading is on. Negotiations are in top gear and the permutations continue to hold sway. It is not an easy ride for all the parties. While the results from most of the congresses give Senator Gershom Bassey the upper hand with his heavy incursion into the Central Senatorial District and a clear dominance in the South, the Caterpillar movement, through an online publication, is claiming a Sandy Onor sweep of the ward congresses. Only time will tell.The political climate during this time is interesting. Such times normally experience a preponderance of shenanigans which could include editorial tail-spinning, verbal mudslinging, political trickery, vote buying, collusive gerrymandering, and even violence. Because of precedence, these are things to be expected. But what will the people, nay, the aspirants, do about it?In previous campaigns, the likes of Senator Gershom Bassey received the short end of the stick with supporters of his opponent wrecking violence on his person. He eventually got the victory, but he suffered grave injury. Such attacks are not to be taken lightly. In some cases, victims suffer palsies because of injury to the nervous system, or even death. Not a few bright stars in Cross River State have been dimmed in this manner. The late Bankong Obi is a case in point. Unknown assailants were reported to have broken into his home, way back in the ‘90s, and caused him mortal injuries. He was a leading politician in the local government area of Boki at the time.While this calls for a lot of protection for the aspirants, great concern can also be extended to the aspirants’ supporters. Most times, these devotees give themselves to strange vows of passion for their candidates, like a till-death-do-us-part pact. Of course, this is as a result of the amount of pecuniary gain they enjoy both before and after an electoral victory. It is sadly, a direct product of poverty. Poverty, therefore, is the big elephant in the room that needs to be tackled. Let us get a few things out of the way. First, let us agree that politics should not act with bitterness. Then, let us agree that elections should not turn violent. Cross River State is a zone of peace. Let us agree to that. Let us also agree to a live-and-let-live atmosphere. It does not portend docility. Rather, it means more political acuity on the part of the supporters. Would it then not be brilliant if supporters understood their candidates’ scorecards and manifesto before launching out in their support?It would be interesting to see how the aspirants have fared in terms of articulating their scorecards and manifesto. Of all the candidates, the only one whose online and social media presence stands out is Senator Gershom Bassey. He has a website plus active presence on social media.
Apart from publishing his scorecard, he talks about restored security and economic restoration and development in Cross River State. A search for Sandy Onor’s scorecard is laborious. It is possible he has an impressive scorecard, but it cannot be found on cyberspace. Dan Asuquo, otherwise DanSuki, is absent on social media. For doubters, Google is your friend.How then do the candidates’ supporters connect and reach out to undecided voters? In other climes, social media is a number one go-to for political education. In the United States, social media platforms are increasingly used for political news and information by adults, especially when it comes to election time. A study by Pew Research conducted in November 2019, found that one-in-five US adults get their political news primarily through social media. 18% of adults use social media to get their political and election news. Not so in Cross River State.Scaremongering and violence are no options. If Cross River State were to advance progressively, political education is key. Not all the money scattered across the state by supposedly affluent politicians can do the work of impassioned, convincing voter education. This voter education must speak to how Cross River State will fare four years, then eight years to come.