By Attah Ochinke

I have read several accounts, distorted narratives and false claims regarding the zoning of Boki chairmanship position to Kakwagom/Bawop ward in 2003 by Ochibe Boki. The popular narrative is that in 2003 Ochibe Boki zoned Boki chairman to Kakwagom/Bawop but some politicians (described in different accounts as warlords, rascals, monsters, etc) hijacked the position to Irruan and imposed Hon Jake Enyia as chairman.

I feel these accounts are wrong and unless we speak up to correct these distortions, they will mislead people, and indeed crystallize as historical facts. Hence this contribution to tell the other side of the story.

First let me state that I was a major player in the events of 2002/2003. I was the Cross River state Comissioner for Trade and Investment, and an active politician.

Background.
Donald Duke of the PDP won election as governor of Cross River state in 1999 by defeating Mark Ukpo of the then APP. Duke is from Cross River south while Ukpo was from Cross River North. Though Duke ran that election on a pan Cross River, non ethnic and urbane agenda, the sentiments generated by the polar origins of the candidates were huge. 

Thus the major opposition to PDP was anchored in Cross River North and part of Central under the name ATAM CONGRESS. Atam Congress was a political organisation projecting a sectional agenda for the ethnic nationalities they described as Atam; mainly people from Cross River North and Central. This was a divisive and parochial objective that could have torn the state apart if it had not been properly handled by Duke and Liyel Imoke. 

The major opposition party then, the APP became the political platform for Atam Congress. The objectives of APP and Atam Congress were co-extensive; to wrest political power from PDP. Note that at some point APP became ANPP. 

Ochibe Boki leadership was leaning towards Atam Congress at the material time and sought to use the Ochibe Boki platform to further the Atam Congress agenda. This move politicised Ochibe Boki and started the decline of the socio cultural body at that time.

2002 Zoning

In 2002 when preparations for the local government elections started, there was a need to Zone the chairmanship for Boki. Ochibe Boki convened a meeting for this purpose in the house of M T Mbu at Okundi. At that time attendance at Ochibe Boki meetings was open to all Boki sons and daughters. The meeting was scheduled for 10am. I arrived by 9am because I wanted to consult with Chief MT Mbu before the meeting. Surprisingly, the meeting that was scheduled for 10am was already in full progress by 9am when I arrived. I was also the only PDP person that had arrived. That means there was an earlier time given to the Atam Congress/ANPP sympathisers for the meeting.

At the gate to Chief Mbu's house I was told that my name was not on the attendance list and thus cannot enter to attend the meeting. When I identified myself as serving Commissioner the gateman went in to consult. He was directed to tell me that the meeting was an executive committee meeting for Ochibe Boki and not open to all. Coincidentally I was the Assistant Legal Adviser of Ochibe Boki and asserted my right to be at the meeting being a member of the executive. The security man went back with my claim. Again he returned despondent and simply told me I was not to be let in. I left to wait at the then customary court at Okundi junction for my fellow PDP members who were yet to arrive.

When Ambassador Soni Abang arrived he was also locked out of the meeting. At this time Soni Abang has just left office as chairman of Boki to becone state chairman of PDP. So he was an even higher personality than me. Yet he was locked out of the meeting. This was the fate of all PDP members of any consequence that tried to attend. It was clear then that Atam Congress and the opposition party have hijacked Ochibe Boki. We Boki sons and daughters, prominent in our rights, deprived of attendance at the meeting in MT Mbu's house, convened at the customary court hall at Okundi and did our own zoning to Irruan. The Ochibe Boki/Atam Congres meeting which PDP was excluded zoned to Osokom 2 (not specifically to Kwakwagom/Bawop).

This was the scenario under which Jake Enyia emerged as PDP candidate from Irruan to contest and win the chairmanship election of 2003. This is the circumstances that we the PDP leaders then decided that the meeting that was held in Chief MT Mbu's house, to which we were excluded with ignominy, was neither a general or executive meeting of Ochibe Boki; that indeed it was a meeting of Atam Congress who's decisions were not binding on us since PDP was not part of Atam Congress. Ochibe Boki, by allowing itself then to be politicised and ensconced in Atam Congress, lost the moral pedestal to provide direction for Boki. And the methods of shutting out prominent Boki sons and daughters from deliberations neutralised such decisions. It was from this point that Ochibe Boki was lowered in the eyes of people. I give credit to all Boki people who worked to ensure the reactivation and resuscitation of Ochibe Boki. But the misadventure should certainly serve as a lesson against taking partisan activities into Ochibe Boki.

To those who may want to dispute the facts here, let me say that before putting up this write up, I checked to confirm that I still have the videos of the event at Okundi in 2002. Secondly, this piece is not to support any candidate or politician. It is not to denigrate any person. It simply gives the circumstances under which we acted against what is said to be a decision of Ochibe Boki. To us at that time, and it is still my personal view, the purported zoning by Ochibe Boki in 2002 is a classic example of how not to conduct zoning. Especially considering that Ochibe Boki has no mechanism for enforcement of its decisions and must rely on moral injunctions. This therefore means its decisions must at all times maintain moral high ground to command obedience.

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