Friday, 11 January 2019

SDP's Message to APC, PDP in C/River: keep the playing field level, safe for all... Read details here

11 January 2019 

Our attention is drawn to the ongoing dispute between the Senator Owan Enoh faction of the All Peoples Congress (APC) and the People's Democratic Party (PDP) over billboards. This arose from the allegation by Senator Enoh that the State Government, through the State Signage Agency led by Mr. Stanley Nsemo, has been hindering his (Enoh's) campaign by taking down his billboards. Senator Enoh clearly threatened a tit-for-tat action if the removal of his billboards continued. We understand that sure enough Owan Enoh billboards continued to be taken down and this was followed by reports that Ayade and other PDP billboards too are being destroyed, obviously in retaliatory attacks by Owan Enoh supporters.

We are convinced that these acts of retaliation are directly instigated by Senator Enoh's recent inflammatory press statements. We equally have no doubt, however, that the frustration expressed by the Senator and his supporters arises from the provocative and unlawful actions of Mr. Stanley Nsemo's Cross River State Signage and Advertising Agency (CRISAA). It bears repeating that CRISAA's powers as a regulatory agency are clearly stated by law and the rules it makes ought to be established and exercised transparently, by consultation and notice to the public. CRISAA does not meet the lowest standards of regulatory transparency and has from the arrival of Mr. Nsemo in the agency reduced itself to being an advert agency and playing billboard defence for the Ayade campaign. Nevertheless, the wrongdoing of CRISAA and the PDP government in Cross River State cannot be balanced by violence instigated by one faction of the APC in the State.

We all know that the only political billboards we have seen in Cross River State since 29th May 2015 have been those of the incumbent, Professor Ayade. However, the more he puts up glossy, self-aggrandizing billboards all over Cross River State, the more apparent his failures are and the more intensely unpopular and disliked he and his government become. Similarly, no amount of billboards put up by the Senator Owan Enoh faction of the APC will resolve the serious legal problems or assure him that he will be the candidate of the APC on 2nd March 2019. For both APC and PDP, all the billboards in the world cannot hide the fact that beyond mere slogans and big words, neither of their candidates has shown to Cross Riverians a credible development plan to put Cross River State back on the path of real socio-economic growth and development. Therefore, there is no credible, democratic reason for the political violence that now threatens our State.

The SDP paid for 27 billboard sites months ago but as soon as our first billboards went up in November, 2018, Mr. Nsemo was up in arms throwing out spurious and previously unknown rules and demanding arbitrary fees from us. With no notice or warning, he ordered our billboards to be taken down and they have since remained down. This has not deterred the continuing growth of the SDP brand in the State and we will test CRISAA's powers in the appropriate quarters. Meanwhile, billboards of Mr. Nsemo's patron, Governor Senator Professor Ben Ayade, including those put up by Mr. Nsemo himself, are all over the State making claims that everyone knows are totally untrue. Cross Riverians will no longer be fooled. The slogan is simple: "our mumu don do!" Billboards are not projects. Mr. Ayade cannot use them to replace the roads, bridges, health centers and water pipes he has woefully failed to build these past four years. Neither will billboards take the place of a thoughtful plan for rebuilding Cross River State that Senator Enoh has long promised but is yet to disclose to Cross Riverians.

Therefore, provoking young men to go out on the streets to destroy billboards that mean nothing and deceive no one, instead of following the due process of law, is wicked, thoughtless and irresponsible and we condemn it in the strongest terms. No doubt, none of Senator Owan's close relatives or those of his Deputy or campaign team leaders went out on the rampage of destruction for which they must take responsibility. Senator Owan Enoh and his colleagues know far better than to provoke thuggery. We can only surmise that in resorting to extra legal means and unleashing the demons of mayhem and destruction on Cross River State to protect mere billboards, both Professor Ayade and Senator Owan Enoh reveal their lack of confidence in their own campaigns.

Recently, aware of the increasing desperation on the part of both the APC and the PDP to win the elections in the State at any and all costs, the SDP proposed that all political parties contesting various elective offices in Cross River State should commit in writing to a declaration of non-violence in the conduct of the 2019 elections. There has been no response from either the APC or the PDP and so we reiterate this call now. We note that the billboards of other PDP contestants are now being mutilated and destroyed. It seems clear to us that the APC wants to create an atmosphere of violence in the State and thus establish grounds for the declaration of a state of emergency so that Federal/APC-controlled authorities take control of the State during the elections. Such an invidious plan must not be allowed to come to pass in Cross River State.

We call on CRISAA to remember that it is a creature of law and the law is neither arbitrary nor opaque. If a citizen is in breach of a regulatory requirement, the only standard response of any properly-established regulatory body is to give notice of breach and intention to take the remedial actions determined by the regulator's enabling law. We also call on Senator Owan Enoh, if he is truly aggrieved, to join the SDP in seeking redress in the courts. We make bold to say that nothing in any law of Cross River State or Nigeria permits CRISAA to take down billboards of the SDP or the APC without notice; just as nothing in any law of Cross River State permits the Senator Owan Enoh faction of the APC in the State to resort to violence and destruction to protect mere billboards.

It is important that voters in Cross River State are not intimidated by violent APC and PDP actors desperate to take or retain power for their principals. The lawlessness, irresponsibility and violent tendencies of the APC and PDP in Cross River State must stop immediately because these demonic forces, once unleashed, are difficult to control by anyone, least of all those who unleash them. Billboards are not worth the price that both the APC and PDP seem determined to make peace-loving Cross Riverians pay. CRISAA and CRSG are duty-bound to keep the playing field level and Senator Owan Enoh and his faction of the APC are equally duty-bound to adhere to keep the peace and follow the due process of law to redress their grievances.


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