15 September 2018
The history of Cross River State will not be complete without a mention of the Man, Donald Damian Duke. Donald’s popularity is not so much about his politics, his high handedness or his quest for social enjoyment, Donald will be remembered more as the “Man who saw tomorrow”.
I am neither friend nor foe to Donald, my assessment of his administration and how he positioned the state for development is borne out of objectivity and fairness. Before Donald, nobody considered tourism as a source of income in Nigeria.
Donald initiated the Calabar Carnival which is now copied by most Nigerian states, he developed to completion the cattle Ranch which recently was used as a Presidential retreat, he initiated Tinapa and a free trade zone in Calabar, today we have over 12 proposed free trade zones all over Nigeria.
He was always an initiator.
Eight years in office was not enough to build these projects and see them to fruition, however, he completed all his projects in terms of structures. All of Donald’s projects were high quality; at least, the projects speak for themselves.
Liyel Imoke started on a good note structurally. Note, I said structurally not economically.
Donald may have left behind debts on the state; however, we cannot hold it against Mr. Duke because at the least, the people could see physical development attributed to the loans.
Mr. Imoke, a fine Western-trained lawyer and career politician inherited not just the physical structures Donald Duke left behind, but also inherited loans. One major feat that is not really celebrated that Mr. Imoke achieved is the restructuring of the loans with better terms.
If I would evaluate Mr. Imoke's performance, top on my list will be the State’s loan restructuring. His ability to move the state from Red to Green in the account books.
While Donald developed ideas and built the structures, Imoke put in place institutions that gave meaning to the ideas. For the Calabar Carnival, Imoke set up the Carnival Bureau, for Tinapa, he set up Investment Bureau, for the Ranch he set up Tourism Bureau and to ensure that future investors are not given the bureaucratic run around he made functional the Office of due process.
Again, as a public consultant with a penchant for project evaluation, restructuring the State’s debt and putting in place institutions to actualize the visions of Mr Duke, in my judgement were Imoke’s greatest achievements. I know some critics would also expect me to mention rural roads and agriculture as areas Imoke had a remarkable improvement, which is not in doubt, but history hardly remembers men for doing ordinary things; history remembers only the extra-ordinary inventions.
The Challenge to the Next Governor:
The greatest challenge facing Cross River state today is the emergence of a wrong leader post-Imoke era. If the wrong candidate emerges as Governor, two things will happen. All Donald Duke’s structures will become obsolete and all Imoke’s institutions will die a natural death.
The next State Governor should be someone who has both the political intrigues to combine the efforts of both Duke’s structures and Imoke’s institutions and bring life to these inventions.
Duke built the physical structures, Imoke built institutions, and the primary role of the next governor is to make these institutions workable, that’s bringing on board the right human capacity.
The next state governor should be a person of proven intelligence and excellence. He should be a true Cross Riverian devoid of ethnic biases and should not be one who idolizes zoning and place of origin in searching for the right hands if he must succeed.
Zoning, I believe, produces sycophants and mediocrity. It encourages boot licking and placement in positions of authority persons who have no ability to obtain anything by merit. It discourages struggle which is the hallmark of politics.
Politics is the struggle for power”. You don’t negotiate power, we were thought in school, negotiation is weakness. Zoning is negotiation; the belief that “it is our turn” is an expression of cowardice.
If the people of Northern Cross River State believe it is their turn, they should come out and struggle for it. They should not sit down and wait for an anointed candidate. If an anointed candidate is forced on the people he may fail.
I am by no means saying the people of Northern Cross River State extraction do not have credible candidates to take over the mantle of leadership in the State, to be factual; some of our best brains in the State are indigenes of this zone. However, power cannot shift to this zone based on geography, or based on “it is our turn” if power must shift, it should be by merit, and merit finds excellence in struggles.
Donald Duke had a vision, articulated and built projects, Liyel Imoke developed institutions to actualize Donald’s visions, and the next governor of Cross River State has a greater task; to create the missing link between Imoke’s Institutions and the Donald Duke’s projects.
As Cross Riverians, we are one people, we are one culture and we cannot be divided by race, class or village of birth syndrome. From the cattle Ranch Mountains of Obudu to the Creeks of Bakassi we are one people, we refuse to be designated into three zones.
We cannot allow the machinations of the ruling classes dictate our future. They are quick to tell us that zoning is the cure to political and economic instability; we fail to agree to that logic, our problem is not zoning.
A common denominator that defines the farmer in Obanliku and the farmer in Odukpani is hunger and poverty. Hunger is no respecter of zones. Zoning is a political ploy designed by the ruling classes to deceive and divide the people.
Our problem is not geography and zoning, our problem is economics and classism. When the ruling classes sit together to share the State’s allocation and contracts, nobody talks about what village you were born, up stream or downstream, Efik, Etung or Bekwara.
We should do away with the “sharing mentality” that emphasize zoning and embrace a “nation building mentality that promotes patriotism.
The worst legacy a generation can bequest to future generations is to institutionalize zoning in the mentality of future generations. It divides us more than it unites us.
The Lord Luggard’s divide and rule policy is a colonial mentality, we are a new generation, let us emphasis merit, hard work and creativity as conditions to lead.
Let us rise up, dream the dream of Donald Duke who though was an Efik from the South, developed a state-of-the-art Ranch in Northern Cross River state, who dreamed of a Dubai in Tinapa as the hub of modern Nigeria’s enterprise.
This dream is not too big to achieve, if only we can dream and see the stars, our sons and daughters shall multiply and fill the earth like the stars in the sky. For lack of a better heading, I will title this piece, Donald Damien Duke, The man who saw tomorrow.
This was my very first article on Facebook, written 2 years before Ayade became governor. What do you think?
Princewill Odidi is a public affairs analyst who writes from Atlanta