Recently, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba granted what one will describe as a no-holds barred interview to Beatrice Akpala of “Inside Cross River”. In the said interview, the Senator referred to three wise men who had appropriated the power to decide the politics of Cross River State to themselves. He did not mention any name. Clearly, the responses by one Nyambi Aloysius Odey and Ndoma Ekuri on account of the above interview gave away their paymasters as having become jittery over a frank expression by the Senator that has been proven correct as political events are unfolding. Those responses to the interview, albeit fraught with falsehoods and misrepresentations are a vain attempt to downplay the integrity and political relevance of Senator Ndoma-Egba. They confirm the fact that “an old woman is always uneasy when dry bones are mentioned”.
Nonetheless, since the writers have revealed that any mention of the three wise men is a direct reference to Mr. Donald Duke, Senator Liyel Imoke and Senator Gershom Bassey, then so be it. The fact remains that nobody can claim to single-handedly make themselves politically powerful because politics is a game that thrives on the collective contributions derived from teamwork. So even those boasting that they made persons, were made by other persons. It is impudent and narcissistic to think of oneself as a super politician and assume the status of a demi-god. In fact that is the attitude that has brought the State politics to the current precarious State, where a sitting Governor was eased out of a party because he refused to fall for the whims and caprices of a select few to the detriment of Cross Riverians in general.
Senator Ndoma-Egba has never shied away from crediting PDP with his political growth. But to say that his emergence as Senate Leader was the handiwork of Governor Imoke is stretching the falsehood too far. Having been elected by his party caucus as Deputy Senate Leader in the 6th Senate, it was a logical choice by his colleagues to elect him the Leader of the 7th Senate due to his outstanding performance as deputy Senate Leader, who doubled as the spokesman of the Senate then. Interestingly, the Senate Press Corps played some role in his emergence when during the early times of the 7th Senate, then Senate President David Mark was jovially asked who will be the next Senate Leader, he threw the question back at the journalists and they chorused in answer “Senator Ndoma-Egba”!
If the writers are not too young, they would remember that Senator Liyel Imoke, the self-styled leader of Cross River State politics, was a political novice as at 1992 who went to the Senate on the back of the support then Governor Clement Ebri gave to him, as against the more popularly accepted Raphael Njar. We know how he got to know former VP Atiku Abubakar, who was instrumental to his involvement in the President Obasanjo’s government. Imoke’s subsequent but exaggerated “political might” drew from the powerful people in the national government who supported him.
Mr. Donald Duke has been severally hailed as the best Governor to have ruled contemporary Cross River State and that might well be the case. But prior to his emergence as Governor in 1999, he was also a political newbie and had to rely on external and powerful individuals to defeat the more favoured and well rooted Kanu Agabi, SAN.
Senator Gershom Bassey’s elections to the Senate in 2015 was facilitated by then Governor Imoke, using the instruments of state power, foisted him on the people of Cross River South against the more popular Prince Bassey Otu. Even his return in 2019 was only possible because of Governor Ayade’s political strategies, again heavily supported with state power.
The foregoing buttress the fact that every politician needs and relies on a other political forces to succeed. So to bandy the point that Donald and Liyel made Ndoma-Egba a senator is nothing to gloat about because their political journeys are replete with the interventions of other more powerful people.
On the issue of the Akparabong road, let the writers know that the road linking the Akparabong communities was first constructed during Sen. Ndoma-Egba’s tenure as Commissioner for Works and Transport. Then it was subsequently reconstructed by the Cross River State Government. So it is mischievous to allege that the Senator did not construct a road in his community or that it stopped in front of his house in Akparabong. If the writers were serious, they would have been able to get the details of the road contract from the relevant agency.
And oh! Since when has being a commissioner under the military regime become a problem for anybody. In fact, Ndoma-Egba made history as the youngest ever commissioner in not just in Cross River State but the whole of Nigeria and remains one of the youngest till date. He served that Government with distinction. The truth of the matter is that a young Victor Ndoma-Egba, two months shy of his twenty seventh birthday was recommended by one Gregory Edem Udomah of blessed memory to Navy Capt. Edet Akpan Archibong, former Military Governor of Cross River State for appointment as Commissioner. In fact, both himself and his late father, Honourable Justice Emmanuel Ndoma-Egba protested the nomination on account of his young age but Mr. Udomah was convinced that the young Ndoma-Egba, whom he has had a working relationship with, was capable of doing the job of a Commissioner in the then Cross River State Government. Victor Ndoma-Egba did not disappoint and the rest, as they say, is history. So to say that his father influenced the appointment is outright falsehood.
Come to think of it, the writers did well to remind us that the senator has been serving Cross River State long before the three wise men thought about serving the State. Referring to someone who is the founder and principal partner of a thriving law firm in Calabar and who has served Cross River State in several capacities before 1999 which signaled the commencement of the reign of the three wise men, as “being brought out of obscurity” is outright mischief.
And for the records, a Senator’s job description does not include the award of contracts let alone awarding same to his family or cronies. His record as Chairman of NDDC is in the open domain. One wonders what the writers meant by “decent projects”. If roads, bridges and culverts, mini water schemes, health and educational facilities, solar paneled street lights, etc which Ndoma-Egba as NDDC chairman attracted to the State do not qualify as decent and direct impact projects, then writers need to have their heads examined.
For the records, the three wise men have played their part in the Cross River State journey and history will judge everyone accordingly. If Sen. Ndoma-Egba’s commitment to work with Governor Ben Ayade which is borne out of his status as a statesman and critical stakeholder in the Cross River State project makes the three wise men jittery, then so be it. The truth of the matter is that the political dynamics are changing in our State. Cross Riverians are far more aware and wiser now. The three wise men need to wake up to the reality that the stranglehold they had on political power has been dealt a fatal blow by none other than Governor Ayade. And they need to lick their wounds and keep whatever remaining dignity that they may still possess. Come 2023, they need to show their political dexterity without the instrumentality of government power. We are eagerly watching and waiting.
Finally, the Senator Ndoma-Egba I know is a forthright leader in his own right who can boast of very rich democratic credentials. In his primary profession as a lawyer, he has risen to the zenith as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and Life Bencher. His law practice has produced Senior Advocates of Nigeria and judges of High Courts across Nigeria. Post 2015 when some people thought his political was over, having been pushed out of the PDP, he found a home in the APC, who appointed him the Chairman of the Board of the NDDC in 2017 and Secretary of the APC National Convention Planning Committee in 2018. I ask the writers if all these professional achievements and subsequent political were also made possible by the three wise men.
It is necessary to note that Distinguished Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba remains one of the shining lights and greatest personalities to come out of Cross River State and no amount of blackmail, intimidation, false and malicious presentations will diminish that fact. God has elevated him to the heights he has attained. So I advise all his detractors to learn to live with it because there is nothing anyone can do about that.
Richard Owan writes from Calabar.