In Cross River State, Oga is Not Around!
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In Cross River State, Oga is Not Around!

by crossriverwatch admin

When the Cross River State Governor, Senator Liyel Imoke left the country on Tuesday November 6 2012, for an over sea medical trip, even most of his closest allies were not in the know.

It was from the second and third day after that information started filtering out that the governor had gone over sea for a medical check and he will soon be back.

When it got to the fifth day, the public got wind of the information and by the tenth day, the now deregistered Hope Democratic Party HDP became the first opposition party to demand explanation from the government about the governor’s whereabouts.

In a statement signed by the party’s publicity secretary in the State, Mr. Joseph Ekwere and obtained by crossriverwatch, the party accused the Governor of going on incessant foreign trips.

Part of the statement read: “And lately, Governor Imoke has gone on AWOL for the past 10days without reason and no information on his current where about. We are aware the Governor has visited the UK for medical review and re-assessment and we question why the Governor who claims to have done well in the health sector seek treatment and medical review abroad when he ought to have sought treatment in the up-graded General Hospitals in Calabar and Akamkpa”.

Other opposition stalwarts then joined in asking for explanations.

Chief Emmanuel Abang Njar, an opposition chieftain, said the state needed their leader at that auspicious time and would be glad if information about his health and whereabouts were made known to citizens.

Njar said: “This is absolutely undemocratic for a Governor to be away for over seven days without notifying the citizenry; it is even out of tune to try to hide whatever is the problem with our dear governor and pretend as if all is well.”

But the ruling Peoples Democratic Party PDP, in their response disabused the minds of the citizenry and said the
governor had gone for routine medical treatment abroad and would come back once he is okay.

In a statement to crossriverwatch, Hon. Joe Obi Bisong, the party’s spokesman in Cross River, challenged the Hope Democratic Party, HDP, to produce facts to support their claim that the governor has made several foreign trips.

He said there is nothing wrong in the governor going overseas for treatment, adding “there is no country in the world that has attained medical independence. Even in the United States, people are still being taken outside the country for medical treatment”.

The governor’s spokesman Mr. Christian Ita also responded immediately informing the public that the governor had gone for medical check up. In a telephone conversation with crossriverwatch, Ita explained that “The Governor just went for his routine medical check-up. He is expected back in the country tomorrow”.

Yes, the governor was being expected back in the country in time for the opening ceremony of the Obudu International Mountain Race which was scheduled for the following day.

The mountain race came and gone and a whole month passed and the governor was not yet back. The grumblings were becoming more intense about the state of the governor’s health.

Even administration top insiders began to insinuate so many things. Some of the social media rumours about the governor’s death were allegedly engineered by those who are holding sway for Imoke.

The dearth of information about what was really going on with the governor was helping to fuel speculations. A fertile ground for conflicting rumours was also being created by the multiplicity in the scanty information that was available from both the Acting Governor, Mr. Efiok Cobham, CPS Mr. Ita and the Information Commissioner Mr. Akin Ricketts as well as other government officials.

By the 5th of November 2012, one month into the journey, in a widely publicized press statement from the office of the Chief Press Secretary, the governor was said to have proceeded on a two months accumulated leave beginning from that day.

The statement reads in part: “Some three weeks ago, His Excellency took a short break after a long hectic and eventful year, all preparatory to the start of the busy Calabar festival season. He used the opportunity to undergo medicals and in the course of so doing, was advised by his doctors to undergo further evaluation.

“Accordingly, His Excellency will be proceeding on a two-month accumulated leave with effect from today(5th of December 2012). In line with the provisions of the constitution His Excellency, Efiok Cobham the deputy governor will act in his place during the period of his leave.”

The statement also said Imoke had communicated his decision to the State House of Assembly through a letter to the Speaker, Rt Hon. Larry Odey.

The two months leave will be ending in two weeks time and the people of cross river state are yet to get a progress report from official sources.

While the anxiety persists, watchers say, activities in the state have grounded to a halt because ‘Oga is not around’.

That sentence seem to have become the song on the lips of state government officials most of whom have shifted their offices to their residences and guest houses to avoid people seeking favours.

On the streets of Calabar, citizens are speaking in muffled tunes, wondering when the governor will return or whether he will still come back.

Mr. Ubi Itam, a legal practitioner in Calabar told crossriverwatch that, “Everything in this town has come to a stand-still since the governor travelled out of the state. You know any serious business man in this town has something to do with government and now that the governor is not around, all you hear from the government officials is just Oga is not around and there is nothing we can do.”

A serving commissioner who did not want to be named also told crossriverwatch that: “All the talk about governance going on smoothly is all a lie. Oga is not around and so many things are standing still. The Accountant General’s office has so many approvals pending and it’s so difficult getting money from there and the Acting Governor has a limit on what he can do or approve.”

A Calabar branch manager of one of the new generation banks also told crossriverwatch that “You know Cross River State is generally a civil service state that is government dependent. So there is no way the absence of the governor will not affect economic activities. That should be expected in this kind of political environment. What you hear from government officials now is that you know Oga is not around so you have to understand”

Sources in government house told our reporter that Cobham, is threading softly so as not to do anything that may put him at loggerheads with his boss anytime he returns since the die-hard Imoke loyalists are said to be pointing fingers at him for nursing an ambition to succeed their benefactor and for being responsible for the rumours about the governor’s ill health.

It was also learnt that the Acting Governor is being closely monitored and all his meetings are carefully observed for regular reporting and update to the governor.

It was gathered that the governor may be at loggerheads with the acting governor over the alleged plot to install a new paramount ruler for Calabar South.

There were accusing fingers, that Professor Itam has the backing of the acting governor and that the acting governor is allegedly planning to cache in on the absence of the governor to coronate Itam the Muri Munene of the Efut Nation; though this allegation has not been confirmed yet.

Some of the contractors who spoke to crossriverwatch also complained bitterly that they were unable to do their Christmas and New Year celebrations because of the inability of the Accountant General to clear their approvals.

One of the contractors who also did not want to be named for fear of victimization said “Even those of us who had gotten our approvals still could not get them cleared by the AG. We went several times to queue in his office but nothing came out of it. All we kept hearing was that, Oga is not around, there is no money, until Oga comes back.”

crossriverwatch learnt that it took over one month for the cash prizes for the Obudu Mountain Race to be redeemed because “Oga is not around”.

Even some of the cash prizes for the Carnival Calabar are said not to have been redeemed because of the lack of cash to back up the approvals all because of the governor’s absence.

Government officials have also abandoned their duties in the absence of the governor. A check by crossriverwatch in Calabar revealed that most of them now spend most of their time in their country homes mobilizing for the local council elections expected to hold by August 2013 and the governorship election in 2015.

Though several federal legislators from the state and several other persons have visited the governor in Ellicott City, Maryland and returned to assure crossriverians that the governor is hale and hearty, people continue to wonder why a healthy governor cannot return home to awaken a state which his absence has induced to sleep.

The implication of this is that since state officials are not willing to give citizens a progress report on the governor’s health, the people of the state will have to wait for the remaining fourteen days for the governor to return from his two months leave in grand style.

However some persons have alleged that the governor abandoned the state during the festive period because of lack of funds to meet up with challenges of the Yuletide season as the state is said to be nearly broke. Since its delisting from the league of oil producing states.

But for now the state has to continue to grind on the symbolic Destination Cross River “Snail” speed because Oga is not around.

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