I was really amused when I read in CrossRiverWatch On line what Senator Mathew Mbu said about Governor Liyel Imoke while addressing a cross section of Boki people last week.
Senator Mbu has dismissed Governor Imoke as a “Dictator and Emperor” who wants to impose his will, whims and caprices concerning those to lead us in the State.
I couldn’t agree more with the position ably canvassed by Senator Mbu. But is it just dawning on some of our political elites that Governor Imoke has run the affairs of the State as potentate since he became Governor in 2007?
The chicken has really come home to roost. Governor Imoke is now showing his true self that he has successfully masked over the years in his political sojourn in the State.
I have always held the opinion that Governor Imoke is ruthless, shrewd and manipulative.
Underneath the mien of a soft, gentle and lacklustre politician, Governor Imoke is decidedly a smooth wheeler and dealer well schooled in the politics of prebendalism and clientielism politics that is prevalent today in Nigeria.
I remembered what happened after the 2007 Governorship election in the State.
Governor Imoke was the candidate to beat. He had the formidable platform of the Peoples Democratic Party firmly behind when he made a quest to be Governor.
He had established a solid political structure which he funded very well while serving as a Minister in Obasanjo’s presidency.
But despite the fact that Governor Imoke had no challenger and would have convincingly won the governorship; the election was blatantly rigged, so much so that the Resident Electoral Commissioner for the State declared the result in a remote location in Obubra Local Government Area, instead of Calabar the State Capital as provided by the Electoral Act.
Despite the fact that only 47,000 voters were accredited to vote on the day of the election, the Independent National Electoral Commission declared Governor Imoke winner with 850,000 which was more than the voting population of the State then at 750,000!
The election itself was a sham, a charade as all the procedures provided by the Electoral Act where breached in the conduct of the election.
On the day of the election on the 14th April, 2007, the Independent National Electoral Commission in collusion with PDP removed all the result sheets from the sensitive electoral materials distributed across the 2217 polling units in the State.
So after the result of the election was declared, all the opposition political parties and their candidates that took part in the election converged a meeting on the 15th April, 2007 in Calabar at the instance of late Etubom Bassey Ekpo to forge a common position on how to challenge the result of the election.
I was privileged to be invited to attend a follow up meeting on the 16th April, 2007 even though I was not a candidate because of the fact that I was seen as an advocate for good governance, respect for human rights and constitutionalism.
The meeting was attended by representatives of the then Action Congress; Democratic Peoples Party; Peoples Progressives Alliance, All Nigerian Peoples Party and their candidates including Dr. Paul Ukpo, Chief Awa Solomon Iheke; Honourable Emmanuel Ibeshi; James Ebri, Dr. Etim Nyong; Hon. Rose Oko; Barrister Emmanuel Idaka all who were candidates in the election.
After intense deliberation, it was resolved that a Petition should be filed in the Governorship, National and State Assemblies Election Petition Tribunal to nullify the purported declaration of Governor Imoke as the Governor of Cross River State by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
I was instructed to prepare and file the Petition. Consequently the Petition was filed in the last week of April, 2007 against the election of Governor Imoke on the 14th April, 2007.
As soon as the Petition was filed and served on Governor Imoke some of the candidates who had consented to the filing of the election made a volte face and chickened out.
The first Petitioner to withdraw from the Petition was Dr. Etim Nyong who surprisingly instructed another lawyer to file an application withdrawing from the Petition without informing me.
Another Petitioner, Hon. Emmanuel Ibehi wrote me a personal letter to the effect that I should withdraw his name from the Petition.
Also Barrister Emmanuel Idaka also withdrew from the Petition on the ground that his Abi people were against his petition against Governor Imoke’s election.
Despite this huge set back, Chief Iheke, Dr. Paul Ukpo, and James Ebri decided to trudge on with the case. Their decision saved the petition.
The case was dismissed by the Election Tribunal on the 23rd January December, 2008. I decided to appeal with the consent of the Petitioners.
To cut a long story, the election of Governor Liyel Imoke on the 14th April, 2007 was nullified by the Court of Appeal, Calabar in a landmark decision on the 14th July, 2008.
The Court of Appeal held that the election of 14th April 2007 was conducted in gross contravention of the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2006 because result sheets were withheld from all the polling units in the State by the Independent National Electoral Commission in collusion with PDP.
The case is Dr. Paul Ukpo & Others vs. Liyel Imoke & Others (2009) 1 Nigerian Weekly Law Report (Part. 1121) 90.
Governor Imoke was ordered by the Court of Appeal to vacate office as Governor of Cross River State of Nigeria and the then Speaker of the Cross River State House of Assembly, Honorable Francis Ada was sworn in as Acting Governor of Cross River State by the then Chief Judge of the State, Honorable Justice Dorothy Eyamba-Idem on a sombre ceremony in the afternoon of 14th July, 2008.
After this momentous political earthquake which is unprecedented in the political history of the State; one would have thought the political elites would come together and ensure that whoever wants to be the Governor of the State does not ride his way into office and in the process take the people for a ride. Alas this was not to be.
The Political elites came to together and declared war on me. I was vilified and abused! My offence was that I was the lawyer that had the guts to challenge the status quo and cause the Court to remove Governor Imoke.
One of these elites, who is my friend and mentor threw caution to the wind when he publicly denounced me and called me a “rascal” in a PDP meeting.
Then these elites were falling on themselves to bail Governor Imoke out of his then political woes after his election was cancelled in 2008.
Governor Imoke was effortlessly elected in the fresh election held in September, 2008 after everybody who is somebody in the State had been compromised.
These compromised elites are today at the receiving end of Governor Imoke’s dictatorship and are now crying.
Governor Imoke would not even allow the basic tenets of democracy to prevail in the nomination of candidates in his Party to contest the 2015 general election.
Lord John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, the English politician, historian and writer aptly puts it “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men”.
The absolute power Governor Imoke has surely corrupted him. This was when the genesis of the present dictatorship foisted on the State by Governor Imoke was laid.
Today Governor Imoke’s word is law! He is He, who must be obeyed! Now, you must genuflect before Imoke and his wife before you can get a contract, appointment or anything in the State. How sad!
You must bow to Imoke and wife before you become a Chairman of a Local Government Council; Councilor of a Ward, to become a Senator, Member of the House of Assembly and House of Representatives. Imoke has become the Lord of the Manor!
Even the House of Assembly, constitutionally empowered to act as a check on Governor Imoke, has acquiesced to his dictatorship!
Our people regrettably have also acquiesced to Governor Imoke’s dictatorship by remaining politically unconscious, docile and timid.
Everybody, the youths and the elders alike are obsessed with having government patronage and appointment.
Nobody is ready to talk against injustice, corruption and government incompetence.
What Governor Imoke is doing to these political elites is to my mind a classical case of if you ride on the back of a tiger; the tiger would devour anything that comes it way and ultimately turn round to devour you after it has devoured every other thing.
Okoi Obono-Obla writes from Abuja.
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