I really mused over the caption of this piece for a couple of nights before finally settling for it. The alternative could have been the “The beginning of the end” but I felt this might not captivate readers better than the chosen one above.
This was a guy who burst into the political scene from relative obscurity like a meteor but concluding his political career on very low ebb. Aside from his father’s name, this guy had no serious attributes of the average Nigerian politician.
It started in 1992 when the then Governor of Cross River State, Mr. Clement Ebri against all odds foisted him on the Central Senatorial District to run that seat. In reality, that position should have gone to the Ikom area of the District, Obubra having produced the Governor. Ikom protested to no avail. At the Short lived Senate, his performance could not have been properly evaluated. As a Member running on the same platform, I and a few others had to carry the burden delivering him at the polls. General Sani Abacha came and spoilt the party in 1993.
In 1997after disappearing from Cross River State, he resurfaced with Donald Duke and nudged we his former associates to join the then National Center Party of Nigeria (NCPN). We took the political landscape by storm but when we realized our democracy was being guided, we moved into the Democratic Party of Nigeria (DPN) and muscled out the original members of that party. The idea was to change the political equation of Cross River State where there was this belief that the edits can never produce a governor in the state. Again fate played a fast one on us and Sani Abacha died in 1998 in the midst of that transition.
In 1998, we had to persuade Imoke and some of the rest who were rooting for APP to join us in PDP so we could execute our agenda. In fact, the flag of the party was almost being handed to late John Okpa who was a more known politician in the country then. I cannot easily forget the struggle at Polo Ground in Abuja where we snatched the flag and gave it Imoke to bring to the State and plant the party. Thirteen of us who were tagged the Original Conveners of the party, after two days of stalemate, agreed in the living room of Hon Orok Duke to constitute the executive and firmly plant our party.
After Duke won the gubernatorial election, Imoke became the greatest beneficiary of this Republic. From Special Adviser on ONPADEC to Special Adviser on NEPA to Minister in two lucrative ministries, the young man bestrode the political scene like a colossus. He kept his plans to his chest while he sacrificed a lot of political associates along the line to realize his ambition.
When we made the greatest mistake in our lives by conceding the gubernatorial seat to him in 2007, he was set to execute his agenda. He made everyone who contributed to the growth of the party uncomfortable. Some he humiliated physically, some he chased out of the party, others he sent into exile. Like the Egyptian Pharaohs of old, he imported foreigners to elbow out Cross Riverians from even executing contracts of as low as 5million Nara. He formed a monopoly. If you were talking of water, you must approach Lilleker which had his imprint.
If you wanted to talk about construction, of course his in-law’s company Sermatech must be the preferred company. Is it electricity, his concerns in News Engineering and Lilleker must come first. If you are talking about appointments both at the State and National levels, he used his cronies from his immediate locality to fill them. Nepotism became the order of the day.
He tried to kill Democracy by all means. He instructed CROSIEC to exclude other parties from contesting the Local Government election. He became a tyrant who hunted down his perceived enemies even up to Abuja where he secured the full cooperation of a weak and pliant Presidency.
Local Government funds were plundered with reckless abandon under his watch. He notched up our debt profile up to 400 Billion Naira. His wife behaved like the biblical Jezebel by bringing in foreigners to plunder our meager resources.
Things were looking good for him and he felt he could impose a Governor on us. Of course in a subtle way to control the incoming Governor, he had imposed his first cousin as Deputy to keep the incoming Governor in tow. He also is believed to be scheming to install the legislator from his local government as Speaker of the State House of Assembly so the new man will continue to feel his presence .He is planning to rule by proxy. But then the bubble burst and the end of all these became clear.
As he packs his bags and leaves in a couple of days, may we collectively pray that this kind of individual does not attempt to govern us again: Like an epitaph, we should dedicate a monument to those inglorious days and simply write on it “Never Again”.
For Imoke, the bell tolls. It is indeed “The end of the beginning”.
Hon. Ernest Irek is former National Assembly man from Obubra Local Government Area Cross River State writes from Obubra.
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