The ground breaking of the 260km Super Highway in Cross River state by our amiable President Muhamadu Buhari may have come and gone with a lot of razzmatazz and fanfare, but one event will remain significant and instructive for a long time to come to political players and spectators in the state and that is the shabby treatment given to our own powerful and almighty Sen. Liyel Imoke.
It was reported, with pictures to prove that our former governor was barred from joining other dignitaries on the VIP stage of the event. This will have been unimaginable few months ago when the man still held sway as governor. Imoke for close to two decades bestrode the state political landscape like a colossus.
Within this period he served as Special Adviser to President Obasanjo, Minister and then Governor for two terms. Imoke is a typical politician and a good strategist. In fact, he was once quoted as saying “I eat and sleep with politics.”
He is largely responsible for and likes to be credited with the PDP victory in 1999 that brought in Donald Duke as governor; a reason why Donald recommended him to be Minister instead of Kanu Agabi and when the President insisted it must be Kanu, in compensation, Liyel was made Special Adviser and later Minister.
There was a significant difference between Donald Duke and Liyel Imoke, while Donald was interested in warming himself into the heart of Cross Riverians and by extension Nigerians with his cosmetic projects, Imoke was more interested in controlling the political structures of the State even when not in government.
As governor, Imoke coerced every political structure of the PDP under his control to the extent that it was only one man, Ambassador Sonny Abang, that was bold enough to challenge him for the PDP gubernatorial ticket during his second term bid.
Every known and suspected supporter of Sonny Abang was hounded and ostracized from the so called PDP political family. In fact, Imoke boasted to his friend, Rotimi Ameachi, while the going was still good, that all the opposition party chairmen then were under his payroll.
Aides also capitalized on the governor’s bid to strangulate the system and impose their own personal will on their communities. It was normal to always hear them tell their people “Governor Say, Governor Say” even when the governor did not say anything.
Those seeking elective offices preferred to curry the favor and support of the governor rather than that of their people and electorates that would vote for them and of course, it proved to be a good decision after all, as whoever the governor blessed eventually emerged victorious whether they were popular or not.
During the last Local Government elections, Imoke under the guise of avoiding rancor within the PDP, single-handedly selected all the 18 local government Chairmen, and Councilors in the 196 Wards in the State, all in his bid to strengthen his grip on the political structures of the State.
In the build up to the 2015 governorship elections, Imoke was said to have encouraged so many candidates to throw their hat into the ring only to dump them in the last minute without any sort of compensation, though they had all expended their little resources for campaign.
The same thing happened to aspirants in the other elections. I heard one of the Senatorial aspirants from the North, the other day vowing to report Imoke to his dead grandfather over the ill treatment meted out to him.
Today just few months after he left power all the purported influence of Imoke seems to have vanished like dust swept by the wind to the extent that he could be meted the kind of treatment he received during the ground breaking ceremony and none of the numerous Imoke boys in government including the present Speaker could raise an eyebrow.
His birthday that hitherto had our facebook pages and other media outlets flooded with birthday wishes has come and gone and we could barely see any birthday wish from his hitherto numerous admirers and supporters.
Today, Ayade is governor and the early signs are that he wants to warm himself into the heart of the people like Donald Duke with his signature projects and still coerce the political structure of the state including that of the opposition under control like his predecessor. While the former is good the latter is disastrous.
Ayade has systematically retired most of the politicians that had controlled the PDP from 1999 to date whom he may not be able to control and has rather raised a new set of leaders who will form his own army.
He didn’t just form his own new army; he also increased their size by increasing the number of political appointments to be shared. In the name of forming a unity government, Ayade extended appointments to leaders of opposition parties just to stifle opposition like his predecessor did.
Ayade should learn from the mistakes of his predecessor and note that power is like a pendulum that cannot remain in the hands of one person forever and Cross River politicians will always submit their loyalty to where the power is, notwithstanding whose ox is gored.
Ayade should focus on delivering on his campaign promises and allow the democratic processes in the state strive. Starting from the next local government elections, the people should be allowed to choose their leaders in a very competitive and transparent environment.
Leaders should emerge as a result of their hard work and competence not because of their hypocrisy. Only then can he win the respect and love of the people including that of members of the opposition.
Generations after generations will always respect and honor him like the Yorubas do to Awo and the Hausas to Ahmadu Bello, even when they are no more. That is where true power lies.
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