The Merriam Dictionary advances about five options of the definition of the word Villain. The one most appropriate here will be the one listed as number 3 which says a Villain is one blamed for a particular evil or difficulty. At the end of this article, the public will be left to decide who is the Villain and who is the Hero between the two protagonists this piece will be focusing on.
In recent times, two Cross River State politicians, Ayade and Imoke appear to have made the headlines for all manner of reasons. The principal one being the earth shaking defection of the Digital Governor Ben Ayade from PDP to APC.
Before Thursday May 11th, 2021, these two estranged politicians belonged to the same political party. To the wary crowd, they were chummies but underneath this veneer, an earth shaking event was about to happen. In a terse statement issued from Government House, a few prominent Cross Riverians including the writer were invited by Governor Ayade to join him in receiving six progressive Governors led by the Acting National Chairman of the APC, Governor Mai Buni of Yobe State who came visiting to Calabar. Recall, that Governor Tambuwal had led a similar delegation to convince Ayade not to leave PDP.
As we sized ourselves up in that Executive Chambers, one of the major players we noticed missing in that forum was the pretender to the throne, Senator Liyel Imoke, the former Governor of Cross River State. I felt in me that a major event that was to change the political trajectory of Cross River State was about to be unravelled.
The Acting National Chairman of APC, Governor Buni fired the first shot without wasting time telling the expectant gathering that Governor Ayade had left the sinking PDP Ship to the APC and that he was now the leader of APC in Cross River State. You could cut the silence in the hall with a knife.
Then reality dawned on everybody inside that arena that the tyrant who had held our jugular for 16 years and counting had been deposed in one fell swoop. The whole house stood up in one accord and gave the speech a standing ovation. As I sat down after that, a lot of things passed through my mind. I remembered my brother and in-law, Chief John Okpa who had been set up by the cabal led by this boastful tyrant and his gang of ruthless politicians. I remembered Chief Okpa’s unnecessary impeachment fired by this group. I remembered his eventual death and had to believe what the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar said about his death being an assassination and tears flowed down my eyes, how this young brilliant maverick politician of our time was wasted. Tears of relief that at last freedom had come even though it took so long flowed down my cheeks too. I had to reminiscent how we got to this sorry pass.
In 1997, a few young men including myself had joined Chief Donatus Etiebet to give voice to the minority by joining a party known as National Centre Party of Nigeria (NCPN). We took Cross River State by storm. In that party we had people like ex-Governor Donald Duke, High Chief Etim Nyong, Senators Liyel Imoke, and Gersh Bassey amongst others. Senator Sandy Onor was Chairman and Ntufam Ekpo Okon was Secretary. Our chief fundraisers were ex-Governor Donald Duke and High Chief Etim Nyong. When late Chief Bola Ige described the Abacha five parties as five fingers of a leprous hand and General Abacha started to play his pranks to transmute to a civilian President, we knew the game was up.
We as a group subsequently moved into DPN and later when Abacha died and a proper transition programme started, we convinced people like former Governors Donald Duke and Imoke to join us in the PDP. For Imoke then, his first choice was APP. Duke was the sole fundraiser again of our group. When it appeared we had lost that primary, it was now left for Late Chief Okpa to pull the chestnuts out of the fire. We succeeded, Duke became governor after defeating Barr. Kanu Agabi (SAN) and the rest as the say is history.
Why have I bothered with all these narratives? It is to prove the lie bandied around by ex-Governor Imoke, that he was the brain behind PDP success in 1998 and other successes of the PDP.
Two individuals contributed tremendously to our final victory and these were late Chief John Okpa and late Reverend Benedict Ikobi who blocked what would have scuttled our victory in Boki which was the last local government to turn in their result. Certainly, the last time I checked, it was not Imoke who played any fantastic role in that monumental victory. His attempt to twist history is unacceptable. The dramatis personae of that period can give credence to this story.
Today you hear ex-Governor Imoke boasting that he made Ayade governor of Cross River State. The true story is that when Imoke saw the fire Power Minister, Goddy Jedy Agba was coming with in terms of Dollars and Naira, nobody told him to look for somebody to match Agba. That was how Governor Ayade who was not even allowed to produce a delegate at the congress came to the rescue. All those who put their names forward for that primary knew that Imoke was not going to spend a dime of his money on them. All the monies realised in the fund raising both in Calabar and Lagos and so much funds for that 2015 election went into one guzzler’s pocket.
Between 2007 and 2015 we bought a Tokunbo Aircraft from Rivers State which we have never seen in Calabar and is yet to take to the Skies. Today we have Cally Air which is a reality that will soon commence operation and yet non performers are criticising Ayade. We will not forget in a hurry how we had a funny Technology from South Africa for Road Construction tagged Conaid. The dilapidated Iyamoyong-Iyamitet road is one example of the failed technology under Imoke and there are lots more across the state.
Between 2003 and 2007, the issue of power became problematic to the nation. More than 12 billion dollars developed wings. The National Assembly waded into this monumental fraud of our time and that report and its subsequent indictment is gathering dust in the National Assembly Archives and we know those who were involved. Who was the Minister for Power then? I can go on and on to prove that the former governor is a non-performer.
2019 presented itself for Imoke to redeem himself and show his acclaimed political popularity which he has been boasting about in the media. The election of Abi/Yakkurr Federal Constituency result speaks volume. Did he win? The APC won that seat over the PDP.
Today we have a fresh Cross River State and we will like to call for details of our debt profile. We may even appoint an ombudsman to help Cross River State in this vein. Let us know who accumulated so much debt for our state that we are today still struggling to come out of.
It is wrong for those who live in glass houses to throw stones. History will never forgive them. 2023 will tell who really owns Cross River State, the pretenders or the real stakeholders led by Digital Governor Ayade. You can now decipher who the Villain is and who should wear the tag as the Hero.
Hon. Chief Ernest Irek, a former National Assembly Member writes from Calabar.
The views expressed are entirely the author’s.
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