By Ernest Irek
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.
Liyel Imoke was a guy who burst unto the political scene from relative obscurity, like a meteor, but is ’rounding up’ his political career on a 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 Imoke on the Central Senatorial District to run as senator. In reality,that position should have gone to the Ikom area of the District; Obubra having produced the governor and the Ikom people protested to no avail. At the short-lived session of that Senate,his performance could not be properly evaluated. As a Member running on the same platform, I and a few others had to carry the burden of selling his candidature and delivering him at the polls. Abacha came and spoilt the ‘party’ in 1993.
In 1997,after disappearing from Cross River State,he resurfaced with Donald Duke and nudged us his former associates to join the then National Center Party of Nigeria (NCPN).We took the political landscape by storm but when we realized then that 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 Efiks can never produce a governor in the state. Again, fate played a fast one on us and Sanni 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 handed over to late John Okpa who was a more prominent politician in the country then. I can not easily forget the struggle at Polo Ground in Abuja where we snatched the flag and gave it to Imoke to bring to the State and begin, working with us all, the process of making the party an acceptable political platform. Thirteen of us who were tagged the “Original Conveners” of the party, after a two-day stalemate, agreed in the living room of Hon. Orok Otu 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, OMPADEC to Special Adviser, NEPA, minister in two lucrative ministries and 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 of 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 for as low as N5 million. He put together a warped business monopoly; if you are 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 and 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. Imoke notched up our debt profile to N400 Billion. What of his wife, she behaved like the biblical Jezebel by bringing in foreigners to plunder our meagre resources. I think he seemingly thought 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 in coming governor, he has imposed his first cousin as deputy to keep the in coming governor, Ben Ayade, in tow. He also is believed to be scheming to install the legislator from his local government as Speaker of the House of Assembly so that 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 the all these beginnings have become 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. Our collective epitaph to him should be one that dedicates 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”
The views expressed are those of the author, Hon Ernest Irek a former National Assembly man from Obubra LGA, Cross River State. He is a consummate politician.
© 2015, Admin. All rights reserved.