On Cross River
The critical thing we were able to do for the people of Cross River
was that we gave them hope
if I am unable to further my social
or my political views and expressions because some people have
stayed in their rooms and decided what should be and what should
not be, which is directly at variance with my constitutional
right, I have enough ground to say I am not going to be part of
this any longer ...
I am not bound to the apron string of PDP... To
me Nigeria is sacrosanct, PDP is not.
What he is saying is that it was a
mistake to have governed the country for eight years, and if it is
so, the consequences of his governance for eight years have been
disastrous for us. Bringing back Babangida is a double tragedy. Let me say, when you recycle, you
recycle from bad to good, not from bad to worse, and that is what
is going on in Nigeria.
You continue doing things the wrong
way on one hand and talk of re-branding on the other hand, nobody
is going to take us seriously. Since we have started re-branding,
nobody has taken us seriously.
On Jonathan's legacy
Well, Jonathan's legacy would be to
make votes cast count, if he fails to do that, he will go the way
of ignominy as others before him. And I am not bound to the apron
string of PDP.
AN INTERVIEW WITH Former
Governor Donald Duke of Cross River NigerianNews
please tell our audience what you consider your major
accomplishments in the eight years you were Governor of Cross River
I brought them hope. You know, it is hope that enables us to
strive for the future, we brought them out of despair by giving them hope as an
option, that their lot could be bettered through hard work,
and through vision.
Having said, we could look at some of major milestones in
education, in infrastructure, uh, in agriculture, in tourism. In
tourism, we developed a brand new industry in accordance with the
consciousness of the people. In infrastructure, we have the best ever
infrastructure in Nigeria. We have probably close to unrivalled
rural infrastructure in Nigeria. Virtually
every community in Cross River were touched by my administration. 80% of Cross River is on the
National Grid. Every community in Cross Water has water, portable.
We improve tremendously a work ethic in education. In education we
motivated teachers, we provided
virtually free books, subsidized, with very meager amount. In
the area of health we made sure every political ward has at least
one primary health center, and general hospital in every local
government. I could go on and on and on. I do not want to dwell
too much on tourism, because that had been celebrated last week. The critical thing
able to do for the people of Cross River was that we gave them
hope that things can be better, that government can be made to serve people.
NNews: That is very
fantastic Gov; you are a PDP party member, are you going to be
running as PDP?
Gov. Duke: No, not necessarily,
PDP like every other party is a platform, but the platform must
represent the value that I represent, that I believe in. If a
platform is at variance with my values, it will be hypocritical
for me to remain there. My urge is to serve the people of Nigeria
through a viable platform, not to serve the platform through
Nigerians. What I tell people is that, if your allegiance is the
overall development of Nigeria, don’t let the platform hold you
back. I have issues with PDP, I have issues with the zoning policy
of PDP. I have issues with PDP connectivity with Nigeria at this
time. The PDP is totally out of sync with the aspiration of
Nigerians at this time. And PDP is more concerned about winning
elections than governance, and I can give you examples; Acting
President Goodluck Jonathan had hardly settled into office when the PDP came with the announcement that
they have zoned the presidency to the North. This has the
potential of making Jonathan a lame-duck president, because when
the people think you are going to be there for few months anyway,
you lose the aura of authority, the announcement was more
politically timed than expedience. Those are the source of things
that make me worry. Those that are now fanning themselves out to serve on
the platform of PDP, and now appear to be the solution to the
problem of Nigeria, are indeed the problem of Nigeria. The problem
cannot all of a sudden turn out to be the solution. I have problem
with that. To me Nigeria is sacrosanct, PDP is not.
NNews: Do you still
consider yourself a loyal member of PDP?
Gov. Duke: Absolutely, I have
not formerly resigned. I have not formerly resigned from PDP
NNews: Assuming you are
able to run on PDP platform, Babangida has already declared his
candidacy, Atiku is following at his heels, and the balloon is
also being flown in the name of Acting President that he will
run, that makes PDP platform crowded, so how will that affect your
Gov. Duke: I have no problem
with crowded platform, I have a problem with a viable platform
probably in the sense that they are there to serve themselves, and
not the people. People should really have the chance to choose who
they want to lead them. But when you start zoning my
constitutional right or playing musical chairs with leadership,
then I begin to question what that is all about. I am a
politician first and foremost, and a social crusader, not as a
nickname, and so, if I am unable to further my social or my
political views and expressions because few people have stayed in
their rooms and decided what should be and what should not be,
which is directly at variance with my constitutional right, I have
enough ground to say I am not going to be part of this any longer.
NNews:You are coming form
the South, and the understanding of the North is that they are
entitled to eight years and Yar’Adua has not even completed four years, so
what are your chances of becoming the president?
Gov. Duke: I think my chances
are bright. There are men and women of goodwill in Nigeria. There
are men and women in Nigeria that do not believe that it is where
you come from that determines your ability to lead. They want the
Nation to move forward. They are tired of the musical chairs. I
can also turn around and say that, well, one section of the country
has governed the country for almost 40 years out of 50 years, but
I am not making those arguments. You must have a level playing
field, that all and sundry come out. Let Nigerians choose the best
and the brightest. When you start zoning, you don’t allow for the
best and brightest of Nigeria. We are in critical condition in
our history today, we are at a cross road. We don’t have the
options of playing musical chairs with leadership. Things are
really, really bad, when you are in a coma in intensive care unit, you
don’t determine who your doctor should be. Whoever comes that can cure
you and get you out of your coma and welcome you with open arms,
that is the situation, and I do believe that we have men and women
across the country in the 36 states including the Federal Capital
territory who see things that way.
NNews:You have talked of
musical chairs, which could also mean the recycling of at least
old politicians, what are the …cut in
Itis a combination of
recycling of the old politician and moving and rotating the offices
between one section of the country and the other. Because when we
say the time of the north, is it the time of Benue too? Is Benue
considered the North? To some part of the North, Benue is part of
the North, but when it comes to their thinking of the time of the
North, they probably would not think of Benue. We would need to
evolve around this, we are Nigerians, I am not a Cross Riverian of
Nigeria, I am a Nigerian first since evolution, and that is what I
believe in. I am not running as Cross Riverian or as Cross Riverian
of Southern extraction. I am running as a Nigerian.
NNews:Let me ask this
question quickly and then we move forward; the problem in Jos
between the ‘settlers’ mainly Fulanis, and the Berom, do you think
it is a religious problem?
Gov. Duke: No, I think it is an
NNews: Is what?
Gov. Duke: I think it an
NNews: Economic problem,
Gov. Duke: The settlers
obviously are threatening the economic well being and vice versa
of the original land owner, both sides were having conflict on
land, right, it just happens one group happens to be Moslem or Islamic
and the other happens to be Christian, but the core of the
problem, the reason why they are at loggerheads has nothing to do with
religion, no group is trying to convert the other to Islam or
NNews:If I may interrupt
you, your Excellency, the settlers are not necessarily Fulanis,
you have the Igbos and Yorubas, but the problem is always
between Fulanis and Berom, why are the Beroms or the Fulanis never
have direct confrontation with these two groups?
Gov. Duke: Well, It may be a
question of disposition, it may be a question of who has stayed
there longer. The people that has stayed there longer has
intermarried, that is, it is as well their community. It is very
similar to what happens in South Africa. At the end of the day,
where do you ask the white South Africans to go? They have been
there, they don’t even know where they came from any longer. But
when you have the other groups, the Yorubas and the Igbos and all
that, they have not as
much at stake as the main contending parties, A lot of them still
have their ties to their ethnic ancestry, but to Fulanis, it is
different. Then if you can’t call it an Islamic invasion, because
nobody is trying to covert anybody, If you say it is Islamic, is
anybody trying to sell the Koran or if you say it is a religious
issue, is anybody trying to sell a particular religion in that
NNews:What do you consider
the most pressing problem in Nigeria today that a president would
have to address?
Gov. Duke: Jobs, Jobs, Jobs,
Jobs, you have got to create an economy that can provide jobs to
millions and millions of people. The provision of electricity and
all those things are just basis for the creation of jobs. If you
have electricity, your industry will thrive and jobs will be
created. If you want to put it in one word, you need to create job
We need to enhance our productivity as a people, we are of very
low productivity, and over 70% of our working class is either
under unemployed or unemployed.
NNews:Is it possible to
create job without viable electricity?
Gov. Duke: No, you cannot, but
what I am saying is that electricity is not an end by itself; it is
the tool for enhancing the productivity of people. If you ask me
what is the biggest problem of Nigeria, I will tell you job
creation, because some jobs do not require electricity. If I ask people to
go sweep the street I don’t need electricity for that, if I ask
people to go and plant trees to stem desertification and all that,
it has nothing to do with electricity, but it is critical, it would
help jumpstart industries that will further provide jobs.
NNews:In terms of priority,
will you agree that you need good education to get good job? What
are your priorities?
Gov. Duke: You have got to train
the mind here, education is of critical importance, an uneducated
person is an unproductive person. You also have got to provide
health care, because an unhealthy person is also an unproductive
person. Then you’ve got to focus on infrastructure, infrastructure
is electricity, roads, communications and all that. In all these
under infrastructure, I will put electricity as number one. I will
put roads, we have ports, we have sea ports, and all those that will
enhance productivity, railway, is all part of it, but yet
education, I will put as number one, because you have to train the
mind, and you have to have a sound body and then you have access
to a solid infrastructure. And I will even add another one, you must
embrace technology it is technology that will act as catalyst,
because what you would have done in two days, can be done in few
NNews:How can Nigeria
achieve the level of development that brings her to the 21st
century? You will agree with me we are not there yet.
Gov. Duke: We have to invest
mammoth sums of money in education, in training teachers, in
providing the infrastructure for education, in ensuring that every
child up to the age of 18 is mandatorily enrolled in school. It is
not an option; not getting a child to school must be treated as an
offense. That is the first thing.
We must ensure that we have good health care system in the country
so that our people’s well being is being taken care of. Then of
course, we must provide requisite infrastructure for growth. If we
do these three things and embrace technology, with the Nigeria's
strength, in 10 years we would leapfrog from where we are now to the 21st
NNews: I will like to talk
about re-branding of Nigeria, the president went to Saudi Arabia
without informing the National Assembly, and when he came back, he
stays put, and the National assembly has so far done nothing to
restore the part of the constitution he breached, do you think
all these sad events help in re-branding Nigeria?
Gov. Duke: Well, of course,
re-branding Nigeria is just a slogan, it does not mean anything.
When you re-brand yourself, you will change the way you do things,
when you do things properly, you become a major brand. You take a
product like Coca-Cola, which is one of the world’s best brands,
the product is a good product, and it holds its own anywhere in
the world. You cannot do things wrongly and talk about
re-branding. It is just a slogan, it is not real. It is not
sloganeering that will re-brand Nigeria, it is changing our attitudes
that will re-brand Nigeria. If a man falls ill, and by falling
ill, which is a mortal illness or mortal weakness, the entire
presidency is shut down, that doesn’t re-brand Nigeria properly.
If you don’t know or cannot account for where your leadership is at a particular time, that is not re-branding
Nigeria. So, we need to do thing that is expected of civilized
community of people. Re-branding Nigeria the way it is been stated
today is childish. It does not mean anything. You continue doing
things the wrong way on one hand and talk of re-branding on the other
hand, nobody is going to take us seriously. Since we have started
re-branding, nobody has taken us seriously.
NNews: How would you grade
the National Assembly on following their own responsibilities
during all these Yar’Adua imbroglio?
Gov. Duke: I don’t think
anybody who is objective would give high mark to our National
Assembly today, neither would anybody give high mark to the
presidency either, I mean, these are institutions that have not
delivered. The National Assembly has not been able to carry out their
constitutional responsibilities. They were not decisive on
constitutional matters. How many bills have been passed to date?
NNews: Principle of
necessity is a cleaver devise to protect Yar’Adua; do you think if
Yar’Adua is a Southerner he will still remain the president today?
Gov. Duke: I don’t want to
bring ethnic connotation to this I don’t think it is ethnic, I
think it is personal interest, I don’t think it is ethnic at all
NNews: Your Excellency,
there is no way you can remove ethnicity from this. This is what
baffles people here in America; they have sections 144 and 146 of
the constitution woefully disregarded.
Gov. Duke: This is my view, you
are interviewing me, and you are asking my view and you are trying
to put your view. I don’t believe it is ethnic, I think it is self
interest. It is self interest that enables them play around the
presidency the way they have.
NNews: Let me put it
another way, If you were to be the president, if you were sick,
God forbid, would you handle it the way they have handled it?
Gov. Duke: Of course not,
first of all, my vice president will be a vice president. In my
absence, automatically, without anybody knowing, he will take
over. Ok, and that is how it should be. That is why he takes an
oath. The oath the vice president takes is exactly the same oath
the president takes. The only difference is one says president;
the other says vice president, but the same wording. That is
important. There is no place in the constitution where it says
that certain formality must be in place before the vice president
takes office. It says in the absence of the president, the vice
president shall act. The moment Yar’Adua was out, we had an
Attorney-General who is ignorant enough to say that president can
govern from anywhere, then why do we bother building the Federal
capital in the first place. You know, so, it is all self interest,
it is not religious. Even though we charge religion all the time,
we are not religious people; a lot of time we use all these things
to perpetuate our self interest.
NNews: As a president, what
would you do to clean up Nigeria’s image?
Gov. Duke: I will ensure that
Nigerians are productive people. I will ensure that our
infrastructure is a world class; I will ensure that our children
go to school; I will ensure that the economic environment is such
that businesses thrive, and employment is given to people. I will
ensure that Nigeria is a country that works. That is when you
would re-brand the country. If the country is working, children
are in school, hospitals are functioning, infrastructure is world
class, the place is esteemed, we are responsible citizens of the
world community, we are good neighbors and good influence to our
neighbors, and then the world would respect us. You earn respect;
it is not given to you on a platter, you earn it. We have not earned it. To whom
much is given, much is expected. We are very resourceful
country of 150 million people or more, we have tremendous economic and
material resources, but we have not justified respect. That is why
the world sometimes treat us with scorn.
NNews: Nigerian politics
dwells on God-fatherism, do you have any God-father to make your
presidential race viable?
Gov. Duke: You know, I was a
Governor for eight years. When I ran in 1999 I ran against the
establishment, I had no God-father. Today, I am putting myself
forward to run for the presidency, I seek no God-father. I seek
the mandate of our people. In 1999, I got the mandate of the Cross Riverians to lead them. Today I seek the mandate of Nigerians to
lead them. No mandate given by the people can be subservient to
the mandate of any God-father.
NNews: Military President
Babangida recently opined that no young people is capable of
ruling Nigeria, you are a young man, do you agree with him, and
what can be done to counteract this god-fatherism system?
Gov. Duke: If you allow your
vote to count, if you have an electoral system that allows your
vote that is cast count, god-fatherism would not thrive.
Babangida is free to express himself and his opinion, I differ. He
is constitutionally capable of running in an election, I differ
with his candidacy. But the critical thing is that the people must
decide who they want. Babangida is hypocritical when he goes out
to say that young people cannot run the country. That is a stigma
of his own eight years in office, because he was a young man then.
What he is saying is that it was a mistake to have governed the
country for eight years, and if it is so, the consequences of his
governance for eight years have been disastrous for us. Bringing back
Babangida is a double tragedy. Let me say, when you recycle, you
recycle from bad to good, not from bad to worse, and that is what
is going on in Nigeria.
NNews: One last question.
We know you are a politician, and being a politician is not a bad
name, Ibori is running from the dragnet of the law, what can you
tell us about that?
Gov. Duke: I have been in the
United States, I really don’t know too much about it. But I feel
that each and every one of us is subject to the law of the land. I
don’t have the details. I hear on one hand that Ibori is saying
that the government is flouting the court order, if that is so,
that is unfortunate. At the same time, each and every one of us,
particularly we politicians who have held the high office should
make ourselves available, we should be accountable for our
actions, nobody is above the law. That is one of the way we can
re-brand our country, by doing things properly. If people feel
that we cannot be checked, that we are above the law, who will be
NNews: Your Excellency, as
NNews is concerned, you have been very open in answering
all our questions We hope Nigeria will come up with commonsense
that will make election count, and we hope Acting President Jonathan will be able
to make that happen in 2011. Thank you very much, your Excellency
and we wish you good luck in getting PDP nomination.
Gov. Duke: Well, Jonathan's
legacy would be to make votes cast count, if he fails to do that, he will go the way of ignominy
as others before him. And I am not bound to the apron string of