Imoke: Still The Man For The Job —Silas Owoho



With opposition parties and their candidates just waking from their deep slumber long after Senator Liyel Imoke, the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, threw his hat in the ring to contest the election, the coast is clear for him to reclaim his mandate for a second term as governor of Cross River State on Saturday 25 February 2012. The consensus ahead of the election in the state is that Imoke is still the man for the job. Some have even jokingly said he should not bother to campaign because there is no contest really, since the opposition is very weak in the state and hardly get their acts right before any major election. But Imoke would have none of that. He is already campaigning all over the state and huge, jubilant crowds have been showing up at his rallies.

Imoke towers above any of the opposition candidates that have lined up to contest against him, given his pedigree and unassailable achievements since he took over power in 2007. His administration has impacted the entire state positively, especially the rural areas where he has opened up by constructing 475 kilometres of asphalted roads to enable farmers move produce with ease to the cities. The rural road project is part of his 7-point development agenda that has been on course in the last five years. The Rural Development Agency, RUDA, is the driving force behind the execution of this project that has tremendously transformed the rural landscape in the state. Through the project, some village roads that could not be accessed since Nigeria gained independence are now motorable, No governor of the state has paid attention to issues affecting the rural areas as Imoke has done in his first term.

Imoke has also made giant strides in the educational and health sectors in the state by providing basic facilities the citizens of the state were in dire need of.

Imoke is a man of vision and knows exactly why he is in politics and why he is seeking the mandate of the people of Cross River State again on 25 February. According to him, “politics is about vision and not ambition, about serving and empowering people, provision of infrastructure, construction of roads, provision of electricity.”

The commitment and dedication of Imoke to serve the people of Cross River State is unequalled in the history of the state. In spite of the state’s lean resources after losing oil wells to Akwa Ibom State, Imoke’s purposeful leadership has attracted people outside the state who have come to learn how it has performed. In fact, under Imoke, Cross River State has been adjudged one of the states with the fastest growing economy in the country. The state’s economy is moving from mono-economy solely dependent on agriculture to service-led.

Since Imoke has been in the saddle, he has shored up the state’s internally generated revenue (IGR) from the N200 million he inherited from Donald Duke to N700 million. This is more than 200 per cent growth, though it fell short of the N1 billion his administration targeted.

The state also collaborates with various development partners to fund most of the life-changing programmes. Also, under Imoke, tourism has received a boost like never before. Apart from the Obudu Ranch Resort, a foremost tourist destination in Nigeria, the 32-day annual Calabar Festival which has come to stay, has taken the state’s tourism industry to an enviable height. During the festival that lasts throughout December, tourists from all over the world flock to the state to savour the vast tourism potentials of the state. The festival has brought about a flourishing hospitality industry in the state, with the attendant creation of more job opportunities for the people.

The number of hotels in Calabar municipality, which has ballooned from the 1,000 before Imoke’s tenure to over 3,000 now, can be attributed to the positive impact this festival has had on the state’s economy. These hotels are usually fully booked throughout this period while at least 40,000 youths are gainfully employed during the colourful festival. Unlike what obtained in the past before Imoke took over, whereby the festival was a money guzzling fanfare funded by the state government, it is now self-funded and a major revenue earner for the state government. It is now bankrolled by three big companies. Two of them are the Dangote Group and Guinness.

Experts have said the state is Nigeria’s most environmentally friendly destination, considering its rich forest resources and the state government’s mission to ensure that it remains clean and green. Interestingly, the state is home to 60 per cent of what is left of Nigeria’s tropical forests, and the “vision is to be home to one of the world’s biologically diverse and intact forests by all global standards.” To achieve this, the Imoke administration banned all forms of indiscriminate felling of trees while at least 5,000 trees have been planted to boost the state’s afforestation drive.

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Through Project Hope, a social welfare scheme, Imoke brought smiles to the faces of indigent families by giving them funds to send their children to school. Through the programme, fund is also provided for free medical services to pregnant women and children under the age of 5.

With this lofty programmes and achievements, who will say victory is not a fait accompli for Imoke on Saturday 25 February? This assurance had long been given by various socio-political and cultural groups and even at the grassroots level in the state.

It is very rare for a governorship candidate to enjoy such an overwhelming endorsement and good will as Imoke is enjoying now across board in the state. The endorsement has been coming in torrents ahead of the 25 February polls. For instance, at the annual January 1 get-together in Imoke’s country home in Itigidi, Abi Local Government Area, it was endorsement galore for the governorship candidate for his second term bid. On hand were his friends, groups and organisations. They all pledged their allegiance and support for Imoke’s re-election. Even members of the state House of Assembly were there to assure Imoke of delivering their constituencies on election day. One of them is Agbiji Agbiji who spoke on behalf of his other colleagues at the event.

Councillors’ Forum, comprising 196 councillors across the state, also threw their weight behind Imoke during the get-together which was more like a political rally . They are campaigning for Imoke’s return under the banner “Imoke Must Return”. Women groups, one of which is The Supreme Coalition, is poised to ensure Imoke returns to office. The Destiny Group, which drove the transformational vision of Imoke as governor for five years has also vowed that it “shall support Imoke and ensure he gets into office for a second term.”

Imoke also enjoys the support of the Tinkoriko Mission Hill, a soci-cultural group comprising youths in the Southern Senatorial District of the state, which says it is happy about the people-oriented programmes of the PDP governorship flag bearer and would mobilise the electorate to vote for him on 25 February.

Long before Imoke flagged off his campaign, the Door-To-Door Campaign Organisation had started mobilising the electorate at the grassroots to ensure that he emerges victorious during the polls. With tacit support from all these groups, the electorate, two serving senators, Victor Ndoma-Egba and Ben Ayade, the acting governor, Larry Odey, coupled with endorsements by political and community leaders in the state, Imoke is still the man for the job. And by God’s grace, there is no stopping him from returning to Diamond Hill in a matter of days.


•Owoho wrote from Igoli, Cross River State.

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