Being excerpts from the speech of Mr. Donald Duke, when he hosted Senator (Prof) Sandy Onor on New Year Day.
We are trying to rewrite the history of our state and stand on truth and if we don’t correct these errors, a lie will become the truth. Let me state it here for all to hear, there was never zoning in this state. I fought a titanic battle with Kanu Agabi. It was David and Goliath. I make no pretentions, 1997-1998, I was a toddler in politics. Kanu had an incredible stature. Zoning is just an excuse to eliminate a large number of people.
Today If there is any judicial pronouncement on zoning; it would be Donald Duke versus Jerry Gana. I cannot take the challenge of zoning that far at the national level, then come back home and start playing zoning politics. But like I’ve said -and I said this to my friend and brother, Gershom is my brother- if the people of this state want zoning, because there is the legal thing, there is also the conventional thing. If the people of this state want zoning, just as we once had an accord, they call it Calabar – Ogoja accord, which has since expired, and let’s be clear, that accord is an expired document, we need a new document to guide our affairs because that accord was put together at the time we were trying to excise ourselves from Akwa Ibom State and we were talking about two geo-political groups.
Now, we are talking of three. Now, if we want that, I have no problem with it, but first of all, as a party let’s sit down with the leadership of the party and agree as a consensus but don’t stop there. We now call the other party, call the governor of the state who is the leader of the state for now, for as long as it lasts, and also the leader of his party so that we both agree. It’s bi-partisan, it’s not a PDP affair, it’s not an APC affair, it is a Cross River affair. We need to have a broad consensus. But even then, you cannot stop anybody from running because it’s a constitutional right and I’ve said in different fora, you cannot zone my right. I may choose not to enforce my right, it’s a personal choice but you cannot deprive me of my right if I decide to effect it.
So, there must be a better way of doing this, you just can’t shout zoning when it suits you. For those who are campaigning for zoning, I don’t begrudge them. Like I said, if the people want it, then so be it, I will fall in line. But why is it that we only talk about zoning when it comes to the governorship? Let me make it very clear, I’m not against zoning but it should not be brought up at the point of convenience and we are shouting zoning, zoning, zoning. In fact I’m embarrassed for my folks in the southern senatorial district when we talk of zoning because of the three senatorial districts. The south is the largest and if I as a relatively unknown person in 1997 could take on a Goliath like Kanu Agabi and defeat him, so what are you afraid of, what are you afraid of, why are we pushing zoning as if that is the only way we can win an election. Why? So my brothers, if they want it, let it not be at a meeting between two friends then they come up and say we are doing zoning. Zoning only attempted to raise its head in 2015. It attempted because even then it wasn’t successful. I am going through this because I may not have the opportunity to speak again like this and as I said to my friend, yesterday, Gershom Bassey was here yesterday, I said Gersh! You belittle your election when you harp too much on zoning; you should fight for it on the basis of merit. If there is a consensus, a broad consensus on zoning, fine. You watch Akwa Ibom, I don’t know about you, but I’m embarrassed when I see what is going on in Akwa Ibom. I remember in our time, you would marry in Akwa Ibom and come to Calabar for your reception and they used to call it destination marriage, you are coming here, but today it is a different case. So, let’s get our state back to where we want it to be, a state that we are all very proud of.
By 2007, we had nine flights, in and out of Calabar daily. We were the fourth biggest airport in Nigeria- Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Calabar. Today Yola has more flights than Calabar. I don’t even think in 2007, Yola had a flight. So there is a lot of work to be done. It’s not about sentiments. If you want to win a championship, you put your best foot forward.
Amongst us here is one of our best feet and Sandy knows that if he goes there and doesn’t measure up, I will be his chief campaign opponent. I will fight him till they kingdom come, because I don’t like endorsing anybody, because there is a saying and it is very true, you never know a man until he has money or power, but I know this man, I know this man (Senator Sandy Onor).
I don’t believe in zoning. I have fought zoning, but if everybody in Cross River State says they want to do zoning, I will follow them. Let’s do this zoning, but don’t give me a mediocre under the guise of zoning; don’t do that because the state is more important than all of us living, this state is still more important. There is a lot of work ahead of us.
There are four things you look for in a successor, and no one has disproved me on this: the first one- and it is selfish, but it’s human- the first thing you look for in your successor is, ‘ I want someone who will protect me.’ In this our country, the moment you leave office they hound you like a rat, so you want someone who can protect you. Because you have invested a lot of emotional and physical energy in the job, you want someone who will continue from where you stopped, because you’ve been the number one citizen of the state for eight years, you want someone who will keep you relevant going forward and the last one which ought to be the most important is does the person have the capacity to do the job?
There is another generation coming on after us. Whether you like it or not, they will take over, the better thing for you to do is to give them all the exposure so that when they take over, they are prepared for it.
Running a state and running a, a state is not just the landmarks, you are talking of human beings, you are talking of people who have aspirations, they are creatures of God, it’s not something you toy with. When Governor Udom Emmanuel was running, I was asked in Lagos speak to him and I shared a lot of experiences with him but my final conclusion, I said I would wish you well, I would encourage you, but I shall not congratulate you until your tenure is over because you don’t congratulate a runner at the starting block but when you brace the tape, and if you brace the tape at all, because if you don’t brace the tape, then you are not first. So, I will wait until your tenure is over, then I congratulate you. In our country, we see it as a popularity contest, where people go into office with no iota or idea of what they want to do, they believe that being governor is an end in itself. For me, it’s just the beginning.
When Sandy earlier said to me that he is throwing his hat in the ring, I encouraged him because where we are now, we are in a bad place and we are in a place where we need the best of us, all hands on deck, the best of us, in picking a team to work with. We are going to pick a team or you ought to pick a team without bias, it’s like picking a football team because you want to win a championship. You go for the best, whether you like them personally or not.
I don’t know anyone who is better prepared than you(Senator Sandy Onor) in this race today, and I will tell you as it is. When we were all trying to understand the structure of a political party, you led a political party that was second to none in this state. You have followed, you have been in the local government system, you have been in the executive system. Barely six months into the senate, you were declared the orator of the senate. Meanwhile, there have been people who are, they call them ranking senators, but they rank nowhere. Six months into his tenure as a senator, he was announced as the orator, not by PDP senate president, but by an opposition, that he is the orator of the senate.
An orator is not because you speak verbose words that have little or no meaning. Yes, oratory is important, but oratory that makes meaning and I think that’s why he got that title.
How your life will pan-out at the end of your tenure depends on how you spend your tenure. There are people who have held this office but they cannot walk into a crowd, they are uncomfortable walking into a crowd. How can you govern a people then at the end of that tenure, then you go to exile in Abuja? Or there is a crisis in your state and you cannot walk in and talk to the young men there, ‘this thing you are doing is not right?’ So please, I know you have everything.
I want to wish all of you a happy new year. But I want us to be resolute in what we are doing. It is not a joke, it’s not fanfare, our state needs help and to come out to sacrifice yourself, and expense, he is going to spend a lot of his own money, a lot of his money, there are people who have gone through this and have not recovered, in fact, it has shortened their life span, give him all the support, learn to tell him the truth, prior to, at all times, let him decide what he wants out of it. Again I congratulate you in advance.