Time changes everything, the old, adage says. This is true in all human endeavours, especially in politics, which is dominated by interests. Time worn and almost a cliché, this adage is currently playing out in the politics of Cross Rivers State. In the past sixteen years, the former governor of Cross River State Senator Liyel Imoke held sway as the strong man of Cross River politics, he was venerated and adored by crowd of politicians who flocked to him to seek for political relevance and accruing benefits he was capable of dispensing endlessly to hangers on and politicians parading the corridors of power.
More importantly, from his days as the Special Assistant to former President Olusegun Obasanjo to his elevation to the position of Power Minster down to 2007 when he became governor of Cross River State, Senator Imoke pulled such crowds that the public described him as ‘our man don come o’. Disappointingly, barely two months after he vacated office, the story has changed as many members of his “political family” have defected to other fertile grounds to seek greener pastures in order to supply their needs.
This picture was glaring on Saturday, the 1st of August when he held the 5th edition of his annual Bridge Leadership Foundation lecture for young entrepreneurs at the Cultural Centre Board. On that day one could count with the fingers of one hand members of his political clan who showed up at the function. Sadly, apart from Senator Gershom Bassey, Honourable Jarigbe Agom, Hon Legor Idagbo, Hon John Gaul Lebo, Mr Patrick Ugbe, the seats reserved in the front row for dignitaries like the PDP Executive members, Local Government Chairmen, House of Assembly members, former executive council members and other close political allies were palpably empty.
In a veiled reference to his desertion by his political allies, Senator Imoke said he would devote more time to the affairs of the foundation to make it work as “It was easy to find sponsors when I was governor but now that I am out of office, getting sponsors is difficult so I would not let the project die but ensure that we get better to prove that in Cross River State we can have champions”.
He stated that he is an ‘’ordinary bloke’’ like every average person seeking for success and had failed before but after that failure; he ensures everything he does turns out successful. “Because I failed before, I became determined not to fail again and since that failure there is nothing absolutely in my life that I have done that I did not succeed; I would rather not sleep for one month than lose and election and do everything to make it work”.
More source of trouble for the organization was the revelation by the Executive Secretary of Bridge Foundation, Mrs Ewajesu Fasina who attributed the difficulty in finding sponsors in 2015 to the harsh economic climate in the country. And so there was the need to fix one thousand Naira registration fee for participants to enable them cultivate the value of paying for services which will make them seek to utilise such services to their benefit.
When a source asked one of the former governor’s political aides who was always by his side why he did not attend the function even when his former ‘oga” hand to travel all the way from the United States to Nigeria for the programme, he retorted. ‘Ah, Oga was in town yesterday”? Sadly, when The UNION correspondent drove past Senator Imoke’s residence at the States Housing, Calabar, yesterday, only a few cars were seen outside the premises that used to host convoys as though a bazaar was going on.
However, Senator Liyel Imoke, the immediate past governor of Cross River State at the function said, “most of the people who have come to him since he came back a few days ago from the United States are those seeking political appointment” Senator Imoke who was speaking at the 2015 lecture series of his Bridge Leadership Foundation for young entrepreneurs said everyone who occupies public office is believed to be a robber who has stolen or looted public treasury and as such everybody wants to be appointed into office because he wants to have access to public treasury.
According to the former strong man of Cross River State, he was an accidental politician and since he has vacated office, he is not interested in holding public office beyond the position of governor, which he recently vacated. “When you occupy public office everybody believes you are a robber or you have looted and because of such perception, holding public office becomes a challenge yet since we are in a morally bankrupt society, people still disturb me even now to help them get political appointment” He said politics is the only profession, which is an all-comer’s game where those with no credentials can claim to be practitioners, which accounts for the craze for public office.
‘Politics in Nigeria is an all- comers game where those with zero credentials can practice because there is no minimum entry point and no maximum exit level except for elective or political office holders. That is why everybody including the young man paddling canoe in my village can boldly tell me the canoe he is paddling is part time while his real career is politics” Imoke said he is now learning the ropes on how to function in the private sector where he once held sway before his foray into politics since the sector has evolved so much during his absence.
“There is nothing special about me because if you look in my school record I doubt if you can find A’s there but I was determined on what I wanted to do ;I was just an ordinary bloke like any of you and I learn from everyone even from young people since I am now out of public sector into private sector. I have to learn the ropes again because the sector has evolved so much while I was away to the public sector”.
He said he would devote more time to his foundation which was founded during his 50th birthday because it was easy for the foundation to get sponsors while he was a governor but now that he is out of office, finding sponsorship for the activities of the foundation has not been easy.
He called on young entrepreneurs to be committed and passionate in whatever they are doing as many opportunities exist for success in entrepreneurship, expressing disapproval that many persons would prefer securing employment to seeing and taking opportunities He said: “Opportunities are real but few people will take such opportunities and the greatest opportunity for employment is in the small and medium scale entrepreneurship. That is why I want to dedicate more of my time to show that in Cross River State we can become champions” The lecture featured presentation from young entrepreneurs including Affiong Williams, the Chief Executive Officer of Reel Fruits, Gbenga Sessan, the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative among others.
-Edem Edem in Calabar paints the picture of a once powerful Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross Rivers State who is unable to source funds for a foundation few months after he left office h eoccupied for eight years