2019 PRESIDENTIAL CHALLENGERS (3)
Born in SEPTEMBER 1961, Donald Duke was the Governor of Cross River State, Nigeria from 29 May 1999 to 2007. Donald received his LLB degree in 1982 from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria - Nigeria, BL in Nigerian Law School in 1983, and an LLM in Business Law and Admiralty in 1984 from University of Pennsylvania. Whilst he governed Calabar, Duke was given accolades for his contributions to the fields of agriculture, urban development, government, environment, information and communication, investment drive, and tourism and making Calabar the cleanest city in Nigeria. Donald also initiated the famous Calabar Carnival in 2004 which is now popularly referred to as “Africa’s biggest street party.
Donald Duke announced that he would run for the presidency in the 2007 presidential election, but stepped aside in favour of the eventual winner, Umaru Yar’Adua. But in June this year, 2018, Donald decided to re-enter the political arena and contest for the highest seat of the land…President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He spent an afternoon with RUTH OSIME talking about his dreams of moving Nigeria forward. Some see you as a Vice Presidential candidate shopping for the Presidential ticket. What’s your take on that impression?
No I’m not. If I were postulating for the office of Vice President, I would have been more active in the ranks of the PDP and likely identified with an aspirant. No. I’m not looking for a job, I’m rather frustrated at our lot as a people, knowing that we are better than we currently present ourselves. I want to be at the vanguard of the progress of our nation.
Why couldn’t you work with Yaradua at the time you were offered the role of VP which apparently was how your rumored response of “Me? Step down for you?” quote came about.
Yaradua as aspirant did make the offer to me, but that did not, I guess, align with the thinking of the powers that be at the time.
Do you have any regrets now since you would have become President like Jonathan after his demise?
No. Because it never matured to the point where I could say I was in contention.
What’s different about your campaign now that makes you believe you stand a better chance this time around?
There’s a lot more frustration around. Our lot has definitely deteriorated collectively as a nation. We are a nation in search of credible and performing leadership. If my reading of our current situation is right, then I stand a chance.
What party are you running under?
I am running under the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
Some might say your campaign is primarily more about gaining political relevance than vying for the seat. What’s your take on that?
Certainly not. From my prism I consider myself opportuned and relevant. I left public office almost twelve years back and still enjoy some measure of recognition and goodwill. I’m humbled by that.
Why should people be better convinced that you are the best candidate for this role?
I have a record in public service. Not all the aspirants do. Some have very dodgy records. Let’s give the Nigerian options. A nation of 200 million people should not be limited.
We all make mistakes in life. Politicians in Nigeria, sometimes find it difficult to admit they have made mistakes. If a younger person were to ask you what went wrong in governance from 1960 till date, what will you tell them and what promises will you make to reassure them that things will improve from where they are today?
We were not and still not fused as a nation upon independence. We are still very primordial in outlook. This eventually led to the events that metamorphosed into a civil war; the wounds have not fully healed. And while we have had some leaders nationalistic in outlook, it is the exception rather than the norm. Nation building is all about stakeholdership. Nigerians largely see the country at best as the land of their birth and not as stakeholders, or as our commonwealth. As long as the nation does not provide for your needs, it’s hardly in reciprocity, going to guarantee the people’s patriotism.
Whilst France, Austria, Canada, New Zealand, Croatia, Haiti, Albania, Ice land, Greece, Saudi Arabia all have young elected leaders and that seems to be a growing trend, why is Africa, obviously inclusive of Nigeria, seemingly a continent for old Leaders? Is it that African politics in general does not attract the younger generation?
No. Rather, African leaders have not invested in the next generation in various sectors, education, leadership etc. The setback being that we are not equipping the next generation of leaders. This has of course led to disillusionment amongst a vast crop in that generation. Hopefully, with the growing awareness, we in Nigeria could stem the slide.
Nigerians largely see the country at best as the land of their birth and not as stakeholders, or as our commonwealth. As long as the nation does not provide for your needs, it’s hardly in reciprocity, going to guarantee the people’s patriotism.
The truth of the matter is that the same recycled people (our leaders) and their followers have ruled us for over 40 years. This simply means that we have recycled the same ideologies, philosophies, beliefs, behaviours, initiatives that have been repackaged over time. Is there room, do you think, for an injection of new ideas about the economy, social structure and mobility, the role of government, relationships between ethnic groups, the meaning of wealth and Nigeria’s role in both Africa and the world?
With the growing awareness amongst the younger generation, thankfully with access to alternative media, there is hope that fresh thinking to age-old problems will be advanced.
We have suffered the same things, made the same mistakes and it seems we are going round in circles but not moving forward as a nation. As a former governor who was once part of the government why are we simply running to stand still?
You answered this question yourself previously. If you recycle the same characters, you also recycle their same ideas. Society is dynamic and requires the infusion of “fresh blood” to keep it alive.
Many reading this article are approaching or are already in the evening of their lives. That is what being 50 – 60 signifies. If we haven’t figured out the solutions for our pressing problems by this age, time is now essentially an enemy. With that in mind, the significance of the next election must weigh on both our minds and more so on our collective consciences. What will you do to ensure you will be the best custodian of the future for the next generation? Let us be clear that is a future that not all of us may enjoy but is the only future our young people have.
I have had the benefit of being in government at an early age. If I succeeded as governor, youth played a pivotal role. I had idealism, energy and stamina on my side. We must, as a policy, headhunt, seek, train, expose and opportune the younger generation with leadership. That’s the only way to guarantee our survival as a nation state.
Increasingly we see women playing a more prominent role in governance around the world. Would you agree that we will enrich Nigeria further by ensuring inclusiveness across the board and that gender equality is something to be encouraged so that our girls and women feel they too are credible reference points for the bright future of Nigeria?
Any nation that disenfranchises a section of her population for whatever reason has shortchanged itself to that extent. The female gender are roughly half of our population and women by their nature provide stability to the home and by extension to the nation. It is incumbent that every citizen is equipped to contribute to nation building and women MUST certainly not be left out. We are not doing them a favour in this regard. It is a human right and it is to the overall benefit of society. I get angry when we make it seem that it is a favour, talking of 30% etc. that’s tokenism. It is silly actually.
What edge do you believe you have over other potential candidates?
I possess the vision, the strategy, the will and the track record. Most of the others are seeking the office on grounds of entitlement. That is why they call for zoning and all sorts of contraption that would proffer them some unconstitutional advantage. I am running as a Nigerian and not a southern or northern Nigerian and by upbringing and outlook that is what I am; a Nigerian.
What key lessons did you learn as a governor that you believe gives you an added advantage in this new role you aspire to?
That except the people you govern assume ownership of your policies, they will never be enduring, regardless of how lofty they may be. Tourism in Cross River has endured, even under past checkered leadership, due to the buy in of its value by the citizens of the state. Lastly, what advice or words of inspiration will
you give the disillusioned youths who do not see a bright future for themselves because of the state of the nation?
Regardless of how daunting it may be, this is all they have got. The youths must not give up. Ours is a challenge of poor leadership not poverty in endowment. The sooner they get involved in the political process of selection the better it will be for them. That is the promise of democracy.
All work and no play make Jack a dull boy they say. You are known for your love of jazz and apparently a wizard on the saxophone. It was rumoured that you once shared a stage with former President Clinton with both of you playing the saxophone. Are they different categories of jazz music and if so, can you enlighten us on that?
Wizardry? You are very kind. I love the instrument and that’s the first thing to music. You must love what play at, even if it is singing. I never shared a stage with President Clinton. It was proposed but never materialized. Yes there are all sorts of jazz notes including what we now term Afro jazz. What it is all about is harmonizing different strata of music. My favorite being modern or contemporary jazz. Classicals are nice but not appealing, depending on my mood. It’s a factor of old and new trends. Old school and the new.
Who are your favorite jazz artistes?
The likes of David Sanborn, Dan Weiss, Todd Clouser, Fourplay. That genre of musicians.
You also love to ride motorbikes and there is a club for riders like you. They collectively go on very long rides, out of town and even out of Nigeria as a group. Have you ever taken such rides?
I’m an exhibition biker, nothing serious. My passion does not extend to cross country biking; besides, my boss (wife) won’t have any of that.
There has also been major accidents with this hobby which some see as overindulgence and too dangerous to indulge in in these shores. Some wives/partners apparently are not comfortable with the sport but have to grin and bear it so to speak. Does Onari fall into that category?
As stated, she will have none of it, besides, neither will I. The environment is not conducive. Poor roads, no support services along the highways, I really don’t know how those guys do it. With a sophisticated bike, there are no support services, mechanics and all along the roads. I think it’s arduous. However, passion does not always allow for logic.
Some victims of accidents with motorbike riding have recovered and actually gone back to the sport! What is so addictive about this sport that goes beyond reason?
I think you will have to direct this question at them. Addiction is never a logical attribute.
Can you briefly describe both thrills and which you prefer... riding a power bike or blowing your saxophone.
Sax any time, gives me more thrill than riding a power bike. The thrill of music is indescribable. It transports you to places no power bike can.
The youths must not give up. Ours is a challenge of poor leadership not poverty in endowment. The sooner they get involved in the political process of selection, the better it will be for them. That is the promise of democracy.