DON­ALD DUKE

2019 PRES­I­DEN­TIAL CHAL­LENGERS (3)

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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.

WITH ONARI

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