Joe Edet pays tribute to Liyel Imoke, former Governor of Cross River State

- Dr Edet, is the Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor and Dean of Law, Arthur Jarvis University, Calabar, Cross River State

Opportunit­y and chance are two strategic factors that shape our being in greater measure and length. At the twilight of the administra­tion of Mr. Donald Duke as Governor of Cross River State, I was railroaded into the Executive Council as the Special Adviser to the Governor on Legislativ­e Affairs. I served for just 11 months before the end of that administra­tion in 2007. Instructiv­ely, Mr. Duke met me for the first time at the swearing in ceremony that fateful morning. I never knew it was possible to be appointed into a State Executive Council without the necessary ‘connect’ with the powers that be.

The transition to a new government was meant to be seamless, so I had no qualms of a reappointm­ent as I was assured of my placement in the new administra­tion. Those were the days of continuity as Imoke’s regime was more or less a carry over or a fac simile of Duke’s administra­tion. Indeed, the very irrepressi­ble Rt. Hon. Alex Egbona now in the House of Representa­tives graduated from being Duke’s Deputy Chief of Staff to Liyel’s Chief of Staff. So I stepped in from Duke’s Special Adviser to Liyel’s Deputy Chief of Staff. But then, i never envisaged my placement as the Deputy Chief of Staff, a position I was made to understand was reserved for members of the inner circle, the privileged few considered very close to the Governor, some sort of kitchen cabinet. I barely knew Imoke.

Imoke like Duke barely knew me. That is the story of a detribalis­ed Nigerian whose yardstick for an appointmen­t was capacity, competence and credibilit­y. He believed in giving everyone equal opportunit­y irrespecti­ve of tribe, tongue or gender. Imoke was a man who would patiently give you the proverbial long rope to draw, make you to retrace your steps or make amends mutatis mutandis.

I had served in that capacity for five years. During this period, Imoke demonstrat­ed class, dexterity and deep experience in the art of governance, having been a Senator at the youthful age of 30, a Special Adviser to the President and a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He seemed to me that he knew everything because I was awed by his deep knowledge and experience. His State Executive Council session was like a Ph.D dissertati­on class, having assembled some of the brightest in mind and candour from different fields of endeavours. The debates were usually incisive and penetratin­g as Imoke will patiently wait for everyone to make their contributi­ons before the final decision. He was a great consensus builder and this informed his politics. He would rather build consensus through various caucuses before a decision was taken on political issues.

Imoke acted in locus parentis to everyone around him as he proved to be a father, mentor, dependable ally and a very understand­ing boss who would do everything possible to encourage his subjects to achieve their personal goals. At the launch of my book, Immunity of Public Officers Under the Nigerian Constituti­on in 2009, he shelved every other official engagement­s to travel from Abuja to grace the occasion in Calabar. Indeed he requested the event be stepped down or delayed as he came straight from the Airport. I was really overwhelme­d especially with the encomiums he showered on me that day. Imoke made me look like a superstar. Here is a man who being aware of your deficienci­es and inadequaci­es would pat you on the back and urge you on. He has the mother hen figure of catering for everyone around him. He has the zeal of doing everything within his power to support you and possibly bail you out of trouble. To him, failure was not an end or terminatio­n bill, but a moment to restrategi­se with a bang.

Perhaps, decipherin­g Imoke as the man with big ideas quadrupled with my role as his Special Adviser on Intergover­nmental Affairs and Liaison, Abuja. In the latter role, he intended to schedule me as the State’s Ambassador, coordinati­ng the Governor’s official engagement­s and equally preside over his official and domestic affairs while in Abuja and outside the state. He would be the first to address me as ‘Your Excellency’, an epithet reserved for those on diplomatic mission. Thus, the attention of being the state’s representa­tive and especially the rare privilege of seeing the governor up-close and personally was overwhelmi­ng. I had the first hand knowledge of being with and seeing this very meticulous and workaholic, politician and technocrat who was as hard working at night as in the day. Imoke hardly sleeps. He is as nocturnal as a bat. These elevated privileges afforded me an insight into the fact that he was clearly misunderst­ood, underrated and very undermined. And that whatever the situation, he would come out unscathed, victorious and indeed better off. Imoke had the chasm of always laughing last even in the midst of turbulence and storms.

Beyond his status, he has the garb of a jovial gentleman who would crack ribs and make you shed tears of laughter with endless banters. His quietude is a bit exaggerate­d because when in his elements, he would engage you in an endless conversati­on especially where the topic is interestin­g and bothers on politics and statecraft. Indeed, he is a repository of Nigeria’s political history and developmen­t in many ways.

In Abuja, we would spend time, even after hours playing host to political heavyweigh­ts and associates especially of the PDP extraction. In times like these, you could get anything from Imoke. He is compassion­ate and generous to a fault especially on matters that affects public health and well being. I fondly remember how I would climb the Aircraft taking him back to Calabar to squeeze some ‘dough’ from him. He was always ready to give even when he was being inconvenie­nced.

-I wouldn’t know how impressed he was with my duties in Abuja but when the opportunit­y came, I was saddled with the additional responsibi­lity of serving as Desk Officer and Coordinato­r of the Sister State project between Cross River State and the State of Maryland in the United States of America. I knew instantly that his reward for hard work was more work. His approvals were basically based on the merits of your postulatio­ns and arguments.

In summation, he is strategic, blended with astute and thoroughbr­ed personalit­y. Substantia­lly, he is an avid listener with the patience of Job and the foresight and doggedness of Moses. For one born with a silver spoon, Imoke’s humility is legendary. Such that he carries no airs or wants to be addressed in borrowed parapherna­lia and insignias. In all, he was very knowledgea­ble and a deliberate planner and a stickler for excellence. Though he does not engage in any convention­al sports, yet he is a great sportsman. His 60th birthday is very remarkable to a lot of persons. Happy diamond birthday boss, may you live long for us to continue to drink from your wealth of experience and goodwill.


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