by Raymond Eyo
“The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.” –Ray Kroc
The Cross River State Governor, Liyel Imoke, returned from his months-long medical trip abroad on March 4, 2013. Given that officialdom had kept mum about his true state of health throughout the sojourn, many Cross Riverians, like myself, were relieved that he was back to continue the job of leading the state, for which they had elected him.
It therefore came as a surprise when it was reported that with barely a week back in office, Governor Imoke jetted to Abuja on March 11, for the inaugural meeting of the PDP Governors’ Forum. Enugu Governor, Sullivan Chime, who returned before Imoke was not present at the meeting.
Leaders ought to always know and get their priorities right. It appears Imoke doesn’t appreciate the weighty issues he has to attend to back home in Cross River. Not only have many critical sectors suffered from Imoke’s long absence, but, indeed, a ₦2bn grant could not get to farmers, for example, because the facilitators of the facility insisted that only the governor could sign it.
In fact, the Cross River State House of Assembly recently raised an alarm over 71 abandoned Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) projects in communities across the state. These and many more are issues that require Imoke’s undivided attention, particularly considering that he has been out of the country for quite a long time.
All over the world, no leader, worth the salt, leaves his stead when confronted with emergencies. In fact, often, some leaders abandon other commitments and fly back home when there is an emergency. Imoke’s long absence, and the inertia it caused in the functioning of the state government, comprises an emergency of sorts that should employ his exclusive attention. If there was such a great need for Cross River’s voice to be heard at the PDP Governors’ meeting, why didn’t Imoke send his deputy to represent him there?
In a social media post on March 11, Imoke said, “My first week back in the office went relatively well… guess I am back in the swing of things? The focus was on spot checks of most ongoing projects although this week will be spent on the strategic review aspect of things.” If Imoke really must be back in the swing of things, he has to avoid the lure of swinging to and fro Abuja to attend such political meetings that have no direct bearing on the welfare of his state. Such is the demand of his leadership now, more than ever before, that any time spent chasing narrow political interests will not augur well for the state.
I understand Imoke coordinated President Goodluck Jonathan’s 2011 campaigns in the South-South and should therefore be sympathetic to the latter’s efforts to create a PDP governors’ forum to essentially undermine Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s influence in the larger Nigerian governors’ forum, but even that doesn’t mean he should put his state’s interest second.
Compared to his charismatic predecessor, Donald Duke, many have dubbed Imoke as being too slow. But Imoke has scored some inspiring successes such as in environmental terms by signing, on August 28, 2012, the United Nation’s cooperative scheme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (UN-REDD), thus enabling it to access the $4m reward for the conservation of its forests, which comprise 30% of the world’s remaining rain forests. It is especially fitting to note that as a result of the REDD agreement, Cross River is entitled to carbon credit funds for its contributions to global carbon emissions reduction, the core component of the fight against global warming.
In addition, under Imoke, Cross River’s monthly internally-generated revenue (IGR) has risen to between ₦900mn and ₦1.1bn as against ₦500mn previously. This 100% IGR rise is at once a vote of shrewdness on the Imoke administration, and a mandate for greater transparency, accountability and efficiency in the utilisation of the funds.
Imoke’s administration has also made remarkable gains in tourism, rural infrastructure and agriculture, though the lack of market access continues to stifle farmers’ efforts for increased agricultural production. The construction of an International Convention Centre in Calabar, which is underway, will also bolster Cross River’s tourism potential even more.
Now that he has returned from his long medical leave, Imoke must hit the ground running if he is to make the most of the remainder of his final term as governor. So much is on his table that, for his and Cross River’s sake, Imoke doesn’t have the luxury of time now to be jetting to Abuja for party politicking.