Prior to his becoming governor, he served as Commissioner for Finance, Budget and Planning, and also as a member of the National Economic Investigative Committee and in the Federal Economic Council. He earned a law degree from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria
and a Masters in Law from the University of Pennsylvania, United States of America. Donald Duke and his stunningly-beautiful wife, Onari, are happily married with three children. His love for music and movies is immeasurable, as he single-handedly sponsored a number of movies, which were shot in Cross River State. One of such movies is ‘Amazing Grace’ by youthful film maker, Jetta Amata. FUNSHO AKINWALE ran into him recently at the prestigious Eko Hotel, Victoria-Island, Lagos, where he spoke on several issues.
Can you still remember your good days as former Governor of Cross River State?
It was all fun. It was interesting and challenging. I became the Governor of Cross River State at 37 and I left office at 45. For now, I have another 16 more years to be active which, by then, I will be 60 years old. Talking about when I became a governor, I think I became a governor at the right age.
In terms of culture, are you satisfied with the current status of Cross River State?
Everybody has his own style. I had mine,and the current administration has theirs.One thing we are proud of,we defined Cross-River State. My administration and my team defined Cross River State and the milestone we left behind is still there till tomorrow for everybody and even the unborn child to see. How they run their government is quite different from the way I ran mine. For instance,the era of Alex Ferguson as Manager of Manchester United is quite different from the current management under David Moyes. Ferguson, after leaving the club with his meritorious service and track records, can’t just start criticizing David Moyes. The only thing he can do as ex-manager is to encourage him. So I’ve always encouraged the current administration to do well in terms of quality service to the people and that is what I’ve been doing after I left office.
You seem to be less active and visible politically?
That is not true. Politics is my whole life’s work.
So what role are you playing?
To encourage people in order to bring out potentials in them and I’ve always encouraged the current administration to do their work. I don’t criticize. There is no room for criticism in me. Just to ensure you do the best you can be, I will always encourage you. If you come to me that you want to be governor, if I see the potentials in you and you are serious about it, I will definitely encourage you. Each of us has the potentials to be great people, but too often, we allow other strenuous factors to hold us back.
If you have opportunity to make a choice,are you going to do so? Choice of what?
To throw up somebody?
No, I won’t do that. Never try to play God. Some people tried to play God when I was running, they said he’s too young to run as a governor, where are they today? So, from my experience, I know I shouldn’t do the same.
What is likely to be your role in 2015 in Nigeria?
I will participate in ensuring my party wins the election and who ever wins,I will encourage him to be the best he can be.
Would you encourage President Goodluck Jonathan to run for second term?
He has not told any body he’s gunning for second term.
What if he says he’s running?
If he says he is going to run for a second term, then, he needs to tell us what he is going to do and from there, we can start talking.
What do you intend to do in the next dispensation?
I’m doing a lot right now which I would not want to talk about but when the time is ripe, you will be the first person to know.
Can you still remember some of the major accomplishments in your eight year rule as Governor of Cross River State?
I brought them hope. You know,it is hope that enables us to strive for the future, we took away despair by giving them hope as an option,that their lot could be bettered through hard work and through vision. Having said that, we could look at some major milestones in education, infrastructure, agriculture and tourism. In tourism,we developed a brand new industry in accordance with the consciousness of the people. In infrastructure,we have the best ever infrastructure in Nigeria,probably close to being unrivaled in the country.
If you were president of this country,what would you do to clean up Nigeria’s image?
I will ensure that Nigerians are productive people. I will ensure that our infrastructure is world class;I will ensure that our children go to school;I will ensure that economic environment is such that businesses thrive and employment is given to people.
What is the prospect of Calabar Carnival?
I wasn’t the one who initiated the carnival but I made it an international standard carnival. Just like we have other world class carnivals: the carnival of Rio de Janiero, Brazil; the carnival of Venice, Italy; the carnival of Berlin, Germany; New Orleans carnival, USA; the carnival of Basel, Switzerland and the carnival of Goa in India. Let me say,I planted the seed that have grown and galvanized the state into a cynosure of all eyes and I’m glad it has attracted more private participation with keen interests from all and sundry. Nobody knew what we went through in making Calabar Carnival a world class place.
I wish it had grown more because we need to free it from the hands of government.You know the government wants to see the entire carnival work. And some times,there is a conflict between the carnival and the festival.And that is why we set up a Carnival Commission. But it doesn’t matter as long as it is still working, there is always room for growth.I’m happy.
How do you relax?
I relax with music. I also love riding power bikes and sometimes, I can be seen as the front man of my band, blowing a saxophone. I’m just like any other Nigerian. I’m still very popular with my people, even after so many years of leaving the office.
What is your target in few years to come?
I would want to serve my country in a way I think I can be most effective. I won’t shy away from that. I don’t belong to the political class that would say if my people want me. If you don’t raise your hands to be counted,nobody will count you. I put my hands up before I sought to be Governor of Cross River and campaigned accordingly. I also put my hands up to be president but my attempt was thwarted by my party. I have paid my dues, so it is time for me to relax and enjoy myself. I have contributed to the fields of agriculture, urban development, communication, investment drive and tourism. Today, Calabar is seen as the cleanest city in Nigeria and I’m happy about it.