May 7, 2010

Imoke and his driver

OF late, the newspapers and electronic media have been awash with incessant damaging remarks on Cross River State Governor, Senator Liyel Imoke.

What is his crime this time? He was involved in a car accident which left him with a broken hand and cracked ribs. The logical thing to do was to suspend his driver, and that was a crime – a violation of the International Labour Act. While I am not averse to people obeying the law, it is another thing to obey the law only when convenient.

Does this same law advocate driving under the influence of alcohol? After making enquiries, it was discovered that the driver had quite a bit to drink, but somehow that seems to have eluded the ever-ready pen of a handful of journalists who just seem to be on this smear mission without properly verifying the facts.

Another untold angle to this is that the Governor never travels like that without a sound support system. In his convoy, there is always a back-up driver in case the main driver is unable to effectively carry out his duties. The fact remains that the Governor’s driver chose to go drinking and, I might  add, dancing, while his colleagues were resting in-between stops.

He drank to the point that alcohol took over. He chose not to defer to his back-up. These are three choices that could have led to the death of all the people in that vehicle – the driver, Senator Liyel Imoke, Senator Victor Ndoma -Egba and the Governor’s Chief Security Officer (CSO), who made sure he (CSO) was fully awake on that near fatal trip to Obudu, as he was uncomfortable with the driver’s disposition.

But somehow all this is being swept under the carpet over exaggerated sympathy over a careless driver who got away from it all totally unhurt.  Another fact remains that this driver was examined by the Governor’s doctor and the resident doctor and the Ranch Resort after the accident and was given the all clear.

This is irrespective of his recklessness that could have cost the lives of key people in the State and country respectively. He was suspended after that. Surely, this does not and cannot portray Imoke as the monster that some journalists have made him out to be. Echoes of the driver being “on duty for 17 hours” have reverberated across the country and beyond.

But then, little details are always overlooked, like the fact that there were rest stops, which gave drivers ample opportunity to rest. Interestingly, the only one who worked non- stop for 17 hours was Imoke – even at the risk of his own life, but then again a prophet is hardly recognised in his own home.

While I am an advocate of law and justice, to bend the rules to suit a selfish need is an entirely different thing altogether. Journalists may want to bear this in mind at all times.

With this in view, I find these onslaughts against Senator Liyel Imoke, a man who is primarily focussed on the best interest of his people quite petty and callous.

He has even been compared to President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. He has been accused of leaving office and not handing over to his deputy. This is quite laughable as the Deputy Governor of the State Barrister Efiok Cobham, was running the State in his absence as always. Imoke has been away for longer periods and his deputy has always taken charge.

Perhaps all this could be a deliberate act by his detractors to score cheap points against a man who is committed to doing the best for his people. Frankly I think those journalists owe Governor Imoke and  readers an apology for leading us down the wrong road and misinforming us. We must be more careful in disseminating news.

Ms. Ogar, a commentator on national issues writes from Lagos.