By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
Cross River State in the last administration was said to be standing on a tripod with the then Governor, Mr. Donald Duke as the Commander in chief, while the present governor Liyel imoke was in charge of the foot soldiers and Mr. Geshorm Bassey in the think tank unit. The three were referred to as the three wise men as all decisions on how the state was run were taken by them.
The triumvirate held sway and were said to have given themselves 24 years target to be on the saddle with Duke taking the first eight years, followed by Imoke another eight years and then Gesh taking his turn of eight years to complete the 24 year agenda.
Throughout the Duke administration, Imoke played a key role and was campaign manager for Duke’s successful election campaigns in 1999 and 2003. Their relationship brought envy among some of the elites who felt that they were pushed aside in terms of decision making.
What appeared like a crack within the ranks of the three wise men towards the end of the Duke era was the speculation that the then Governor had sought to influence then President Olusegun Obasanjo not to release Imoke from his then office as Minister of Power just before the 2007 elections.
A pointer that made some to believe that there was a crack gained strength when Duke’s Deputy Governor, Dr. Walter Eneji in 2007 picked the governorship form alongside some of his closed associates like Dr. Julius Okputu.
Hobnobbing with opposition
Imoke nevertheless prevailed putting the 24 year agenda of the triumvirate on course.
However, once he left office Duke it seemed opted out of the plan of agenda. His hobnobbing with the opposition at the national level further arose curiosity in Cross River. He was even at one time alleged to have decamped from the PDP and turned into an activist and was famously reported to have given a talk months before the last election on how Governors rig elections.
In his absence a new kitchen cabinet seems to have been constituted drawing in a couple of other notable stakeholders but including Chief Geshorm Bassey.
Among the power brokers in the Imoke cabinet are:
Sources in the government circle said that Chief Gesh as he is fondly called can saunter into the governor’s house or office at will. He has remained the permanent Chairman of the State Water Board right from the days of Duke till date.
He commands high authority in Calabar South where he is a party leader it is, however, not clear whether the purported agreement by the three wise men of old where he was said to have been positioned to take over from Imoke is still binding.
Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba
In the new arrangement, the Senate Leader and member representing Cross River Central senatorial district, Chief Victor Ndoma-Egba, SAN, has remained one of the greatest actors in the Imoke’s government. The Senate Leader has the confidence of the governor and he is said to have given the state a qualitative representation in Abuja.
Before the National Assembly elections, there was the scare from the Action Congress of Nigeria candidate, Mr. Patrick Iwara and at a time, some people from the zone had felt that Senator Ndoma-Egba had taken two terms and should give way for another person, but Imoke mobilized and led the consultations and campaigns to ensure that Ndoma-Egba was re-elected. The Governor’s contention was that the Senator had represented the state so well in his previous outings and has remained a major actor in the politics of the National Assembly.
Another person who has a great influence in the Imoke’s government is Mrs. Obioma Liyel Imoke. Since the administration came on board, Mrs. Imoke has used her pet projects to advance the cause of women and young girls in the state. Some Political analysts have described her as playing the role of Virgin Mary in the ministry of Jesus Christ. She is seen as hard working, intelligent and focused.
Another major character in the Imoke cabinet is Mr. Nzan Ogbe, Special Adviser to the Governor on Event Management. Nzan’s relationship with the governor is said to have started right from Lagos when he was managing Imoke’s business. He has over time gained the confidence of the governor and his wife, Obioma. Some had even rumored that Nzan is the replacement of one of the ‘lost’ three wise men.
He is the State Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party and a former Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Cross River State Council. He doubles as the Commissioner representing Cross River State on the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
Big factor in Imoke’s
He had worked with the Nigeria Television Authority, NTA, and the defunct Sunray newspapers. Ntufam Ekpo Okon was one of the strongmen of Governor Duke’s administration. He is said to be a big factor in the Imoke’s administration.
He is the State Commissioner for Information and Orientation. Before he was promoted to the position of a commissioner, he was the Special Assistant to the Governor on Media and Chief Press Secretary. He is said to be simple, easy going, transparent and honest. During Imoke’s re-run election, Mr. Ugbe was virtually every where leading the publicity machinery of the PDP campaign as a strategist. He is said to have also earned the confidence of the Governor.