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In the likeness of Obama, Donald Duke's message of change connects with Nigerians at home and abroad

Source: Chido Nwangwu, USAfricaonline.com

USAfrica, March 10, 2010: Donald Duke, the charismatic former Governor of the Cross River State of Nigeria, will speak in the 4th largest city in the U.S., Houston, Texas, on Friday March 12, 2010. The interactive evening event seeks to engage the interest and commitment of Nigerians to his potential quest to lead Nigeria as President. It will hold at the Hilton Gardens at Beltway 8-Beechnut-Bellaire in southwest Houston.

On Sunday, March 14, he will speak to the Nigerian community in Los Angeles. Already, he has spoken to enthusiastic audiences of influential Nigerians in New York on March 9, and London on March 5, 2010.

On Friday March 12, a first-class brain, a proven policy executor and one of Nigeria's bright lights, Donald Damien Duke, will interact with other Nigerians in the energy capital of America, Houston, to continue the march towards a better direction, hopefully, for a greater, optimized Nigeria.

In a brief chat, Duke told USAfricaonline.com and CLASSmagazine: "The Houston event continues my efforts to listen to and share views with all Nigerians; inside Nigeria and outside Nigeria. Especially, we need to reach the thousands of Nigerian professionals all over the world who can make a difference towards change and progress for our country."

Significantly, the greater Houston community which is the target demographics for what is billed as "An evening with Donald Duke" holds the highest number of Nigerian families in America. The event will be moderated by USAfrica's Publisher Chido Nwangwu.

Duke, a lawyer and former U.S resident, has been likened - in terms of refreshing style and generational age - to the U.S President Barack Obama.

Duke was born on September 30, 1961. Obama was born on August 4, 1961.

Duke, partly raised in Lagos, southwest Nigeria, has a record of early achievements and distinctions. Soon after his 20th birthday, the Efik-born Duke from an illustrious family bagged a bachelor of law degree from the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, northern Nigeria. Shortly after that, he proceeded to the University of Pennsylvania where he earned a masters degree in law (LLM).

He returned to Nigeria to establish, among other business interests, a corporate law operation, Onyia & Duke.

He was appointed to a major position in his home state of Cross River in 1992 to serve as Commissioner for finance, budget and planning. His performance and strategic plans (which he told me in Calabar in April 2007, were developed with a team of other young technocrats from Cross River) served the long-term interest of Cross River. A confluence of interests led to his appointment as a member of the National Economic Intelligence Committee and the Federal Economic Council. He served on several commissions and was later appointed to Nigeria's Federal Capital Budget Monitoring Committee.

As Governor of Cross River, Duke envisioned and led the establishment of Nigeria's most modern business-eco-tourism-shopping facility called Tinapa. Some have called it Africa's emerging 'Dubai.' Tinapa, established as a Private Public Partnership (PPP), remains one of the most referenced, successful projects among his peer Governors (1999-2007).

It is important to underline the fact that these notes on Duke's leadership record are derived from first-hand evidence and on-the-ground-assessment.

I flew into Calabar from Houston (leading a 4-person team of USAfrica editors) to report, first hand, for 4 days, the formal commissioning of Tinapa on April 2, 2007 by Nigeria's President (at the time) retired General Olusegun Obasanjo. Alongside Tinapa, The Donald transformed the historic Obudu ranch established by the government of the then Eastern Nigeria into the modern Obudu Resorts --upscaled with better hospitality options for families and tourists, cable cars and presidential meeting/summit lofts. Obasanjo was there, too, that same first week of April, 2007. I have visited other parts of the state to witness his integrated development work which positively impacted parts of the state.

Many of his friends and facilitators like the former Managing Director of the Daily Times of Nigeria (in the late 80s to early 1990s) Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi, businessman Sir Kelly Azuike, Dr. Chudi Egbunike and several others are traveling to different parts of Nigeria and the U.S to extend the Duke message.

Duke who served two-terms as Governor of what has, undisputedly, been described as "the most clean state in Nigeria" from 1999 until 2007, told me in a very recent conversation on Nigeria that "all Nigerian families, at home and abroad, face and live with the same consequences of ineffective and reluctant leadership; Nigerians at home suffer the consequences of the absence of effective security and disrespect for the rule of law, they all face the terribly inadequate infrastructure and pathetic power-electricity supply all these years and decades. Nigerians abroad face the same issues when they come home. Like many of these Nigerians, we say 'Enough is enough!'

DONALD DUKE has been likened by many new generation Nigerians as "Nigeria's Obama." But the man has a hard job ahead of him to convince Nigerians that they (Nigerians) are the change they hope for; that Nigerians are the change they await; that no one but Nigerians can bring the much talked about change…that enough is really enough. Talk? Nigerians do it very well.

Duke seems set for political leadership. The Texas-size question remains: how far Duke can propel and inspire their preliminary commitment of Nigerians to productive action, once and if he declares himself an aspirant, formally, for the Number One position in Africa's most populated, uniquely diverse, politically complicated, aggressively religious, economically troubling, heart-breaking yet promising country of 130million.

For the years I've known him, for the much I know and have seen of him, The Donald is worthy and uniquely qualified to lead Nigeria. And, I will add, too: more experienced than Obama… going for the presidency! Yes, he can!!

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• Chido Nwangwu, Founder of USAfrica, and first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com, The Black Business Journal, CLASSmagazine, PhotoWorks.TV, AchebeBooks.com, Nigeria360, USAfricaTV and several blogs, assessed by The New York TImes as the most influential multimedia networks for Africans and Americans. He served on the editorial board of the Daily Times of Nigeria in Lagos and worked for the Nigerian Television Authority (news) in the 1980s; publicity committee of the Holocaust Museum, Houston; recipient of an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree in May 2009; adviser on Africa to Houston's former Mayor Dr. Lee Brown. Chido appears as an analyst on CNN, VOA, SABC, CBSNews, ABCNews, FOXNews, NBCNews, etc. [email protected] wireless: 832-45-CHIDO (24436)

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Chido Nwangwu, USAfricaonline.com and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."