I Wasn't Arrested – Donald Duke

Source: OUR REPORTER. - thewillnigeria.com

San Francisco, May 28, (THEWILL) - Former Governor of Cross River State, Mr. Donald Duke has dismissed speculations that security agencies stormed the launch venue of Calabar Women and Children Hospital (CWCH) arrested him and whisked him off to Abuja for interrogation, stating that "as I speak, I am in my house; I was never arrested by any security agency for whatever reasons."

Narrating what transpired at the event Friday from his home in Calabar, Duke said the hospital launch organized by his wife, Onari was well underway when armed policemen condoned the venue brandishing a purported court injunction from an Akamkpa High Court to stop the ceremony.

He said since he knew that an Akamkpa High Court had no jurisdiction over Calabar Municipality, he disregarded the purported court injunction and proceeded with the ceremony, adding that he yielded to entreaties from an Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) who invited him after the event had ended to see the State Commissioner of Police with whom he had an enlightened discussion on the circumstances surrounding the disruption after which he departed to his abode.

The court injunction was issued by Justice Maurice Eneji of Akamkpa High Court in Suit No., HK5/2010 instituted by Mr. James Ebri to stop the launch of the hospital organized by the Child Survival Organization of Nigeria promoted by Mrs. Onari Duke.

The storming of the event by agents believed to be sponsored by the Attorney General of the state and Chief of Staff to Governor Liyel Imoke reportedly embarrassed local and international donors and invitees including officials from the World Health Organisation (WHO), United Bank for Africa, UBA, Flour Mills, Shell, Wampco, Chevron, Exxon-Mobil, NAIRDA, Mikano who waited patiently to the end of the ceremony regardless of the attempt to disrupt the event with a spurious court injunction.

It would be recalled that Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross River State recently cancelled the conferment of an honorary doctorate degree by the state university (CRUTECH) on his predecessor, Donald Duke last weekend further deepening the already frosty relationship between them.

A week before the award ceremony which took place last weekend, Imoke announced the cancellation of the awards to be conferred on Duke, Aliko Dangote and several prominent Nigerians, saying that the institution would in place of the awards, install Chief M. T. Mbu, erstwhile Minister of Foreign Affairs as Chancellor of the university. The cancellation has been perceived as a product of envy and pettiness and has since sent tongues wagging within political circles and fuelling speculations of a possible show down between the duo and their supporters in the near future.

But those familiar with the development point at the political undercurrents which underline Imoke’s pronouncement. The current administration in the state see Duke as a formidable political threat whose legacies stand him on a formidable stead around whom the opposition can rally against Imoke’s second term bid.

It was gathered that Duke’s recent public resignation from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) took the party in the state by surprise and drew the angst of its hierarchy which quickly responded with a damning condemnation of their erstwhile leader, describing him as an ingrate.

The calculations within the state are that if the state government should allow Duke to be honoured with an honorary degree by CRUTECH in the state, it would further bolster Duke’s popularity and portray the state government as unpopular and weak. In addition, the state government is believed to be afraid that Duke may provide an alternative platform for the gathering mass of dissenters and especially majority members of the State Assembly who are peeved by the rudderless direction and lack of inclusiveness by the Imoke administration.

Since Duke’s resignation from the PDP, party stalwarts have made spirited attempts to know his next political platform to enable them align properly with him ahead of 2011. The decision to cancel the event is seen as a direct signal from the state government to Duke that it is a precursor of what may be ahead as he prepares for his 2011 presidential bid.

The university said it is honouring Duke with the award for his foresight in merging the Polytechnic, Calabar; College of Education, Akamkpa and College of Agriculture, Obubra during his tenure to create the state university of technology which would cater for its manpower needs.

But clear signs of trouble reportedly came to the fore when, shortly on assuming office, Imoke repudiated the merger arrangement and returned the institutions to their status quo thereby obliterating the legacies of his predecessor in a new administration that was considered an offshoot of Duke’s.

Since Imoke’s ascendance, the smoldering relationship between the duo which climaxed when Imoke was removed from office and the withdrawal of 76 oil wells from the state by the federal government. Imoke was said to have placed the responsibilities for these two developments on his predecessor to under whose regime Cross Riverians swear would never happen.

However, in a development reminiscent of the biblical King not being honoured in his own country, while Duke is being unappreciated by his home government, in December last year, the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife and only last weekend, the University of Port Harcourt in the South West and South South Zones conferred two honorary doctorate degrees on Duke for his selfless contributions to governance during his double terms as governor without incidents.

The atmosphere in the state since the pronouncement has remained charged. But many are accusing the state government of dragging the institution into politics. They believe that politicizing activities of an academic institution which should observe a greater level of autonomy is inimical to development in the state.

But Duke said regardless of his apparent hounding by the current administration, he wishes it "nothing less than goodwill because their progress and success would translate to the people of the state and the country in general."