Bassey Ekpeyong pays tribute to Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross River State who is 52 years today
How indeed, time flies! Fifty-two years ago is as if it was just yesterday. As swiftly as it is about to roll by, today, it has by no means, been a carefully charted journey of life for Governor Liyel Imoke. Life, they say begins at 40. But for the Cross River State governor, there is an element of freshness about him even at 52 years. Freshness of spirit, freshness of ideas, freshness of vision and mission for him as a person, as a leader and for the state he has superintended in the last six years.
With just two years past half a century already, Imoke has unarguably, run a dazzling race of his life as a politician, an administrator and a leader, having braced the tape with an outstanding flourish. Despite the howling success he has made of all of his end
avours, he exudes, yet a seeming urgency to reach the finish line in his chase to get his faithful subjects to the ‘Promised Land’.
Born into what undoubtedly was an aristocratic family, to his debonair and highly educated father, late Dr. Samuel Imoke, on July 10, 1961, Liyel’s passage into adulthood was without airs and graces. For Imoke, nobility of birth in a predominantly peasant milieu was more of a challenge than the ‘comfort’ it provided. In fact, it was this outlook that formed the canvass on which his life and leadership style has remained oiled.
With the burden of leadership thrust upon his ‘slender’ shoulders at barely 30 years as senator representing his Cross River Central Senatorial Zone, Imoke was under no illusion that his work of providing quality, functional and responsible leadership was cut out for him.
And 22 years later, Imoke would turn the biblical Joshua who would ultimately berth his people at the ‘Promised Land’. With long years of Cross River State literally marooned in ‘wilderness’, Imoke became the biblical Joshua God had had to thrust upon the state to lead it out of its economic, social and political doldrums.
A silent but diligent servant of the people, while many of his ilk would brashly play to the gallery with their measly performance in office, and vaingloriously proclaim to the whole wide world that their state is working, Imoke, typical of his calm and reticent mien, has continued to demystify governance by demonstrating that good wine, indeed, needs no bush with his eye-popping, history-making and groundbreaking developmental strides.
In his reticence, he has not left anyone in doubt that his leadership is very much in a hurry to conquer all that there is to conquer for the state, developmentally.
Six years ago, he set the momentum going by building on his predecessor’s developmental framework. Methodically, he set about laying the necessary foundation for Cross River State to attain its potential by building bridges and consensus through collaborations.
As an astute husbandry of resources, Imoke sees plenty, even in the face of paucity. It is his rare determination to make the most out of nothing that he has been able to ensure that his state, Cross River is growing in leaps and bounds and raising the bar and setting standard for others. That Cross River has become a template and a reference point for most of the states today is not owed to Imoke’s complacency or passivity in governance but more to his conscientiousness and forthrightness.
Hitting more than a half century mark is enough for many a man in his position to roll out the drums, but there is scarcely time for the unassuming governor to contemplate any such mundane celebration.
In a clime where life expectancy has continued to shrink and regress inexorably, it is amazing how this great figure has continued to wax stronger and stronger and making great exploits. As a leader and an administrator, Imoke has made several impressions in the hearts of millions of his subjects, very much as he has also steered his reign as governor into Nigeria’s leadership folklore with his people-oriented policies and programmes. No doubt, Governor Imoke deserves everyone’s standing ovation.
A man with an overdose of humility, intelligence, forthrightness and humanity, he has laboured tirelessly for the past six years to ensure that the disconnect that has fostered alienation between the rulers and the ruled in the past is corrected. Today, the hitherto ‘Berlin Wall’ which for long prevented the people from having a glimpse into happenings in government has completely been pulled down for good.
Today, no state, I stand to be corrected boasts so many youths in their 30s and 40s in government like Cross River State.
A silent transformer, ever since assuming the reins of power as governor, six years ago, he has quietly and purposefully transformed both the political and economic landscape as well as impacted positively on the lives of several millions of people of the state.
In every direction one turns in the state, the marks of good governance these past six years are all too striking: good roads, electricity, transformed schools, rehabilitated and well equipped hospitals, peace and security, economic empowerment and agricultural transformation.
With hundreds new school blocks built across the state, laboratory equipment in all the public secondary schools across the state, ten thousand teachers provided with laptops to enhance e-learning in schools, Imoke has continued to breathe a new lease of life in the education and health sectors.
In 2007 when Imoke took over the reins in Calabar, the state's pass rate in external examinations was merely 5 per cent. Today, Cross River has emerged as of one seven best performing states in national examinations.
Only recently, the Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation, owned by Bill Gate, severally the world's richest man, gave Imoke award for leadership in healthcare delivery. Cross River is rated the best in the South-south and one of three best performing states in the country in the delivery of healthcare.
Two local governments in the state have recorded zero infant/maternal mortality in the last two years even as over 30,000 have benefited from the state's free eye surgery programme
Having lost what obviously was its paltry share of oil wells, Imoke, refusing to weep over spilled milk, had to devise an ingenious means to navigate the state out of a looming economic morass by initiating an economic blueprint on investment, agriculture, wealth creation and human capital development.
Instructively, he has transformed the once “civil service state” to an enviable platform for investment, translating into job and economic empowerment for thousands of youths across the state. Imoke’s Investment Promotion Bureau which he introduced as a one-stop investment centre has in the last few years brought into the state three hundred new private investments, culminating in a portfolio of investment in excess of two billion U.S dollars for last year alone.
It is the result of his creative thinking that has berthed mega investors like WILMAR, General Electric, (GE), Dangote Cement, Artii Group, Godilogo Farms, Oriental Energy Resources, Essar Power. These giant investors have all taken advantage of the clement investment climate by investing in excess of over US$2 billion in the state.
This has effectively turned the state to not just the preferred destination for tourism but also a good hunting ground or goldmine for investors. The Investment Promotion Bureau has also created the Micro Enterprise and Small Scale Businesses Department through which over 500 million naira has been disbursed to small business operators and medium scale entrepreneurs in the state, effectively positioning those with business ideas in the right pedestal to become big business owners in the long run.
Wilmar, which is Asia’s leading Agribusiness Group, has taken over the CALARO and Ibiaye palm plantations. Wilmar is investing $400 million in agro-cultivation and processing, with an anticipated 20 thousand jobs to be created for Cross River State citizens. Already, over 1000 people are currently engaged by the company.
General Electric which recently carried out its groundbreaking ceremony at the Export Processing Zones Authority has an investment portfolio of over US$1 billion in a manufacturing and assembling plant. Similarly, over two thousand jobs would be generated.
A Chinese consortium has also announced it plans to build a truck manufacturing plant in the state even as over 50 other Chinese firms have indicated interest in investing in the state.
As well, General Electric, Light Orientals Energy Resources Limited, is building a factory to manufacture pipe mills and is investing US$300 million and over a thousand jobs would accrue from this investment alongside ensuring internally generated revenue to the tune of US$120 million.
Just as Governor Imoke has turned Cross River into a ‘battleground’ for both foreign investors, local ones are not waiting to be outdone either. For instance, Nigeria’s major industrial conglomerate, Dangote Group, is also anchoring in the state with the establishment of cement manufacturing plant worth over US$800 million, while Essar Power, has concluded arrangement to establish an energy and power plant with a capacity to generate 250 megawatts of electricity.
Allied to these feats is the enthronement of calm and consensus building in the political spectrum. Through consensus, processes like the election and choosing of candidates for various offices have become free of tumult, acrimony and bad blood which hitherto characterised the process. Governor Imoke has transposed his calm persona on the system by entrenching such core values of trust, selflessness, integrity and passion for the people and effectively earning their confidence and abiding followership.
He has re-defined the concept of leadership and effective governance by effectively re-orientating the mindset of the political class to see politics as a call to service.
It is often said that when a man does what everyone else is doing, he remains just an ordinary man, if he does what nobody has done, he is a man with an excellent mind but if he does what nobody can do, he is a genius and an asset. For sure, Imoke is doing what nobody has been able to do in Cross River State and thus, he is not just an asset to the state alone but to Nigeria as a whole.
As he clocks 52 years today, his high-octane performance in governance and in the leadership of his state in the last six years sure sets him apart as an extraordinary, selfless and passionate leader who burns to put his state on the world developmental map.
Happy birthday our gentle governor!