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Dec 18


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Toyin Wura Oke


Talk With Donald Duke, A Visionary Leader




Governor Donald Duke of Cross River State is one of the most daring people in the history of leadership and development in Nigeria. He has in no way settled for cheap targets, but has aimed at incredible projects and values for his state. We decided to listen more than talk; we needed to hear what he was not saying, to read between the lines of the drive and commitment that brought about the structural, social and economic developments in Cross Rivers State.

 Listening to him was with emotions of sadness and joy. Sadness because of the possibilities that lie in Nigeria, and joy for the seeming impossibilities that have been brought to life through projects that will be enjoyed by generations to come, that may never have been conceived because of the so called ‘Nigerian factors’.   

 There are a lot of laudable projects traceable to your administration. I think the development at Tinapa is awesome.

I still think the ranch is the most awesome of all the projects. The ranch is a true compliment between nature and man.

You like challenges. Where did that come from, and how do you sustain it?

I like dominating my landscape. I enjoy making things happen. I am passionate about creating economy in the state, we don’t have an economy. What you see going on now was conceived ten years ago, and I think I have had a unique opportunity to implement it.

I am not daunted by seemingly big things. Some people may be daunted by them and think they are not realistic. When I run through it in my mind and I think it can be done, I find a way of doing it. You need to go to the ranch and ride the cable car. We needed to do that to prove a point. Nobody believed it would work. Nobody!

The sheer development on the ranch, overcoming the challenges that are posed there, enhancing the beauty and keeping the city of Calabar clean were all things that no one thought could happen.

 There is a limit to how clean a Nigerian city could get but I said ‘No’ we are going to be the cleanest city in Africa, and I think we are there now.

How did that happen?

They knew I meant business. I mean I’ll come out of the car and pick dirt from the road and trash it. So after about three to four years, everyone just zeroed in, and now, it’s a thing of pride. If you noticed after the carnival, the last band was the clean–up band.

So by the following day, the city was back to normal. We’ve done that for the last four to five years and it works.

 So it’s in the leadership really

Yes! You got to show leadership. You’ve got to drive the bus, you can’t conduct. You’ve got to be on the driver’s seat and show passion for it otherwise you are just giving instructions, and because they don’t have the vision, and don’t know how far you want it to go. You say oh! I want the place to be clean, but their standard of cleanliness may be different from your standard of cleanliness, and they pick dirt and leave rubbles. To them, rubble is not dirt. It is rubble. “Oga say make I clean doti, e no say make I carry stone. You understand what I mean?

You’ve got to make them understand that rubble also is a nuisance.

 What about the values that has kept you going?

Just, a ‘can do’ spirit. I believe that we can be the greatest nation in the world, if we want to. We are where we are because we chose to be, but if you are daring, you will overcome your circumstance.

During my campaign, I said if I become president, you know we are sitting on five trillion dollars worth of oil in Nigeria, I will give Nigeria world class infrastructure with an incredible gas network. Any factory that needs gas to power will get it once in a year regardless of the amount of gas they consume, because you flare that gas anyway, so you get as much gas as you want.

What are the advantages? Your factories will be working because the greatest problem we have is power. They will be competitive because energy cost will be totally eliminated.

What are the social benefits? You reduce unemployment. You can just go on and on …

So for industrial application, gas will be free. You just bring your own plants and hook it up. And you would jump start the economy of the country.

I was in Kano the other day, the place is dead. Kano was the second largest industrial centre after Lagos. What is the problem? The power that all those factories use in Kano and were producing virtually everything – a lot of consumer items in Nigeria were produced in Kano are dead. And if you have this gas network, in 30 months, you would have the best road infrastructure built to the highest international standards.

With what we are doing now, we will never see it. It will not happen. You would not have the 20th largest economy by the year 2020. You’ve got to set the next five years to put world class infrastructure in place, and then come up with incredible and attractive tariffs.  Nigeria has such a poor reputation, so you just add a sweetener.

Why should I come to Nigeria?

Free energy. So, even if you are not producing for consumption in Nigeria. You want to come because it is cheaper to produce here.

You see these air conditioners, let them come in, but CKD, they must be assembled here to create jobs, because if this thing goes bad, I am going to buy new ones, you can’t fix them, no parts, nothing. You create jobs, you transfer technology, and you have spares.

 If you did that for a lot of our consumer items, you’ll create 2.3 million jobs a year easily, then getting the factories to work at optimum capacity, you would absorb easily another ten million people, then the spin – off from there again.

We are sitting on five trillion dollars! With 10 percent, we’ll give Nigeria rail, road, and gas network. The oil companies will be responsible for generating gas, power; you have one agency, NEPA, doing transmission get it to the state, give it to the state governments it is their business how they distribute it, and collect their revenues.

How do we get money back? We deduct it at source, so if Cross River State consumes 100mega watts of power per month, at the end of the month, we deduct it at the federation accounts, you go get it from the consumers. That is the way it will work.

So it makes it easy?

Look, when we came into office, Cross River State had only 15% on the national grid. Today, we are at 75%. If not for Tinapa, we would have been fully on the national grid. We have the highest in the country, and it’s not the Federal Government. It’s done by the state, but we can’t collect the revenues. So, the state has been responsible for all the distributions. Power generation can be privatised; the oil companies can do it easily so that all the money we are put into power will go into transmission only, so that the entire country is covered.

The federal government can use one transmission agency, and because transmission is interstate, when it gets to the states, they will charge and even make some money on it. Today, all the revenues from the rural electrification, goes back to the Federal Government. We never get anything, when the transformer breaks down; we have to fix it for them.

 We have a sad story. If you are not a Nigerian, looking out from the outside, you would be easily contemptuous of Nigeria. What has happened is that Nigeria has disappointed the world so many times. Hopes rise and crash. We are sitting on enormous wealth; I am not talking of gas; just oil. Roads, industries etc will jumpstart several others.

Culled from the TheStreetHawker archives 2007

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