I won the 1999 primary contest
OpenLife Nigeria reports that Donald Duke, former governor of Cross River State has offered clarification on an earlier report by this online medium on what transpired during the guber primary election in 1999.
In the report with the headline “How Donald Duke Wept Over N40m Loss,” OpenLife Nigeria had presented some critical moments when INEC announced that Donald Duke lost the election.
In the earlier report, this medium wrote:
OpenLife Nigeria can report that there can never be an end to the extent some individuals could go in achieving targeted aims and objectives in life.
This is much so that goals in life across spectrum are always pursued with vigour and panache and in some important respects, desperation.
This ancient belief resonated on Wednesday morning when OpenLife Nigeria was regaled with tit bits about the galloping and difficult processes that led to Donald Duke’s emergence as governor of Cross River State in 1999.
As the story goes, when the whistle of political contest was blown by General Abdulsalami Abubakar in 1998 following his assumption of office as Head of State and Commander-in-Chief, Federal Republic of Nigeria, as a result of the demise of General Sanni Abacha, Donald Duke, who had been Finance Commissioner in Cross River State under the military, dusted up his political credentials and announced his interest in the governorship contest.
To achieve this, young Donald Duke who was born on September 30, 1961 in Calabar, was said to have borrowed N40 million from some of his friends who believed in his ambition.
He went on spending spree after the timetable for the primary election had been released by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
During the primary, according to the story, Senator Liyel Imoke, who succeeded Donald Duke as governor of the State was Donald’s agent.
Late Chief John Oyom Okpa, a full blooded Obubra man, was indisputably the godfather of Cross River politics.
Somehow, Donald lost the primaries to Kanu Agabi SAN.
The results were announced at the then Equity Guest House, now Le Chateau Hotel by the returning officer, Mr. Haruna.
According to the story, Liyel Imoke could not walk from his hotel room to the car after the announcement due to the excruciating agony of defeat.
Donald, on the other hand, was visibly seen weeping after borrowing about N40million from his Lagos friends for that purpose.
To Donald, it was end of the road.
How was he going to pay back?
He was over head saying “So, it is over,” while weeping and cleaning his face with hand kerchief.
Then came the wizardry of the cerebral John Oyom Okpa who immediately sympathized with Duke and travelled to Abuja with the next available flight.
After some days of Chief John Okpa’s meetings in Abuja, Cross River’s PDP primaries were re-announced.
The news that John Okpa had upturned the primaries got to Duke on the 25th of December, 1998.
As the PDP’s candidate, he subsequently contested, won and served out two terms of eight years with outstanding and ground breaking records in tourism and urban infrastructural renewal in Cross River State.
Kanu Agabi who was earlier declared the winner in the governorship primary was later compensated with appointment as Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the federation during the presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo.
Duke, the son of a former Customs Comptroller General and 1984 University of Pennsylvania Masters degree graduate, attempted presidential contest in 2019 on Social Democratic Party, SPD platform.
He is believed to be nursing similar aspiration in 2023.
Meanwhile, message sent by this online medium for clarifications, to Donald Duke was not responded to.
The question asked by this online medium was “His Excellency, did you cry in 1998 after losing the primary to Agabi? OpenLife Magazine needs the clarification.”
In his response on Thursday evening, the former governor said:
“I believe I won the primary and eventually became the governor. I think you should ask Agabi the question,” Duke suggested.