This article is part of our #FirstWord series to provide context on trending news.
On June 8, 2018, Former Cross River state Governor, Donald Duke, declared his intention to run for President in the 2019 upcoming elections.
He made his intention public while speaking at the annual Law dinner of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He explained that he was not sure what platform he'd be contesting on but he was convinced it was time for him to make a move regarding Nigeria’s development.
“I am putting myself forward for the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I’m not going to sit back any longer and postulate. And I want each one of those young people there to be part of it. That’s why I urge them to go and get their voter’s card and be part of this society” - Donald Duke
Who is Donald Duke?
Donald Duke, a trained lawyer, entered into public office first in 1991 where he was appointed as a member of the Board of Directors of The Voice of Nigeria. This feat was followed by another 1992 appointment as a member of the Cross River State Executive Council and the Commissioner of Finance, Budget and Planning.
His appointment as commissioner did not last long because there was a change in Government in November 1993, under Nigeria’s Military Regime. Donald Duke returned to private life and became Chairman of Allied Merchants and Brokers Limited.
Following the end of Nigeria’s Military cycle, Donald Duke was elected Governor of Cross River State on May 29, 1999, and remained in power until May 29, 2007.
Did he perform as Governor?
Part of Donald Duke’s agenda was to improve the health sector. He facilitated reorientation programmes and grassroot health delivery kicked off to confront Malaria, Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, which were rampant at the time. By 2005, as a result of his health reforms, Cross River state’s HIV/AIDS rate dropped from 14% to 6%, the highest of such drop anywhere in the World according to the W.H.O.
Similarly, under an urban regeneration programme, which comprised of Calabar, Ugep, Ikom, Ogoja and Obudu as centres for capacity enhancement and excellence, a widespread environmental programme was established. This feat led to the declaration of the state as the cleanest in the country.
Perhaps, the greatest of Donald Duke’s legacy was his work around making Cross River the tourism centre of Nigeria. This was through the renovation of Obudu Ranch resort and creation of a Business and leisure resort, Tinapa. The plan was for Tinapa to become the destination choice for travellers, same with Obudu Ranch; Donald invested billions of naira in these projects to help generate attention, jobs and funds to Cross River.
Although Tinapa is not functioning at the moment due to a conflict between customs and licensed operators, as well as a lack of political will, it will be unfair not to give credit to Donald Duke for his foresight in tourism throughout his period as Governor.
It is safe to say that Donald Duke as Governor of Cross River had a vision for the state. There was a plan with measures put in place to achieve those plans. While not all were implemented or showed impact, it is hard to dismiss Donald Duke as a performer.
His Presidential ambition?
This is not the first time Donald Duke is seeking election as Nigeria’s President. In 2006, he announced that he was going to run for the 2007 elections but eventually stepped aside for the eventual winner, Umar Yar’adua. In 2011, he was also part of the Election process.
While his chance of clinching the Presidential ticket regardless of what party he runs on may be slim, his experience as a public servant and his vocal stance against corruption portray him as a good candidate.