Me And Other Nigerian Leaders Are Selfish – Donald Duke


“Nigerians leaders are shortsighted and selfish; ‘it’s all about me’. Continuity is one of the hallmarks of good governance.”

The name Donald Duke needs no introduction in Nigerian politics. He made a remarkable success, especially with his establishment, nurture and promotion of Tinapa Tourism industry, during his tenure as Cross River State governor for eight years. Before the court pronouncement that came truncating his dream as the presidential candidate of Social Democratic Party (SDP), he spoke with Effects, in his Ikoyi office, on his lifestyle, among other things.

With your political aspiration, how is your band doing?
Suffering, they are really suffering because I have not blown a saxophone in about six months because I’m distracted. That is my therapy. When I was governor, every Sunday, I would play from 9pm till 3am, nonstop. Saxophone and dancing was my therapy. If I don’t do it that Sunday the whole of that week I will be very irritable. The band boys are all scattered all over Nigeria but it’s a fantastic band.

What’s the name of the band?

When I was the governor, they called it Governor’s Band. Now they call it Ex-Governor’s band. We don’t have a name (laughs)
Did you go to music school?

I started learning music at the age of three. I went to a school called Corona. And we had a music teacher, a lady called Miss Matchan, a White lady. She taught me how to play the piano, then I learnt how to play the flute. In secondary school, I learnt how to play guitar and I discovered the saxophone through Fela. I got a sax and he took me through the rudiments. I found that that is my instrument. My first daughter plays too. She’s more a musician than me. She plays the sax, she plays the guitar, she plays the drum, she plays the keyboard, and she likes music. She’s also a lawyer.

Who influenced you while growing up, your dad or mum?
My father is the first influence in my life. He’s also my best friend. He died 30 years ago. There are two other gentlemen that have profound influence on me: Goziam Onyia, (lawyer) and Pius Okigbo. They are all late now. David Garrick is another lawyer. They took me as their own. They were my father’s best friends. All of them guarded me jealously as their own son. I was blessed to have them. The Governor then wanted me to be a commissioner. I didn’t want to be a commissioner. Three times I was offered the job; I said I’m not interested because I had a relationship with the governor. I contributed to his campaign and I just wanted to be the governor’s friend, continue my business, and make money. He went to Okigbo (my father was late then) knowing full well that he has influence over me and Okigbo summoned me that I have to go and take the job. I couldn’t say no to him. So I had to go and take the job. It wasn’t what I wanted but I’m glad I did because it changed my life completely at the age of 30.

You are also stylish, what informs your dressing?
My dressing reflects my mood. And I don’t dress to impress anyone but my wife. Before I go out she looks at me and say ok you can go. We do the same for each other. She wouldn’t step out of the house except I endorse what she’s wearing and I learnt that from my father. My father would dress up my mother. Someone has to look after you, When my wife wear a dress and the neck is too low, I tell her, the colour doesn’t match, I think you should do it differently. We compliment each other. She’s my band manager. She put together all the musicians on my band and I’m telling you I have one of the finest musicians in my band. We will play anywhere. We play publicly, and we will get any crowd off their feet. She doesn’t play any instrument o. She just manages the band. At times, when we play about, she would come in and say shut down now. I have been married for 32 years. I met my wife when I was 18-19 years and we got married in 1986. I met her in 1980. She’s my best friend.

What’s the secret of the success of your marriage?

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You got to renew your love every time. It’s like a plant, you got to tend to it, water it. You can’t take each other for granted. When you take each other for granted you drift and once you drift, to come back is hard. Everyday, you have to renew your love. You have to find what brought you together in the first place and keep it alive. Human beings are creatures of nature, the way you tend to a plant that’s the way you attend to your relationship. If I get home at night and she’s asleep I kiss her forward, it’s an endearment just to reassure her. It’s not that we don’t have disagreement but regardless of how we disagree, she knows that it doesn’t affect the affection. We also have to be role models to our children; when they see that affection in their parents, they will want to replicate it too. I always tell my son-in-laws (who are now my sons) ‘you can’t have two captains in a ship,’ a woman is more intuited; always listen to your wife. When I don’t listen to her, 10 out of 10, I make a mistake. If you have a good wife, always listen to your wife. Don’t disregard her opinion. It’s very difficult because men are machoistic in nature but I have learnt to listen.
Does she agree with your political moves?

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Totally, because this is bound to disrupt her own life too, so I have to carry her along, even when I was leaving PDP. Politics is a casino. If you go around Nigeria today and talk with 200 million Nigerians and ask how many will like to be president, I assure you that 80% of them will like to be president but they don’t want to go through the process. In this casino only one person will win. There’s nothing like a guaranteed winner, except you are running unopposed. If it was a guarantee, Hilary Clinton will be president today. In fact, she would have been president in 2008, Obama would not have been president. So you never know, put yourself forward, do your best and remember one thing: ultimately, you are a tenant in this creation; God is the landlord and the landlord will decide who he wants to run his house. So I don’t know. I will give it my best.
Are you a Christian, sir?

Yes, if you believe in Christ’s principles you are a Christian.
But people say you are an adherent of Grail message?

No, Grail is not a religion. It is life; it is the truth. So if you ask me, I’m a Christian because I believe in Christ’s principles. I’m a Christian. But Grail is not a religion, it just teaches about life basics. The Bible says: work and pray. If you pray, pray, pray and you don’t work that is voodoo, you are practising magic. You must work and you must pray. Let your work be the prayer because you are working with the trust that God will bless your effort.

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Favorite holiday destination?
Obudu Cattle Ranch. Sadly, it’s a very difficult place to get to now. You need to have flight, it’s 45 minutes from Calabar, direct flight to Obudu. It’s like an earthly paradise. I have a home there that I love and cherish. I have staff there I have to maintain but I haven’t been there in three years. My cows are now dead. We used to have the biggest breed on the African continent but they are dead. We had a fantastic cable car, where is it today? Obudu is magical for me.

Your take on Tinapa currently?

What happened in Tinapa is that successive governments abandoned it. It’s helpful because of the impact it had on the state economy. Nigerians leaders are shortsighted and selfish; ‘it’s all about me’. Continuity is one of the hallmarks of good governance. Do I regret Tinapa? No, it was a brilliant project, it brought traffic; tourism is all about traffic. It brought three million visitors minimally annually into Cross River State. If each of them was spending hundred thousand naira, that’s three hundred billion naira coming into the Cross River economy at that time. The multiplier effect of that is, at least four times five and that’s 1.2 or 1.3 trillion circulating in Cross River State. That will move the state forward. Like I said earlier on, success of the government depends on the wellbeing of the people, so I don’t regret; it’s not too late to ameliorate. Look at Ajaokuta, it’s an abandoned project, no matter how you look at it. The state is even worse than Tinapa. The amount of money that we use in importing steel in a year can get Ajaokuta working, but we don’t see the larger picture.

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