“What got the military out of power was not democracy but the dreadful state of the economy. If we, democratic government, cannot deliver food for the mass of people we can forget about democracy”

The above statement is credited to Donald Duke who took a front seat in the struggle against military rule in Nigeria. Donald Duke is one man known to understand the tenets of the democratic government. As governor of Cross River State from 1999 to 2007, the ABU trained lawyer innovatively transformed the popular city of Calabar into a favorite tourist destination and the cleanest city in Nigeria. His impact in the fields of “agriculture, urban development, government, environment, information and communication, investment drive and tourism” has attracted admiration to him.

In June 2018, Duke describing Nigeria as being “in clear and present danger,” registered his intentions to run for presidency in 2019.

57-year-old Duke as one of the younger candidates running for the presidency is now riding on the horse of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) just after quitting the umbrella of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

STRENGTHS

Experienced and Influential Politician …

Of all the younger candidates vying for the presidency, Duke is among the few with a rich political experience having served as commissioner of finance and planning in Cross River State (1992-1993), and two time governor of Cross River State (1999-2007). Duke was, before exiting the PDP a major stakeholder in the longest ruling party in democratic Nigeria. He was to run for presidency in 2007 under the PDP but stepped down for Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who went on to win the elections. His years in the PDP have earned him the reputation of flamboyant political network and experience.

Duke’s political influence in Southern Nigeria is notable and significant. Duke is also known to have influence with the APC. Being a major stakeholder in the South South, he was the main focus of Rabiu Kwankwanso when he visited Calabar in his pursuit for the APC presidential candidature in 2014 and had a closed door meeting with Duke.

Duke is also still very much respected by the governors in the Cross River State. He is seen as a trailblazer and a reference point for measuring other governors in the state. Senator John Owan Enoh, APC Cross River State governorship candidate recently criticized the current administration of Governor Ben Ayade as fallen short of the standard developed by Duke and sustained by Liyel Imoke.

Corruption-Free Governor …

In 2006 the BBC reported that Governor Duke was the only governor mentioned as not being under investigation by the Federal Economic and Financial Crimes Commission this was coming at a time when 31 out of 36 governors in the nation were being investigated on corruption charges. This becomes more interesting upon knowing the fact that the then governor Duke executed many multi-billion naira projects including the Tinapa Resort project which gulped over $350 million in its initial development before phase one, the Obudu Ranch International Mountain Race, the Calabar Carnival and operated a special reserve fund among other high profile schemes. To have overseen these schemes without raising any reason for the EFCC to investigate him is an impressive accomplishment in a regime of wild spread corruption.

21st Century Fitted and Youthful …

Donald Duke is 57 years old, vibrant and very compliant with the realities of the modern 21st century systems. His personal twitter account is active with over 90 thousand followers. With the type of Schemes and programmes implemented by Duke as the then Governor of Cross Rivers State he has demonstrated acquiescence with the available opportunities that Science and technology has come to offer in this age. His administration founded and built the Cross River State University of Science and Technology. He realizes that the potentials in the youth are the missing ingredient in nation building. Duke, in an interview with veteran journalist, Dele Momodu, discourses on his ideology and plans if elected president “We know what to do to unlock the potentials of our vibrant youths and we possess the most important gift of all, the trust in our ability to take development to every part of our great country and attract our most fertile minds back home from all over the world. Our international friends are also waiting to support the right leadership when they see one. It would be the dawn of a new era in Nigeria”.

Innovative Duke …

Donald Duke has been known by his supporters to be very innovative in his problem solving approach. When the Bakassi peninsular which was the oil rich part of Cross River was ceded to Cameroun Under President Obasanjo, Cross River State Revenue collapsed and the state was on the way to a financial crunch but the then Governor Duke took proactive innovative measures to develop tourism and initiated various tourist attractions. The Tinapa Resorts, the Obudu Ranch International Mountain Race and the Calabar festival were born at this period. The annual festival, according to Duke attracts no more than six million visitors and generates billions form the State. The Obudu Ranch International Mountain Race has allegedly grown to become one of the most lucrative mountain running competitions in the world. This acumen and articulacy is one much needed to divert our oil dependent national economy at a time as this when the instability of the oil price is causing economic woes.

Advocate of Good Governance …

The former PDP governor who is also a member of the Obasanjo-led coalition has always stood to speak for true democratic values and good governance. He has come put to recently speak on the arraignment of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen along with other Nigerians who condemned the act as political witch-hunt.

Duke is not Power-Thirsty …

Duke has demonstrated over the years that he is not desperate for power. This is one test that other candidates like Mohammadu Buhari and Atiku Abubarka have taken and have failed. Buhari ran for presidency four times and has never stepped down for anyone even now that his frail health is becoming obvious he still wants to run. After losing the 2011 election and his malicious comments spurred youths in the North into a riot and many were killed including serving youth corps members. Since after his vice presidency, Atiku has been running for presidency, cross carpeting between parties almost every time and making his desperation very obvious. Others like Fela Durotoye, Omoyele Sowore, and Kingsley Moghalu were not politicians up until now.

Duke on the other hand having completed a well applauded tenure as governor of Cross River State could have gotten the support of the then powerful former President Olusegun Obasanjo to run for presidency but he stepped down instead for Yar’ Adua who went on to win it. Six months ago, Duke had left the PDP where he has been a member for 20 years after he perceived that the party had lost its original values. He said “PDP is the first truly national party, but over the years, you will see that it has lost that and became a shadow of itself.” He left for the SDP which is of a lesser political might.

WEAKNESSES

No Federal Administrative Experience …

Duke was one time commissioner and governor in Cross River and did quite well. He however does not have any experience in administration at the federal level. The federal system has proven to be different than the state system. Kemi Adeosun, former Minister of Finance did a good job managing the economy of Ogun State but found the playing ground different at the federal. Donald Duke will have to convince Nigerians on how much he understand national administration.

Weak Political Party …

Duke is running under the SDP for the presidency. The Olu Falae led party is of lesser might compared to the PDP and the APC. This greatly reduces the chances of the actualization of the Duke presidency. The party is not really a national party. Its influence is significant in some southern states only. If Duke’s party would win then, they must put in a lot of work, but as it stands now, the odds are low –very low.

A member of Corrupt PDP …

Many of the past PDP governments have been seen as corrupt and has been described thus by both national and international voices. This has attached the stigma to the PDP and those who have been members of the party. Having a PDP history like Duke has might be an indication that PDP traditions and friends might continue in his government.

OPPORTUNITY

Change the change …

Nigerians who voted for the Buhari government that promised “change” are now regretting since the change has taken a down turn. Nigerians now want to “change the change” and in this has Donald Duke found an opportunity. He has spoken against most the current administration and described it as a failure and has drawn a road map he would use to remedy the damages that has been done.

Good Antecedents …

Donald Duke as a former governor has built over the years, a good looking file in history. The corruption-free sheets, the diversion of the Cross River State economy, the innovation and his non-desperate outlook are valuable and good looking history. He must promote these in his campaign to gain more votes.

South south …

If the campaign of the SDP can be optimized beyond where it is now, enough to attract national interest, the chances are good that the southsouth, southeast, parts of the southwest and a large number of the youths would take it up. Most Nigerians don’t want to be voting for the losing candidate. They consider the vote as wasted and so would require that a candidate first have convinced a good number of people to be on his side first. The good antecedents of Donald Duke should be matched with this this is an opportunity for a good result at the polls.

THREATS

Jerry Gana …
Former minister of Information and National Orientation, Prof. Jere Gana had dragged Duke to court over the SPD presidential candidature and last month got a court ruling in his favor. The Party said it had received a Federal High Court judgment directing it to recognize Prof. Gana as it Presidential candidate for the 2019 elections. Even though Duke had won the presidential primaries, the court had issued its ruling based on the party’s zoning and rotation formula as stipulated in its constitution. If this ruling is adhered to which the party Chairman, Chief Olu Falaye has vowed not to do, Duke might not be running in the 2019 presidential race.

Buhari and Atiku …
Perhaps, the biggest threat to the materialization of the Duke presidency is the big boys in the race –Buhari and Atiku. These two are also contesting on the biggest political parties –APC and PDP. These two are seen as the two best bets for the presidency. By far they command more influence than Duke and have more resources to support their goals. While Buhari is the incumbent president, Atiku is former Vice President with both of them likely to split the mammoth votes of the North, and all south. Even though Duke maintains his influence in Cross River State, his Cross River will likely be won by one of them.

Buhari Election …
Duke and other candidates are under a big threat if the Buhari administration does not conduct a credible election. Obasanjo has come out to accuse Buhari of planning to rig the elections and the news in the papers in recent times has not seemed to be debunking that claim. Buhari in a very obvious fashion blocked the electoral reform bill from becoming law using delay tactics. He (Buhari) has also refused to remove his alleged sister-in-law who he appointed as chairman of INEC but is now the Head of collation at INEC after many called for her stepping down.

No Coalition …
The fact that candidates like Duke who are not in the Big two didn’t form a coalistion, means that that their votes will be divided. This can spell doom for their ambition. For the opposition parties to wrestle power from the PDP in 2015, the CPC, ACN and other political parties had to merge and work with one candidate then –Buhari. The lack of the Coalition then threatens their chances.