In Cross River State, the trio of former Governor Donald Duke, Governor Liyel Imoke and Mr. Gershom Bassey were at the core of a famed power matrix that plotted the political pattern in Cross River State at the onset of the Fourth Republic.
Gershom is to take over the mantle of leadership as the next governor of Cross River State, incumbent governor Liyel Imoke has created the proliferation of aspiring governors from the Northern part after he declared that it is time for the North to govern by the real story, is that he will be handing over to Gershom Bassey speaks to Vanguard’s Dapo Akinrefon..
In this interview Gershom continued in the politicking as he played to some of the questions asked, the flag bearer of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP will be decided at the primaries and that’s when the unveiling of Gershom will remain a mystery to the people of Cross River..
Excerpts from the interview
You belong to the group called the Three Musketeers in Cross River State. Talk to us about this group
I think the three wise-men tag or the three musketeers tag is a name that evolved from the populace. It wasn’t a name that we gave ourselves. I think it is a name that a lot of our well wishers gave to us, so really I don’t know how it came about but I do know that Donald, Liyel and I in the early years around 1995 and 1996 had started a lot of discussions on Cross River State and essentially we had talked about the direction we wanted to go as a state.
I think it was from those discussions and series of meetings that we had that a lot of ideas for Cross River State came about. Of course by that time we had no political power. We were just talking as idealistic young men and I think it was from there that God blessed our endeavours and our thinking, so he made it possible for us to achieve political power and try to implement some of those ideas that we had as young men. So talking about the whole concept of the three of us, that is really how we started.
How did the decision for you people to come together come about?
We have all been friends for some time. I know Donald very well because we grew up together, attended primary school together, secondary school together and Liyel, I knew in the University and so on. All of us had come under the tutelage of Clement Ebri who was governor of Cross River State in 1991 and Liyel contested for the senate and won, Donald was commissioner under Clement and I was one of Clement’s major political allies in 1991 when he contested for governorship. So all of us had come under the tutelage of Clement Ebri and I think that that is when we started to understand that we had similar political ideology and that was how our political friendship developed.
Was it truly part of your plan that each of you would govern the state?
No. we had ideas for the state on how we wanted our state to develop. As young men we thought that under the military, the state was not really going in the direction that was best for our state. It was more of a think-tank but the quest for political power came later.
What have the three of you been discussing about the future of Cross River State, at least recently?
I know that I have discussed with his Excellency, the governor, I have discussed with the former governor but it’s been a few months now since the three of us sat together to discuss the future of Cross River State. But from our social interactions, we don’t have to talk too much because I think all of us are on the same page. Our aspiration for our state is very clear, we need to take our state to the next level because since 1999, successive governments, and when I say successive governments I mean Donald Duke in his first and second term, Imoke in his first and second term- successive governments have done better than previous governments and what we all want is for us to continue doing well.
Have you heard people say that power is not likely to go up north in 2015?
People will always speculate but we are quite serious. We don’t play selfish politics, we have always done the politics of the collective and if anybody should ask me how we have been able to continue in politics and survive, I think the key has been that we play the politics of collectives and not politics of self. We think this is the best thing for the collective, we are not playing games, we are actually saying the truth. To me I personally think that we have said it and the proof of the pudding would be in the eating, so there is nothing we can do than to wait and see.
Most people seem to believe that you are likely to take over from Liyel
The proof of the pudding will be in the eating. The issues have been said, the issues have been addressed, the governor has addressed them, the PDP caucus in Cross River has addressed those issues and there is nothing else we can say except to wait and see.
We have told you that the caucus has said it, the governor has said it and I think he said it on his birthday, all these things have been said and I don’t want to keep flogging this issue. I always tell people that these rumours are going to persist until we swear in this our governor from the north.
The governor, Senator Liyel Imoke has said severally that power is moving to the northern part of the state this time. Is that right?
It is not the governor that said power is going to the north. It is the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) caucus and I am a member of the caucus. So, all of us said that power should go to the north or that the north should be given a chance to produce a governor. It is a collective decision. I don’t think I have declared for even the seat of councillor. Cleary, I have not declared for anything.
That means you are not contesting the governorship?
What I am saying is that let the north have a shot at the governorship.
In other words, you are not going to contest the 2015 governorship election?
No one knows what is going to happen in 2015. We don’t know. So what I can say is that definitely, I stand by the decision of the PDP caucus.