Since the dawn of uninterrupted democracy in Nigeria in 1999, Cross River State, between that period and 2015 was blessed arguably with some of Nigeria’s greatest Governors in Donald Duke and Liyel Imoke. Like every leader, they had their shortcomings but generally, they were largely focused and had clear plans on where they wanted to drive the state state to.
The present administration led by Gov Ben Ayade is of course a classical departure from what we knew Cross River under the two last administrations. Then, the state was everyman’s destination in the country because of its serene and green environment just as the state was regarded as the most peaceful in Nigeria. It’s not now that all these legacies have gone oblivion.
However, despite the performance of this two former Governors, the overbearing interference of their wives in government and politics was something that every right thinking Cross Riverian frown at at the time. Probably, only those who benefitted from their interference sang Haleluya for them. It was during this era that the phrase “Madam Say”, (apparently referring to the Governor wives) almost became a slogan in the state.
No doubt, they both did well with their charity programmes but their unacceptable interference in governance and political decisions in the state overshadowed other programmes they did.
It was under Duke that his wife, Onari Duke became the grand Commander of local government administration. For anybody to be a local government council chairman, he/she must show ” Madam” absolute loyalty beyond reasonable doubt. There was even a case in Obudu that she and her husband clashed over their interest on who become Chairman.
The matter even became worst under Imoke. His wife, Obioma was regarded by many as the Governor Cross Riverians never elected as her decisions on some issues were more powerful than even her husband. In fact, the “Madam say” syndrome was taken to another level under Imoke. She was everywhere. It was because of her that her husband was nicknamed a sleeping Governor because people believed that certain decisions were taken by her when her husband was asleep.
Even the decision to take Akwa Ibom state to court over the ownership of the 76 oil wells was alleged to be taken by her. So many Cross Riverians advocated for political settlement knowing that our judicial system is commercialized where the highest bidder takes the day. It was a common knowledge that Cross River after loosing Bakassi to Cameroon hadn’t the war chest to outbid Akwa Ibom. But Imoke who is believed was influenced by his wife insisted on going to court and the end has now left the state wallowing as a non oil producing state.
Also, the messy transmission programme of Imoke that led us to this miniature administration was rumoured to be orchestrated by her.There was insinuation that she wanted to install her husband successor and was favouring the then Works Commissioner, Legor Idagbor who was obviously an unpopular aspirant in the ranks and files of the PDP. The current Governor was the last option and a product of after thought who was brought as a man with the purchasing power to challenge the most popular aspirant then, Prince Jeddy Agba should he decide to contest under another political party.
Indeed she was a powerful woman and a kingmaker who made people more than even her husband. Her influence cut across the entire state such that she stayed in Abi and still installed her initial governorship interest, Idagbor as a reps member in far away Obudu/Bekwerra/Obanliku federal constituency.
But things have changed under the current administration. The ‘Madam say’ syndrome has died natural death. The unnecessary power wielded by previous first ladies have been seriously relegated to the background not because the current first lady wouldn’t have had her way but because she choose to leave politics for politicians.
Gov Ayade’s wife, Linda in the almost three years old administration of her husband has redefined the role of a Governor’s wife. She has given more attention to her charity work than wanting to act like a de-facto governor as previous first ladies.
From my observation, she’s a student of Harold Geneen who opined that “Leadership is not about a title or a designation…Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions”. Her calm disposition and total concentration in reaching out to the less privileged without wanting her voice to be the loudest in the state makes her my ideal first lady.
Although, many people have complained that she doesn’t know how to dole out cash as a typical Nigerian politician, I think she is just trying to send a message to people that look, ‘I’m a first lady yes, but not a politician and as such instead of allowing myself to be influenced by your politics, I’ll rather change the narrative’.
Robin Sharma noted that “Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results. Influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work and you have to inspire teammates”. For those who have worked with this virtuous women closely, they will agree with me that she’s an embodiment of this Sharma’s leadership ideology.
I was fascinated recently when I saw her picture fully kitted in her medical regalia attending to kids in the hospital. Most times, some illnesses need more than medical treatment. As a sick person, a simple idea of having the first lady attend to you can bring so much hope, joy and strength. She may not have the magic wand to cure everybody as healing is of God, but trust me, she has resuscitated hope to so many homes.
John C. Maxwell once said that a leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. Without mincing words, Linda Ayade is rare leader who knows the way, going the way and is showing so many people how to be a Governor’s wife.
In one of my articles last year, I wished that she was the Governor and the husband the first lady because when it comes to leadership, they are direct opposite. While the husband is very combative and an expert in not working his talk, Linda is more of a quite and silent achiever. She allows her work talk for her.
The leadership attributes of the Governor and his wife has now broaden my knowledge of the theological teaching that God didn’t design marriage for two people with the same similarities but people with different attributes who come together to complement themselves. At the end of this administration, people may remember the first lady more for her sterling leadership qualities than her husband.
However, I want to appeal to the first lady to always find time in her closet to advice her husband. Although, the Governor has legions of advisers but it’s obvious he doesn’t think they know enough to advice him but may be, he will listen to her.
He should be advised that history has shown that the greatest leaders are not people who talk too much but allow their works talk for them; something the first lady herself is already doing.
At the end of this administration, people will remember him, not for how many promises he made or ideologies he shared but by performance, action and feasible achievements. Going his wife’s way may help him a lot!
Inyali Peter is a social critic and publisher of Fearless Reports.