“It was during my time that we got the 76 oil wells that were lost. That was a painful thing for all of us. I still think it should be remedied.” Those were the words of the former Cross River State Governor Mr. Donald Duke during the presentation of a book, ‘Cross River State at 50: The People and Events that Shaped it.’
Mr. Duke while calling the decision a “political decision” that should be reversed through the same political means expressed further regrets in his words:
“Today, Akwa Ibom State is the largest oil-producing state in Nigeria. It was a political decision. I think the political decision that gave them the oil should be also used to give us back the 76 oil wells.”
Duke said: “A few years ago at the heat of the Bakassi loss, I hosted Gen. Gowon in Calabar. I urged him to write his own story or someone will write it for him and he may not exactly like what would be told.
“Not long after, at council of state meeting, where president Obansajo was presiding, one of the members of council, then Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, pointing to the section where the Head of States were, asked that somebody should tell us why Bakassi was sold.
“During the lunch break, I went back to him and said you have to tell us a story. Because the general perception is that Bakassi was sacrificed for the war. That it was exigent to accommodate France and Cameroun interest,” he said.
According to him, he took the matter to then Prime Minister of Britain, Mr. Tony Blair who bluntly told him and his entourage that “To undo the agreement will be a terrible precedent,” saying the British PM revealed to them that other African countries will be affected by such a decision.
“Britain and the United States were not sympathetic to our case and China and Russia were not interested. It was France that sympathized with us and told us that we could not have gone to court,” he disclosed.
While describing the ceding of Bakassi as “an international conspiracy,” he however, regretted that what was supposed to be done during the period was not done by the country, saying he did everything to reverse the ceding but could not.
On Tinapa, Duke regretted that the infrastructure has been allowed to waste, saying the non-usage of Tinapa was the greatest disservice his successors have done to the state.
“Tinapa has not been put to use and we shot ourselves on the foot when we did not put it to use. Government is continuum and the successor is always smarter than the Predecessor,” he stated.
He said so much was expended on Tinapa and was supposed to be the pride of the state, but said the place has been left to rot because his successors did not understand the concept.
The book which was launched at the Channel View Hotel, Calabar and written by an Elder Statesman, Engr. Ekpe Esien Ita, who also used the occasion to celebrate his 70th birthday, drew personalities from all works of life, including the Obong of Calabar, Etubom Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu