The political crisis in Cross Rivers State reached new highs Friday, when police, acting on the instructions from "above" disrupted the ceremony for the inauguration of the Women and Children Hospital built in Calabar by wife of former governor of the state, Donald Duke, Onari, taking him away for interrogation midway into the ceremony.
Mr Duke was driven away in his car, sandwiched between some senior police officers, to the state police headquarters at Diamond Hill where he was interrogated and afterwards released. He returned to the venue of the ceremony just when it was over to the palpable relief of his wife and admirers. He did not witness the cutting of the tape at the reception of the hospital.
A detachment of anti-riot policemen, led by an Assistant Commissioner of Police [operations], arrived at the venue and went straight to the master of ceremony and demanded to know who were the organizers and upon being referred to Mrs. Duke, engaged her in a discussion which attracted the husband's attention.
The former governor was told in clear terms that they have orders from above to stop the ceremony and would want him to follow them to the state headquarters of the force to answer some questions. The drama between him and the police took place beside the Murtala Mohammed Highway, where the hospital is located.
There were two version of Duke's arrest. One version has it that the police were acting on a court order stopping the ceremony from taking place while the other said the law enforcement agents swooped on the venue because it was an unauthorized political meeting summoned by Mr Duke.
The hospital complex is the state secretariat of the defunct National Republican Convention [NRC] of the botched Third Republic . It is a government facility which the Dukes used official fiat, while in power, to convert to a private use.
Rehabilitation work on it commenced during the second term of Mr Duke. At that time, Mrs. Duke told the press that the hospital was being constructed under public-private-partnership [PPP]. But today, the ownership of this specialist hospital for women and children resides with Mrs Duke.
This is the second time in a week that the now estranged political allies are having a brush. Penultimate Saturday, state governor, Liyel Imoke stopped the Cross River University of Technology [CRUTECH] from conferring an honorary doctorate degree on his predecessor who founded the university on the excuse that since the institution has not commenced post graduate studies, it cannot award such certificate.
Ever since Mr Duke dumped the PDP for another party to enable him realize his presidential ambition, relations between him and Mr Imoke have been in the freezer.
Recently, the state leadership of the PDP went on air to deride Mr Duke's resignation from the party and warned party members to stay clear of the former governor. Despite this, Mr Duke, who brooked no opposition during his eight years reign, has been holding nocturnal meetings with some of his former aides with a view to making them his foot soldiers in the state ahead of next year's general elections.
Mr Imoke and members of his cabinet shunned the hospital inauguration ceremony. Mrs. Obioma Imoke too was away at Biase Local Government Area for the launch of her pneumonia programme.
Chief consultant of the Women and Children Hospital and former commissioner of Health under Duke, Joseph Ana described as political the attempt to disrupt the ceremony. He said that as a private hospital, the institution does not require the presence of government officials to have it inaugurated.
The former commissioner described the hospital as a referral center that would help to attend to paediatric cases in the country ant the entire West Africa sub region given its state of the art facilities in modern health technology.