Senator Liyel Imoke was born on July 10, 1961 at the University College Hospital, Ibadan in the then Western Region of Nigeria. His father, late Dr. Samuel Imoke was a Medical Doctor and first generation politician who played an instrumental role in Nigeria’s nationalist struggle, eventually becoming a cabinet minister and leader of Parliament in the former Eastern region. His mother, Mrs. Comfort Imoke, nee Imoukhede, is a retired nurse/midwife practitioner, and a pioneer community and public health delivery expert.
Senator Imoke had his early education in a number of primary schools: Santa Maria Primary School, Enugu, Ireti Primary School, Lagos and Government Primary School, Itigidi - where he obtained his First School Leaving Certificate, (FSLC). In 1973, he entered Mary Knoll College, Okuku, Ogoja, for his secondary education, which he would complete as a member of the pioneer class of 1977 at the Federal Government College, Enugu, earning his West African School Certificate (WASC).
Subsequently, he enrolled for a Bachelors degree in International Relations (Major) and Economics (Minor) at the University of Maryland, College Park in the United States. He graduated in 1982, and went on to study Law at the University of Buckingham, England, earning an LLB degree in 1985. Imoke would go on to pursue a Masters in Law at the American University in Washington, D. C. He completed his legal training at the Nigeria Law School, Lagos, in 1988.
After Law practices in Washington, D. C. and Lagos, Imoke ventured into business, with interests in oil and gas, construction, communication, merchandizing and management consultancy. As his deftness as a technocrat evolved, circumstance, conviction and destiny compelled him into politics. In 1992, aged 30, he was elected a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, becoming the youngest legislator in the history of The Senate.
His political credentials were substantiated and he was thrust to national prominence when he was appointed a Special Adviser on Public Utilities by President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999. He also served as Executive Chairman of the Special Board charged with responsibility for the winding down of Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission, OMPADEC. He also served as Chairman of Technical Board of the National Electric Power Authority, NEPA charged with rehabilitating existing electricity infrastructure to deliver 4,000 MW of electricity. A feat that was accomplished and has not been surpassed to date.
In July 2003, Senator Imoke was appointed Nigeria’s Minister of Power and Steel - at a point, doubling as Minister of Education. As Minister of Power and Steel, Imoke implemented comprehensive reforms in the power sector including the management of the passage of the Electric Power Sector Reform Bill in 2005, which resulted in the promulgation of the Nigerian Power Sector Reform Act of 2005, and consequentially, led to the establishment of the Nigerian Energy Regulatory Commission (NERC), the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) and the unbundling of the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA). Also under Imoke’s leadership, the Ministry devised, and began the implementation of a 25-year national energy development plan, embarking on the largest power programme in the world at the time – the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP).
Senator Imoke was elected Governor of Cross River State on April 14, 2007, in a landslide. That election was annulled by an Election Appeal Tribunal in July 2008, which necessitated a re-run on August 23rd of the same year. Governor Imoke’s previous victory was validated as he won, again with a landslide.
Governor Liyel Imoke has received many awards, including the Thisday Award as Best Governor in Tourism Development for 2008. He is a member of the Nigeria Bar Association, Honorary fellow of the Nigeria Society of Engineers, Fellow of the Institute of Public Administration, amongst others.
In recognition of his outstanding contributions to humanity, Senator Imoke was awarded a Doctor of Law Degree, Honoris Causa by the Imo State University, where he delivered the 6th Pre-Convocation lecture on “Fostering Rights and Liberties through education” in 2009 and in 2010 by the University of Calabar, Calabar.
He is married to Mrs. Obioma Liyel Imoke, herself a Lawyer, business and political leader, and a champion for children and women’s rights. Their marriage is blessed with children.