Comrade (Engr.) Ben Obega, an indigene of Oju Local Government Area, of Oye clan, is a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) aspirant for Oju/Obi federal constituency seat in Benue State. He spoke to JAMES IBECHI and MORGAN ADIKWU about his 2019 aspiration.
We are told that you are nursing political ambition. Which specific position are you looking to vie for?
Yes, it is true I have a political ambition and why it’s so is because every normal human being needs to aspire for something good for himself and for his people. Politically, I have been contributing reasonably to the growth of the PDP when it was in power; even now I am one of the party’s contributing member because I believe in its manifesto and ideology from inception. While I was in school I studied the party’s ideology, which I believe that yes, all things being equal it is one of the party that can deliver the dividends of democracy to the people at the grassroots. Notwithstanding, even when APC came on board, I was not rigid, I was not skeptical; I believed that they could equally do same. You can observe yourself that the difference between APC and PDP is thin. But I am not here to narrate what and what is good or bad; but all I know is that leadership is a progressive phenomenon.
Is it true to say that you are aspiring to represent Oju/Obi federal constituency at the House of Representatives come 2019?
Yes exactly, my aspiration is for that position.
By the way, who is Comr. Ben Obega? May the Hawk Newspaper meet you properly?
My name is Comrade (Engr.) Ben Obega, an indigene of Igede, Oju Local Government of Benue state. Precisely, I come from Oye, Igede clan. I am delighted to have the privilege to speak with you. Of course, you must have sacrificed time to be here.
Why do you want to go to House of Reps?
By way of my personal introduction, I told you my name is Comrade (Engr.) Ben Obega. By the notion of being a comrade you know that I have human heart and feelings in my heart. One of the passionate statements that every union makes is that an ‘injury for one is an injury for all’; by implication it means that a leader of that magnitude or position should be able to deny himself of comfort to reposition himself to where he can help the people. Of course, Igede is a developing society like any other society in Nigeria, but I believe that by my exposure, training on the job, and by my capacity as one of the very vibrantly renowned union leaders in FCT Abuja, Nigeria, I discovered that it is not even good for me to now vie for an executive seat where money flows; rather, it is good for me to participate to represent my people in the legislature where rule of laws will be followed, where policies that have the people interest in mind will be pursued, so that things can work well. If I am greedy or money-conscious, I would have even said let me go for a local government chairman position where the money can be coming every month. I can even say let me look for maybe governor or deputy governor position because by my age and my standard, I understand that I am qualified to be a governor of the state, but I feel as a union leader, it is good for me now to represent my people where the laws will be made and to be followed so that the people in the rural areas can be benefiting the presence of the government.
Rt. Hon. Samson Okwu the incumbent has declared interest in a third term which means there may be no vacancy, so is it on the strength of zoning or is it or on merit that you want to vie for the position?
Thank you very much, constitutionally he can go as many time as he feels like. He has the right, but I want to let you know that before Rt. Hon. Samson Okwu came on board he as a person was my closest friend and that does not mean that I can undermine him to come and contest against him when he is not willing but the issue on the table here is the destiny of Igede and I want to let you know clearly that before he came on board, three, four or five people occupied that seat. For every position on earth, whether legislative or executive, there is a terminal point whether by constitution or not. Judging from the back, you discover that Augustine Adikpe was there. He made a similar statement thus “no vacancy” and Igede in their own wisdom by the way of doing things chose Okwu and threw Adikpe out at that particular time. So, what gave Hon. Samson Okwu the audacity to say that there is no vacancy when Igede is thinking that, ok at this point in time, we need a change of baton, let the baton move to another person that can now lead them, if not better?
Does it imply that Okwu has not been representing well?
Before I go there, your first or second question says that is it on merit or zoning system. On zoning system, the constitution is silent, but the spirit of zoning helps in balancing democracy anywhere in the world. But why I am coming out is even purely on merit that I should be able now to speak at the right time, do the right thing to develop Igede. Coming to your last question, yes if you compare the behavior, the characteristics of Hon. Samson Okwu’s representation to that of his predecessors, you will discover now that Augustine Adikpe and that of the late Altini Idikwu, our democracy at that time was still nascent; very fragile such that many people did not even believe that democracy would come to stay. Many people feel that let those who do not have anything now go there thinking that the military will take over. So the interested eyes of the people were on the distance from politics. So how they came on board as at that time was different from how Okwu came, but they were able to do certain things because no leader can perform up to 100% but I feel that what Okwu is doing is not too bad. It is just that he needs to be replaced by another person so that development can continue in some other ways.
In one of my recent outings there is something that I uncovered which is still shocking to me and I like to get people’s sampling based on that. There is this thing they call constituency project, just 2016 budget captured some constituency projects and I kind of streamlined into Zone C. I even brought out that of Obi/Oju constituency, what it is supposed to do in the budget of 2016 it didn’t do it, down to senator, from Benue South, all the House of Reps members and one of them openly said that they were given about N100million and they pocketed it. The area I am coming in now, is it that this man that is presently representing you people in regard to oversight especially from this thing I have just drawn your attention to, will you say that Samson Okwu is fair to Oju/Obi and if he is not, what do you think you would have done differently?
Constituency projects funding is one of the major things that the House of Reps members benefit on behalf of their people and is for them now to extend that benefits to their constituents as you said. If, however, such amount of money has been given to them quarterly or yearly is a welcome development, but I want to tell you that even outside that constituency allowances, there are lots of things a good representative of the people could have done, but coming closer to your question, if such amount of money is given there is nothing on ground to show that 15 or 20 per cent of the fund is applied to any such project for which it is meant. No record, no evidence. For instance, people are dying for not having good water to drink in the constituency. N100m in a year, yet people cannot even boast of having anything good like fertilizers to enable our local farmers upgrade themselves? Beside that, on the merit that I told you outside this constitution allowance the federal government has positioned every clan in Nigeria to be a beneficiary of what we call allocations of resources. Outside that, money that you have if it is real you discover now that there are basic amenities that the federal government says ok in each constituency that they should be all those things. On this basis can somebody prove that this is happening? Igede comprises two local government areas. That is Oju and Obi. It further comprises 14 clans, about 600 poling units, 23 political wards. I want to tell you that it is only a few villages roads link together. If it is not the social responsibilities of the House of Reps member representing Igede nation to do that roads are opened up to link the villages in this constituency together, who does then? I understand that before now contracts had been awarded of the road projects, on the water projects, etc. It is the responsibility of the person representing the people in a fair manner to confront the contractors that have been given the work and he abandoned them. Who is responsible? I am very happy that you would discover that such amount of money have been given to the Reps to do something. The question is where are the projects? Igede people are looking for people who can represent them in a better way. I want to remind you that the ambition that I am nursing is personal but the inclinational feeling of the people that “we need a special person,” for the past 2 years now they have been knocking at my door that, “please we need you to serve the land.” If you are not a fool you have to accept it because the main purpose of man living on earth is to leave a legacy.
What are your cardinal programs? What are those one or two things you are setting out to do?
As one of the union leaders and resourceful personnel in Igedeland two or three years back, I have been delivering lectures in several fora, preaching the language of unity in Igede land. I have discovered that one of the reasons Igede does not have a voice is because of the unhealthy group of people sectionalizing things; remember Obama said at reelection that it is not because the population of America nor the scientific ability of them now to produce weapons but the sense of unity that says yes and they abide by it and they say no and they stand by it. My coming is to unite Igede, to have a voice.
Two, I will join hands to fight for what is ours; by making laws that will favor our people.
Three, year in year out there are proposals and budgets, that favor everybody using the quarterly system at the federal level, and contracts are awarded, if it is not because of Engineer Edwin Ikwu did you think that it is the Federal Government budgets that brought electricity to Igede land? So, by doing that I know that unity must be restored to Igede so that we can form a formidable stand on issues.
The constituency money and allowances or any other lobby that can bring the development of Igede must be followed and lastly there is no community or society that grows without the spirit of industrialization; Professor Okpaga and Hon. Ode Iganga wrote a book in honoour of Chief Reuben Ade at 70th birthday, in that book they have successfully itemized some of the mineral resources that have been deposited in Igede. God deposited those things. They are meant to better the life of the people and it must be a human being who will now work towards mining those resources. Then if you are now waiting for the state government or the president of Nigeria to come and do those things it will be a mirage. It is the responsibility of a focused leader, a dynamic and innovative leader who will now create a framework or atmosphere where the internationally best practiced people or the experts can now come to mine and not just mining but to take them away, thereby creating jobs.
On which political party platform do you intend to run?
I earlier told you that I am strong member of the PDP before they now become an opposition and up till now I am still carrying their flag, I do hope that the party is one of the parties that will sell me more to the society.
Apart from Okwu who is said to have declared his intension to contest, you are now aware and there is another aspirant Nick Eworo, do you know about Nick who is equally in the same race with you?
Yes, I am aware that Hon. Sam Okwu is contesting. He knows that I am contesting too because I met him personally and I told him that I have interest, ambition and aspiration and he didn’t say no to it because I told him fundamentally that he is my friend. I heard of Nick Eworo from APC too but they are not my rival because in a spirit of fairness and equity that post has been migrated in the realm of the spirit of sharing from Obi to Oju and is yet to be physically executed.
How do you rate yourself among Igede electorate and what is your chance of winning the race?
Let me tell you clearly that I am not exaggerating. My imputes or moral investment in Igede for the past years proves to me that as I step out Igede people will be happy to elect me.
Can you tell us one of the investments that have made to the benefit of the Igede people?
Several students in Uni Jos that I do help when they come to me in terms of projects, school fees even without knowing them they call me. Even in FUT Yola, I paid their project money without even knowing them when they graduate, they do their NYSC , they come back to me to introduce themselves and thank me. In terms of employment at least the little position that I occupy in the power sector in Abuja I can boast of few people that I have helped to get jobs.
Being in the power sector, what bearing does it have with your aspiration?
That is why they need me most because electricity is a pivot through which every development revolves round. So, if they can have me there I will do more to what others have done.
In few seconds what is your general comment for the people of Obi and Oju? What do you have for them in just few seconds?
I really appreciate them because they are loving kind of people, highly endowed with divine wisdom. At this point in time they have been crying for a good leadership at that level and I have offered myself and I believe that they are going to work by it.