Comrade Benson Obega, erstwhile Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) faithful before the All Progressives Congress (APC) came into power in Benue State, is an aspirant for 2019 Oju/Obi federal constituency election in the 2019 poll. He spoke to EJIKEME OMENAZU on the performance of President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Samuel Ortom so far, even as he unfolds his agenda for his constituency.
We understand that you have an eye on the Oju/Obi federal constituency seat come 2019. What is your agenda for your people?
I want to use my position as a lawmaker in the Lower Chamber of the National Assembly to improve my people’s standard of living. I will make inputs and support my colleagues to ensure the implementation of existing laws and actively participate in enacting new ones to better the life of Nigerians which my constituency is an integral part. Through lobby, sound and constructive negotiations, I hope to attract federal presence to my constituency, making available social amenities, youth employment and empowerment of active groups as to industrialise the land. I will also introduce innovative ideas through the activities of expertise and government to reposition agriculture and the mining of discovered mineral resources in the area. I will help to foster unity among the people of the state. The gospel of unity must be preached through leadership seminars among Igede groups to foster development. Peace building will be taking seriously during my tenure as the lawmaker representing my constituency.
How would you assess the performance of the incumbent occupant of that seat which you are aspiring to, Hon. Samson Okwu?
I don’t think I have the moral right to rate or appraise any aspirants, including the incumbent. Rather, I will leave the Igede community to do that. But, I think it is the duty of the media to expose the strength and weaknesses of individuals so as to enhance governance. The underlining factor here is that Igede nation has been clamouring for a change of leadership at that level come 2019. They want someone who will pilot their affairs optimally, and I consider myself most fitted for the job.
Although you are an aspirant for the Oju-Obi Federal Constituency seat, people still believe that you are simply Hon. Samson Okwu’s stooge, the current occupant of the seat. How would you react to this assertion?
I am not Samson Okwu’s stooge and I can never be. The information is false. I believe it is framed by some aspirants in the race, who feel that I am most qualified and acceptable to the masses. The purveyors of this falsehood are just trying to discredit my sincere passion and willingness to serve my people. By the way, is there a special relationship between Hon. Samson Okwu and I? Please, try to find out.
People would have liked you to explain if there is a special bond between you two, besides the fact that you were both members of the opposition PDP. Don’t you think so?
No. Whoever thinks so is absolutely wrong. My support for PDP was purely on the ground that it was the ruling party then. My loyalty was for the party, not for an individual member. I did that to precipitate dividends of democracy to my clan, a neglected community in Igede land since 1976, when Benue State was created. I am still surprised at those saying that Rt. Hon. Okwu is using me to subvert the decision of Igede people come 2019. I wish to state that Hon. Okwu was the first person I told my 2019 interest. He was not comfortable with it. Yet, I had to emphasise it that my interest in the seat is a divine call.
What is the decision of Igede people regarding the 2019 House of Representatives seat that you say you cannot subvert?
The decision is clear. The spirit of zoning as a political vehicle that balances democratic structure is upheld by Igede people. That is to say that Igede had decided to shift the House of Representatives seat to Igede Central come to 2019.This unbiased decision is not limited to any political party or individuals. This goes to imply that the decision is binding to all, irrespective of position, feelings or political parties of allegiance.
If you are in the race on the plank of the zoning that favours your ambition besides considering yourself as possessing some leadership qualities as well as exercising your franchise, where is your zone in Igede that will be considered?
Yes, aside the potential leadership qualities, the average Igede people believe I have to represent them at the lower chamber of the National Assembly. Oye Igede, my community, is one the clans in Adinu area that form Zone ‘A’ within Igede Central. Oye, of course, a singular clan among the 14 clans of Igede, has never tasted any meaningful elective or appointive political position, be it traditional or political. If equity, fairness and justice are anything to be reckoned with, then, my candidacy will be a solution to Igede’s endless search for credible leadership come 2019.
One of the 2019 aspirants was quoted to have boasted that he was earmarking N1 billon to prosecute the 2019 Oju-Obi House of Representatives election. Do you have the financial muscle for such a campaign?
Well, I heard that as a rumour. I hardly believed it because politics of the black race is more of intimidation than the reality of its game. However, if it is confirmed that Rt. Hon. Okwu had actually set aside such amount for the election, it calls for question on his leadership integrity. That should not be the moral concern of the aspirants alone. What is the feeling of the society whose mandate had been given to Hon. Okwu for two terms, who also have the power to determine his fate in 2019? What are the media doing? Do the media bother to sensitise the community whose value is being toyed with? Regardless of such news, going the memory lane of Igede politics, the choice of where Igede picks her leader usually triumphs over the role of money. What played out in 2011 and 2015 were different political scenarios that made the actors to enthrone the value of money. In my view, instead of such money to be used against the will of the masses, Hon. Okwu would be writing his name on gold if uses it to reduce the suffering of Igede people that gave him their mandate. Having said that, whatever fund is genuinely needed to run this election by me is not a problem.
What is your view on the Governor Samuel Ortom administration so far?
I will state my view on Governor Samuel Ortom administration thus. In every business, time investment is paramount. It is a fact that Benue people advocated for a change. They wanted a change from all forms of unwholesome practices that brought pains on the life our people. However, such changes might not be actualised within the short period of time like two and half years of APC administration. For me, several factors, both natural and artificial, are militating against Governor Ortom’s desire to deliver his campaign premises. These include insecurity, global economic recession and the recent flood that rendered most citizens homeless within the state. His attention has been to salvage the lives and properties of the people of the state. My humble advice is that he should endeavour to execute the re-awarded Awaji-Oju and Obarike Ito-Aliade road contract. Most importantly, he should try to clear the workers’ salary arrears. If he does all these, the people will be happy and he will have no problem to achieve his dreams come 2019 election.
Would you say that President Muhammadu Buhari is performing up to the expectations of Nigerians?
Of course, President Buhari is gradually meeting the expectations of Nigerians. Nigerians should continue to pray for his good health.