There is a renewed clamour by the people of Yakurr, particularly those of Ugep origin, to clinch the House of Reps seat meant for Abi/Yakurr, even though Yakurr occupied the seat for 20 years before it was taken over by Abi in 2019.
In this interview with the Obol Lopon Ugep and paramount ruler of Yakurr, His Royal Majesty, Obol Ofem Ubana lamented to TNN that Ugep people have not been fairly treated and that their sons decided to contest for the seat in exercise of their right to seek elective office and added that it would be unthinkable for Ugep to wait for another eight years, from 2023, without occupying an elective office.
But he was quick to add that even though they are contesting, if the electorate do not see them as worthy of being elected, the person considered worthy would still emerge winner. The royal father also spoke on the forth-coming Leboku festival holding in Ugep later this month.
Let’s start from the accident that happened in Ekori recently. How did you feel about it?
That accident did not happen in Ekori; that accident happened in Biase.
People from Ekori were involved and a lot of them died
(cuts in) Yes, the Sienna loaded from Ekori; So it had more of the passengers from Ekori and then a few of them from Igbo-Imabana. So it’s because it loaded at that axis, then it got to Biase and the accident happened and everybody died.
So how did you feel when you heard that your subjects were involved in that fatal accident?
It’s very sorrowful because some of them are breadwinners of their families and then they are leaving their wives and children stranded. For every father, you will feel sad, you will feel bad because that means the children and the wives are stranded now; they will start looking for who to come to their aid. It’s a very sad incident to discuss about. It’s a colossal loss. No father would be happy about that kind of a thing. You see, people who left their families hale and hearty and their life is cut short on the way to their destination. It’s very, very sad.
The Calabar-Ogoja road has been very bad. What will you want to say about this road to the federal and state governments?
The road from Ikom up to Akpet in Biase, up to Biase estate on the high way, farm estate, the road is very clear; there’s no bad spot, except that they cut part of the road they usually cut it to adjust; but most of the place they have cut, they have completed the repairs. We need this road to go beyond that. So, we appeal to the federal government and the company handling the whole thing to please try to go further than where they are.
What do you also want to tell the state governor? I mean, this is his own state, the road we are talking about, it is Cross Riverians that use the road and it’s been like this. The people that have died now are Cross Riverians.
Yeah. The government should help us appeal to federal government to complete the repair on that road. It’s the only road we have linking to Calabar to our state capital. So it’s necessary and very, very important. We appeal to the federal government to please complete that road to make it better to us to drive to our state capital.
The Leboku festival is coming up later this month and with the situation of this road now, what are your fears?
Our fear is that many people would be threatened especially because of the accident. We will be threatened, we would very afraid to travel on that road because of the state of that road. So we are appealing to people to please manage and drive slowly. Leboku comes up on 19th and 20th of this month. We appeal to people, motorists, drivers driving on the road to be careful, more careful.
Where do you see Leboku festival in the next ten years?
Leboku is going from strength to strength; it’s getting bigger and better. If you are in Ugep, you will know that this festival has really grown; where you see over 20,000 people pursuing one masquerade. You get a crowd, very difficult to control. But God is always on my side, there is no stampede, everybody is running at the same time. It’s a very good sight to watch. I think that Etangala masquerade is next to the carnival in Calabar.
What would you think is the economic benefit of the Leboku festival?
We have gained so much from Leboku; economic benefits, so many. Before the state government came in to take over Leboku, We have one hotel in Ugep, the white house. But since 15 years, the government took over, we have had more than 15 to 20 hotels in Ugep now and that gives employment to a lot of our children. It has made the community to expand so much more. The community has expanded so much. In some parts of the community, we are reaching the boundaries with our neighbouring communities. So we envisage that in the next 10 years, farming would be completely finished in Ugep; nobody would go to farm because the land would not be there to farm. You know our farm is becoming smaller and people are increasing and the buildings increasing everyday and one of our most achievements as indigenes in Ugep is to see a young man having a house or every man building his own house, that’s one of our wonderful achievements we have in Ugep. We don’t have so many people except workers who come in to work with the local government or work with the general hospital, they have places to rent and live, but it is difficult to find indigenes renting houses because everybody tries to own his or her house. So the economic benefits about Leboku is enormous. Like this year, will be better than last year, you know during the Covid 19 pandemic, a lot of activities were suspended and when the state government asked me whether the Lebolu will not hold, I said no, because we cannot afford to skip any year of Lebolu festival and I told them that nobody, they should go and count my people, before Leboku and after, they should go and take another count. We will not die, because the gods of our land, the gods of Ugep are protecting us the indigenes. So, Leboku is special to the Ugep people; very, special. You know in those days there used to be a lot hunger, after framing, between the month of March and July, we used to have serious famine and hunger on the land before the discovery of cassava. So within that period, a lot of people died from one sickness or the other because of hunger. So when we started harvesting the new yam festival, there would be jubilation, there would be celebration that hunger is over, that people are alive. So those who are alive after that hunger celebrate themselves and welcome each other to a season of plenty.
Let’s look at what is happening at Abi/Yakurr federal constituency. Somebody made some comments that Yakurr occupied the seat for 20years, Abi is just occupying for three years now, going to four years. There are speculations that Ugep people want to get back the House of Reps seat again and then Chief Obono Obla posted on social media that it will amount to greed, if Yakurr people want to go back to the seat after taking it for 20 years, back to back. What do you think about what is going on there? How do you think this can be handled?
Who took it for twenty years?
Well I told you I am not a politician but there are many things that are not going well with the Ugep community. It is difficult for an Ugep man to get an elective position. I don’t know why it is like that and our population is more. So, I don’t always like to comment on these issues since I am not a politician.
Yeah. But you’re a father sir.
Yes, the Ugep people are wanting that position because other positions that are supposed to come to them are not coming. So whatever is available, they want to see if they can get their own. I think the House of Reps is the only position they can get from other political parties. People who are struggling for it are the Ugep people. The Ugep people are angered because they don’t have any other position. You can imagine for eight years, an Ugep man will not have a position, a political position, will not contest in any political party and another eight years come, they have written down again, no son of Ugep won any primaries in any political party except one of our sons who ran to Labour Party and got a position for the House of Reps. It’s actually good that when one position exists, they do come together to discuss how they will be going for it, at least (Alex) Egbona is there for three years now, he wants to come in for the second tenure.
Alex Egbona is our son, we will always vote for him but any other person who comes in to struggle for that position, if he or she wins, well we can say, Ugep people might say, well, let’s jubilate with the one we have because we don’t have any other position. I know some of Ugep sons and daughters who clamoured to get position for the senate were not given. 2019, the same thing happened, 2022 the same thing is happening. So we cannot say it is because we are greedy, we don’t want any other community to win, no. It is a lie; it is because we are suffering marginalization. We are marginalized by other communities. We are more in population. We don’t know the tactics they are using up till now to break us down to a level that an Ugep man cannot hold any position. So I will like us to stop here. I am not a politician and I don’t want to be one before I would be quoted out of context.
I do know that from Yakurr, there are candidates for senate in various parties. That means if all of them win, Yakurr will have both senate and House of Reps in the National Assembly.
Well, that is what I’m saying, anybody that wins. We are all children of the same father, so anybody that gets the position, we will follow, we will rejoice with you for having won the election. It is a thing we have to sit down and look at properly, their (Ugep) population is so large to be left open every year. We are left blank without a little post. We will sit down and see people who wins the election, and then we are going to vote for other people and people don’t want to vote for Ugep people. It’s very painful. You see, bassey Ewah has been in that position, has been in politics for 20 years. And he is still coming back to take another eight years. When you see things like that, they are not good at all. When one thing is owned by a lot of people, you take your turn and leave it for the other person. When you take one turn and come back and come back for the same person, it’s not fair at all. Like every human being, you will feel bad.
And I think that’s the same way the Abi people are feeling, that Yakurr had been in that office for 20 years and so for them to now want to go back is not also fair.
That federal constituency, that federal seat, one person has been favoured for too long Bassey Ewah held it held it fore Abi took it. So if another position is coming again and that same person jumps in to collect another seat (in the same National Assembly), it’s not the best. But you know, I’m a royal father and not a politician, I don’t know how they do things to get their way. So don’t push me to get too much to where some persons would quote me out of context and keep saying a lot of things. You know politicians, you don’t play with them, they will insult you and insult you. Let’s leave politics out of this discussion.