Obol Okoi Obono Obla, a lawyer and former presidential aide, is not happy with goings on in his local community, Ugep, Cross River State, where his country me are trying to paint the people in bad light in the eyes of outsiders, ahead of next year’s general election as it concerns the Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency.
In this interview, Obla admonishes his people, for the umpteenth time, not to be greedy in their aspiration for political offices, even as he said it was wrong for his people to seek to grab the senate and House of Reps seat at the same time.
What will you say is your recipe for a peaceful election in Cross River State, considering the reported violence during campaigns in some parts of the country?
Law enforcement especially the police must up its game. Any reported cases of violence or intimidation motivated by political consideration must be dealt with by the police, firmly, diligently, seriously and professionally. The culprits must be brought to justice promptly and squarely. All those thugs that have been armed by politicians to intimidate must be rounded, arms recovered and prosecuted with despatch. Any politicians that are linked with sponsoring miscreants and thugs to intimidate, harass and hound those whose political views differ from those of their sponsors and paymasters must be brought to justice.
Generally, what fears do you have as we prepare for the 2023 election?
I don’t have any fear if INEC and security agencies do their work diligently, courageously, patriotically, and fairly without caring whose ox is gored. The problem in Nigeria is not the absence of law or lawlessness but the inability of the law to be effectively implemented or enforced. We only see half-hearted, selective, partial, corruption tainted or non-enforcement of the law. When the law is not effectively enforced it sends the wrong signal of weak governance and engenders a loss of confidence and a tendency for people to resort to self-help when they are faced with a situation of hopelessness and helplessness. This is what is contributing to the state of anomie.
You are from Ugep in Yakurr LGA and there are fears in some quarters that your place will be one of the flashpoints during the election, largely because of what people call the desperation by politicians and their supporters to take senate and House of Reps seat in the coming election. Are you worried about this?
There is a possibility there some people will want to orchestrate violence on Election Day to intimidate people or muscled detractors. But it will be foolish for any candidate to weaponise violence on Election Day. Gone are the days when some desperate politicians will arm young people with lethal weaponry on Election Day to snatch ballot boxes and take them somewhere and massive thumbprint and put them back in the boxes and then use some compromised polling clerks, returning officers and announce fake results. The current Electoral Act has rendered such shenanigans obsolete and irrelevant.
If you are from Ugep and candidate, it is even better for you to allow peace to reign so that the election is not cancelled where you think is strongest. I think it is wrong in a heterogenous political environment for people from the same ward to want to go to the senate and House of Representatives. The Senate and House of Representatives are the National Assembly. It is politically insensitive for people from the same ward or community to contest the senate and House of Representatives at the same time. When you do such, the signal to outside or neighbours is that you are greedy, insensitive, hegemonic or all rolled together. It doesn’t engender good neighbourliness and inter-community harmony. We should not allow our ambition to take the better of us. At our level of political development, people are still mindful of where somebody is coming from.
We will embark on aggressive grassroots campaign to tell our people not support hegemonic and selfish agendas that will eventually alienate our community from our neighbouring communities.
Anybody who brings the Labour Party to the Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency holds our people in serious contempt and disdain in the first place.
Labour Party is 20 years old but it still behaves like a one-year-old. Otherwise, why will a serious hold the Abi people in such contempt that it will give senatorial and House of Representatives tickets to the Yakurr component of the Abi/Yakurr Federal Constituency? The Senate and House of Representatives constitute the National Assembly of Nigeria.
It is therefore curious and surprising that Labour Party wants Yakurr to have both a senator and a member of the House of Representatives.
It begs the belief that a political party that proclaims that it is devoted to the principles of social democracy, justice and political inclusivity would hold an integral component of the Abi/Yakurr federal constituency with such contempt and disdain.
Since the Labour Party thinks that Abi people do not matter and don’t deserve any respect, no right-thinking Abi Youth, women and men should vote for such a low-thinking party that has always been a sanctuary for those who get tickets in a competitive primary election in serious political platforms.
Indeed the game plan is that the Labour party intends to destroy the fabric of our federal constituency by promoting such a deliberate policy of exclusivity of Abi people from the mainstream political sense of belonging.
What the labour party has done amounts to an egregious violation of the principle of the federal character enshrined in section 14 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Political narrow mindedness and selfishness shown by some politicians and cohorts are numbing and mind-boggling. They level charges of being unpatriotic against us. Their bile is because we are not embracing and supporting their political agenda to unwittingly set our community against our neighbours by appropriating everything we share with these neighbours to our community.
They have recruited paid hawk writers to launch campaigns of calumny, slander, insult, and acerbic attacks against some of us, but who cares. When the chip is down, we shall know those who are patriotic. Some of us cannot support injustice, selfishness, insensitivity, and inequity. We believe in good neighbourliness, justice, and inclusivity, and we have no amount of blackmail we make to depart from these ideals.
But do you agree that your people are greedy and selfish? That is actually the insinuation
I don’t agree. You don’t use the behaviour of one or two people to evaluate and assess the behaviour of a community numbering more than 500,000. Such generalization is misplaced and myopic and amounts to unacceptable profiling in modern times. The truth is that some people from my community felt that since I was out of the senate race they should make political capital out of it and feel the vacuum created. But it is wrong to take such a trajectory because I became acceptable to my people as a result of the contributions I had made over the years. It is not because I lost out that some people should want to take advantage and try to create scenarios that will make Ugep look bad in the eyes of our neighbouring communities.
Ugep people are selfless. Let me give an illustration: In 1979, Dr Okoi Arikpo Egede, SAN, of blessed memory, he was the leader of the old Ogoja senatorial district and one of the leaders of the old Cross River State. He was from Ikpakapit in Ugep. He would have single-handedly produced the member of the House of Representatives for the then Old Obubra Federal Constituency (now Abi and Yakurr Federal constituency). He went to Idomi and brought Chief Lekam Okoi and his support for him gave him a ticket to the defunct NPN. He won the election against an Ugep woman, the late Madam Affiong Okoi Ofem, who contested the platform of the defunct Nigerian Peoples Party. Also in 1989, the late Chief Wilfred Inah used his political influence to ensure late Justice Ekapong Ubi Ofem from Agere in Ekori became chairman of the defunct Ugep local government. He also ensured that Abu Eyo represented Nko, Agoi, Idomi and Ugep ( Yakurr One State Constituency) in the Cross River State House of Assembly during General Ibrahim Babangida’s political transition programme of the early 1990s. The same late Chief Wilfred Inah put his foot down to ensure that in 2015, Honourable Nelson Ofem of Idomi community was allowed to represent Yakurr 1 State constituency in the Cross River State House of Assembly. He is still there. Ugep people are not selfish. The problem is everybody trying to do his own thing. In a democracy, you don’t stop people from nursing ambition. It is not possible. You know in my party APC there is consensus as far as some of these things are concerned. All these hiccups or aberrations are not coming from APC. In a multiparty system, some of these hiccups are understandable.
So anybody who is making such insinuation is not far on Ugep. It is a generalization and it is subjective.
If you were to address Ugep people on this matter of trying to take all, what would you tell them? I have heard people say Ugep has the population and so they will use their number to win, since democracy since all about numbers?
If I have to address I will appeal to moral suasion. I know Ugep people are aggrieved that they have suffered political marginalisation for so long. They have also suffered from deliberate political gerrymandering for ages. How can a community as populated as Ugep be crammed into four wards?
It is unimaginable and unfair. Be that as it may, that should not make Ugep begin to behave as if it wants to swallow other communities up. As a leader in these areas, Ugep must show leadership by being tolerant and accommodating and sometimes ready to help a little. I will tell them to vote for Senator Bassey Otu for Governor, vote for Hon Dr Alex Egbona for House of Representatives, Rt Hon Eteng Jonah Williams for Senate and Cyril Omini. I will tell Ugep to make sacrifices and be patient.