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INTERVIEW: Ben Igbakpa Is The Second James Ibori Of Delta State— Human Rights Activist




***Says, The Youths Have Failed, Learnt, Ready To Take Over
…Commends Okowa For Road Construction

Comrade Efemena Kelly Umukoro is the National Press Secretary, Urhobo Progress Union, UPU, youth wing worldwide and a human rights activists. In this interview with journalists, he speaks on his absence from the social media space for some time and issues on local and national politics, amongst other issues.

For some time now, as a human rights activist, you have been silent in the state; what could have resulted to this?
As a rights activist, you know, I am media friendly, but for some time, I decided to lay low. I went underground because a ”dead lion cannot do anything”. Currently, my life is under threat and for me to be able to defend the rights of the oppressed, I must be alive. If I die today, I won’t be able to advocate for the masses. I just decided to throw caution to the wind for some time. I did not travel out of the state or abroad, but I decided to spend quality time with my family within this period to safeguard my life. At the moment, my life is under serious threat, but I know with God on my side I will overcome this temptation.

Also, we learnt that you are having some health challenges; how are you faring now?
We face so many challenges, both physical and spiritual challenges as rights activists. We face threat to life, fight spiritual battles, health battles and many others. I have never been this sick in my entire life the way I was sick recently. But since I started full time activism, it has not been easy for me. I want to thank my parents, pastors and those who believe in the struggle for showing me solidarity. I pray that God will continue to bless and strengthen them in all their endeavors. About a week ago, I had a fatal accident on my way to Agbor and I broke my left leg as you can see (pointing to his left leg which is heavily strapped with white bandage). I am in serious pain, but I had to create time for this interview because I know many persons have missed me in the media, especially on social media. I want them to know that I am alive and all I need from them is their prayers to enable me overcome the temptations.

What are your thoughts on the “Not Too Young To Run” campaign; do you think it is making headway in the state?
The “Not Too Young To Run” is very much active in Delta State. We have so many youths (comrades) indicating interest to contest for different political offices. So, the youths have risen to the occasion. Also, it is not going to be the former status quo (stealing of ballot boxes and thuggery”. It is no longer a political party affair, but individual candidacy. For instance, If I have a better candidate in the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, I will vote for him/her. Also, if I have a better candidate in the All Progressives Congress, APC, I will vote for APC or in any political party as well. What we are going to see in Delta State will be a shocker to many persons. So, If you think you are a flag bearer in PDP or APC and you don’t want to campaign, but just waiting for somebody to write result for you, I can assure you that you are deceiving yourself. I want to call on Deltans to sacrifice the N5, 000 they (politicians) are going to give and vote for the right candidate. You must vote for the candidate that is close to you because the local government is all about grassroots. Vote for accessibility, intellectual capacity, industrial development and other sterling qualities in the candidate. We should and must vote for an individual that can develop our agricultural sector in Ethiope East so as to make it a mini factory that the state can beckon on for help. It is no longer PDP/APC syndrome, but about an individual as a candidate.

Looking at Ethiope Federal Constituency seat in the House of Representatives, we have Ben Igbakpa, Godfrey Ishegbe and the incumbent, Loveth Idisi. Of the three, who, in your own estimation, has the edge come 2019 at the moment?
Well, three of them are brothers from one political party. We are yet to see the aspirants APC , APGA and others will bring. If I want to judge from these three persons from PDP, Ben Igbakpa is the second James Ibori of Delta State. When he came back from his holiday, the Airport was crowded by supporters who went to welcome him. You know, the youths, women and children all want him. Although, I have not worked with him before, I have met him only once, but the rate at which people glamour for Igbakpa is like the savior of Ethiope Federal Constituency. At the moment, I have pitched my tent with him. I will support his candidacy because he is youth friendly, a developer that is tested and trusted. He is a former Commissioner for Transport and House of Assembly member in the state. He was able to empower many persons. You know, those who know me, can attest to the fact that I don’t joke with empowerment, which is what earned me the nick name “Mr. Empowerment”. And I have utmost respect and love for people who do empowerment, who give back to the society. Without doubt, Igbakpa is the best man for the job. On Idisi’s performance, I will not want to judge him. Idisi has his own challenges, but one thing I like about him is the way he is handling the attacks and criticisms from people on social media and the rest. He is calm and a matured politician. I say so because despite all the social media attacks on him, he has yet to join words with anybody or group. This simply means he places himself as a servant to the people. You must understand that, as a politician, if you are afraid of being insulted by the people, then you are not ready for leadership. Hon. Idisi has proved to us that he is a true politician, ready for constructive criticisms, ready to change and I give him thumbs up. I want to urge all politicians to borrow a leaf from him.

If you observe critically, the political landscape in the country is about the ”Old Order” (old people leading us) and without nothing to show for it; in fact, they have a stronghold on the country. Do you think the youths have what it takes to displace this order?
Hmmm. It is going to take the youths 10 years to march the old order. The youths could have the leadership mindset and disposition, but the question is, do they (youths) have the finance? So the youths will always contest for positions and when they fail, they will get experience. It is like going to school, when you fail, you learn. It’s going to take a decade to replace the old order. How can we replace this old order? The youths should be ready to make sacrifice. The old order have the money, the youths don’t have. So many youths contesting for Councillorship and Chairmanship positions for the January 2018 local government election, they can’t even afford to print their posters. Again, politicians will tell you that, politics is not for the poor man. But as youths, we have the number and with that we can pull a stunt. Again, some of our youths are not ready to move forward because they are still glued to the old politicians, singing their praises, shouting “Ose” and ” Leader I loyal”. How long will they remain loyal to them? Their children school abroad, lead better lives and they (politicians) throw N5, 000 or N10, 000 at you and you think your life is better. It will take some time for the youths to displace the old order. As youths, we have failed, learnt and we are ready to take over.

What is your assessment of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s developmental strides since he came on board in 2015, especially in the area of road construction?
Good question. Firstly, I will like to clear the air about a certain notion about me that I am an enemy of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in Delta State and enemy to the governor. The truth is, Governor Okowa is a man that has a listening ear. In my last interview with Vanguard newspapers, I said that the Comrade community would bark because we feel neglected and in no distant date, the governor organized a football competition for the comrade community in Delta State through the office of the Special Assistant to the state Governor on Students’ Affairs. This implies that he wants peace and unity in the comrade community. This also means he has the interest of the comrade community and we commend him for such unifying step. For the governor to support the comrade community, it means that he supports the youths. Secondly, I must commend him for the roads construction across the state. He brought his friend from Rivers State and former governor, James Ibori to commission road recently. I know you have seen the roads that were commissioned, although; I have not seen it but information reaching me indicated that it was well constructed and executed. The governor has done exceptional well; he has made every day of the two years count and I want to encourage him to do more. If he continues in this trajectory, nothing stops us (Deltans) from campaigning for his second term bid.

Looking at the security situation in Delta State, would you say the Commissioner of Police has done well?
Well, there was this end SARS campaign recently and many thought I would lead the campaign from Ethiope East axis, but I did not do so because what people were clamoring for has already been answered in Delta State. The state Commissioner for Police, Mr. Zanna Ibrahim is a human rights activist. He believes in the fundamental rights of Deltans; he is a professional to the core. Recall that there was a time in Delta State when SARS were harassing and intimidating Nigerian students. The commissioner rose up to the occasion, barred them for a month, and rebranded it. Now, each SARS vehicle you see has a mobile number so that anytime a person is unduly harassed, all the person has to do is to call the number on the vehicle to register his/her complain. Once this is done, they will face the music accordingly. Delta State SARS are well coordinated compared to other states. The campaign to end SARS should not be in Delta. I pray to God that Zanna becomes the Inspector General of Police one day and I know he will do exceptionally well. He is a man of fairness, equality and justice.


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