For the first time, we are seeing congresses being done in the fields – Mfon Ben

Barr Mfon Ben an aspirant to represent the Uyo state constituency in the Akwa Ibom state House of Assembly was until recently, the special assistant to Governor Udom Emmanuel on Electoral Matters.

In this interview with our Political Desk reporter, the former Uyo council boss spoke extensively on the new Electoral Act, Governor Emmanuel’s presidential bid, and his aspiration to represent his people in the state assembly.


¶ Until recently you were the special assistant to the governor on electoral matters, what has been the impact of the amended electoral act on the ongoing electioneering process in the country?

I believe very well that the electoral act has had an impact on the electioneering process. For example, the INEC guideline and time frame for election are now critically upheld by the political parties. Before this time, the electoral act did not stipulate certain penalties for interfering in internal democracy, but in the current act, they are telling you that your internal democracy must be in line with the condition and guidelines that INEC has set so that parties don’t do what they like. There must be a level of practice that is justifiable.

What INEC has done today has given a standard for all political parties and they said if you go out of our guidelines, we are going to disqualify you, so INEC has put a check on the excesses of political parties in managing their internal affairs.

That is one of the greatest impacts on this and we have seen that one critically very well. Since the INEC guidelines, if you watch your area, you don’t see posters everywhere. INEC said first of all you start consultations, deeper consultations before the congresses and the primary.

For the first time, you see people are buying forms, no matter how they are manipulating it but they are buying forms for the congresses. And for the first time, we are seeing congresses being done in the fields, though there are some critical problems in some places, at least there is an attempt to put the processes on the ground

Secondly, we see the process of screening, before this time the party started with the screening committee and people just go through the screening as if there is nothing but just a normal thing, but the screening committee this time around that came in from Abuja did a proper screening, such that the screening committee alone screened everybody. Before now, the party will set up a screening committee that will assist the national screening committee and so you find a situation where you have up to five or six tables where people were screened just for the formality.

This time around everybody is screened by a single committee and nobody bypasses it. These are part of the impacts of the new electoral act. It is making the party sit, be respectful and be responsible

¶ Section 84 (C ) of the amended electoral act still seems to be swimming in controversy. What’s the situation right now?

The situation is how the court is going to interpret it finally. I think the INEC position has been complied with currently by PDP, for example, all those going for election in PDP have complied with that condition of resignation.
Those elected like lawmakers and governors are protected under the constitution. They don’t need to resign before the primaries.

¶ Governor Udom Emmanuel is one of the presidential aspirants on the PDP platform, what are his chances?

In terms of chances, I keep saying one thing, looking at all those contesting the election, the first question is, who is greater than him, who has better credentials, who has better capacity and how do you measure those capacities, I will say Udom Emmanuel today is in a position that is greatly beyond most other people in the race only a few contemporaries will match his capacities both in terms of international finance, global relationship, and Nigerian politics. He is one of the best in the field currently. I think he has a good chance at the presidency.

The presidential election requires some dynamics and as you have seen, going across the country, he is putting his efforts and is supervising those dynamics.

His political campaign team is a high breed and quality Nigerian who knows the nitty-gritty of Nigerian politics. This gives him a very good chance and I think he has a very good chance. Some people are saying his presidential aspiration is going to distract his view of the state election, but I say it will not because the presidential election he is going for is of benefit to the entire state.

The party just finishes the ad hoc delegate’s election and you have seen the impact. This shows that he is on the ground. He has not abandoned his state; he is still part of the process. Secondly, Governor Emmanuel does not intend to impose anybody on the state.

He does not need to sit down and say I must do everything. It is the Akwa Ibom people that must decide who governs them, he has laid the platform and set up a peaceful relationship with his people so he is looking for how to better Akwa Ibom state at the national level.

It is left for Akwa Ibom people to say we can walk on the platform he has laid. He has stabilized the state; it is left to the indigenes now to see how much they can key into that.

¶ You are an aspirant for the Uyo state constituency office election, what are your chances?

My chances in the race are very bright. I don’t see myself contesting the election simply because there is an opportunity. I see myself answering a call that relates to the practical essence of what the people want; they people want good governance and quality representation.

They want somebody who can speak and be the voice for Uyo. They want things to be done and they have seen examples of the previous things I have done as a council chairman, so I came out upon the call of the people.

I didn’t just aspire to run. People came to me and asked me to contest. To them, those already contesting don’t have the quality, the capacity to speak for Uyo in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly. So I am only answering a call both from God and from the people.

Is a call for service and opportunity to advance the interest of Uyo people beyond the shadow representation with a quality representation that will give a broader view of political participation, bringing Uyo to different limelight than we see currently. I know very well that I’m prepared for that service and by the grace of God I am going to win the election.

¶ Every election is local and one of the factors that determine election at the local level is the issue of zoning, how favored are you by this?

In the Uyo state constituency, we zone to clans. Oku started the first round of zoning in 1999 with Barr Aniedi Ndem from ward 11 and thereafter it was zoned to Etoi with Archibong Inyang from ward 4 and thereafter it came to Ikono with Ekere Afia and after it went to Offot with Edwin Joseph. the process started again with Oku and Monday Eyo from ward 11 came through. Etoi picks again with Anietie Eka and now the mantle is falling on Ikono again, that’s why I’m in the race.

That is why only aspirants from Ikono have been cleared for the primary. For now, only the aspirants that are from Ikono have been cleared for the election from the two wards which affirm that zoning in Uyo revolves around the clans and not the wards.

¶ How do you reconcile the fact that in contemporary African politics the elites don’t like the idea of having somebody who they feel is very intelligent leading them, and you are here brandishing your capacity to lead, are you sure you are not scaring the stakeholders and the people of your area?

I agree with you, there are some scary views and opinions from some people that are in the hierarchy of the politics of Uyo and some have been bold to say in their discussions that they don’t want somebody intelligent at this point in Uyo.

They say Barr Mfon Ben is too intelligent we don’t want him; we want somebody that will go there and listen to them and what they do. Uyo people are very intelligent and they want a very intelligent person to represent them, it is a matter of a few people who no longer understand the dynamics of the average person on the street.

The house of assembly is the engine room of governance. If you are flying a plane today and your engine is bad, no matter how good the pilot is that plane cannot go too far, it must land to avoid crashing. If you are running a ship today and the engine is bad, you must go to the shore, you can’t sail well.

That is what people don’t understand, that the legislative arm is the engine room of governance, especially in a democracy. The quality of law you churned out is what will guide the people. Government is run by budgets and policies, but the law is what governs the executive, so you don’t undermine the legislative aspect of governance.

So for a long time, we look up to the executive only, not understanding the grand norms that the constitutional functions of every arm of government are very important, so you cannot put people in the house who cannot even express themselves, who don’t even understand what a motion is, who don’t even understand the aims of legislation and say let them be there after all others have gone like that. Yes, in that particular camp, people like that have gone before, but they brought nothing to Uyo, so we must change that narrative. I am not afraid of them.

I believe very well that the average Uyo person is tired of such representation, they want something better, and that something better is what I will provide for Uyo people.

¶ Peradventure you become the candidate for the Uyo state constituency office, what will be your contribution to the PDP campaign team for the 2023 governorship election?

Well I will put it this way, the house of assembly elections are coming through and the manner of evolving leadership must always come from the people I believe very well there is a foundation in our state, and delegates from every zone can choose what is right, so I believe very well that the drive to choose the best material for Akwa Ibom state is consciousness and that consciousness is prevailing currently.

I believe in line with the current trend, and the conscience of the people, I think we can ensure that the best material comes out to rule the state

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