For long, the youths have been sidelined from Nigeria’s political landscape. But ahead of the 2023 election, conversations around increased youth participation in politics have continued to garner momentum.
Already, a few vibrant and visionary youths are pulling their weights by joining political parties and obtaining tickets to contest elective positions.
One of such visionary youths is Comrade Opeza Inaku Obok. The graduate of sociology and anthropology from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) in Enugu state, is vying to become the chairman of Yala local government area (LGA) in Cross River State.
From years of neglect to lack of good leadership, Yala, dubbed ‘Cross River and Nigeria’s most-marginalised LGA’ by some is confronted with many challenges.
But Obok, who is running under the platform of the Labour Party (LP), is determined to change the narrative.
Like Peter Obi, presidential candidate of LP, Obok promises to deliver inclusive and quality representation to the people if elected.
In this interview with CRISPNG’s JAMES EDDELUKPATA, he reflects on his plan to transform Yala LGA if elected chairman during the 2023 election.
Kindly give us a brief introduction of yourself
Good day my brother.
My name is Opeza Inaku Obok. They call me Mathias too, though I’m trying so hard to discard my foreign reference based on certain reasons. I am from Ukelle the Yala II state constituency and a graduate of sociology & anthropology from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) in Enugu State.
You’re among those jostling to become the next chairman of Yala local government area (LGA)… What inspired you to run for this position?
Well, actually nothing inspired me more than what I am observing in our political system. The dilapidated political structures in that part of the state had on a long run, caused a great setback and a devastating effects on the people, particularly those within Yala II state constituency where I come from. The people are yearning for a change of hand and quality political representation. Of course, we can’t continue to have the same set of persons in our political front and expect a change.
You come from arguably the most marginalised constituency in Cross River State, and maybe Nigeria as a whole. What would you do differently from others if given the opportunity and how do you intend to tackle the issue of marginalisation?
Yes, I am from Ukelle, Yala II state constituency of Cross River State. This part of the state happens to be one of the most marginalised constituency in the country.
Not because we have no political leaders and government functionaries from there, but because we have had series of leaders who lack sense of purpose and directions that can have positive effects on the people.
No one thinks about the future of their communities and the young ones therein. This is why there have been no government presence in the area. We only have them to watch and things passing across our eyes like pictures on the screen.
No proper political education that can get young ones involved in politics of their communities. The few ones we have sit on every opportunity that comes to the people and no one cares to ask questions because they are seen as demigods.
By the special grace of God If I am given the chance, these are things to be corrected. I see no reason why I cannot be accessible by the people who made me who I am. I’ll bring everyone on board to find out the fundamental issues in their respective communities and deliver community-oriented projects instead of being selective in the name of political empowerment.
My policies will cut across party lines, ethnic groups and communities that make up the local government council. No single part shall feel marginalised politically if they consider me worthy to have their mandates.
Godfatherism in Nigerian politics is a common thing, what is your view or do you have one? Tell us about your godfather, if any.
Well for me I don’t think my aspiration has anything to do with godfatherism. I may have somebody who intend to back up in order to actualise my political dream. But as I said, I have no one as a godfather whom I shall pay allegiance to at the expense of the people, or who shall stand as a remote control to me if I become the leader of council.
Talking about who is my sponsor however, I can tell you that you and the entire youths of Ukelle are my sponsors.
With the trend of money-bags politics in Nigeria, do you think you are financially fit for the LG chairmanship race?
Politics of money-bags is actually a very big issue in our political system. It has eaten deep into the fabric of our politics and this has created a political phobia in the minds of our Youths who could have had the desire and the zeal to aspire for political posts, yet they can’t because they feel they have no financial muscles and money-bags to throw around.
Personally, I did not join this race because I have the money bags to throw around. Even if I have, I do not intend to do so. In fact in terms financial capabilities, I can’t boast of having much.
But my involvement in this race is to demystify the concept of politics amongst the youths and to remove that political phobia from them thereby encouraging the younger generation to participate or get themselves involved — not only as followers and praise singers but also to aspire for various political posts.
You are from Wanikade ward where the first vice-chairman of Yala hails from. Now that he is also into the race for the same position, don’t you feel threatened?
The truth is, I don’t feel any threat at all about him. In fact he rather feel threatened. I consider him as an elder Stateman who should at this point sit back to encourage the younger ones to take up responsibilities in the level of local government politics. He was the vice chairman of council in 1992 while I was in primary one which I expect by now he should have gone farther up to the Apex of Nigeria’s politics just like others of his colleagues in politics. But since he couldn’t, he has nothing to offer to the people again. What was his performance as vice chairman of council, what project did he attract?
I am not bothered about him. My focus is on the youths and not an opponent like him.
Comr Obok we have come to the end of this interview but before I let you go, can you tell the public what would be your priority if elected?
One of my biggest priority is to attract government presence in Yala LGA if I am elected. How can a local government that connects the capital city of Ebonyi state with one of the oldest provinces in the country (Ogoja) not have a major road, bank, or an ATM stand? It’s appalling.