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Abak Vice–Chairmanship: The Unknown Facts


There is a story in Greek mythology of how a man approached the god Zeus and asked him what he should do to live forever. Zeus told the knowledge seeker to go and spend his life to do good. The Greek god told him that when he does that, even after he would have been gone physically, he will live on the lips of the people because of his kind deeds.

There is a social commodity called goodwill which we take for granted. Goodwill is an intangible which appropriate value cannot be determined, but it is described as an asset. People, who know the value, invest enormous goodwill in their daily lives even when such do not bring immediate gains or put food on the table. But it creates conditions which attract benevolence, kindness, help and reciprocal goodwill, indeed, it has been widely proven that goodwill is spiritual as men whose lives are underlined by it always meet help at the point of any challenge. 

Parents who cultivate goodwill do so wittingly or unwittingly for the children and family. The scripture corroborates this in the Psalm wherein David asserts thus: “When I was young, now I am old, I have never seen the children of the righteous beg for bread”. Righteousness loosely used here is equivalent to goodwill. Great parents train the children and leave behind goodwill which they leverage on and prosper, not fat bank accounts, ill-gotten assets, houses and utter wickedness. In Fact, it has been ascertained that no ill gotten wealth outlives a generation. 

The matter concerning the selection of Lady Benita Friday Ukpe is embedded in the theoretical framework of goodwill as outlined above. Obong Friday Okon Ukpe was a frontline politician of the 70/80s. A third son in a royal line, he raised the name of the family beyond what the father, who was the village head could. The name Ukpe resonated across every nook and cranny of the then Cross River State. Apart from driving exotic cars of that era, Ukpeh who was publicly accorded the alias of “commissioner for enjoyment” was also an established philanthropist. He was generous to a fault and demonstrated extraordinary love for the people of his community. The name of his village, Ikot Obong in Utu-Abak undoubtedly became important and earned great respect from other neighbouring villages because of the strong influence of Friday Okon Ukpe. 

Ukpeh was a politician of popular acclaim. Rich, generous, courageous, fearless, rugged, inflexibly loyal and sincere. He was not known for double stands. If he was not with you, he would make such position known. He was an ardent defender of any cause he believed in and could do so fiercely.  In 1979 elections, Ukpeh ferreted out Engr. Friday Udofa who just returned from overseas training in Germany and persuaded him to join politics. Udofa was then with Cross River States Ministry of Works and Transports, had to resign to take up the role of a legislator. He was vocal and brilliant and Ukpe who loved his community of Utu-Abak decided to sponsor him to represent Abak State Constituency in the then Cross River State House of Assembly. Ukpe did that without seeking recompense from Udofa or the community which he sought to promote with the sacrifice of that sponsorship. 

Lady Benita Friday Ukpe is the daughter of this political colossus who died in 2005. Is it wrong for a child to reap from the goodwill of the father? Goodwill is an intangible investable asset. Who has the right to benefit from an investable asset of a late father than the children. I make this observation because her emergence is a combination of many factors to wit: the will of God, the father’s goodwill, her social capital as a person, her generosity, her goodwill and family pedigree. The combination of these factors pushed her political fortune to the dismay of naysayers, who in their shocked and confused state have raised untenable allegations with the intent to have the decision of her Vice- Chairmanship nomination reversed. Those in this trite cause do not know where she is coming from and why she is such a beneficiary of the faithfulness of God. 

Benita Ukpeh is a fervent Christian whose faith in God is as solid as the rock of Gibralta. A member of the Chorister of her church, she believes in devoted service to God. This is why she hardly misses her choir practice, church service, midweek service and other programmes of the church. Such people are in covenant with God and He does not disappoint their enterprise. He suspends protocols and bends conventions for them. They are the apple of His eyes. They work for God and God in turn works for them. That is the miracle that has taken Benita Ukpeh from what many consider as obscurity and political irrelevance to the preeminent consideration of her nomination as a Vice Chairman candidate. 

Aside from the act of providence that underscores her emergence, the deeds of the father as a politician of legacy have also provided impetus to Benita’s consideration. The father, Friday Okon Ukpeh single-handedly created Abak Urban Ward 4 to endue his people with some measure of political rights. Ukpeh was also instrumental to the creation of some roads in Utu-Abak and the environs. Many local roads in Utu-Abak were opened while he was the Supervisory Counsellor for Works and his bossom friend, late Dr. Ime Umanah, the Chairman. With such level of investments in the politics of his locality, it is preposterous for people to think that any of the children does not deserve to be compensated. Any society which thinks in such vein manifests itself as people who deride their heroes and posterity hands down damming verdicts for such societies. 

Benita Ukpeh’s traducers hold the warped view that she should not be allowed to serve as the Vice- Chairman of Abak Local Government Area. And I ask the question; “if not her, who? If not in Abak, where? If not now, when? The argument that she lives in Uyo, and so does not deserve the office of Vice Chairman is a demonstration of ignorance. Many live in Uyo and still function effectively in their various local governments. Such banal argument should therefore be discountenanced. What is rather of interest here is the reinvention of reward culture, where a child is rewarded for the sacrifices of the parents. Again, the allegation as has not taken pains to validate that Benita Ukpeh is a “home girl” through and through. She is always at home to see the mother and also socialize with members of the community. She is an affable, friendly, accommodating and considerate daughter of Abak who carries her pride of being a native of the local government like a badge of honour . She is indeed, a people’s person. 

Others have also raised the skewed argument that she is not a politician. The question is, who is a politician and what does it take to be a politician? Aristotle, one of the most influential thinkers of ancient times in his observation noted that all men are political animals. Therefore, the discriminatory disparity of who a politician is and who is not are often foisted by selfish people who want to appropriate the political space for themselves alone. The submission that she is not a politician falls into this defective line of thought which does not hold water. For instance, since they say she is not a politician, how did she  manage to get 26 votes in the trial nomination in Ward 4 against the winner who  scored 30 with others trailing with paltry figures in an electoral college that was lopsided against women. That she could turn the table in such a short time to run neck to neck with the winner despite the poor composition of the voting body is proof that she is a politician to watch. 

Lady Benita Ukpeh’s is the windmill in God’s hands. Driven by the quest not to allow the father’s political legacy to extinguish, she set out to be a Counsellor. But the all knowing God who saw the sacrifice of the father and the fact that politics never rewarded him while alive decided to change the narrative of the daughter and bless her with the position of vice-Chairman as due reward for the father’s investment in the game of politics. What people should learn from this episode is that if God gives you opportunity, play politics that would yield timeless legacies, not the one that would line the pocket with few naira notes. The former is an investment for generations while the latter is for stomach infrastructure and ephemeral.

Peter Joseph – Public Affairs Analyst

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