Foremost Benue-born social activist and lawyer, Franc Utoo, has declared intention to contest the Makurdi/Guma Federal House of Representatives.
Utoo, a former students’ union leader and orator, who made his intention known on Monday, said he would be gunning for the green chamber seat on the platform of the Social Democratic Party, SDP.
He gave his reasons for dumping the All Progressives Congress, APC, and why he would want to rescue his people from the grip of the APC.
Four years ago, I began an unlikely journey to serve my people and country, to install a new order, to inspire the new generation and alter the status quo to the benefit of the greater majority. We had thought victory is achieved when I won the APC primaries for the Makurdi/Guma Federal Constituency of Benue State but our infamous political bandits had other plans. Again, three years ago, we commenced a marathon legal battle to reclaim the stolen mandate which climaxed with the Supreme Court judgement of April 20, 2018, where we were unsuccessful on technical grounds.
In the past three to four years I have learnt many things. I have learnt that majority of our politicians consider politics as a business and not a mission. I have understood the cynicism our people look at public life because of the indecency of those in government. I have observed that many of our leaders in Benue are not sincere about the challenges we face. Worst of all, their desperation to rule at all cost leads them to seek political leadership through the most undignified process not permitted by our laws. To them, it just doesn’t matter even when it is trite that in any democracy, the biggest individual value and credentials remain the achievement of political power through the most legitimate means defined by Statutes.
This is the biggest source of our problems; attempt to build something on nothing. We also have the problem of acute misinterpretation of roles in government: the Executive always settling scores with perceived foes while our legislators’ voices are drown when positions are taken on matters of national importance, or Laws that have direct bearings on the lives of our people are passed, because they are more concerned with using fragments of funds derived from budget padding to build empty halls and/or embark on other executive inclined projects.
Today, we stand on the crossroads of history; our societies have become ravaged; the lives of our people are snuffed out by killer herdsmen with no security and no justice secured; the living standard of our people has dropped abysmally; poverty rate is high; schools enrolment has dropped, and where schools are built there are no facilities and ICT equipments; safe drinking water has become a luxury; jobs are almost non existing; threats are endemic while no alliances have been made. Our leaders have been more concerned with settling scores on their differences rather than solving our societal problems. While the world has changed around us, too often our leaders and representatives have stood still. Our faith has been shaken, but the people representing us aren’t willing to make us believe again. It’s the timidity – the smallness – of our politics that’s holding us back right now. The idea that some problems are just too big to handle, and if you just ignore them, sooner or later, they’ll fizzle out.
I believe against all these odds, we can still give our people hope. Our people everywhere are desperate for true and honest leadership and representation. They are longing for a new direction. And they want to believe again. In the forthcoming elections, we need a new generation of leaders in the Legislature (as we also do in the Executive) who would lead in discussing and acting on matters of national importance and be key constant resonant voices in all that concerns us as a people. People with the tenacious capacity to lobby for the appropriation of live-defining projects in our constituency while also playing oversight roles efficiently. Who can look at the demagogues in the Executive without blinking as long as it leads to the right course and not political correctness. These are some of the tasks I have set forth for myself. The road may not be easy. But the road to change never is, as history records.
In the last few weeks, I have been asked by a vast coalition of our people spanning across bi-partisan, ethnic and religious divides; young and old; disabled and not disabled; students and women groups to, once again, offer my humble self for election as Member of the House of Representatives for Makurdi/Guma Federal Constituency in the 2019 elections under the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Well, I thought about it, and then I did what every wise man does when faced with a difficult decision: I prayed, I asked my wife, and I diligently consulted with our people. And after consulting with these higher powers, I have decided to throw my hat in the ring.
I am not running for the Legislative seat of our dear Cosmopolitan constituency to fulfill some long-held ambition or because I believed it was somehow owed to me. I chose to run in this election – at this moment – because of what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr called “the fierce urgency of now.” Because we are at a defining moment in our history. Our people are killed. Our nation is on the edge of precipice. Our future is in peril. Our health care system is broken, our economy is out of balance, our agriculture has diminished, our education system fails too many of our children, and our pension system is in tatters. Yet, there are no attempts to statutorily correct these systemic deficiencies, and there is no resounding and vibrant voice standing up for us in all these crucial matters.
I chose to run because I believed that the size of these challenges had outgrown the capacity of our broken and divided politics to solve them; because I believed that our people from every political stripe were hungry for a new kind of politics, a politics of values and ideals that we held in common as a people; a politics that favored common sense over impunity. Most of all, I believed in the power of the people to be the real agents of change in our state and country – because we are not as divided as our politics suggests; because we are a decent, generous people willing to work hard and sacrifice for future generations; and I am certain that if we could just mobilize our voices to challenge the power mongers who, for so long, have sold our people and state down the drain in return for self-preservation, enrichment and aggrandisement, then we shall challenge ourselves to reach for something better and reclaim our promises.
I do not have any godfather in this project; I have only God the Father. I am not a lackey of godfathers but an achilles heel to godfathers; I am a product of Grace and consequence of the will of the People. As we travel this long, tortuous road together, I must say I have the right experience and antecedents rooted in the real lives of real people and it will bring real results if we have the courage to change. My dad is a farmer in my village of Yelewata in Nyiev council ward of Guma LG while my mum is a Nurse and first daughter of Late Bai Mbakpenev from Mbaku, Modern Market council ward of Makurdi LG; a 2nd World War veteran who fought for the British West African Frontier Force led by General Frederick Loftus-Tottenham in Burma. I was born and raised in Jos, Plateau, and I grew up as an Altar Boy under the mentorship of Late Archbishop Gabriel Ganaka of the Jos Catholic Archdiocese. I am a Lawyer by profession and an astute pragmatic activist by thorough bred. Even though I come from a modest background, I was able, through the aid of others, to gain sophisticated education in schools in Malaysia in Asia; Northumbria University School of Law in Newcastle, England and the Nigerian Law School in Abuja, Nigeria, where I was privileged to be the longest serving Students President, having been the only student to be Head of the two sessions of the Nigerian Law School: Bar part 1 and Bar part 2. In 2011, I also spent a couple of months as an Intern in the World’s oldest Parliament, the British House of Commons in the UK. I belong to some revered associations such as the International Bar Association(IBA); Nigerian Bar Association (NBA); Keffi Old Boys Association(KOBA); British Red Cross; Northumbria Alumni; VATIM; Transparency International, Human Rights Watch, et al. Most importantly, In the defence and promotion of the legitimate interest of our people, Laws and country, I have NEVER wavered nor withered even in the heat of pressure, inducement, coercion and blackmail. I am married to a lovely wife, Brenda Awuah, from Katsina-Ala LG and blessed with two lovely kids. I owe them and all others like them the obligation to fight for a better future held in promise for them.
I have always guarded the people’s mandate and trust absolutely. I have always believed that the narrative must change, and this is the time to shift the paradigm.
This is our time. Our time to make a mark on history. Our time to write a new chapter in our story. Our time to leave our children a society that is just, freer, more secured, more united, kinder, more prosperous and devoid of impunity. And someday, our children will get the chance to stand where we are, look back and say that this was the time when our purpose was renewed and our people learned to dream again.
With your ardent backing, this shall be the chance for us to bring the needed change. This is the time to disrupt the status quo and secure our collective destiny. We can do it. Let’s All Rise, Act and Just Believe!
I count on your advice, criticism and support.
May God bless you all!
May God bless the people of Makurdi/Guma FederalConstituency!
May God bless Benue State and Nigeria!
Yours In Service,
Franc Fagah Utoo, Esq. LQC (Malaysia); LL.B Hons (Newcastle, UK ); BL (Abuja)
*Former President of the Students Representative Council (SRC), Nigerian Law School, Abuja.
*Former Aspirant and Winner of the APC primaries for Makurdi/Guma Federal Constituency, 2014.