Mine Has Been A Life Of Service, Says Hon. Konbowei  Benson

Rt. Hon. Benson
Hon. Konbowei Friday Benson is the former Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly and former Secretary to the State government. He is currently contesting for the Bayelsa Central Senatorial seat in the February 25th election. In this virtual interview with ROLAND OGBONNAYA, he speaks of his chances, why he should be elected, and his mission if elected 
Why should the People of Bayelsa Central trust you? 
The people of Bayelsa central have already trusted me because to an extent they know my gentleness, they know my approach to issues, they have known me over the years and I have never been adjudged as one with a criminal record, I am an advocate of peace, I am an advocate of love, I believe I have God inside of me and will not deliberately want to hurt the next person and so I believe that they trust me and will continue to trust me because I have the character, I have the quality and the qualifications to represent them.
As a Senator, How do you hope to restore people’s confidence in the National Assembly? 
The National Assembly is a place for people with different minds. Every society wants honest people, people who have a sense of responsibility, a good concept, and good character, and who will be able to coordinate and collaborate with others so I will be able to present myself and the issues I wish to put forward having all of these qualities in mind to promote justice, fairness and equality, character and good judgment, not to be intruding into other peoples matters without any sense of correctness and so I believe if I promote all these qualities I have mentioned which I am not going to borrow, I believe are inherent already in me which has brought me thus far, which have also earned me some friends and well-wishers all over, people’s confidence will be boosted.
As a youthful incoming senator, what is your plan for the youth and women? 
The sense of youthfulness is in the definition. I am not all that youthful but getting into the class of adulthood. You are seeing all these youthfulness in me because I put on the heart of youth, I put myself in the shoes of today’s youths because I remember my yesterday when I was purely a youth what  I suffered,  what were the things I was yearning for and the things I suffered and what are the things these youths want? What has the environment provided for them as a youth, if you go to some clans all the things are provided and so children who grow up in those clans look better. When we were in one of our conferences in far away Seria Lanka, I had the course to discuss with my counterpart in Lagos and I told them about what they enjoy in Lagos is our trouble and pain in Bayelsa, because what we should be enjoying together is denied us.
I told them you have had motorable roads since the ’60s but for us, we have flying boats and before flying boats, we were carrying big boats and we travel throughout the night before we get to a short distance that we would’ve gone and what sort of engine, Yamaha  15 carrying a whole load of people, we will sleep and wake.
somebody will boing to the toilet and you will be waiting and we stay like that for days. And today now we have flying boats, the speed boats and when the rain falls we cover ourselves with tarpaulin, it’s only the driver that will be seen front and that is the way you will be driving, and when it gets to your community the driver will knock or open they come from that kind of environment and you want me to be happy like you?  Schooling was a big issue,  before I would get somewhere to go to school, they would have admitted everybody that they want to. For me to write the exam, there is nobody to communicate with my people, except somebody was traveling out from the community to bring our message home.
You have everything in other places but the resources are generated from us in Niger Delta. But nobody wants to remember where these people are coming from, and how we develop these people so that they can be like us. Okay, if there is state representation and my people pick me to represent them maybe because I’m looking good they make me the representative of my state Bayelsa there are 36 persons in Nigeria and it is my turn to talk you think I will talk the way others are talking? Then go and bring the teachers in my community, go and build more schools in my area. Before you start laughing at me that oh look at the way Ijaw man speaks, have you ever thought me how to speak the other language, this strange English language?
That I have no road to connect with even you the Igbo man, the Yoruba man, and the Hausa man, even within us I cannot coordinate and collaborate with my fellow Ijaw man to speak effectively, then you want to take me to another country or the embassy where questions are asked. I have not even known how to communicate with white men, how do I understand their language to even answer their questions? It is not because I don’t have the senses or am not a human being but I have not been properly carried along, I have not been trained in that line.
Now we are in the era of technology, they have moved from manual writing to digital standards so where are we, we are still in the stone age, that is the kind of people I am representing and that is the kind of environment I am talking about. So Understanding my pain, and training you you will agree that I am the most qualified candidate to represent my people. So if they don’t hear me on the floor of the National Assembly they will hear me through the media.
For the sake of those who are still doubtful about your history and personality, kindly tell us about your journey both in politics and outside politics. 
 My life has never been the one that is in doubt, I have never been a dubious character in any way and so those who know me have no questions about my life. I grew up in the village and I’ve always tried to mingle and meet with other friends of mine I have worked along various ends to meet my needs, I have been a petty trader trading in several materials to ensure that I make life conducive for myself, even though they were dirty I was satisfied using those means to make ends meet. I traded using local boats spending 1, or 2 nights before coming back to my community from Warri and Port Harcourt buying and selling Garri, yam and pepper, ground nuts, and other things.   And while I was doing business,  I got married and I was using that means to feed my family. A Christian brother called me one day and we went to fall trees on a sister’s farm as we were falling the last tree the tree fell on my head and broke my head on the left side of the skull and the skull was very visible, I was managed to be taken to a dispenser called  Festus Ebemu from Kolo in Ogbia.  He stitched the wound and treated me.
I am still grateful to God and to that man, though he is late now I am still relating to his family and that is how I was working until a call came from a friend, a brother, and a teacher who looked at me very well and said during the time of SDP and NRC were registering members, and I was registered in the SDP. I contested as Councilor in that party but lost due to inexperience. The election was manipulated. That was in Yenagoa Local Government in 1990 and after about six months in 1991 Southern Ijaw Local government was created and I was called again while I was in a Warri Business boat, we heard the announcement that Southern Ijaw was created and that I should come and try what I’d before,  and won the election.
The candidate from the NRC lost and they started beating and destroying our SDP materials using thugs and that affected my materials and so I was not declared the winner and the NRC was not also declared. But because the NRC candidate had influence, they swore in the other candidate and he was effectively earning salaries. But when the time came for the bye-election I was called up again to come and contest by which time the local government Chairman and the Vice Chairman were not in agreement, the Vice Chairman was in support of the other candidate, and the Chairman by then was not from my ward and the Vice Chairman was from my word and he had interest from my ward. I had about N58,000, I always go back to my business, I went to Onitsha bought goods, and went back to my small shop.
I was there for about six years in Oporoma. While I was there I contested for the chairmanship in Oporoma, and I was elected in 1998. That had been my life, then I went back to Oporoma after we were dissolved again after the death of Gen. Sani Abacha. I then moved to Yenagoa, this time I didn’t go back to my petty business again but I went on to build an open tank and started my petroleum business which you are seeing today I have 1 or 2 filling stations along the line. I came in and I started with one open tank and was selling with jerry cans in that 1998.
It is now that everywhere is a filling station and that was the other. I was not in government, I was just doing my business for about nine years and in 2007 I was again called up to contest for the House of Assembly I contested and won and I’d been in government as a lawmaker from 2007 to 2019, wherein event of God’s own heart I was also made a speaker for two terms, that has been my life struggle.
 When the Douye Diri government came on board, I was actually not hopeful of anything but was willing to be by the corridors of the government and for any reason even as a contractor but the Governor called me and said he wants to make me the Secretary to the State Government and I went back and I took a breath or two and after two days I came to him and said I was willing to serve because service had been my name and so I agreed and we were working until another call then came that I should come and go to the Senate and that is where we are now.
 By the grace of God with the people’s permission and will and God if am elected I will continue to serve the people in my constituency, my state, and that of Nigeria.


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