Mr. Ben Rowland Igbakpa is a former member of the Delta State House of Assembly where he represented Ethiope West State Constituency for one tenure of four years. He was thereafter appointed by the erstwhile governor of the state, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, as Commissioner in his cabinet and was assigned the Ministry of Transport portfolio. Igbakpa served in that capacity for four years during which he made a significant impact on the lives of Deltans through the ministry’s mass transportation project which brought down transport fares in the state down with more than 50%.
Igbakpa’s clinical implementation of the state government policy on transportation endeared him to the heart of the then governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan. Little wonder, therefore, the government was able to completely wipe out the activities of commercial motorcyclists (aka Okada) from the two major cities in the state – the state capital, Asaba and Warri, where they had constituted an environmental nuisance and perpetuating crime of all sorts. At the time the tenure of that administration ended about two years ago, the State ministry of transport under the commissionership of Mr. Ben Igbakpa had left an enduring legacy in the transport sector of the state.
Two years after, the free bus services for primary and secondary school students (on school uniforms) introduced by Igbakpa as Commissioner for Transport are still operational, plying designated routes in the State capital, Asaba and Warri. But that was not all, the Ministry of Transport, in the implementation of the state transportation policy, broke the monopoly of private transport companies and the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) who determine transport fares in the state without regards to commuters. Operating against apparent threats and intimidation, Mr. Igbakpa opened several government-operated motor parks across the state and flooded the roads with brand new commuter buses which operated with maximum comfort and with minimum fares. Igbakpa also executed the vision of the then governor, Dr. Uduaghan, by replacing commercial motorcycles with tricycles, the cost of which were subsidised and sold to operators in major cities across the state. The purpose was both for security and safety on the roads.
He has been out of office for about two years now. How does it feel life outside power? The Ovade-Oghara-born politician only celebrated his 50th birthday on September 25, 2016, but before then the young man had carved a niche for himself as an astute politician, a philanthropist, an agent of change and a bundle of humility, a quality that endears him to the high and mighty in the society. Does that imply Ben was born into affluence and power? The answer is No. A brief search into his background clearly categorised him as a typical village boy born into a polygamous family. He had his primary and secondary education in village schools but had to break off the cycle of parental poverty that characterised such rustic life by venturing out into the city where he learnt how to work and fend for himself early in life.
With sheer determination and courage, he ventured into politics and contested the election to the State House of Assembly which he won. Thereafter, he served as a Commissioner in the state for four years. From findings, Ben’s life outside power is clearly determined by his vision and philosophy of life. In life, he is not afraid of falling as, according to him, each time he falls, he rises up stronger and can run without fall again. It is also his vision to serve his people in whatever capacity he finds himself. And to further promote this vision, even outside of power, Ben has set up heavy duty equipment hiring and leasing concern in Oghara where he has engaged a good number of youths from the area in paid employment and training.
Igbakpa Supermarket and departmental stores are popularly known as Memories located in the heart of Sapele city have become a trade centre of sort attracting customers from neighbouring towns of Warri, Ughelli and even Benin in Edo State for the obvious reason that they offer the most competitive prices for the best quality products.
Apart from household products of high quality, Memories is indeed memorable for its five-star eatery, bakery products, pharmaceuticals and many more. The two-storeyed complex housing the supermarket is a beehive of business activities seven days in a week just as it provides employment to over three hundred youths as well as multiplier jobs and value chains. But that is not all. To fulfill his vision of seeing to the needs of his people, Igbakpa whose office is situated at the top floor of the complex plays host to his people who throng to him daily for one form of assistance or the other. Though out of office, he still sticks to this noble vision of addressing the needs of his people within his limited capacity. At a critical time like this when the rich are holding back because of the uncertainty of the future, Ben, whether at his private home in Sapele, in his office or even in his village, Ovade, is easily accessible to his people, friends and even others from different parts of the state in terms of financial and moral support.
A devoted Christian of the Baptist faith, Igbakpa believes that whatever he is today is by the grace of God as, according to him, he is a nobody without God. He also pays tribute to former governors of the state, Chief James Ibori, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan and the incumbent governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa who, according to him, God has used and continues to use, to assist him to his present level in life.