As a politician, she needs little or no introduction, much less as a parliamentarian, who has diligent ly been serving her people in the House of Representatives for a record time. Except for young persons who do not know, Hon BeniButmak Lar is the daughter of one time Governor of Plateau State and first National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Solomon Daushep Lar; the man whose middle name is The Emancipator, a sobriquet that drives leadership initiatives in several quarters.
The sage lived all his life fighting causes that deliver justice to the door steps of the common man and makes the oppressor appreciate that injustice creates inequality thereby opening rooms for its perpetuation, if not addressed. Being his eldest daughter, and having served as chairman of the House Committee on Human Rights; and indeed by virtue of being a lawyer by training, she knows better.
For the fact that her father, changed the course of many lives on the Plateau and beyond; looking at life from the perspective of filling the vacuum created by his death has helped her on the journey. He was a man any aspiring or serving political office holder would want to take after. His place in the life of his friends, associates and indeed his family is one of mutual respect; always with a space for care, even if it meant that he lacked. The smiles and happiness he always wanted on their faces whenever he had, was a driving force to ever leave his doors opened.
He had doors which remained opened to the rich and poor, Christian or Muslim; he treated in equal measure. He never wanted anyone to be in need, indeed he was said to be happy if he lacked than for his political children to cry to him for help. Such was the character of the man that many wondered what manner of man he was who treated every man or woman; no matter the person’s station with a modicum of respect. Even if his statue did not help Beni in the course of her career, his political cloud went ahead of her. But certainly it did, and molded her in more ways than one in the course of serving the people.
It is little wonder that her forage into representation since 2007 has no regrets, often leading people to conclude that her parents’ influence served her on several fronts. She exemplifies that uncommon Plateau spirit which elects to help younger persons find their relevance through empowerment and skill acquisition initiatives which are meant to set them up without depending on political handouts often given to advance the politician’s course.
Her father didn’t see politics from a narrow prism. He helped so that they could stand for others tomorrow. He didn’t assemble young men and women to feed their appetites on drugs to cause confusion at political gatherings; largely she has towed same pattern in her politics; often warning youths not to submit themselves as willing tools to their political masters.
No wonder, she had said, ‘what we have done in our constituency of Langtang North and South is to build a society where our young people are equipped with the basic skills to be self sufficient thus reducing the rate of unemployment in the constituency’.
Is it not reason enough for people to have asked how she has been able to set a record by getting a number of people fixed in several federal establishments while carrying out other empowerment initiatives that have touched in many ways the lives of her constituents? The secret may have come from her father and mother, where people were their political capital.
The cord between the sage and daughter can be noticed in her ideas. She told a gathering when she received a meritorious service award on behalf of her late father during the combined 28th-33rd convocation ceremony of the College of Education Gindiri, Plateau State: “My late father believed in the emancipation of the total man, that means that a man needed to be emancipated starting from his mind, his body and his spirit. Baba believed that without having these three going together, it will be difficult to have a complete man who can adequately contribute to the advancement of the society”.
Professor Mary Lar, her mother; for many today, may not have had an inkling of the stabilization force that she was in ensuring that nomads were educated despite the huge amount of opposition that trailed the initiative. These legacies may not be concretely visible; as just a few remember the pioneering role she played to ensure that it was the Plateau State government that gave a voice to nomads to be formally educated. Today, sadly, we are witnesses to the various clashes and acrimonious relationship that play out between Fulani and other tribes across the land.
“When I decided to go into politics, my father was still alive, my mother wasn’t in support, and she felt it was not for ladies. She said, ‘it is a dirty game, leave it for men’. But my father said, ‘come my daughter, what do you really want to achieve in going into politics?’ And I told him, daddy I want to be like you, I want to help the masses, I want to help open doors, I want to touch people’s lives and make a difference. I just want to be like you”.
In 2007, she was ‘one of the only 11 women elected and who were re-elected in 2011 when the lower house was nearly 95% male’. The other women elected included includedMulikatAdeola-Akande, AbikeDabiri, NkiruOnyeagocha, UcheEkwunife, NnenaElendu-Ukeje, OlajumokeOkoya-Thomas, Juliet Akano, Khadija Bukar Abba-Ibrahim, Elizabeth Ogbaja and Peace UzoamakaNanji.
Hon Beni has argued that if there was anything for all parts of the country to feel a sense of belonging, it is ‘to revisit the report of the 2014 Constitutional Conference with a view to implementing some of its recommendations’. Agitations arise when the needs of the people are not met by the state; and until such are addressed we shall continue to live with them, much to our dislike.
Before venturing to go to the House, she had served as Special Assistant to the President on Women Affairs. But the preparation had long started from the loins of the father and just before many thought otherwise, her ambition had blossomed with the idea of going to Abuja. In her service to the federal constituency, she has had the privilege to serve in eye-popping committees such as: Chairman, House Committee on Human Rights; Chairman, Science & Technology Committee; and member and later chairman, Women Affairs & Social Development Committee among many others.
Her activism has not been hidden; at a point in time she led a group of protesters to show solidarity with the Nigerian military in its efforts to rescue the victims of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping. It is one trait noticed in such people; when the peace of a community is tempered with, an intervention pops up for a role to be played.
At a time when the concern for the food security of people is paramount, her voice has remained stringent without taking her head off daily political activities as she had suggested that only ‘massive production and processing of cassava and tomatoes preservation will battle poverty and insecurity among Nigerians’. The fight against poverty is crucial to the people’s survival. The way out of it is the Small Medium Enterprises (SME) as an answer. Often time politicians use women and youths during campaigns and dumped them after victory. When they take advantage of the skills acquisitions to be self reliant and economically independent, all other forms social vices, prostitution, robbery and criminality would have to be forgone issues among them.
Over time she has harvested a number of awards in various categories. If becoming Legislator of the Year, North Central made her believe that her people are blessed to have ‘support that came from different people – notable figures across Nigeria’, to reflect on what she has done over the years. No wonder as chair of the House Committee on Science and Technology, no better honour would have been bestowed than for the Minister of the Ministry, DrOgbonanyaOnu to describe her as an icon, a role model; virtues taken from her father.
Several people who do not know her antecedence have argued that she had a father to ride on his shoulders for power. On a number of fronts, such assertion may not hold water because while growing, she said, “my father taught me that there is no difference between a male and a female (child). He taught me to be hard-working’; and so she is where she is today on account of desire to succeed without riding on the back of a politically relevant father.
“It is the driving force because I can never fit into his shoes, they are too big for me, but I just want to leave a name and a legacy that he would be proud of. I thank God for the opportunity given to me by the people of Langtang North and South by electing me four times; it has never happened in the history of Langtang North and South, not in the history of Plateau State or the North Central for a woman to be elected four times into the Federal House of Representatives. Most women come once and they are out. They have been wonderful, supportive and I am very proud and grateful as the member representing Langtang North and South”.
For making her a proud representative, she has remained focused to ensure that the voice of the state is heard- and always too, just as has been the wish of the sage for the voiceless to always have space.