Engr. Joe Igbokwe, a former Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State is the Special Adviser, Drainage and Water Resources to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu. In this interview with WALE ELEGBEDE, he speaks on the internal crisis rocking Ndigbo in Lagos APC, among other issues
There was a report in the media that the lawmaker representing Oshodi Isolo 11 state constituency in the Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon Jude Idimogu, was given an endorsement by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu as the apex leader of Ndigbo in Lagos APC…
I don’t want to dignify anybody, but they kept telling lies. The National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu will always tell us that in the face of storm, you keep calm, and when the stage is set to display, ideas will stand us apart as leaders. They were telling lies for no just cause, trying to pull me and some other leaders down but you can’t win a debate with lies. I just ignored what has been going on believing commonsense will prevail but none has done that. If you tell lie a million times, it will not circumvent one truth.
I think he is trying to remind me that there was something in the apex group but there is nothing there because we spend our money and time to organise our people. The first question to ask is if he (Idimogu) has left PDP. He is still at the door, he has not even totally absorbed into APC.
I wanted to ignore him because I didn’t want to dignify him. I don’t pull people down but don’t pull me down. I have paid my dues. If Nigeria is a place where people beg you to come and lead if you are a good leader, people will call me. I understand he wants to run for House of Representatives in Imo State and he wants to use this as a platform to sell himself, it won’t work. After the harmonisation, we have up to 50 apex leaders. I am number one, Idimogu is number two and others.
He is number two but wants to be number one. If he wants to be number one, he should go and start from 1985. So, you cannot raise the level of the Mediterranean Sea by making all the rains in the world to drop there, even when you succeed, water will always find its level. You can’t stop an idea whose time has come
So, what prompted your response?
What prompted this was that the governor had dinner with members of the state House of Assembly and after the meeting, there were photo sessions, Idimogu was with the governor and he took photograph with the governor and came out to say to the public that Governor Sanwo-Olu has mandated him to be head of the apex group in Lagos State. So, people called me and I made some inquiries and I was told that it was a blatant lie.
I got back to them that there was nothing like that, the governor knows the history and he knows where we are coming from, it’s not a day’s job. One of the lies they put on social media was that I took the COVID-19 palliatives to my people in Nnewi. I have become a millionaire since 1995, bought my first car in 1990.
I gave the COVID-19 palliatives to my people in Surulere Local Government and I didn’t take one out of it. Even the ones I was given as one of the exco member, I distributed them to my people here. Anywhere I have worked in Lagos, whenever I was leaving, people would cry. I don’t have one house in Lagos because I live for the poor.
I have spent all my active life working for Lagos and for the party and by the grace of God, I am the face of APC Ndigbo in Lagos State, that’s why I’m here to debunk those lies. His space is still here because Asiwaju has taught me that in politics, everyone is important. Lies cannot win any debate anywhere in the world.
One of the bones of contention from the Idimogu camp was that he became apex leader of Ndigbo in Lagos APC because he is an elected leader in the party…
He is an elected leader from one local government, right? He was elected as a member of the state House of Assembly from Oshodi-Isolo II, just one out of 40 constituencies. I was elected as APC publicity secretary in Lagos for 12 years, four consecutive terms. When you come to a place newly, you package yourself and learn how things are done. Here in APC, what counts is party supremacy. He is not the first Igbo person to be there, we have had one Igbo in the state Assembly before. So, what he is saying is that if Vice President Yemi Osinbajo or ex-Governor Babatunde Fashola comes back from Abuja, they will say that they are superior to Asiwaju in Lagos? I have a deep background. If I have not been a member of a party for many years, then his argument would hold water. Let us look at it together, can you count the number of times you have seen me. Do you know what happened in Lagos in 2015, 2019? Do you know what we went through? This same Idimogu went to the state Assembly under the platform of the PDP in 2015. But in 2019, after we have decimated PDP in Lagos through dint of hard work and commitment, he is now moving around.
But he is a leader in the APC by virtue of his position as lawmaker…
So, if you come to APC, we should run away from the party for you? Is he even a member of APC? He is still at the door, so it won’t stand. He can’t be more superior in Lagos politics, let’s take the matter up. So, because you were elected to represent one constituency out of 40, we should then leave the space for you? No, it won’t happen. That’s why we cannot point out one leader in Igbo land, who will speak and people will listen; somebody in the mold of Asiwaju Tinubu. But we need to have one, that’s my pain. We cannot find one leader we can respect; does that not tell you something? Let’s weigh the options, tell me, why I have to leave the stage for Idimogu? On what ground will I do that? I want us to debate it now so that you will take it back to Nigerians. Why will it be so? If he wants to take my position in Lagos, he has to go back to 1985 and face the bullets; he came through the back door. You are not on the seat yet, that’s what some of our leaders are saying; that he is not in APC yet. It is after we test and test him, that’s when will know whether he is APC at heart. I am challenging you to weigh the options and tell me whether I am wrong. If you tell me that I am wrong and he’s superior to me; I will withdraw.
What’s the way out of this?
There’s no way out than for him to join the queue and allow me to carry him like a baby. If he follows my footsteps, he is going to win. Don’t you know in Igbo land, we do what is called entrepreneurship? You pick one small boy from his father’s house and he serves you for seven years and after that, you establish him. How many years has he served? I have been serving since1985; I have been serving for 35 years.
Do you regret supporting him in 2019? You can’t know ‘devil’ until he moves closer to you. Have you forgotten Judas Iscariot is one of Jesus’ disciples?
Tell him I said he should line up because after digging into information, facts, and figures on the ground, he isn’t qualified. My friends have been governors, ministers, senators, and I’m still here.
What is the party saying about the tussle?
It is the Igbo people who will decide on who is going to be our leader. The chairman of the party in the state, Alhaji Tunde Balogun, has been consistent about our affairs in the party. Before the 2019 elections, he structured the hierarchy in his office and I am the first on the list.
Don’t you think these issues within Ndigbo in APC may create a crack, which the opposition PDP might take advantage of? Are they in Lagos?
PDP is no longer in Lagos. We have pulled them to one corner. Nobody is remaining in Lagos PDP; they are defecting to APC one after the other every day. Let me shock you, their former chairman decamped to APC and his house became a beehive, people came to his house for more than two days drumming, he began to see what he has not seen before.
The man said ‘I didn’t know I was in the dark before. My house has been bubbling since I joined APC.’ He made the wrong choice, you can’t see heaven and you will love to go to hell. In 2015, if you had gone to Bourdillon, you would see that APC billboards in Bourdillon were removed. We went to report to Asiwaju and he said we should leave them and that they will regret at last. Where are they today? In the same year, the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) started destroying all our materials from the Tollgate to the National Stadium; where are they? We beat them hands down.
You don’t make noise, you work. Asiwaju said we shouldn’t mind them, we’ve done our calculations very well, this is Lagos, we will beat them hands down and there will be no crisis. In Lagos, you would see 21 aspirants vying for the position of a local government chairman, that’s a crisis, 30 want to councilor, we still manage to cool it down. Crisis is part of democratic process, people with different kind of interests, coming from different backgrounds and you think there will be no quarrel, it’s the ability to reconcile and have a position that makes you what you are.
Setting the record straight, people will have different opinions but the majority will always take over when the chips are down. If you want to be a successful man or politician, you don’t run away from crisis. If you don’t have crisis, begin to worry, its either people are silent and that’s peace of the graveyard when you don’t have crisis.