The Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Drainage and Water Resources, Mr Joe Igbokwe, talks to ALEXANDER OKERE about a recent disagreement between him and the member representing Oshodi/Isolo Constituency in the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mr Jude Idimogu, over who should lead the Igbo in Lagos APC
The member representing Oshodi/Isolo Constituency in the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mr Jude Idimogu, said the Igbo community in Lagos State chose him to be its leader because you didn’t meet its expectation. What is your response to that?
It will take Jude 30 years to get to where I am. That is what he is underrating that has been the scourge of our politics in Nigeria, especially in the South-East. People don’t line up. They don’t build themselves. They don’t follow people. Overnight, they just want to come and be in the front seat. No, you have to learn how to carry people’s bags so that someone will carry bags for you.
Is it true that you don’t see yourself as an Igbo man?
It is a lie. Is that what they are telling you? We are in the age of the Internet where people can google my picture (I’m very active on social media). What I have said is that I am proudly Nigerian, that I know no East, South, West and North.
How would you respond to his claim that the number of years you have spent in a party is not a factor in deciding who a better leader is?
That is a lie. People can always manufacture something just to justify a particular situation. But it cannot work. You cannot give what you don’t have. Let him go and pay his dues and line up. I have served four governors in Lagos State. I have authored books and articles on building Nigeria. I managed two agencies before I became the SA, Drainage. I was the publicity secretary of the APC for 13 years in Lagos State. I was the chairman of the Conference of Publicity Secretaries of the APC across Nigeria for almost six years. So, what is Jude going to bring to the table? Nothing. The only thing he is going to bring to the table is that he was elected from one constituency out of 40 in Lagos State. I was the one that brought him into the party. He came into the House of Assembly on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party in 2015. When 2019 was approaching, he noticed that he might not win the election, so he defected to the APC. I was among the leaders that received him. Now, he wants to contest leadership. It will take Jude 30 years to get to where I am. I have been thrown under a bus. I have faced bullets. I have done a lot.
Are you not trying to lord it over the Igbo?
No. Leadership is earned. I am talking about Ndigbo in the APC. There is Ndigbo in the PDP.
How close are you to the Igbo community in Lagos?
I have an article titled, ‘Revolution is not announced’. It answers all the questions. We don’t announce these things. He was in my office and I told him. If I sit in the office, people call me every 10 to 15 minutes about problems they have with government agencies and I solve these problems without announcing them. Jude may not know what I have done for the Igbo community in Lagos State since I joined the Lagos State Government in 2005. Jude should go to Ladipo Market and ask the president general how many meetings we held before one contractor built the ultra-modern stores in Ladipo Market. Jude should go to Alaba International Market and ask how the Fancy and Furniture crisis was resolved after a series of meetings in my office in Apapa GRA. These are things not announced. When you pay school fees for your children, put food on the table for them, clothe them, provide shelter, etc, you do not beat your chest because these are normal things a father must provide, otherwise you become an infidel.
Where do you think he went wrong on this issue?
He went and announced himself. We are 17 on the Board of Trustees who are running Ndigbo in the APC in Lagos State. Jude moved away with three people but one later returned. Are you saying that two are greater than 15? What makes him a better person than 15 of us? These are people that have stood with us through thick and thin, which time and space will not permit me to talk about.
Don’t you consider this leadership tussle as an embarrassment, especially as the Igbo have been criticised for failing to speak with one voice?
It is very embarrassing that someone who just came into the party is trying to usurp power. He doesn’t understand protocol. He just went away with three people out of 17 and says he is a leader. They just went somewhere and raised his hand to say he is a leader. It is criminal. You can do such things anywhere but not in Lagos State.
Does the APC have a rule guiding leadership in different ethnic groups within the party?
No, we don’t have one. But because we are members of the APC in Lagos State, the chairman of the party had to step in, saying that the party knows one but is yet to know the other. I just left the party as an executive member. The party is supreme. It decides who will run for office.
Did you report him to the party?
No. Whatever he was doing was in the open and it became an embarrassment.
What do you want him to do to resolve the matter?
He should go and line up and learn how to climb the ladder first. You cannot go to secondary school unless you have completed from primary education, and you cannot get university education unless you have completed secondary education and got a good grade.