• Being an elected member of the party gives me an edge, lawmaker claims
• He should pay his dues as a loyal member first, says special adviser
• We cannot proscribe ethnic groupings, Oladejo concedes
When the Governor’s Advisory Council (GAC) in the Lagos State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) proscribed all groupings in the party on Tuesday, June 9, 2020, hardly did the body realise it might have created a fertile ground for more disunity. The advisory council, founded and headed by the national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, took the decision, as explained by the state’s Chairman, Chief Tunde Balogun, to strengthen unity within the party.
Balogun said all groups were dissolved within the party, adding, “We are all one under the APC. The influential groups within the party, such as the Justice Forum (JF) and the Mandate Group (MG), are also affected by the ban.”
However, the council appears to be helpless in the ongoing face-off between the lawmaker representing Oshodi/Isolo Constituency 1 on the platform of APC, Mr. Jude Chukwuemeka Idimogu and the Special Adviser, Office of Drainage Services to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, over who should occupy the position of Ndigbo leader of Lagos APC. Although before GAC’s decision, there had been subtle battle between the two, now that there is a ban on groupings, the council is somewhat confused how to deal with the matter.
The population and financial influence wielded by Ndigbo in Lagos politics since 2011 have made the group a force to reckon with for any political party that wants to control power. This important factor, APC must have realised, nearly crashed its gubernatorial elections, in favour of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos. A timely intervention and deployment of seeming untoward tactics saved the day for Lagos APC.
In 2015 Idimogu was elected on the platform of PDP to represent Oshodi/Isolo Constituency 1, but he was ‘constrained’ to defect to APC before 2019 to retain his seat in the Assembly. However, Igbokwe, who has served his entire political career with the ruling party from 1999, has always been seen as the apex leader of Ndigbo in the party.
As soon as Idimogu joined APC, there began subtle struggle for the position of leader of Ndigbo in the party. While Igbokwe is holding onto the fact that he has paid his dues and also held several positions in the party, the legislator thinks, as an elected representative, he should be recognised as leader of his ethnic group in the party.
But the battle between Igbokwe and Idimogu has posed surprise to onlookers, who are wondering what benefits are associated with being Ndigbo’s leader in the ruling party.
It was discovered that huge sums of money are usually released for election purposes through the leadership before it is disbursed to necessary quarters, likewise job slots for Ndigbo and other groups that support the ruling party.
As preparation for the 2023 elections gradually picks up, some aggrieved members of Ndigbo in Lagos APC have raised issues about Igbokwe’s sincerity in distributing the largesse to his people. They have therefore unanimously endorsed the removal of the special adviser as their leader in the party, to be replaced by dimogu. They argue that Idimogu would protect his electoral interest by doing what is right instead of Igbokwe, who they say is not responsible to anybody since he has always been appointed by the party and government.
At a recent press conference held at the Igbo Community Centre, Okota, Isolo, Lagos, the aggrieved members endorsed the lawmaker as their leader ahead of the 2023 elections.
Present at the briefing were Eze Ndigbo of Lagos State, Eze (Dr.) Christian Uchechukwu Nwachukwu, other prominent Igbo traditional leaders, leaders of thought and other stakeholders, who restated their endorsement of Idimogu as their new leader. They also dissociated Chairman of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief (Dr.) Solomon Ogbonna from the development, saying Ohanaeze Ndigbo as a social cultural group does not meddle in politics.
Idimogu recently told journalists that the time had come for the Igbo to be interested in politics and support the party in power.
“We have started already,” he said, “the train has left the station. We have been visiting all the local governments in Lagos State to tell the Ndigbo that things have changed.”
The former member of PDP said, “The major opposition party, PDP, is not our father’s (Igbo) party and there was no similarity of letter in Igbo and the PDP. So, the PDP is just an old platform for the Igbo; APC is the new platform. It is now a national party.”
Accordingly, he said, “Today, APC is the party that is ruling in Nigeria and they rule in Lagos State as well. Instead of us to protest that we are being marginalised, thank God (the word marginalised is no longer being mentioned), I don’t know what happened, if you say somebody marginalises you, do you marginalise yourself? Today, it is my joy that, by the grace of God, He has put me in a little higher level in Lagos State politically. It is my duty to go round and tell Ndigbo in Lagos that we will gain a lot when we are fully involved in Lagos politics.”
Idimogu explained further that a typical Igbo man is a businessman, and that they are not usually concerned about government. He appealled to his people to realise the fact that a policy “can kill your business if you are not interested. It is high time we came out. I am not saying that all of Ndigbo should contest elections, but you can influence political activities.”
He urged the Igbo to also realise that the Southwest is better prepared for the presidency in 2023, with the belief that Tinubu has a better chance of grabbing the slot.
Chairman of Council of Ezes in Lagos, Eze (Dr.) Christian Uchechukwu Nwachukwu, said Idimogu has what it takes to mobilise Igbo in Lagos to support APC unlike what happened in 2019. Nwachukwu, who said that the late Oba Adeyinka Oyekan of Lagos crowned him in 1999, emphasised that Idimogu would correct the past anomalies amongst the Igbo in the state.
According to him, “Governor Sanwo-Olu did us proud by recognising Idimogu as the apex leader of Igbo in APC in Lagos State and the issue of mobilising the Igbo in the state would not be the same again. The issue of Lagos indigenes suspecting Igbo people will no longer be there, because Idimogu is a grassroots mobiliser and a canvasser.”
But in a swift reaction, Igbokwe debunked Idimogu’s position as the new Igbo APC leader in Lagos, saying that no Igbo stakeholders in Lagos endorsed the representative of Oshodi Isolo Constituency 1, as their new leader.
According to Igbokwe, “It is too early for Idimogu, who was formerly a member of PDP to jump the queue and become the leader one day. There is a structure for leadership. On what ground would I vacate my position for Idimogu, who recently became APC member? I have been serving the party since 1985 and if he (Idimogu) wants to take my position, he has to go back to 1985 and work his way up.
“Besides, it is always necessary to look at the antecedents of leaders if we want quality leadership. Idimogu came through the backdoor and cannot yet be fully believed to be a true member of APC. He cannot just climb the ladder to the top overnight. He still needs to be tested to know whether he is truly in APC or not. He is not yet on the seat and if he is clamouring to lead, he should join the queue and stay at my back until he is proven to be a genuine leader in APC.”
Igbokwe, who described the crisis as inevitable, said he did not regret supporting Idimogu in 2019 to join APC, lamenting, “I did not then know he nurses inordinate ambition.”
On the allegation that he cornered every benefit meant for the Igbo under APC platform, Igbokwe described it as a fabricated allegation that lacks substance, stating, “On many occasions, I would have to add my personal resources to assist our people.”
Also, Coordinator of an arm of Ndigbo, Eze Uche Dimgba, disassociated himself from Idimogu’s claim to leadership of Ndigbo in Lagos APC.
Meanwhile, the state’s Publicity Secretary of APC, Mr. Seye Oladejo, said the face-off between Igbokwe and Idimogu was nothing to worry about, noting, “I can assure you they will soon settle it, It’s a normal thing to expect in politics, as they are both working for the interest of the party among their people.”
Oladejo, however, said the GAC’s decision on groupings could not be extended to non-Yoruba ethnic groups in the party or groups like market women, artisans, youths and others.
According to him, “If we proscribe such groups, they will easily transfer their loyalty to another party. The party is looking seriously into this and it would come up with a position very soon.”