The Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress in Lagos State, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, in a recent interview, bemoans the alleged introduction of ethnicity and religion into the body polity. Shola Oyeyipo presents the excerpts:
Would you say the Lagos State APC is prepared for next year’s elections?
The APC in Lagos is leaving no stone unturned given the setback we had in Ekiti State recently. More than ever before we are fighting and digging deep as if we are in the opposition. From the state to the 57 LGAs, and to the 377 Wards we are playing the real politics, realising that all politics are local. Since the setback in Ekiti State, PDP Lagos has been having press interviews, issuing press releases and conducting press conferences as if that is what it takes to win elections in Lagos State.
Now these idlers must be told in the strongest terms that Lagos State is not Ekiti State. We are living witnesses to the buildup before the Ekiti governorship elections on June 21. We saw the intimidation and harassment of APC leaders. We saw it all and if we tell you that we learnt nothing, we will be deceiving ourselves. We are waiting for PDP in Ogun, Oyo, and Lagos in the South-west. We will play the real politics and politics of the stomach too. Yes, that is what Ekiti people taught us in the 21st century.
So, the fad now is the politics of stomach infrastructure?
I have told you that Ekiti people have added new words to our political lexicon and that is stomach infrastructure. We will play the politics to the letter. We will face the challenge with all the energy at our disposal. We have rice in abundance especially the one produced in Ikorodu, Lagos.
We are doing other things which time and space will not permit me to recount here. Lagos has the capacity to carry out any assignment without let or hindrance. Thank God we got seven month notice from Ekiti people that political equation in Nigeria has changed from politics of ideas to politics of the stomach. The ruling party PDP has impoverished Nigerians in the past 16 years and they are now using stolen money to buy votes.
What challenges are likely to confront the next governor of Lagos State?
The incoming governor will have 25 million Lagosians to contend with. Building infrastructure will continue to pose a big challenge in Lagos until every road is upgraded. Astronomical growth in Lagos population will continue to be a challenge; security will always pose a challenge. Transportation, housing, refuse disposal, jobs etc will continue to be the big issue.
The challenge to make Lagos remain the Centre for Excellence will always be there. Critics will be there to put him on the hot seat. The challenge to make Lagos the first destination among African cities will always be there.
There are at least 14 governorship aspirants on the field. Will the candidate emerge through consensus or primaries?
Please leave this great assignment for the party leaders. Lagos is not in short supply of great leaders but only one out of the 14 governorship aspirants will be victorious. In taking the decision, a lot is going to be considered. If we make a mistake, we may end up with a meretricious mediocrity. The leaders must be extremely careful now that ethnic and religious politics are taking the front seat in Nigeria. Our leaders must shine their eyes because APC Lagos will not go into 2015 elections with a divided house.
What is your take on the ‘Muslim party’ status being ascribed to your party?
Ordinarily, I would not intervene on this stupid tag, which the PDP and its supporters feel will win them the sympathy of the same Nigerians they have raped and bestially decimated in nearly sixteen years of corrupt and visionless government. What makes a so-called Muslim party? Is it a party created for Muslims? If so, why is there a large number of Christians in our great party?
Our National Chairman, His Excellency, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun is a Christian and so are many of our governors and party chieftains.
Come to think of it, how come that at this age and time, PDP is more interested in dividing Nigerians into Christian and Muslim tendencies after it had failed to use the enormous resources Nigeria has made in the last fifteen and half years to make Nigeria livable for both Christians and Muslims?
In a religiously heterogeneous society as ours, it is disheartening that a ruling party will spend its energies, not on bettering the worsening lives of Nigerians but in stealing and inciting Christians that it is stealing for them. What a shame! Christians should affirmatively protest this and tell PDP to face Nigerians on the strength of its scorecards and not on its pretentious religious inclinations.
PDP is a big failure and it desperately wants to plunge Nigeria into a big crisis by fanning the embers of religious intolerance and hate. The members of PDP believe that Nigerians have short memories and will not ask how a PDP government stole $20 billion in one fell swoop, stole N3trillion through a phantom petroleum subsidy, and stole N1.6trillion through a fake kerosene subsidy.
It stole billions of dollars through a fake power rehabilitation project, stole the hundreds of billions of Naira Nigerian workers saved as pensions for the rainy day, stole the pensions of policemen, stole trillions through sham road contracts, stole billions through aviation votes, stole trillions from security votes while Nigerians live in the worst ever form of insecurity.
Let me ask you, did Diezani Alison-Maduekwe spend N10billion hiring planes for Christians? Is the fate of Christians better than those of Muslims in this holocaust of PDP’s government? Are Christians spared of the array of plane disasters that has marked PDP’s infection of the nation’s aviation industry?
Do Nigerian Christians travel on better roads than Muslims? Are our collapsed educational, health sectors courtesies of PDP’s thieving government, benefiting Christians more than Muslims? I can go on and on and on to enlist the shameful failures of the PDP.
Indeed, Senator John McCain summed it when he dismissed the Jonathan-PDP-government as non-existing. Senator Hilary Clinton summed it up when she summed that the Jonathan government is riddled with corruption and lack of clue.
These are facts known to world leaders. Now the government and party that had failed so miserably feel that the best way to continue in power is to tag its main opponents a Muslim party? This is like calling all Nigerians fools. I tell you that is why Jonathan has been going from one Church to another, bribing, inciting and spreading gospel of hate and division among Nigerians.
I won’t waste time refuting a nonsense that is not rooted in reason and logic. But I would tell that the APC is a party for Christians, Muslims and traditionalists. We have no limits to membership and we do not believe that leadership is by deception as the PDP believes.
Can you shed more light on the governorship zoning in Lagos?
Going by the thinking of the party leadership in Lagos, the Lagos West has produced a governor, Lagos Central has also produced a governor and now it is the turn of Lagos East to occupy the exalted seat. I think this is a wonderful development that borders on justice, equity, and fair play. I am inclined to think that it is good for the commonwealth. I have no doubt in my mind that APC Lagos will key into this development. It is fair to all concerned and it is going to be beneficial to all.
How is APC responding to the agitation for a Christian governor?
In 1993, nobody raised any eyebrow when Nigerians voted for the late Chief MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe, both of them Muslims. Now 22 years after, PDP has dragged Nigeria into ethnic and religious politics. This is unfortunate.
I know that Christians in Lagos have been asking for a Christian candidate in Lagos because Muslim governors have ruled Lagos since 1999. They have the right to do so and the leadership of the party must listen to them. We have to live with it because PDP has inflicted mediocrity, ethnicity, tribalism, sectionalism, sycophancy, and politics of infrastructure of the stomach on Nigeria.