Hon Jude Emeka Idimogu is a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) member representing Oshodi/Isolo Constituency 11 in the Lagos State House of Assembly. In this Interview with OKUNADE ADEKUNLE, he speaks on his election into the state Assembly, saying that more non-indigenes will win election into the Assembly by 2019. The Igbo lawmaker also said that what President Muhammadu Buhari is doing about anti-graft war is not strange because that is his reputation. Excerpts:
It came as a surprise to observers that you were able to win the House of Assembly election in your Oshodi/Isolo constituency which harbours strong APC leaders like the state chairman, Henry Ajomale?
It is God’s victory not by my might and strength. I will say it is victory for my constituency members who saw light in me and voted for me although prior to this time, I have always been keen getting involved in electoral process. What I know is that if you don’t give something a trial you can never get it. You will have to sell yourself, market yourself to the people for them to know that you have what it takes to give them what they want. That was how I got involved in the politics.
Some people alleged that you made a political capital out of the crisis in the Oshodi/Isolo APC and also poached some of the aggrieved members which helped in your election?
It is not a matter of buying people but when you need something you have to go for it by trying to lobby some people to your side by breaking the ranks of your opponents and get some people to your side. That is politics and I played it without any harm. I was able to win my party’s (PDP) ticket and had strong battle with the APC which was initially the ruling party in the constituency. What did I need to do? I went to places where even my party people said I should not go for support because I believe it is God’s project for my people.
How did you survive the strong influence of the traditional rulers in your constituency because the traditional rulers have strong influence over the electorates?
Like they always say, when you need something you give it your best shot even those places they say don’t go, go there the highest response you get is either yes or no. But you must go there and sell yourself which I did. We went to the palace and we drank together and were free with each other. It also depends on the type of person you are when you are reaching out to people. It got to a point I have to walk with my legs to the places during campaign. All the traditional rulers are in good terms with me and I owe them lot of gratitude because they really accepted me. I owe my constituency a lot I will surely serve their interest.
In your party, the PDP there is a serious crisis now which has led to factions, what is the bone of contention?
It is like that, it is what is normal and common in politics when particular group try to dominate or rather blame one group for particular loss in an election, it will surely lead to what you are witnessing. What we expect did not materialize so when there is failure there will be such things as that which is occurring now. If you remember very well that before the election we were one and doing well, but after the election when things came the way it came out to be, things fall apart because some particular people seems not to carry other people along because of interests or opportunities that arose as at that time, so when such loss came everybody would turn back and say it is your fault. The thing is that the leaders should not allow it to be too long.
There must be crisis for you to transform the system and as it is now we will look at for how best we can resolve the crisis to reposition the party. What I know is that we would resolve all issues within ourselves, it is expected in politics when some people may want to force you out or bring you in. it happened when PDP was at the centre, so it is expected. Such thing can as well happen in the ruling APC of today. Politics is a game of interest. We will sort ourselves out.
Don’t you think the crisis may consume the party before 2019 because the forces that were in conflict with each other are so powerful, and some of the party leaders accused Senator Obanikoro of being behind the crisis because he wants to hijack the party structure ahead of 2019 general election?
I don’t think Senator Obanikoro wants to do so or rather behind the crisis, I think what is going on is a power play by the leaders who were flexing muscles and I know with time we will get ourselves back as one because divided we fall and united we stand. With time some of them would shift base and I know there are more to the cause of the crisis than what we know. You know that they are leaders; there are certain things they know which they might be hiding from us to know. So the crisis cannot consume us but rather make us strong ahead of 2019.
Recently, the Lagos PDP Chairman, Capt. Tunji Shelle said it was President Jonathan that caused the defeat of Agbaje at the governorship poll in the state, do you agree with him?
He might have given his reasons; of course, the presidential election came first while the governorship election came after. Naturally, former President Jonathan lost his election because his own came first and you know somebody that had lost would have his morale low. The chairman might have some reasons to back that or have information that I don’t have to conclude on that, but for me we lost the election in Lagos because the leaders in the state did not do the right things they supposed to do because Jonathan is just a single person.
Concerning the anti-corruption war going on in the country, do you see it as a sectional war against few elements in the political system?
You do not expect Buhari to change suddenly because you cannot expect an adult to change overnight. If you remember that during the campaign the APC used corruption to campaign against the PDP, but what I know is that time will tell because it is one thing to accuse one of corruption and it is another thing to proof the allegation. What I will tell you is that the, believe that people can do something and get away with it will definitely change because everybody would sit up now.
There is this believe that the anti-corruption war is a battle between the North and South?
When Buhari was a military leader, he introduced the war against indiscipline to correct the society of indiscipline. For me what he is doing now is not strange, but one thing is to start something another thing is to continue with it. But we are watching and I want to believe that the resources of the country should be harnessed for the betterment of all regardless of where you belong, either APC or PDP we are all Nigerians. The resources should be used for the good of all Nigerians.
During 2015 general elections, the South East threw their support behind former president Jonathan, which has resulted to them losing out in key appointments especially in the national assembly. As an Igbo man, do you see that as a mistake?
In life there is always power shift. The South had power but now it is the turn of the North this does not matter. Yes, the South East expressed their mind by supporting Jonathan and this does not really matter. Just like me, everybody cannot love me and everybody cannot vote me so it depends on where my interest lies. Remember I am not God, I may decide that this is what I want and majority say no what I want is not good enough. However, the support for Jonathan does not mean that they are not part of this government or stakeholders. As a leader you have to treat people equally, I know that typical Easterners might be bias in terms of who they want as the President but it did not come their way. Can we say the present APC government is a government of the North and South West? I don’t want us to look it from ethnic perspective. Yes, the Igbo have voted the way they voted and probably their own man did not win. In life we also learn lessons but that does not mean that tomorrow they may even decide to vote the other way.
You can put your heads somewhere if that place does not work out well for you does not mean that is the end. You can belong to a wrong camp but you have a group you belong to. It might be wrong but it is better than not taking any decision. What I will urge the President is to put the country in the right shape for all Nigerians, he is not the President of the North or South but President of Nigeria. God has put him there to govern Nigeria not a section of the country.
APC has alleged that the past government embezzled over N11trillion, making PDP the worst corrupt administration in the history of Nigeria?
It is an allegation; it has to be proven first. I can tell you that you have done this and that but I have to prove it.
But they gave out some figures and instances…?
Has it been proven, it is just a mere allegation. We are watching them, at least they have alleged.
Who would you say is the PDP leader now that the party is in opposition?
I am happy you said we have a divided house which is true. We have the Deputy Senate President in the person of Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who is a strong leader of the party. With time we will resolve our issues and PDP will bounce back.
Mr. President gave an ultimatum to the military chiefs to crush the Boko Haram insurgency in three months time. Do you think the order is realistic?
The President was once a military leader who has a lot of experience. He was the one that appointed the service chiefs and must have known them for a while before he can issue out such ultimatum. I believe he has shown that he can address the situation because if you watch him when he visited the western world he assured of addressing the issue. Also, if you watch him well he is on the service chiefs to curb the situation by giving them the marching order. Now they know they have no cause than to deliver within the time frame.
Do you think the President’s visit to United States would yield any positive result considering the fact that the U.S is known to always want to protect its interest and do not give without getting anything in return?
If there would be any positive effect from the travelling there won’t have been any quick agreement between the two countries on insecurity. We have had smooth relationship with the United States before, apart from the previous government when we started having an issue but I heard from the news that they agreed to give us logistic support in fighting the insurgents. I don’t know how true it is, what I know is that no man is an Island I think something good will be coming out of the bilateral relationship with the U.S.
As a minority in the Lagos State House of Assembly with eight PDP legislators, how have you been able to get through with APC colleagues?
In the Lagos State House of Assembly that I know, we don’t even talk about the party you are from but how the lots of Lagosians can be better off. With what I have seen we all work together as colleagues, we see ourselves as brothers and sisters apart from our constituencies that are different. Naturally, when you have more than two or three parties in the House you will have minorities but in decision making everybody is giving fair hearing regardless of your party affiliation. We have no discrimination in the House and if there is any issue the speaker calls all of us and address it together, so we are one in Lagos State House of Assembly.
But how do you cope when the Yoruba language is used during plenary sessions every Thursdays, as non-Yoruba speaking legislator?
Yes, it is a challenge which I am trying to cope with. I have to improve my skill in that area. However, I have also let them know that based on my research, the legislative business of the Assembly has never been using Yoruba as the official language until last legislative Assembly. I have also written a proposal to the necessary committee on that for them to look at the issue. I think if it is actually introduced, they should also understand that Lagos is not only for the Yorubas. I agree it is good to encourage and promote the language but Lagos is quite different from that because you can’t compare Lagos with Ibadan or Osun State or Akure. Lagos is a place where almost every ethnic group has it representatives considering the high number of the population. The state is a very unique state and mega city but we should also allow other universal languages to function. Even at one of the sitting, some of the legislators who are Yorubas could not properly speak the language to argue their points. I know I cannot speak Igbo in the House because they would not understand me but we can speak in English language which we all understand. But sometimes, some issues might emerge they will say we should speak English language even if the day is a Yoruba speaking day.
Are you planning to move a motion on that?
I have proposed already to the committee that would look into it. I am here today maybe by next election more non-indigenes might be in the House because even in APC there is a lot of Igbos, and they might be fielded for election in 2019. So, there is need to address it.
In your constituency, is there a meeting point where members of your constituency can submit proposals which they want you to sponsor in the House?
Yes, we think of meeting quarterly in appropriate place
In your constituency, there is hardly a state project, what are you doing to have state projects in the the area?
I am pushing hard on that and I have been working hard to make sure the executive attend to our roads and I have been told that we will be giving an opportunity in such area. Our constituency would benefit more this time around because most constituencies are far better than ours because more focus have been given to the constituencies before now.
How do you want to build your party in your constituency?
Our people are there. We will keep on talking and keeping in touch at least our elders are there so we will keep on bringing up ideas and dialoguing on the way forward for the constituency although, I know the challenge is there. Everybody wants an easy way out but it will be wrong to have one party state without having somebody that would put you on your toes, when you are going wrong. So we will build the party to keep the APC which had been in power in the state for long years on their toes.