Lagos based constitutional lawyer, Mr. Bob Okey Okoroji, has said he has not given up on his quest to govern Lagos State, because according to him, he is eminently qualified and can do better than the governors the state has produced thus far.
Okoroji who sought to govern the state twice, in 2011 and 2015 under the platform of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, said he was encouraged to do so because he knows he has what it to deliver.
Speaking in an interview with our correspondent, Okoroji argued that his ethnic origin should not be a factor, noting that as one who has lived in Lagos for about four decades, he is a complete Lagosian who can aspire to any position.
“I have always said it, and I will say it again, that I am still interested in governing Lagos,” Okoroji said. “And at any time I’ll make my attentions known. See, I have what it takes to take Lagos to the next level. This is a city where I have lived for almost four decades. What else can I do other than to give back? Contribute like I have been doing; contribute and participate in leadership recruitment in order that we can put behind us all the imaginary boundaries limiting us in Nigeria.
“I am by no means saying that it has to be me or nobody else. Whoever is interested in running for the governorship of the state at the appropriate time should engage me and I will engage the person, and let the people of Lagos decide who governs them. But what I will not accept is exclusion based on ethnicity or state of origin. Of course, I am an Igbo man and nobody can take that away from me, but I am also in a Lagosian like many other people who have settled here and are making their own contributions to the development of the state.
“We are contributing in terms of investment and we are contributing in terms of tax payment and performing all the other citizenship duties and we vote when election time comes, so why should we not be voted for as well? Why should we be outsiders when it comes to participating in leadership recruitment? It is unacceptable, and that is why nobody can fault that logic that Bob Okey Okoroji is ably qualified to assist in developing Lagos or to participate in leadership recruitment. I have what it takes.”
Okoroji insisted that he is better qualified than the governors the state has produced in recent years, who according to him, are mere appointees. He emphasised that the state should not be governed based on ethnic groups, because it’s like a mini Nigeria.
“In fact, I am better qualified that most people who have been here; who have been governors in the past, who have been mere political godsons,” he said. “I remember in 2015 when I was invited by some media organisations, particularly Channels Television for a debate with the other two candidates, Jimi Agbaje and Akinwunmi Ambode. I went to the station but none of the others showed up. One didn’t show up because he was sure he was almost guaranteed he was going to be governor. The other one didn’t show up because he didn’t have any intention to; I’m not sure he was actually interested in becoming governor. So if the people of Lagos give me the opportunity of serving them, I will be very willing to do so and I will do my best to improve the life and welfare of Lagosians.
“Leadership in the 21st century has to be very innovative. It is actually fair that leadership Lagos State children shouldn’t be meant for one ethnic group only because Lagos is a melting point. It is like a mini Nigeria. It would amount to the kind of apartheid system that you had in South Africa if Lagos has to be governed only by what ethnic group. The leadership recruitment should be mixed to reflect the structure and the nature, and the mix of peoples in the state. But I should not be judged or seen to be qualified based on my roots, but based on the policies I am bringing to the table.”
Speaking on the burning issue of Igbo presidency, Okoroji said it doesn’t make sense to ethnicise the presidency of Nigeria, but said it’s far to consider the Southeast on the basis of the zone being the only one yet to produce an executive president, both in military and civilian regimes.
He also noted that the country had become ripe for restructuring, as the current system, was no longer sustainable. But noted that embarking on it would be difficult, given that it can only done through constitutional means.
“I want to talk about the issue of presidency as a South-Easterner. In that light, I must tell you that every effective political strategy must have a backup plan. If we are talking about restructuring now, it is not a bad idea. But we must agree that it entails fundamental constitutional changes. I mean, because it is only through constitutional amendment that you can restructure Nigeria,” he said.
“As long as Nigeria remains one country, you can’t talk about restructuring without talking about constitutional amendment. But those who hold the levers of power, are they committed to ensuring that there is this constitutional amendment that will pave way for the restructuring of the country? I doubt. So, with that in mind, I think the first option will be to have a president from the South Eastern Nigeria. I’m not talking about Igbo presidency because Igbo presidency is the most senseless thing to talk about.
“Presidency should not be linked to ethnicity. We are talking about the exclusion of a particular geopolitical region of the country. We are talking about a political zone that has been excluded from leadership for more than 50 years. If you look at the political zones of Nigeria, it is only a Southeast that is yet to produce the president of the country, be it civilian or military, since the days of Aguiyi Ironsi. So, it is in the interest of justice and equity to support the South East in 2023. Now it is not just anybody from the South East I’m talking about the best hands from the South East, and I know that there are heavily qualified candidates for presidency from the South East. If they indicate interest, the rest of Nigeria should be able to say, okay, let’s give them a trial, because they are also Nigerians.”
Okoroji argued deflated the argument that the Southeast is not reaching out enough, arguing that the zone, and the Igbo in general, have reached out more than every other group in Nigeria.
“The South Easterners are reaching out. Everybody already knows that they are reaching out. The Igbo are everywhere in Nigeria, so what do they mean by reaching out? Who has reached out more than the Igbo? Economically they are reaching out everywhere, they are in every nooks and crannies of Nigeria. Have they not been voting for candidates from other geo-political zones and candidates in all the places that they are living? Reaching out means exactly what?” he wondered.
“Is it that they should go cap-in-hand begging and licking boots here and there to massage egos? Appeasing the so-called gods of Nigeria? No, what they should do and what Nigeria should judge them on is their policy proposals. Reaching out does not come first, what comes first is what the person has to offer; what are his plans and programmes. But as for reaching out, I believe that they have reached out more than anybody else. Where in this country do you not find the Igbo? from Abuja to Sokoto to Kano, they live everywhere and they relate with everybody.
“In fact, no other group has reached out more than the Igbo in terms of interaction. So it is a lame excuse to say they are not reaching out. Of course, they are reaching out. What is left to be done is for the rest of Nigeria and Nigerians to give them a chance to prove their mettle. And I can tell you that they will make a whole world of difference. I have that confidence that they have the capacity to introduce novel and innovative ideas that will take Nigeria beyond people’s imagination.”