By Sunday Ani
Member, representing Oshodi/Isolo state constituency in the Lagos State House of Assembly, Jude Idimogu has called on President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government to dialogue with the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and the leader of Yoruba nation agitators, Sunday Igboho for peace to reign in Nigeria.
Idimogu, who is also the House Committee Chairman on Wealth Creation and Employment expressed confidence that despite the challenges facing the APC government, the party would still emerge victorious in the 2023 presidential election.
In this interview with the Daily Sun, he also spoke about the IPOB threat to disrupt the November 6 gubernatorial election in Anambra State, the crisis in his home state of Imo, and Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu’s presidential ambition among other national issues.
It is a fact that the struggle for the 2023 presidency has begun in earnest with Northerners and Southerners angling to have it. The North wants to retain it but the South is saying that for equity, justice and fairness, it should rotate. What are your thoughts on that?
The Southern governors have demanded that the presidency should move to the South. It is their right to do so. Although such an arrangement was not spelt out in the constitution, I think there has always been that gentleman agreement between South and North that the presidency should rotate between the two zones. I know that the understanding dates back to 1999 and they have been doing that, so why would the North now think otherwise? The North is just completing eight years and some people there are already quoting the constitution, saying it does not support rotational presidency. I know it is not everybody in the North that is supporting this line of argument because some governors and leaders in the North are supporting the South to have the presidency.
Personally, I don’t see it as a problem. It all boils down to dialogue. They will eventually dialogue and have an understanding. But, from the way things are going, I am sure the presidency will come to the South.
In the event that it eventually comes to the South, the battle will be among the three zones of Southeast, Southwest and South-south. The people of Southeast have been clamouring to have it, arguing that the other two zones in the South have had their turn through Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for the Southwest and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan for the South-South. Don’t you think that to ensure peace, justice, equity and fairness, the Southeast should be allowed to have it?
Well, the zone that will produce the presidency in 2023 will largely depend on political parties because it is a party affair. The two strongest parties are the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC). If the PDP actually wants to play the game well, its candidate should be from the Southeast because it has a strong base in the Southeast. But, the same cannot be said of the APC because it doesn’t have any stronghold in the Southeast. Power is not served a la carte; you must make efforts. Where do you have your strong base; who are the contributors to the party? APC in the Southeast is just about 30 percent but when you talk of the Southwest, that is where the APC is solidly standing. So, naturally, it is expected that the APC will produce its presidential candidate from the Southwest. That is my take.
Like I said, I am from the Southeast and my people have been longing to have the presidency based on equity, justice and fairness. But in politics, you don’t talk about equity and fairness; you only talk about who has the capacity to struggle for the office and grab it. It is about who has the number because it is a game of numbers; it is not about who has been there and who has not been there. No, it is not done that way. What efforts are the Southeast leaders making to bring the presidency to the zone from both the PDP and the APC? What are they doing to lobby other zones to support them? Give it to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; you can see that the people want him. Forget about the few dissenting voices because he has made it. He may not have a strong base in the Southeast but in all other zones, he has a solid base. The APC is looking at him from the Southwest and among all the candidates from the Southwest, he is outstanding. He has the capacity, and as of today, nobody can match his records.
Talking about Tinubu, though he has not openly declared interest to run; there is a strong indication that Vice President Yemi Osibanjo also has his eyes on the presidency in 2023. What are your thoughts about the clash of interests between the ‘political godfather and godson’?
It is Osinbajo’s right to contest for the highest office, but it is not automatic. How many vice presidents in this country have ever succeeded their principals? Even at the state level; how many deputy governors have succeeded their bosses? So, most times, it does not follow that way. That you are the vice president does not mean that you will automatically get the presidency. Yes, he may have the advantage but most times, it does not work out that way. We are looking at capacity, ability and what you can bring to the table. And when it comes to Asiwaju and vice president, I know, with due respect, after God, Asiwaju made Osinbajo. So, except they will have an understanding where probably, Asiwaju will say he is not going and now supports the vice president to go, but if two of them come out, I must be honest with you, Asiwaju has an edge; forget that Osinbajo is the vice president.
What is your take on Nnamdi Kanu? The government is charging him for treason…
Yes, the government can still discuss with him. I just pray that peace reigns. Not just Kanu, the government should also discuss even with Sunday Igboho for peace to reign. If things are going well in the country, they won’t be agitating. So, I think the government should sit down and find out what the problem is and what can be done to have peace in the country because it is not helping anybody. Kanu is fighting for what he believes the Igbo want and Igboho is also fighting for what he believes the Yoruba want. So, I think the bottom line is for the Federal Government to call them to a round table, know what the problems are and see how to solve them. It is not a one day thing. Even while in detention, negotiation can be ongoing because he has people who can represent him. It is not something that will be done overnight; it is a process, but at least, the Federal Government should provide a leeway for that to happen.
For my Eastern brothers, they have every right to agitate, but I advise that as we fight for our rights, we should not destroy our economy; let us not kill our people and destroy the institutions that we have. We should give peace a chance so that discussions can take place in a very good environment.
We have had discussions in the past, like the 2014 National Conference, but the outcomes were never implemented; the report has been left to gather dust somewhere since then. What kind of discussion are you talking about again?
You see, it is the president’s right to consider the confab report. That is why for me, when you talk about the national conference, I don’t support it because we have had several of them whose reports are still out there unimplemented; what are we doing with them? So, it makes no sense for anybody to call for another national conference because the conferees are still Nigerians. Those people that sat in that 2014 conference are Nigerians, and most of them are still living; so what’s the problem? Insincerity among the leaders is the major problem. I keep on saying that all of us in leadership in this country are not sincere. If we are sincere and we want this nation to go forward, the truth must be told. Pick the 2014 report like you mentioned, look at it, take the suggestions that are necessary and leave out those that are not necessary and implement. But, money and resources cannot just be spent all the time to organise conferences for the interest of the country, yet we are crying. Our leaders are not patriotic. They don’t love this nation because if they do, they will sacrifice anything for it and the country will move forward.
The APC led federal government has spent six years and Nigerians generally have not fared well. It has been six years of insecurity at its peak, serious economic hardship and massive hopelessness for Nigerians. Coupled with the internal wrangling in the party, do you believe the party will still be strong and popular enough to retain power in 2023?
APC will still win. The issue of banditry, terrorism, kidnapping and what have you, did not start today. Is it the APC government that brought them? The situation has been there before APC came onboard; the only thing one can say is that it has escalated. The kidnapping of Chibok girls and other activities of the Boko Haram terrorists group did not start with the APC government; they have been there. You see, there are other things that have been happening even then, but really now because of the fact that banditry has increased, people seem to forget where and how it started. See, let’s try and solve the nation’s problem because it is a collective issue. For me, I believe we have very porous borders because the majority of the bandits, kidnappers, and terrorists are not Nigerians. But, I think my Northern brothers have also used religion to accommodate the bad elements who are causing all these troubles. Now, they can see the effect; it is affecting the whole country. It is not only the farmer/herder problem that we have. You can also see that most of the herders that are causing these problems are not Nigerians. They are outsiders who come in through Niger and other places to cause problems for us. So, everything is at the doorstep of the Federal Government. A decision has to be taken to tighten up the borders. Let us save our country Nigeria because it is the only country we have.
So, I am not saying APC has done fantastically well but even the people from the other parties are still Nigerians. What has happened is a system failure by all Nigerians, not just about a political party because even if another party wins, everything cannot be achieved overnight. We are all Nigerians with the same followers, so nobody is coming from the other side to perform any magic. So, for me I strongly believe that APC will still win by a landslide in 2023.
Your home state, Imo, has been in the news for very wrong reasons. There have been wanton killings going on there for quite a while now. What is actually happening there and what would you advise the state government to do to restore peace in the state?
I think the governor should call the Imolites to a meeting, possibly in a stadium, stand before them and ask them what the problem is. He should not be afraid whether they will kill him because he is also from Imo and they are his people. He should stand before them and ask them why they want to destroy the state. He should equally give people the opportunity to speak out. It is like going out to say, “I am tired. You are making life difficult, not just for me, but also for the entire state. Let’s solve this problem because we cannot continue to destroy what we have. And if you feel I am not doing well enough or that you don’t want me, I will resign. Tell me the way forward; I cannot be here and at the same time putting the state in a worse situation instead of bettering it. What do you want?”
You see, as a leader, there are things you need to do in such situations. Let the people talk; you need to hear from them. It is not every time that a leader should be speaking because he may not tell you the truth. He has been blaming the unknown gunmen; are they spirits? They are not spirits. What do you mean by unknown gunmen? Are you saying that I will have saboteurs in this House of Assembly and I will not know them? It is my duty to arrest them. After such a meeting, the Imolites can decide that enough is enough and they would want to know the unknown gunmen. Can you unmask them; what are we saying? These things are man-made. He should reach a compromise and find a solution. There are people who have been there before him; he should hear from them because he alone cannot solve the problem in the state. He should not claim to know it all because when the majority of the people in the street are not supporting you, you cannot succeed. That is what leadership is all about. As a leader, you must ensure that 60 percent of your people are with you because they can always help you to fight the remaining 40 percent of the people that are against you.