While some people have scored the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) low over the 2023 General Elections, Hon. Jude Idimogu believes that the Professor Mahmood Yakubu-led parastatal did its best in the elections.
In this interview, Idimogu, representing Oshodi/Isolo Constituency 2 in the Lagos State House of Assembly, stated that the problem of Nigeria is not the 1999 Constitution, but the way it is being implemented.
There are issues surrounding the February 25 Presidential Election, some people said it was not free and fair, what is your take on this, would you say Asiwaju Tinubu won the election?
Yes, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu won the election. When you look at the total number of votes, he had the highest number, though it wasn’t as much as that of the previous elections that we have had. Among the four key candidates, Tinubu is number one, in terms of spread he had it. He had 24 states, the only thing people talked about is the Federal Capital Territory, which is not the main issue. He had 25% in 24 states as required. The election was very tough because of the third force of Peter Obi of the Labour Party. Nigerians were actually getting tired of the APC and the PDP. It’s not that the APC had not been working, but from my own perspectives, I believe that President Muhammadu Buhari did so many things, but the publicity of the achievements of his government was very low. They only started talking about them, when elections were coming and then people were biased. It was difficult to see what they had done because they didn’t sell their achievements to the people on time, when the people had made up their minds on who to vote for. The publicity was not good enough. Then, they came up with some nasty policies before the election. Four months to the election we had fuel scarcity, when they ought to have done what would make the people happy. Then, prices of goods and services were going up and then the people started blaming the APC. Another one is the naira redesign policy that affected both the high and the low. The timing was very wrong. We won the election based on the personality of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. If it had been another candidate we would have lost with all these policies that they can up with.
Don’t you think that one of the reasons people said there were manipulations in the election was because the youths wanted someone like Peter Obi and the baggages associated with Tinubu, especially the issue of certificate and Muslim-Muslim ticket issue?
Talking about Muslim-Muslim ticket, if Tinubu did not choose a Muslim from the north he would have failed because it was a strategy to win. In Nigeria today, Muslims are more in authority. If you look at the previous statistics, the Muslims control half of the Nigerian strength. Most of the people in high authority today are Muslims, let the Christians look at it. Prior to this time, the Christians were sleeping. I am part of the victims, if you go to the church, they would say politics is an evil game until the 2023 elections. I have lived in the north before, the northerners don’t see the Muslims from the south as true Muslims. Tinubu felt that he should look for a key Muslim from the north as vice, where the president has not come from. Also, remember that the Presidential Candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is from the North East, it was meant to tackle him. If you look at the North West, President Muhammadu Buhari is from there. He knew he would get those places and South West is the base of Tinubu, he knows he would get them naturally. It is only the South East and South South that were difficult. On baggages, a lot of people have them. Even the current president, they said he didn’t have school certificate. That was not an issue. This same person was a Governor and if those baggages could not stop him then, is it the presidency, is it not the same condition? They have gone to court before and the court would use the same precedent. They are just wasting time. So, Muslim-Muslim is a strategy. Peter Obi, from day one, is known as a religious bigot. When he was the governor of Anambra State, there was discrimination between members of the Anglican Church and those of Catholic. He penetrated the churches for this election. When you say youths, every party has its own youths, the PDP, APC, and others have their youths. But there are some youths in the social media, who did not have parties and they say they are “Obidients.” But what the churches did was unfair as far as I am concerned. It was as if they were contesting elections, they campaigned for Peter Obi. My own church is an example, I even quarrelled with my Priests, they were talking about “Obidients.” They still do it till today, they were telling the people who to vote for. The church should preach the word of God. Peter Obi is now like an enemy to the Muslims in Nigeria today. If Peter Obi had won would he have been the president of the Christians alone. Most of his votes were from the church, they were saying that the Muslims would Islamise Nigeria and that the Christians should take their country back from the Muslims. The Muslims have authority in Nigeria more and Christians are docile, but this will change soon.
What of the ethnic colouration to the whole issue, some people are saying that it is time for the South East, what is your view on this?
There is nothing wrong in that, it’s a demand. But as Tinubu would say “power is not given a la carte,” you have to work for it. Talking about my Igbo brothers, they know that you cannot just stand up and say they should give you power. You have to work for it, you cannot concentrate all your efforts on business and now say you want power. It takes planning and strategy to get it. With due respect to my Igbo brothers and sisters, we must know how to relate with other tribes. The north, the Fulanis, the South West, South South and others, let them accept us politically.
But some people are saying that this has to do with the experience of the civil war
…That is the issue, even it shows in our attitude, so we should think about Nigeria first. It is the job of everybody to condemn what the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) is doing. They are not the only ethnic group that we have, what of Yoruba Nation, this group is tactical. But we are too loud and aggressive. I don’t see any president that would want another part of the country to secede, even I would not allow it as president.
Do you think the Igbos have been fairly treated in the scheme of things in Nigeria?
Yes, we have not been fairly treated. If you are marginalised, if somebody rejects you, as my people would say, don’t reject yourself. We are killing our brothers and sisters in the East, what are we showing? On Mondays, people can’t go to work, how many Hausas or Yorubas are there? You are business people, what kind of policy is that, you continue to kill your brothers and sisters, and shedding their blood. They call them unknown government, what is that? The facilities of thr federal government that you are burning, who would give you another ones. Are your people not working there? You are killing police officers, army officers from the south east. We can still solve the problem through dialogue. I believe that God will minister to Tinubu, he would dialogue with them.
Are you saying we need another national constitutional conference?
No, which kind of national conference? How many times are we going to do national conference? You can call the people of the South East, for instance, and ask them what they want. People would just go to the national conference to share money and go home. Even the issue of our constitution, what we have in it are we doing them. It is a bad man that quarrel with his tools. Who were the people that did the constitution, are they not Nigerians? Let us use what we have to get what we want. If Britain that has unwritten constitution is doing well, and we that have a written constitution are not doing well, what is our problem? The 1999 Constitution, as amended, is not the issue, but the people that practice it. I want to appeal to members of the IPOB to ceasefire and embrace dialogue, they are shedding blood and this has repercussions. Even me, I am afraid of going to my village. In those days, we used to fly to Owerri every weekend to relax, but we cannot do that again now. South East used to be a peaceful place. Everybody cannot be governors, let peace reign in our land.
The elections were generally marred by violence in many places, it was like war, what does this portend for our democracy, and also, how would you rate the performance of the INEC in the 2023 elections?
I would rate INEC 70%, they tried. With BVAS, you would see that those bogus figures were not there, so we should give kudos to them and thank the Federal Government for the money that was made available to INEC, but you cannot get 100%. Look at how many bigwigs lost elections. Look at Abia State, where the Labour Party won the Governorship seat. Every agency that was involved tried, though there were issues. However, we need to work on our infrastructure such as electricity. All these gadgets are operated by man. I don’t have any proof on rigging, but I can say that every party rigged. People rigged, where they had advantage. It is not about one party, all the party rigged.
Is this not a failure on the part of the INEC?
It happens everywhere, even in the United States of America. What happened during the elections of former president Donald Trump? They are talking as if Nigeria is a devilish country. Let us evaluate what has happened and move on. I might not have any proof, but all the parties were involved. I want to commend the leaders of all the political parties from Batified, to Atikulate, Obidients, Kwankwasiya and others for telling their supporters to be peaceful. This election was tough and I know the people of the South East felt it was their turn to rule Nigeria. But I knew that Peter Obi would not win because he didn’t have the necessary link. Igbos alone or the youths in the party cannot make him win the election. We have to work with a national party, though Obi made Labour Party to be national, and I can say he tried. Where he won were dominated by either Igbos or Christians like Plateau State, and Nasarawa State, there are many Igbos there and Abuja is also dominated by non-indigenes. I will advise Obi not to play religious politics, ethnicity is normal as the Igbos would see him as their own. It will continue until we have a real Nigerian president, and I believe Asiwaju Tinubu would be one.
We talk about diversity, but we all saw what happened during the Governorship Election in Lagos State, where people were saying the Igbos could not choose for them, what do you say to that?
Lagos is a South West State, it’s a Yoruba State, but it has two faces; it was the federal capital. Lagos used to be on the Island, but it has extended. Lagos State is different from Lagos or “Eko.” So you cannot say it’s no man’s land, there is no land that does not have indigenes. If I were in the shoes of the Yorubas, I would feel annoyed. Lagos belongs to the Ijebus, Aworis, Eguns and the rest. You cannot just say you want to take it over. People must mind their utterances, and what they say. For me, the non-indigenes are visitors in the state and that does not mean we cannot vote or be voted for. We have rights.
We have rights, but you must respect the culture of where you are or else they would fight you, which was what they did. However, I don’t like the approach of how the election went. I want to appeal to the leaders of our party, this election has come and gone, but we will not forget it easily. Many lives and properties were lost. We need to do an in-house discussion so that we don’t experience what we experienced again. Even the Presidential Election was not like this. I know what happened, it was the offshoot of the non-indigenes that wanted to challenge the authority of the land. Let us broaden the scope of the party by giving non-indigenes some sense of belongings because their number is many. They would oppose you because you didn’t consider them. Wherever they are concentrated, give them their person, this happens even in the U.S. You have 40 members in the state house of Assembly, let them have somebody there. We want to win free and fair, give them the person they want so that there would be peace in the land.
What do you expect Tinubu to do urgently as president?
He spoke during his inauguration, he said there would be no strike in the schools again, he said he would grant loans to the students because there are some students that cannot afford university education. Tinubu would do it, what does he want again apart from the leadership position. He would make Nigeria great again and he would be our 16th President. He has been fighting for true federalism through NADECO. He is the best prepared among the candidates. He cannot give 100%, but he would give at least 80%, and he is bold.