Eze Ngozi Israel Ibekwe is an apex leader of Igbo Vision in the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Igbo arm of the party in Lagos State. Ibekwe who also hold the position of the Mayor of Non-Yoruba Speaking People in the state spoke to Ejikeme Omenazu on how the party will win the coming Local Government election in the state and hold on to power in 2019 general elections in the country.
By your positions as the Mayor of Non-Yoruba Speaking People of Lagos State and the Apex Leader of Igbo Vision in the All Progressives Congress (APC), would you say you are not playing politics as a traditional ruler?
Being a royal father in Igbo Vision in APC, I am not in partisan politics. I am there on advisory capacity. It is the Igbo who are in APC that are in the vision for APC. The kings are in politics, but they do not play it. Any good politician goes to kings. The kings will call on their people and advise them. Where the kings points to his subjects is there they will go. The Igbo Vision in APC is about supporting APC, building relationships with APC so that the Igbo in Lagos can get dividends of democracy. That is what politics and development is all about. Right from 2011, we have been supporting APC. As long as APC is in power we shall continue to support it. I advice that it is not good for Ndigbo to be in opposition in Lagos because this is where they live, do their businesses and their children school here.
What is the relationship between the Igbo Vision in APC and the Non-Yoruba Speaking People of Lagos State?
The Igbo are non-indigenes in Lagos. So are Hausas, South South, Nupe and others. Non-indigenes in Lagos formed the Non-Yoruba Speaking People of Lagos and I was crowned as their Mayor, although I am a traditional ruler in my place in Abia State. The Non-Indigenes in Lagos is an association South Easterners, Northerners and South East indigenes resident in Lagos. It is a socio-political, economical and cultural concept operational in Lagos State, with branches in all local governments in Lagos. Non-indigenes forums also exist in other states in the country. Membership of this association is open to all Nigerians from the different states in South East, North and South South geo-political zones, who have attained the age of 18 and resident in any part of Lagos State.
But the two are not the same. I have been here in Lagos before I became a traditional ruler in my place. I still maintain my position as the Mayor of Non-Yoruba Speaking People of Lagos and Apex Leader of the Igbo Vision in APC. All of them are relevant at different levels
How do you think the Igbo Vision in APC will galvanise the Igbo in Lagos for the coming Local Government election In Lagos for a positive impact for the party?
It is true that all Igbo cannot be in APC. But, those in APC will work hard for the Local Government election. Now, the Vision of Igbo in APC has spread to more than 20 Local Governments in Lagos. Before the Local Government election, we shall be in all the Local Governments and the Local Council Development Authorities (LCDAs) in the state. Through these chapters, the Igbo Vision in APC will mobilise Ndigbo for the election to ensure total victory for APC during the Local Government election in the state.
The Igbo in Lagos have always been victims of major reconstruction projects by the state government, especially in markets. How has both the Igbo Vision in APC and the Non-Yoruba Speaking People of Lagos helped to ensure that the people’s suffering of the people are minimised when such projects are being carried out?
No government will fold its arms while properties and lives of people are destroyed. Government normally gives notice to people before it destroys any property, but people always give deaf ears to such notices until time is against them. Ndigbo fall victims because they are in majority in these places. Many of them do not have Certificate of Occupancy (C of O). Many of them build their shops and houses on top gutters and canals or even high tension cables which they are not supposed to do. Then, when government destroys such properties, they cry to high heavens. Many of them do not attend meetings of Ndigbo or that of Non-Indigenes. They do not respect the leaders. The leaders therefore do not know what many of them do. But those who show respect to the elders, belong and attend meetings of appropriate associations, we always help them when they have problems. We have people in government. We have people like Engineer Joe Igbokwe, an Igbo, who has been in the government of Lagos State, and others. They always help us out when Non-indigenes are in problems.
The Igbo Vision in APC acts as a bridge between the party and those at the grassroots. I want other ethnic groups and non-indigenes to fashion out their own structure to be able to assist APC to move forward. In the Non-Yoruba Speaking People, we have Igbo Group, the South South Groupo, the Arewa Group and the Nupe Group. The APC has divided them into four for the dividends of democracy to reach them. For instance, the Igbo Vision in APC is in place to replace the Igbo Coalition in APC which has not been proactive and cohesive in dealing with issues of Igbo people in Lagos.
How do you see the resurgence of the demand for Biafra and the continued incarceration of Nnamdi Kanu?
This matter is ‘no go area’ for individuals. Let the government follow due process and do what is needful. I cannot tell you that I am supporting Biafra. But, no one should be treated inhumanly. As far as the issue of marginalisation is concerned, South Easterners are their undoing. Many of them were in government during the time PDP was in power. They had the listening ears of the President then, who they supported fully. They had the position of the Secretary of the Government of the Federation (SGF),. They had the Minister of Finance and Coordination Min9ister of the Economy in the person of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and others. There was a time it looked like the position of the President of the Senate was their property. They were there for several years before David Mark from the Middle Belt took over. Even at the House of Representatives, Ndigbo held several positions. What did these people do for South East? Now, South East wants someone from far North to come and favour them. Ndigbo should think. They should go back to the drawing board and fashion out a way forward for the geo-political zone.