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‘Non-indigenes are no threat to Yoruba in Lagos politics’

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Kayode Omiyale

The issue of rising threats of the Igbo community in Lagos State’s politics was again brought to the fore in the last general elections when the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) was accused of using some critical measures to stop the Igbo in their various strongholds across the state from voting for candidates of their choice.

In 2015, erstwhile President Goodluck Jonathan and the candidate of the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the party’s gubernatorial candidate in the state, Mr. Jimi Agbaje relied critically on the Igbo political strength and other non-indigenes’ vote to have inroad into Lagos, but didn’t quite succeed just as the presidential candidate of the party for 2019 election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, did in the last election.

However, while speaking on the development with The Guardian on Tuesday, the Chairman of Yaba Local Council Development Area (LCDA), Mr. Kayode Adejare Omiyale, has put a lie to the influence of non-indigenes in the state. He said it was an erroneous political calculation to think that the rising population of Igbo, coupled with their financial strength in any part of the Southwest is capable of posing serious threat to the Yoruba and the ruling party in the nearest future.

Omiyale, while responding to questions on how APC allegedly intimidated Igbo people, mostly in their strongholds from voting for their preferred candidates, said nothing like that happened, saying it was a figment of the imagination of those who do not understand the dynamics behind Lagos politics.

Contrary to the belief that APC struggled to win Lagos for its candidates, especially President Muhammadu Buhari and the Governor-elect, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu as a result of Igbo’s political impact, Omiyale said it was not the Igbo factor that made the ruling party to perform poorly in the February 23 elections.

According to him, “Although, I agree that APC performed below expectations in the presidential elections even though it won the three senatorial seats and majority seats for the House of Representatives, our major challenge was that we overrated our capacity and consequently went to sleep without mobilizing our members and supporters to vote.

“You would recall that before the 2019 elections, most PDP stalwarts like former Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, erstwhile chairman of the party, Mr. Moshood El-Salvador, and even all members of PDP’s executive in Yaba LCDA and many others, have defected to APC. At a point, it looked as if there is no contestant to challenge us because other political parties seemed not to be on ground. We therefore went to sleep thinking that the election was a walkover but we were jolted in February 23 but not due to Igbo factor.

“Our lackadaisical approach was the bane of our performance but having realised that mistake, we went all out to campaign, mobilise and interact with all electorate, including the Igbo community, which we met one-on-one before the gubernatorial election.”

The council chairman also pointed to the fact that APC came into the election especially in Lagos because of the belief that the performance of the incumbent Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, whose government has been roundly commended for doing a good job since 2015, would work for us, noting, “We came to the polls on the merit of what our party has achieved and not on the phobia of Igbo people or whatever.”

He also denied claims that APC leaders in Lagos were forced to make some concessions to the Igbo community before the gubernatorial elections.

According to him, “I can say authoritatively that there was nothing like concession or special promises made to any non-indigene community despite the fact that we met with them. Bear in mind that if we are to consider the population strength of non-indigenes in Lagos, the Hausa community and South-South people are as populous, if not more than the Igbo in this state. Go and crosscheck this fact. The Alaba Rago is sometimes described as one of the strongholds of Igbo people, but it is a Hausa name; we have many Northern settlers there. We have Agege, Idi Araba even the Ajeromi areas are not totally dominated by Igbo people alone; there are Ijaw, Urohobo and several other tribes.

“There is a lot of emphasis on the political strength of Igbo in Lagos probably because they are outspoken but that does not make them constitute political threat to Yoruba.”

Omiyale also denied insinuations that the incoming administration of Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, is working on an agenda to deal with the Igbo people when they assume power on May 29.

According to him, “I have been hearing this but I can say from my vantage position: there is nothing like that. Some people are already insinuating the possibility of relocating some markets that are dominated by Igbo traders as a punitive measure. This is not true. I must say that each administration has its development plans and agenda and whatever it is I can bet you it is for the good of the state and nothing else.

“For instance, we have a lot of Igbo traders in Oshodi Market before now, but when erstwhile Governor Babatunde Fashola’s government decided to clean the place, which the incumbent government is building on now, it was for the good of the state as we can see. There is no doubt that the Igbo people are contributing their quota to the economic development of Lagos just like other ethnic groups. So, why would they be singled out? APC government has given Igbo people due recognition and opportunity to serve even in the state’s cabinet more than any other tribe in Lagos.

“Under the administration of our national leader, Bola Tinubu, we had Ben Akabueze, an Igbo man as commissioner, and he also served throughout Fashola’s administration. The incumbent state Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, is an Igbo man and there are several other concessions the Igbo are benefiting. I think the issue is, they wanted more but it would have to come gradually. As we speak, Akabueze is using Lagos State’s slot to serve in the federal cabinet.”

Explaining reason Ambode was denied a second term ticket despite the party leaders’ agreeing fact that the incumbent has performed so far, Omiyale said the word ‘denied’ was being misapplied.

According to him, “Like I said earlier, the incumbent governor performed, but there are many parametres, which the leaders of APC in Lagos are using to determine who goes for second term and who does not, based on the internal mechanism of the party, which may not be known to outsiders. I disagree with the word ‘denied’ because there was a governorship primary in which a winner emerged. The incumbent did his best and I commended him, with the conviction that Sanwo-Olu will build on his achievements. Fashola built on what Tinubu did; Ambode is building on Fashola’s success and definitely the incoming government will continue in the same direction for the good of Lagos.”

On his achievements since 2017 when he became chairman of Yaba LCDA, Omiyale said, “There are four major areas that I focused on, which are education, health, infrastructure, and poverty alleviation. On education we embarked on the renovation of some public schools within the council and also procured Joint Matriculation Admission Board (JAMB) forms for some indigent students irrespective of their ethnic leaning across the council.

“When we assumed office, we visited some schools to ascertain the state of affairs of the schools and what could be done. The visit to the schools revealed a lot of things. Part of the discoveries was shortage of books, inadequate teachers, peer pressure on some of the students and lack of mentoring among others. In arresting some of the challenges as soon as possible and having a strategy and a workplan for structural challenges, we gave books and educational materials to over 12,000 pupils in the council.

“We also worked in collaboration with the state government to renovate existing Public Health Centres (PHC) in the council while we constructed some on our own. We also take care of old people and provide empowerment for people regularly. We also constructed some roads within the council.”

Omiyale advised against the agitation for autonomy for councils in the country on the ground that the present state of Nigeria’s economy does not support autonomy for councils.

According to him, “I have served in councils before and from my teaching background, I know that it would be difficult for most of the councils to survive on their own if granted autonomy. For instance, some states in the North tried council autonomy but when they couldn’t pay teachers’ salaries they capitulated. What is the internally revenue generated (IGR) of most of the councils that qualify them to be autonomous? I do not think we are ripe for that at present based on the economic strength of the country.

“This also applies to those asking for restructuring. If Nigeria has good leaders like APC is giving at present, the country will develop. Where we are today is as a result of the kind of leaders we had in the past but I can say things are changing for good.”


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