From traditional leaders to traders, the Igbo in Lagos at the weekend endorsed All Progressives Congress (APC) candidates at both national and State levels in the coming general elections even as the state Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola assured all residents of the state of a level playing field in all aspects of life in the state.
The Igbo leaders and chiefs had earlier met with the Governor to register their support and willingness to mobilize all Igbo groups resident in Lagos to vote for APC at the Lagos House, Marina in Central Lagos and this was immediately followed by a meeting with the traders under the auspices of the Odun-Ade Building Materials Dealers’ Association.
Addressing the traders at the Banquet Hall of the Lagos House, Governor Fashola said the state government has never been interested in or acted in any way to indicate ethnic or religious discrimination in its policies, pointing out that his administration was only interested in serving the people of Lagos State.
The Governor, who noted that although he could neither change how people chose to see themselves nor could they change how he chose to see himself, declared, “But I have said consistently, I don’t see you as Igbo men and women, I see you as Lagos residents and my duty to you is not different from my duty to any non-Nigerian, a diplomat, who lives in my State. It is the same duty that I owe”.
He expressed dismay that some people have chosen to whip up ethnic sentiments to create division among Lagos residents with the false allegation that non-indigenes were not being given the Permanent Voters’ Cards pointing out that the allegation was not only false but also dangerous to the growth of democracy in the country.
Governor Fashola, expressed happiness that members of the association brought their Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs (which they displayed earlier), adding, “So any objective member of the society will now see that the allegation is one in the many series of lies being peddled by our opponents. But they are very dangerous lies because we have not done anything in this State on the basis of indigeneship”.
Recalling some of the actions for which the President of the Association, Chief Modestus Umenzekwe had expressed appreciation to him, such as his seeking for justice on behalf of Uzoma Okere, paying for the treatment of popular actress, Ngozi Nwosu and others, as indication of his administration’s non-ethnic, non-religious considerations in governance, the Governor declared, “I was only doing my duty and that is how all governments must act. It is that kind of duty that gives me the moral authority to say that residents must pay their taxes.
“Interestingly, if it were an ethnic issue, I would have taken sides with Arogundade because he is a Yoruba man. But it was not; because wrong doing has no ethnicity, it has no religion, it is simply wrong doing and it must be called what it is in the same way that poverty has no ethnicity or religion. So let nobody add to it”, he said.
The Governor thanked members of the Association for disproving the allegation of not issuing PVCs to non-indigenes by displaying their PVCs publicly adding, “People of your status, people of your calibre have helped us stop in their tracks those who seek to use ethnicity to divide us”.
“For those who say there is no difference between us, the differences are beginning to manifest themselves. Some people may see it early while others may see it later; that is the way of life, we are not all equal”, he said.
Governor Fashola maintained that the best way to run government was “to work selflessly for the people every day and every night instead of working only a few months to an election”, adding, “The model that I chose, our Party chose, and you will see it across APC states from day one, is that we work every day and every night. We are not election governments, we are a real government.
“But what the other side offers you is last minute promises. All the monies they should have put at your disposal in order to improve your life they bring at the last days before election and say ‘come and take rice, come and take kerosene; something that should have been given to you at very low prices”.
Warning Nigerians against voting for a government with a huge record of failed promises, Governor Fashola, who said he had even forgotten some of the actions for which he was being given credit, declared, “When you do such things you do them because it comes from deep and you move on.
“For me what is important today is that our democracy is beginning to take shape, shape in the sense that Power is gradually residing with the people. If you vote for change this time around at the Federal, it is not because you dislike anybody but because the government hasn’t done well. Use your PVCs and change what you don’t like”.
He urged the people to vote for the APC presidential candidate and his running mate adding, “If you vote for Buhari and Yemi Osinbajo, they will know that you can also change them if they don’t do well and that is when the democratic journey would have been completed.
“That is when the power will now be in the hands of the people; then politicians will be more careful when they are making promises. Then our democracy will be moving forward because we will begin to test what politicians say”.
The Governor challenged the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate, Jimi Agbaje, to explain to Lagosians how he was going to deliver 150,000 houses in four years and supply at low cost prices to residents describing it as a fallacy representing the tradition of the PDP and its leadership.
Citing the example of the election campaigns when Americans chose to follow President Barak Obama, who was more realistic than his Republican opponent on the tax issue, Governor Fashola declared, “When you are realistic you will not end up being unhappy”.
He extolled the virtues of the nation’s founding fathers such as Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo, saying, “They played simple, practical and demonstrable commonsense politics. If they promised a road they would build a road, if they promised bridge they would build bridge; it they promised electricity, you would see it”.
Urging the traders to vote for continuity in Lagos State, Governor Fashola recalled that the APC Candidate in the state, Akinwunmi Ambode, was the Accountant General when his administration raised the first bond to build the Lagos Badagry rail project which the PDP candidate has threatened to cancel.
“This party has promised us electricity for 16 years, they have not delivered. It is your choice whether to follow a developmental governor or a cancelling governor who may cancel your C of Os. We were building everywhere; if they begin to cancel they may cancel everywhere”, the Governor warned.
Buttressing the fact that corruption has neither ethnic nor religious connotation but has impact on all segments of the society, Governor Fashola recalled a statement made by the APC vice-presidential Candidate, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, at an interactive session recently where he, (Osinbajo) described Corruption as the third religion in Nigeria.
“Professor Yemi Osinbajo told us that we have three types of religion in Nigeria, Christianity, Islam and Corruption but that while the other two had moral codes, corruption admits all and that if the issue was religious, then the two religions must come together to kill that other religion that has no moral code”, the Governor said.
Also speaking, the APC governorship candidate in the state, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, promised that his administration would continue in the footsteps of the incumbent Governor by creating an enabling environment for all Lagos residents to do business and prosper as well as contribute to the prosperity of the state.
Earlier, in his opening remarks, President of the Odun-Ade Building Materials Dealers Association, Chief Modestus Umenzekwe, had extolled the virtues of Governor Fashola as a highly detribalized Nigerian saying the virtue could not be more visible than in his (Governor’s) relationship with Ndigbo in Lagos in the last eight years.
Beginning from the case of Miss Uzoma Okere who was rough handled by some Naval rating accompanying Rear Admiral Harry Arogundade, the association president praised Governor Fashola, whom he recalled, led the condemnation of the Naval officer’s act and directed the state Ministry of Justice to sue the Admiral adding that the Lagos High Court has since awarded Miss Okere N100 million for damages.
He also recalled that Ngozi Nwosu, actress and Imo State indigene, was sick and the Governor flew her to a United Kingdom hospital where she received treatment at the expense of the Lagos State Government, adding, “Today, Ngozi is alive and well”.
Other demonstrations of the Governor’s non-religious, non-ethnic policies which Chief Umenzekwe mentioned include the naming of a Housing Estate in the Ikeja Government Reservation Area (GRA) after former Secretary General of the Commonwealth and indigene of Anambra State, Chief Emeka Anyaoku and the commentary box of the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere, after famous sports commentator, late Ernest Okonkwo, another Anambra State indigene.
Thanking the Governor for what he has done to enhance national integration, Chief Umenzekwe also cited the appointment of Pastor Ben Akabueze, an indigene of Anambra State to the sensitive post of Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning in the Lagos State Government as well as honouring the late Igbo Leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, with a state burial.
He continued, “When Brown University in United States of America organized a Symposium to celebrate late Professor Chinua Achebe, you not only attended the occasion as the only Governor from Nigeria, but you stated at that occasion that your generation is not trapped in the Civil-war of 1967 to 1970”.
The association president also commended the Governor for his role in not only containing the Ebola Virus Disease in the State but also visiting First Consultants Hospital where the Doctor and Ebola index victim, Patrick Sawyer, died and hosting the cured victims of the disease in his office as well as making a donation of N50 million to the owner of the hospital, Dr. Benjamin Ohiaeri, an indigene of Imo State.
Pledging that his members would vote massively for continuity in Lagos State and change at the federal level, Chief Umenzekwe promised that they would mobilize other Igbo groups to embrace the change adding that a new and enduring democracy would soon emerge in the country.
Also present at the occasion were members of the state executive Council, including the state Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning, Mr. Ben Akabueze; and his Information and Strategy counterpart, Mr. Aderemi Ibirogba; APC Publicity Secretary in Lagos State, Mr. Joe Igbokwe as well as other executives and members of the Odun-Ade Building Materials Dealers Association.