Chief Modestus Umenzekwe is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and a board member of the Federal Housing Authority (FHA). In this interview with Southeast Bureau Chief NWANOSIKE ONU, he speaks on next year’s election, the chances of the party and the mobilisation of Igbos living in Lagos to support Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s presidential bid and Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s second term aspiration
Based on the campaign so far, what are the chances of the APC in next year’s election?
If you ask me this question one hundred times, my answer will be that we have a very good product, and APC has delivered their campaign promises from 2014/2015 to 2019. Already we counted our achievements as championed by President Muhammadu Buhari, and all his ministers including but not limited to Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) and the rest of them. We talk about insecurity because everybody is talking about insecurity. When you look at the whole world, there is a security problem everywhere. In America they are talking about security, in Britain, they are talking about security, in African countries they are talking about security. It is a world problem which didn’t start today, and it cannot stop immediately. You can see the amount of money being invested in a security, and you can see the effort of all the security agencies, at least we don’t hear about Sambisa Forest again. You don’t hear about the Northeast being taken over by Boko Haram and the rest, they changed the pattern, and started banditry, kidnapping and all that; the Federal Government is working seriously, even though we have not gotten it, it has not been nipped in the bud, we must admit, but we believe in the capacity of Mr President and his team. I touched this because I know you would always go there as if that is the only problem.
How can these splinter groups of Ndigbo come together to translate this idea of yours into reality?
It is not an issue of coming together, they are not at war, you see some inside Lagos, there are some in remote areas, some in Ikeja, some in Ajamgbadi, Ekpe, Ikorodu, and all that, but the apex body, is the easiest way to organise them. Individually they are doing something, on our own here we are doing something, like I have told you, I have taken this project on my own; doing what I think I can do in my little way because people have areas of specialization and I think explaining APC, marketing our candidates through the print media, not social media, it is my area of specialization, and I have never for one day, gone to Sanwo-Olu or Asiwaju or any group to request for money for all these publications. So what I am saying is that there are other people doing this type of thing in one way or the other; that are Igbo people. Let our apex body organize, sieve where they are, apart from what they have done individually, let us have a collective pool to support what we have done, and nobody is doing this thing for personal gain, but I believe in the ideology of Lagos, I believe in the ideology of APC, I believe in the political sagacity of Asiwaju and his group down the line, I believe in the government strategy in Lagos as a centre of excellence, as a home for all, so to say, not even in Lagos alone, the entire southwest, let our people sit up and make a pool of fund to support this election, it can be in terms of materials, campaign materials, providing vehicles, there are a lot of things we have to do, apart from what we are doing as individuals or as groups, not only in Lagos, even if it is a PDP state, it doesn’t matter. Let our people rise up because the road is very clear. We have only one formidable candidate, and that is Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. And that is why I keep thanking APC governors by insisting that this thing should go to the south; they have done a marvellous job, I don’t want to mention their names one by one, but I want to thank President Muhammed Buhari for giving unfettered hand during the primary, it was very clear, we watched it, people were stepping down for Jagaban of Africa, this political colossus, talent developer, great achiever, detribalized Nigerian, exceptionally intelligent political giant, we can’t afford to miss this opportunity.
Forget about blackmail, you see when Tinubu cracks jokes on any campaign ground, you know he cracks jokes, whenever he cracks jokes, the opposition will interpret it to be another thing, we know all those things. When he wants to tease you, he will say something, they will misinterpret it, we know all these things, it is a sort of chasing shadow. They are chasing shadows. The grass-cutter has left and they are chasing grass, it has moved from the spot and they are chasing grass. And I want to advise Asiwaju not to stop cracking jokes, you must keep on cracking jokes. He is a very jovial man, very free, very generous, and a game-changer. So let the opposition continue with their blackmail, let the disgruntled continue their blackmail, those things are neither here nor there, in fact, they are dead on arrival; they are not the determining factor in this election.
The support Tinubu is enjoying in Southeast for 2023 is massive. Are they going to replicate the same in Lagos?
Good question. Where you live, you must protect, where you live, by all means, I have said it time without number, Lagos is the Centre of Excellence and Lagos is very generous to non-indigenes. Lagos accommodates a lot, in short, the entire southwest accommodates visitors and gives them the enabling environment to do their business. But, Lagos is the epicentre of all these, as a result of Asiwaju’s generosity and large-heartedness when he was governor of Lagos State; and his successors maintained the policy, maintained the lane, at least in this business complex where we are, which we started at the twilight of Asiwaju’s administration in Lagos State, he handed us over to Fashola, and Fashola embraced us like his children, like his brothers, like his sisters, and gave us the approval to develop this complex which is now housing and feeding over 5,000 people in Lagos. For any slightest problem, we called and he would step in as our father and brother. Yes, there are Yorubas here, but the majority are Igbos. You can see our people erecting buildings here and there in Lagos, buying land and doing all sorts of genuine things, because Igbos, and that is why I am proud of my people, and anything that concerns them concerns me, and that is why I keep talking, let nobody rubbish them in any part of the country, because they are developers and explorers, once they support you, they support you, if they don’t support you, they don’t support you. And you can see in Lagos they are supporting the government. When Fashola left, Ambode embraced us. When Ambode left, Sanwo-Olu embraced us, and he is still nurturing and harbouring us like his brothers, therefore, this is the time to pay them back.
When you look at what is happening in Lagos, you could see that Ndigbo has taken a position to support Sanwo-Olu and Tinubu. The Igbo apex body in Lagos, Ohaneze Ndigbo, have different branches and different strategies they are using to achieve this project. We have APC Ohanaeze Lagos, we have Ohanaeze Political Forum; there are so many splinter groups of Ndigbo in Lagos working seriously to make sure that Asiwaju and Sanwo-Olu win this election. They are not going back, they are not relenting. Why we are doing this in different ways it is important, and I want to advise seriously that what happened in Imo State should be replicated in Lagos, and I am calling on the apex body of Ndigbo in Lagos, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, to wade in and organize credible businessmen and women in Lagos to follow suit what happened in Imo State, apart from individual efforts we are making, talking to people, campaigning, issuing press releases and all that, granting interviews, like the one we are doing, which is over one hundred and something publications I have done on my own without collecting a dime from anybody. You know the quantum of money that is involved, but apart from that, the apex Igbo body in Lagos should as a matter of urgency organize credible men and women to do what was done in Imo State to raise money in order to support Asiwaju/Shettima and Sanwo-Olu/Hamzat project. It is very important they do that despite what we are doing on an individual basis.
So, I am calling on senior citizens of Igbo extraction in Lagos to come out and organise all these young men and women to kindly donate seriously for this Asiwaju/Shettima and Sanwolu/Hamzat project, it is very very important. And once we are able to do that, in addition to whatever we have done in our individual areas, this election is a sure win, and I believe that by the time we go in, Ndigbo will have a better place in administration as we are having now in Lagos.
There’s clamour by Ohanaeze for Ndigbo to be included in Sanwo-Olu’s campaign team in Lagos. Why?
Yes of course, yes. Igbos should be properly integrated into the Sanwo-Olu’s Campaign Council and Tinubu’s Campaign Council. There are so many Igbos that are interested, they should be sieved out, some people may be playing to the gallery, as you know in everything there are some people that are dedicated and committed to this project, those people should be searched out wherever they are, some people are shy to talk, not many people can talk the way I am talking, they can be used in the door-to-door campaign, market-to-market campaign, where they will use their own language to talk to their people, not just in Lagos but the entire Southwest. Yes, Igbos should be properly integrated, if it is not done, they are not being fair to Ndigbo.
What do you want Ndigbo in Lagos to do?
My advice is that I want them to be proud of themselves, any Igbo man should be proud that he is an Igbo person because God made it so. Let them continue in their self-struggle to be somebody in whatever genuine business they find themselves, let them make genuine demands wherever they find themselves, it will be granted. But, I must advise, let them not to get involved in any violent act of any kind because violence does not pay. I know that some people will try to annoy them, to drag them into something, but they should try to dodge those things because violence cannot give us anything, Igbos are very peaceful and very enterprising, they are travellers, and wherever they settle, just give them one week, you would know that they are there, they turn that place to be home, and any person that is known in building a home is known for peace. I want to congratulate them for being peaceful.