By Sunday Ani
Member representing Oshodi/Isolo state Constituency 2 in the outgoing Ninth Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon Jude Idimogu, has said his eight years sojourn in the state Assembly was memorable but said his only regret was his failure to have full grasp of Yoruba language.
Idimogu, who is also the deputy apex leader of Ndigbo in the All Progressives Congress (APC), Lagos State made the revelation recently when he received an award for meritorious service from the leadership of the Lagos State House of Assembly Correspondent Association (LAHACA).
In this interview, he went down memory lane to recount his days at the legislative house, his growing up days, and what he would do differently if he has a similar opportunity in future among others issues.
You have spent eight years in the Lagos State House of Assembly, what are those good moments that you will always like to remember?
I will miss my colleagues but life is about moving forward. I have learnt a lot. Coming to the Lagos State House of Assembly was a great opportunity for me, and I thank God for that. I came in first from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but along the line, I fell in love with the progressiveness of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), particularly in Lagos, and I decided to pitch tent with them. That is why today I am a member of the APC. I am enjoying it and I look forward to continue working for the party, not just for the interest of the state but also Nigeria as a whole.
As I said earlier, I will miss some of my colleagues, but as the popular saying goes, “soldiers go, soldiers come, barracks remain.” It has given me the opportunity to be more popular. I see my current position as the beginning of my successful political career. I see myself as a privileged Igbo man, and I don’t want to play with that privilege.
Talking about the House of Assembly, relationships with others has been key to me. I believe in relationships with human beings because it is people that make the world go round. So, you cannot do without it. Yes, we are not perfect, but we learn every day. I am happy; I don’t have much regret. The only regret I have is that sometimes I don’t follow the tune of the language; that’s the only challenge I have, despite the fact that my wife is a daughter of the soil. That is why it is said that politics is local; language is very important. I am also telling my little ones that they should not miss it because it goes a long way to strengthening the relationship we have with our host community.
Can you tell us about your growing up; how was it?
It’s okay but it was not too good because I lost my parents at the age of eight and became an orphan at that age. You know, when you grow up as an orphan at such a very tender age, you keep struggling. However, it taught me about building bridges with people, relationships and humility. For people to assist you, you must render service. I learnt that for an external person who is not related to you to assist you, you must render service to such persons or their aged parents. So, for you to receive, you must give. And giving is not all about money; it could be service. In those days, you could fetch water for the old people in the village as most of them didn’t have their children around them. I grew up like that, rendering service to old people in the village and through that, I got assistance that even saw me through schools from various people, from primary to secondary school. I remember giving some quantities of palm nuts as a gift to one rich woman in my village in those days. That gift endeared me to her heart and made me a close family member. It also taught me that giving is very important in human relations, no matter how little; it was just palm nuts but the woman valued it so much. I grew up at my maternal home in Mbaise and that is why most people think that I am from Mbaise. My primary and secondary schools were both in Mbaise after which I came to Lagos to join my elder sister, who now lives in the United States. I later got admission into Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH), where I studied accounting. I eventually went to the Lagos State University (LASU) for my MBA. That’s my life’s journey.
Some lawmakers have had the opportunity of coming back after some break. If you have the opportunity to come back to Lagos State House of Assembly in future, what would you like to do differently?
I would have loved to initiate my own personal bills, so that people can say this particular bill is a private-member bill by Jude Idimogu. I worked on some bills but I was not lucky to finish them and get them through, so that is one thing I would have loved to do. But, in Lagos, we understand that there are a lot of laws already, so we are not keen on pushing for private member bills. Not that they are not important but our Speaker will tell us that instead of that, we should look at old laws and amend them. So, that drive for private member bills was not there because we had too many laws already in Lagos State. The challenge is even enforcement of the laws in existence. You also need to have a very good rapport, not just with the leadership of the House but also with your colleagues to get things done. But, it’s okay; I am fine.
You chaired the committee on women affairs and wealth creation; how did the committee fare under your watch?
Now, you are talking about wealth creation. Remember that as a committee chairman of a particular agency or ministry, your job is just to oversee whatever they are doing. Then, you might give advice or anything you can add to whatever they are doing. In our own case, which is the Ministry of Women Affairs and Wealth Creation, we have an independent agency, the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund. Naturally, what the Trust Fund does is to see how to give soft loans to Lagosians. They also organize training and even liaise with some banks to secure loans. Most Lagosians that are interested in the loan don’t have the capacity to pay back. Most times, they run into problems. Another challenge I observed is the mindset of Lagosians towards the loans. Some of them, when they get the loan, see it as their own entitlement, so to pay back becomes a big challenge.
But really, it has been helpful in the sense that a lot of people have benefitted in terms of support and establishment of SMEs. Initially, when the concept of the Trust Fund was initiated by former Gov Akinwunmi Ambode government, a lot of people collected loans – up to N2m for corporate organisations and N500,000 for individuals; the hype was there, but the fund was not enough. I can say that the Trust Fund is creating self employment opportunities for Lagosians. But as I earlier said, ours is to oversee what they are doing and encourage them, and maybe where they need some amendment to their laws for effective operation, we assist. We don’t intervene in what they do but when the need arises, we advise them accordingly.
Talking about your constituency, the Oshodi/Isolo Constituency 2, what are those things you would have loved to do for the people, which you were unable to do?
Right now, the road leading to my house is bad, so I wish I can influence the works and housing ministry to come and work on the roads, especially the one in my area. There is a lot to be done but the challenge are resources. We are not like lawmakers at the national level, who factor into the budget their constituency projects. It is a different thing from our own experience here. Left for me, I would advise that in Lagos, we adopt that system that the federal lawmakers operate, after all, they are representatives like us.
We are all parliamentarians, but we don’t have the kind of resources at their disposal. It is not even the money that matters; it is the fact that their own policy allows them to identify projects, and put such projects in their budget and ensure that they are executed; but we don’t have such an arrangement here in Lagos State. Unfortunately, people always use those at the House of Reps to judge us, thinking that we also collect constituency allowance. For us at the Lagos State House of Assembly, there is nothing like constituency allowance. Even when we identify projects in our constituencies during the annual town hall meetings, and we bring them to the House, they will still have to be sent to the Executive, which may or may not put them in the budget. Even when they are included in the budget, it depends on their priority and funding ability; that is a big limitation. So, assuming the state legislators are given such an opportunity like the federal lawmakers (House of Representatives members), we will also be doing some work without referring to the executive. Such an arrangement will allow the 40 lawmakers in the Assembly to create big impacts in their various constituencies. The allowance we get is for our office; so we can’t afford to do projects, and that is why most of the time, we have to depend on lobbying the executive to get projects in our constituencies done. Your success at lobbying will also depend on your relationship with the executive; they may decide to consider your constituency, and when they don’t, it will appear as if you are not working.
How do you unwind?
For me, I watch television a lot because I feel it is part of education. I just watch TV and when I have the opportunity to go and play football, I do that. That’s all.