Lagos State Government’s controversial demolition of Owonifari market at Oshodi is justifiable and commendable, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, the Publicity Secretary of the Lagos State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has said.
Igbokwe, a native of Nnewi in Anambra State who has lived in Lagos for over 35 years, and has been working with Lagos State Government over the past two decades, blamed the resistance attitude of Lagos traders, especially Igbos for the heavy losses incurred during the Owonifari market demolition.
He described the insinuation that Governor Akinwunmi Ambode authorized the demolition at the first week of the year to punish Igbo traders for supporting the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the last election as untrue.
According to him, Lagos government has spent eight years engaging the traders on the planned demolition but all efforts to relocate the traders to Oshodi Resettlement Market at Isopakodowo proved abortive.
Igbokwe narrated how the government tried to engineer seamless relocation of traders at the affected market: “A committee was set up to plan a relocation. I was in that committee and Mr Ben Akabueze was also in that committee. We held several meetings at Oshodi-Isolo Local Government with the market leaders. A lot of politics, mistrust, blackmail and ethnicity played itself out on where to take the market to.
“Governor Babatunde Fashola stopped the committee and forged ahead to secure a place at Isopakodowo Market now called Oshodi Resettlement Market. This new market has been there for years and these traders refused to relocate. Fashola left office without moving the market even though he cleared the bigger problem and the bigger mess called Oshodi.
“But the plan to relocate the market has been in the front burner. Governor Ambode moved in last week to do the needful when all the avenues of dialogue which have been going on in the last eight years failed to yield positive results.
Igbokwe, who is also a member of The Igbo Conscience (TIC), a socio-political pressure group, also recounted other incidences where market traders resisted and tried to clash with Lagos government on market redevelopment programme.
According to the APC spokesperson, similar drama played out at the Berger Auto dealers Market and Ladipo Market. “For eight years Governor Fashola tried to move that market to Mowe but the traders resisted it with every energy at their disposal. At a time an Igbo Patriot Engineer, Mgbemena, former Federal Controller of Works in Lagos offered to help broker the deal. Everything was going fine until one of the dealers headed to Court to secure and injunction to stop the relocation.
“I was in a meeting where Engr. Mgbemena was apologizing to the governor for the misconduct of the Auto dealers in resisting change in a dynamic society like Lagos. He asked the Governor to give him another chance but did he succeed? The rest is now history.
On the Ladipo Market stand-off, Igbokwe revealed: “Mushin Local Government and the leadership of Ladipo Market Traders Association (LMTA) have agreed few years back to rebuild the market. They agreed they will do it in batches to minimize loses. A date was set aside for the construction to start but the traders were not ready to move.
“On a certain day the contractor who incidentally is an Igbo young man moved in with his equipment, hell was let loose. Ohaneze Ndigbo Lagos went to town to address a press conference that Igbo traders are being intimidated by the government of Lagos State as a result of fallout of 2015 elections.
“Before you know it other Igbo groups went to town with their defeatism attitude. Myself and other members of The Igbo Conscience (TIC) called a meeting with all the stakeholders. After weeks of high level engagements we set October 1, 2015 as the D-day. The rest is now history. Go to Ladipo Market and see the modern Market standing like colossus with all the trappings of good thinking and good result”.
Igbokwe therefore appealed to market traders, especially those of Igbo origin to abstain from resisting efforts of the state government to transform the various commercial places from ancient to ultra-modern ones.
His appeal: “Lagos State government I know is working hard to change the face of Lagos and we must not resist change because the change is for the good of all and sundry. We must be wise enough to know when to shift ground for the good of the commonwealth.
“Defeatism attitude and persecution complex is not the way to go at a time like this. Igbo leaders in Lagos must help our traders to respect constituted authority in their own interest.
By Olisemeka Obeche