Candidly speaking, chronicling the life of Mr Joe Igbokwe, mechanical engineer, pro-democracy and human rights activist, author, publisher, politician, public commentator and motivational speaker, who turned 60 years recently, is unarguably akin to jogging in the jungle. This is so because navigating through the life’s trajectory of this Nnewi-born enigmatic personage, is like a bumpy ride on a terrain dotted with landmines.
Truth is, from whatever prism this Lagos State All Progressives Congress(APC) Publicity Secretary is viewed from by any writer, remains largely subjective, as he conjures the image of the African folklore moonlight tale of the elephant and the five blind men, who had varied description of the gargantuan animal depending on which part of it they touched.
Igbokwe means different things to different people and readily courts the impression of a controversial figure.
For his critics, Igbokwe is seen as one of the arrowheads of what many call the propaganda machinery of the ruling APC especially during the electioneering campaign period,and has been consistently taunted for playing Hitler’s Goebbels for the party.
But his admirers often counter these critics, justifying his unrepentant ‘alarms and alerts’, echoing that as a patriotic Nigerian who has been in the trenches for over three decades as a pro-democracy activist,
Igbokwe’s ultimate mission is the enthronement of good governance, which he believed the now defeated PDP was incapable of providing the nation.
But beyond the divergent views held by many of this publisher of National Vision Newspapers, and aside his limitations, Igbokwe at 60, is worth celebrating given the fact that his is a life anchored on perseverance, tenacity of purpose,Spartan doggedness, and above all, service to God and humanity.
Obviously, when the little Joe was born 60 years ago to a humble parentage, there were no comets seen nor did heavens brace forth his arrival to this tricky world.However, the young lad knew early enough that if he allowed the circumstances of his birth to eclipse his determination to carve a niche for himself, then he will sadly remain a mere footnote in the sands of time. He rejected this passive posture of life, and like the late former British Prime Minister and war hero, Winston Churchill,Igbokwe did not blame his parents, himself or his star for his little beginning , rather, he took his destiny in his hands and has become a trail blazer in his many callings.
Armed with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1985,Igbokwe’s foray into human rights activism and national reckoning began immediately after his National Youth Service Corp programme in Ogun State.He became involved in the war against the military’s continued stay in power and actively participated in the many protests across the country against military rule.
But Igbokwe’s activism became more apparent in the wake of the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election which was won by the now late Chief MKO Abiola. Through his many newspaper publications and protests with other pro- democracy activists, like the indefatigable ChiefGaniFawehinmi, Femi Falana, Olisa Agbakoba, NADECO, among others, Igbokwe became one of the outspoken apostles for the revalidation of June 12.Like he has often said , he is a pan Nigerian who believes that injustice perpetuated against anybody irrespective of his tribe or religion , remains an evil that should be condemned and resisted.
On the political sphere where he has continued to make his marks not only as the Lagos State APC’s spokesperson and Chairman ,Conference of APC Publicity Secretaries(CAPS),Igbokwe has made no pretensions about his commitment in building a truly pan Nigerian progressive party where all hands need to be on deck in rebuilding Nigeria to take her rightful place in the comity of nations.He has consistently preached the gospel of national integration, believing that no single tribe in the country can clinch the presidency without reaching out to others.
And against the backdrop of his being seen as a ‘deviant on the other side’ of the political divide to the chagrin of most of his Igbo kinsmen, and his being tagged Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu’s ‘anointed son’, Igbokwe readily dismisses such insinuations. He rather affirms to those who care to listen that the dynamics of today’s politics transcend primordial and clannish considerations of ethnicity and tribalism, but rests on a resolute resolve to build a strong, virile, united and economically stable nation for the good of all.This virtue of ushering in a better Nigeria, Igbokwe vows, Tinubu and the APC represent in all ramifications, hence his unrepentant attachment to this political prodigy and the party. He assures that despite the present challenging times in the country , the APC led- administration as a change agent, will still give Nigerians a new lease of life after what he calls the 16 years of PDP’s brigandage and plunder.
As the author of:I gbos:25 years after Biafra; Heroes of Democracy and 2007:The IBB Option, Igbokwe through his books, stressed the need to truly reintegrate the Igbo into the polity , just as he echoed the urgency of ensuring an enduring democracy in the country and lambasted the then Gen.IbrahimBabaginda regime for taking Nigeria on a political rigmarole
For a man who has contributed over a thousand articles on national issues in the last three decades, Igbokwe’s message is apt :Nigeria needs purposeful leadership for true national rebirth!
Igbokwe who is former General Manager, Lagos State Infrastructure Management and Regulatory Agency(LASIMRA) and now Chairman, Wharf Landing Fee Collecting Authority,also mentors the youths in the country as a motivational speaker, inculcating in them the rare virtues of hard work, honesty, contentment and patriotism.
Aside his role in nation- building, Igbokwe who is a member of the South East Professionals, has continued to be in the vanguard of ensuring a more economically stable South East and alsoplays a pivotal role in the campaign for the youths in the South East zone to embrace education, which he echoes remains a veritable tool for self actualization.
As an Anglican, Igbokwe’s life is anchored on the indisputable fact that God as the author and finisher of man’s faith need be revered and worshipped at all times. He strives to live a pious life and renders selfless service, believing in that timeless biblical injunction,”Do unto others what you like others do unto you.’’
Suffices to say that for this father of five who began life as a mere village folk, but who through dent of hard work, diligence andperseverance these 60 testy years, has metamorphosed into acelebrity of note, Igbokwe deserves all the kudos and accolades for attaining three scores.
Undoubtedly, this avid reader and public affairs commentator who is married to Dr Grace Igbokwe, can beat his chest in utter satisfaction after reminiscing on his life these past 60 years andaffirm that he has ran a good race and represented his generation credibly well, even in an age where crass materialism and intellectual aridity have been elevated into a creed.
For us your compatriots, we pray that God guides and protects you to continue your service to humanity and may your voice and pen not dry up at a time like this when Nigeria is in dire need of a new beginning.
Mr. Emmanuel Nwagboniwe, a media practitioner wrote from Lagos.