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Having Southeast Presidency germane, Senator Rochas Okorocha


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Having Southeast Presidency germane, Senator Rochas Okorocha

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Adetutu Folasade-Koyi, Uche Usim and Paulinus Aidoghie, Abuja

Rochas Okorocha, the Senator representing Imo West at the National Assembly, is 58 today. He has had an adventurous, yet tumultuous political career.

Having taken a shot at the Presidency thrice without success, Okorocha eventually became a two-time governor of Imo from 2011-2019.

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Having Southeast Presidency germane, Senator Rochas Okorocha

22nd September 20200SHARESVideo Player is loading.PauseUnmuteLoaded: 3.04%Fullscreenhttps://googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/ads?client=ca-pub-4454686729706359&output=html&h=300&slotname=7277419402&adk=4092691949&adf=1892713762&w=360&lmt=1600738208&rafmt=1&psa=1&guci=2.2.0.0.2.2.0.0&format=360×300&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.sunnewsonline.com%2Fhaving-southeast-presidency-germane-senator-rochas-okorocha%2F&flash=0&fwr=1&fwrattr=true&rpe=1&resp_fmts=3&sfro=1&wgl=1&dt=1600752519855&bpp=25&bdt=992&idt=1109&shv=r20200915&cbv=r20190131&ptt=9&saldr=aa&abxe=1&cookie=ID%3Df75e9cce839a20e2%3AT%3D1584719956%3AS%3DALNI_MZlvaeBT22sCm50-bfrqzU41wXLSQ&prev_fmts=0x0%2Cauto&nras=1&correlator=1929213273395&frm=20&pv=1&ga_vid=1750489613.1595313620&ga_sid=1600752521&ga_hid=1263317160&ga_fc=0&iag=0&icsg=4486808629586560&dssz=67&mdo=0&mso=0&u_tz=60&u_his=1&u_java=0&u_h=774&u_w=360&u_ah=774&u_aw=360&u_cd=24&u_nplug=0&u_nmime=0&adx=0&ady=787&biw=360&bih=638&scr_x=0&scr_y=0&eid=21067428%2C21067104%2C21066819%2C21066973&oid=3&pvsid=2233377174766339&pem=18&ref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.latestnigeriannews.com%2Ftoday%2Fthesun%2Fnigeria-Daily-sun-newspaper-headlines-today&rx=0&eae=0&fc=1924&brdim=0%2C0%2C0%2C0%2C360%2C0%2C360%2C638%2C360%2C638&vis=1&rsz=%7C%7CeEbr%7C&abl=CS&pfx=0&fu=8320&bc=31&ifi=2&uci=a!2&btvi=1&fsb=1&xpc=eYw7P9an0d&p=https%3A//www.sunnewsonline.com&dtd=1163

Adetutu Folasade-Koyi, Uche Usim and Paulinus Aidoghie, Abuja

Rochas Okorocha, the Senator representing Imo West at the National Assembly, is 58 today. He has had an adventurous, yet tumultuous political career.

Having taken a shot at the Presidency thrice without success, Okorocha eventually became a two-time governor of Imo from 2011-2019.https://googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/ads?client=ca-pub-4454686729706359&output=html&h=300&slotname=6870225295&adk=2907773027&adf=2612523974&w=360&lmt=1600738208&rafmt=1&psa=1&guci=2.2.0.0.2.2.0.0&format=360×300&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.sunnewsonline.com%2Fhaving-southeast-presidency-germane-senator-rochas-okorocha%2F&flash=0&fwr=1&fwrattr=true&rpe=1&resp_fmts=3&sfro=1&wgl=1&dt=1600752519882&bpp=20&bdt=1019&idt=1257&shv=r20200915&cbv=r20190131&ptt=9&saldr=aa&abxe=1&cookie=ID%3Df75e9cce839a20e2%3AT%3D1584719956%3AS%3DALNI_MZlvaeBT22sCm50-bfrqzU41wXLSQ&prev_fmts=0x0%2Cauto%2C360x300&nras=1&correlator=1929213273395&frm=20&pv=1&ga_vid=1750489613.1595313620&ga_sid=1600752521&ga_hid=1263317160&ga_fc=0&iag=0&icsg=4486808629586560&dssz=68&mdo=0&mso=0&u_tz=60&u_his=1&u_java=0&u_h=774&u_w=360&u_ah=774&u_aw=360&u_cd=24&u_nplug=0&u_nmime=0&adx=0&ady=1441&biw=360&bih=638&scr_x=0&scr_y=0&eid=21067428%2C21067104%2C21066819%2C21066973&oid=3&pvsid=2233377174766339&pem=18&ref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.latestnigeriannews.com%2Ftoday%2Fthesun%2Fnigeria-Daily-sun-newspaper-headlines-today&rx=0&eae=0&fc=1924&brdim=0%2C0%2C0%2C0%2C360%2C0%2C360%2C638%2C360%2C638&vis=1&rsz=%7C%7CeEbr%7C&abl=CS&pfx=0&fu=8320&bc=31&ifi=3&uci=a!3&btvi=2&fsb=1&xpc=A8ygAkNdXS&p=https%3A//www.sunnewsonline.com&dtd=1296

He is also the founder of Rochas Foundation, a charity comprising a number of special schools that are spread all over Nigeria that gives scholarship to the less privileged children in Nigeria.

In this interview, Okorocha amplifies the call for the Southeast Presidency, describing it as germane.

He speaks more on life and times, the Nigeria political landscape, insecurity and a host of other issues.

You’ll soon celebrate your 58th birthday, looking at your life, what would you say makes you proud and happy?

Of course I’m happy as a man. God has been so merciful and gracious to me. I’ve enjoyed some unmerited favour from God in all spheres of life. I’m indeed very grateful to God almighty.

What was your growing up like? 

My growing up wasn’t the best of stories, just like most people. I realised I was born into a home of the have nots. What you may want to call a poor home with many children. We were 12 but we dropped to nine. Coupled with the aftermath of the civil war and every thing, life was difficult. The food was not in good supply. We found ourselves back to Plateau State, Jos, where we were before the war. I wouldn’t say it was the best of growing up when you had to deny yourself the right to go to school and go later just to make ends meet. Rather than go to school in the morning, you’d go in the afternoon because you had to do some hawking, street trading to survive.

But it worked out well. It gave me the experience I needed as bad as it may sound, but it brought about the maturity I enjoy today.

Did you ever think of becoming what you are today? Did you have  big dreams?

I’ve always had this confidence that I’ll make it. I’ve always known that the situation was very temporary and I was going to be something someday. I talked about it. But what was important is that I thank my parents for showing me God early in life to appreciate that whatever God doesn’t do for you, no one else can do it. I grew up with that faith. I learnt how to pray, how to fast, how to trust God to do it for me. Somehow, it works miraculously. So, as prayers got things solved, I grew in faith. So,I had absolute confidence I was going to become something in life. One of the vows I took then was that God, in any way you bless me, I’ll bless others. If you honour me, I’ll honour others and if you give me, I’ll share with those who do not have. Because on my own I can do nothing but I can do all through God that gave me strength. That was my driving policy in life, in fact including being a governor.

Did you ever think you could be a governor?

I thought of it as a little boy, especially when we went to receive the military administrators back then. I used to see myself being on that seat. Of course, I’ll like to know them. They would not let us get close to them but when I saw them talk, I said to myself, I can do this.

Let’s connect your north and south worlds. Many call you Okoroawusa and all that. How did it all come about?

I’m one person people understand differently.

Firstly, I became a northerner by sheer difficulties of life. My parents didn’t go to the north because things were nice. They went there out of frustration. We were born in the village but because of the difficulties of life, we went to the north. Poverty made me a northerner. After the civil war, we had to go back to the north. I also think it has to do with God also. If things were well with my parents, they would not have gone to the north. For those on the streets of Barkin ladi for those who knew me, they knew I was a street trader. I hawked oranges, pineapples, bananas, garri and all that.

Most people don’t believe my parents are Igbo.

The north gave me livelihood. They gave me my youth, my education, my everything.

But most people don’t know this; what made Rochas of resources was my association with the Southwest. My business partnership with them made me who I am.

I didn’t make money from the north. I had education and upbringing in the north, but business wise, it’s my relationship with the Southwest. So, I find myself taking Nigeria as my constituency. I’m from the Southeast. My parents Igbo, my upbringing in the north and my financial empowerment, Southwest.

So, I’m a Nigerian. I can’t bite the finger that fed me or hate my origin.

Do you miss being a Governor?

Not at all! Not at all!! Not one bit! I’ve done the best I could do for Imo State. I went there with a vision and I expanded my vision as a Governor. And I’ve laid a basic foundation for that state forever. So, I’m very happy I started and finished well as governor. I’ve no regrets whatsoever being a governor and I’m not looking forward to being a governor. That’s gone forever.

I can’t even remember whether I was a governor. That’s how my mind works. But all that I set my mind to do in Imo, I did.

What was your biggest headache as a Governor?

To be honest to you, nothing. One of the things I said I’ll do as a governor was to make the people to believe and trust the government, that I achieved.

I said I must make education free at all levels, I achieved that.

In terms of infrastructure, I said I must embark on urban renewal, change the landscape of Owerri, that I did. It’s there to speak. And I said I was going to build six universities, 30 hospitals and all the infrastructure I needed to do, I did all of them. I’ve nothing to regret.

The only thing I can say is that, maybe, I wasn’t good in propaganda. But I find it very hard to take the resources of government to advertise for what you’ve done. I believe that what you’ve done should speak for you but it looks like it’s not the truth.

I recall that when the Vice President, Osinbajo came to Imo State, he screamed at what we saw was my achievement.

He said you’ve not done well to yourself by keeping these things. People want to know about it. That’s why I challenge people to go back to Imo State and check whether my record has been beaten. But the story up here is not the same story at the grassroots level. Some people believe that if you have done well and you’ve not given us to eat, you’ve not done well.

When you look back, are there things you could have done differently as a governor?

Nothing! When I went through political persecution, I asked myself, was it wrong to be honest? Was it wrong to have made such huge sacrifice for your people? Should I have embarked on primitive accumulation of wealth? Should I have embraced corrupt practices, I didn’t find answers to them. I had something that created a huge fear in me.

I didn’t want a situation that when I leave office, because of the money I have stolen, someone is in the village, sick and crying and calling the governor and it affects me and my family. I believe that public fund is the most dangerous fund on earth. I abhor it because anytime you steal public fund and the owners complain, God will ask you questions.

I didn’t even regret amassing wealth as a governor but today, because governors are branded as thieves, people think it’s everyone. I’ve asked anyone to show me where I acquired one property anywhere in Nigeria or outside or my bank account with Imo resources. Thank God I was comfortable before becoming a Governor.

But that’s not even enough excuse. I should have amassed wealth. Being good is it really nice? I may have also regretted making people because 90% of the people I made ended up betraying me. Again, would that be a regret, again, I don’t want to regret that because I did my best for my people. Time will tell.

But there are allegations that you embezzled money and all that

It’s not true. You see, these are part of the political persecution. What has happened between Ihedioha and the present governor is that let’s try and bring the image of Rochas Okorocha down because they feel I have a towering image politically, so let’s suppress him. Give him all kinds of things. Call him all kinds of name. Call him a thief, call him Okoroawusa, just pour any dirt on him. If this one doesn’t catch him, this other one will. The long and short of it all is that these do not reflect any truth.

N7.9bn EFCC said you returned, is that a lie?

But I’ve challenged that. You heard me on radio and everywhere. I said show me the money. There is no N7.9 billion anywhere in the world taken by Rochas Okorocha and I’ve challenged that. When you hear such things about me, it’s mere politics without practical realities in them. You could see also the panels set up to witch-hunt me. The one on land has come out, they said I grabbed all the land, yet the land didn’t say I grabbed anything. I didn’t take one single land as governor for myself.

What happened really? When governor Hope came in, we saw all of you together…

No! Governor Hope Uzodinma is not any better than Emeka Ihedioha in terms of those political fights. I don’t know Hope or Emeka’s own which is worse. The panels got more strength and if you’re not saying what they want, they’ll force you to say it. A gentleman said he did a job of almost N14 billion for seven years. He wasn’t the one who did it. I did the job, meanwhile the money was in his account and all that. So, most of these things are not true. It’s just politics at its highest form but the regretful thing is that these are people that were in the opposite camp. Hope was PDP. Emeka was also PDP. And when I defeated them in APGA and APC, they were not happy about it because if you recall how I became a governor, I came from an unknown party in Imo called APGA and I defeated all the political bigwigs. Since then, they haven’t been happy. I brought in APC again and used it to defeat them.

So, what do you expect? For the fact that Hope found himself in APC through the Ben Johnson way that wouldn’t remove that had which he had before when he was in PDP. The political clashes we had and all that. It’s just a repeat of those.

Let’s talk about Uche Nwosu, your son-in-law. People believe you’d have been a hero if you didn’t insist he must be a governor. What’s your take on that?

What will make me a hero is the fact that I brought out Uche Nwosu to run for governor. I brought out a youth, a young man loved by people to be a governor. There is nothing to criticize about Uche Nwosu being a governor.

Uche Nwosu is an in-law to Rochas Okorocha. Even if he’s my son, nothing stops him from running for governor of he has what it takes to govern the state.

If you understand the trajectory or situation with Uche Nwosu, he was my staff for many years.

I know him as someone who shares common background of poverty. His father was a church warder. Not even a priest. He found himself becoming a personal assistant to the Director General of my foundation. So, he wasn’t anywhere close to me. You can’t say there was any relationship. But because of his hard work, he became a personal assistant.

I didn’t even know that Uche Nwosu was eyeing my daughter. If I knew, I would have sacked him before time. I’ll be honest to you, if you knew your PA, driver or steward is eyeing your daughter, when I’m expecting that bigwigs to come and take her. So, I’ve committed no offence by allowing a man of humble beginning like Uche Nwosu to take my daughter as a wife. And my daughter should not be an obstacle to the boy’s future of being a governor of he qualifies. So, any Nigerian who spoke against that is not praying well for himself because in-law is not a curse. I don’t know what went wrong. Uche Nwosu won that election. Emeka never won that election. Uche Nwosu was leading Emeka with 41,000 votes in 24 local governments. Just like Ize Iyamu’s result now. And all of a sudden, you came with three local governments and wrote results of 140-something again that we got in 24 local governments. So, Uche Nwosu won.

And even when they hurriedly announced Emeka by those fighting me nationally politically, it was APC that gave it to Emeka. And took it and gave to Hope.

Emeka didn’t even make the two-thirds. He only got nine local governments out of 27. How can you make somebody a governor by winning nine local governments out of 27? The constitution says you must have two-thirds which means he needs 18 local governments. They kept that aside in the court and the only offence of Uche Nwosu is that he was a candidate of AA and APC. If he’s a candidate of AA and APC, that makes the matter worse. The same INEC agreed that Hope Uzodinma is a candidate of APC. How can you then say Uche is a candidate of AA and APC? When INEC upheld that Hope is a candidate of APC and Uche is a candidate of AA? Injustice is never good.

That’s why I’m congratulating the people of Edo State for standing against injustice because what happened in Edo is not PDP winning APC, it’s justice winning injustice. So, I congratulate the people of Edo. I don’t congratulate any party.

Why did you fall out with your deputy, Eze Madumere?

Eze Madumere was my boy. When you call boy, he was my PA. I brought him back from America. 23 years ago. He was with me. He was in my office as an assistant. He was not someone who was in politics. I made every step of his political life. He never contested any political office. I made him my Chief of Staff. From there, I made him deputy governor. He never even contested to be a deputy governor. It was when the other deputy governor was impeached that I picked him up and made him deputy governor. Where he wasn’t happy with me was when the popularity of Uche Nwosu was becoming very big. Uche has his way when he was Commissioner for Lands. People love him so much. So, I told people in the local governments to go back and decide who they want as their candidate as governor after me. I really didn’t want Uche to be because of this cultural and Nigerian sentiment. Then, all the local governments came back and said they wanted Uche. So, I called Madumere and told him, listen, you can’t win this election because the people to support you already said it’s Uche. Go for the Senate. Sometimes, I sound like a political prophet. All I told them happened. If Madumere had gone for Senate, would have been a Senator with me today and Uche would have been a governor.

I showed leadership by calling the people and said, run for this, run for that. Even for Ararume, I said Ararume, run for Senate, people prefer this young man called Uche. Let him run for governor. If they had listened to me, I would have been a Senator, Uche would have been a governor and Madumere would have been a Senator. We had everything worked out before they deceived themt that they would be governors. They came on the basis of zoning and said that Madumere is from Owerri zone. Who’s the governor now, is it from Owerri zone? He’s from Orlu. It’s a complete loss for all of them because, you see, never you bite the finger that fed you. Never!

Let’s talk about the Rochas foundation

It’s there. It’s been running for 21 years and I have 22,000 school children. We’ve Rochas foundation school in Yola, Bauchi, Sokoto, Zaria, Jos, Kano, Enugu, Ibadan, Ogboko, Owerri and many more.

When I turned 55 years of age, I launched I called Project 5-55-55. 55 represented my age, five represented taking five children (orphans) from all African countries to give them education. And the other 55 means 55 African countries. That project is a huge success. I have children from all over African countries. And every year, five of them come. But you must be an orphan. Poorest of the poor. Today, we have Africa here in Nigeria courtesy of the foundation. All my children are in the charity work.

My runs a charity where she has built over 270 homes for the widows. My son, Aham is into education, emergency schools for the almajiris. Uloma is taking care of widows and empowering them. Every of my child is also running a foundation. So, our family is a family of giving.

But now that I’ve turned 58, I have decided to give 58 scholarships to 58 Nigerians, not necessarily the poor but those who have met good grades and met JAMB cut-off marks. We’re doing this in partnership with JAMB right now. The Rochas foundation has a university where we are major stakeholders; the Eastern Palm University. It’s also a free university. All the children of Rochas foundation who have graduated from secondary school are now in the university. We’ve over 700 of them who have resumed. It’s a three-year old university. So, my life is all about giving to humanity.

So, our foundation is doing quite well. We’ve a challenge and this is taking a toll. Over 75% of what I own goes to charity.

How do you fund all these?

I give God all the glory. But majorly, for every foundation we have, we already have a set asset in real estate. But it’s not measuring up because of the difficulties in the economy.

We had a board meeting few weeks ago and my first son said to me, daddy, we’ve a lot in our hands now. I was thinking of starting the almajiri school because of this large number of out of school children. My son said, daddy, before you go into that, you have to give us N50 billion that we can invest in shares to be able to cope. So what do we do? They said maybe we have to get some properties and sell them. That’s just to tell you that it’s not easy. When you hear about charity, it’s a lot sacrifice. But we give God all the glory to have sustained us to where we are now.

How do you reflect on Nigeria at 60?

Great country. Great people. Wonderful people. I say so because Nigerians are the best of human beings you can find anywhere in the world. Very tolerant, respectful and understanding. We’re resourceful. We don’t lack anything. We have all it takes in this country. What we’re suffering is the mismanagement of our resources.

How best to manage our resources, how best to unite this country and make it one great nation. Because poverty seems to divide us. Not religion. Not tribe. Most people now begin to talk about dividing this country. No.

This calling for separation is poverty because everyone believes that if they go their different ways, they would be better off. It’s all poverty. If we address poverty, all the calls for disunity will not come in.

What is your relationship with Hope Uzodinma like?

Hope Uzodinma! I don’t think about any kind of relationship. He’s somebody who became governor not by my support. I never supported him. For me, I believe he should not be for reasons best known to me, just like some people feel about me. But he got the ticket through a Ben Johnson way, through a smart way. We’re all watching to see how he can smartly track and improve on what I’ve done. It’s neither here nor there.

Your assessment of administrations that have come and gone since independence

All the leaders we’ve had in Nigeria all came with the intention to succeed. There’s never any past military or civilian leader who came with the intention to destroy Nigeria. That’s what most people don’t understand. Even from the time of Tafawa Balewa till this date who came to lead and didn’t want Nigeria to succeed. And every one that has come has tried to do his best. Just that the best is not good enough by the people’s assessment. People expect more from their leaders naturally. Do they mean well? Leaders mean well. What happens? Vision. Understanding of the situation, is what makes the whole difference. That’s people criticize one government or the other from time to time. It’s the right of the people to expect the best from their leaders. They’ve done nothing wrong because out or the millions of people, they chose you and said you can save us, you can cater for our children, for our education, for our wellbeing.

I think Nigerians are even expecting less from their leaders.

There is only an apparent disunity which does not reflect the reality. Who’s in disunity? The shoemaker in Sokoto and the one in Imo? They share the common pains. The beggar in my village and the one in Shagamu share the same pains. They don’t even understand what you’re talking about.

The disunity in quote is only available in the political class. That is one of the smart things that politicians do to gain sympathy from their regions. So when 100 people are not united in Nigeria over 200 million people, then we say there’s disunity? But these 100 people have the capacity to change the minds of these other people. Like I said, when they there is disunity, it’s borne out of poverty. Poverty can make you believe anything. If I tell a poor man that the reason you’re poor is because Igbo are against you, he’ll believe. Poverty listens to every negative language.

People complain about Buhari’s type of leadership that it is tilted towards north and tends to separate us, what’s your take on that?

People complain always. Even the north complain more than you think you complain. The point I’m making is that, does President Muhammadu Buhari mean well? He means well. People have their nature. President Muhammadu Buhari has a nature of quietness, not talking much and trusting people. In fact if President Muhammadu Buhari has any major challenge, it’s trusting people. Those he has trusted have taken advantage of the situation and doing what they like which is contrary to his vision. That is the situation and scenario we found ourselves. But he still has to take responsibility. It’s like in a family, if you come to my family, those who know will tell you that Rochas Okorocha has one of the best families in the world and I’m proud to say so. The secret is communication. There’s no single day I don’t communicate 10 times with my wife on phone. So she understands every situation as we move along. Same thing with my children. So, if I don’t have, they know. If I have only N20,000 and we have a problem of N2 million. The money will be with them first of all and we put heads together on how to use N20,000 to solve a problem of N2 million. That’s the best form of governance, the one you allow the people to govern themselves. In Nigeria, we’re governing people, rather than teaching them how to govern themselves. When here people complain along that line, there’s no proper communication. There’s no sufficient communication. People are not made part and parcel of the government so that when there’s plenty, they will know and when there is lack, they also know and understand.

Your party, the APC was voted into power at the centre in 2015 based on its promise on security of life and property of the citizens. You would agree that today, the situation has become worse. What do you think is responsible for President Buhari, a retired Army General, not being able to deliver on security?

Security is multi-dimensional. Again, again, poverty is a pivot upon which the wheels of insecurity rotate. When you stop poverty, that wheel can no longer rotate. Now, let me take you along the line. You are talking about the insecurity of today, but I am worried about the insecurity of 20 years to come.

How do you mean?

Because today, you have 14.3 million children out of school, not going to school, with no future anymore and that issue is not being addressed now. Those 14 million children, in the next 20 years, 10 million of them will become Boko Haram, kidnappers and you need about 100 million police to be able to checkmate this. So, the insecurity we have today is the ignorance of 30 years ago that we are facing today. To correct it, we have to start now, to begin even protecting the one of the future, while trying to attempt to solve the problem of today.

In that case, what template do you think the government can use to totally put an end to poverty? Like the Chinese people will say that they have brought 300 million out of poverty, how can we bring the 100 million that Buhari is talking about out of poverty?

I just told you something about letting people know how to govern themselves. Every man on earth is created by God with his talent, with his culture which is the word of life or their tradition. Governance and government is only a guide, for no person or individual can grow beyond, above his destiny for his destiny has a relationship with God, unquote, Rochas Okorocha. Government is only a guide. But here, government is a provider and that is what I talked about Ohashierism and Ofusharism.

Can you throw more light on both terms please?

Ohasharism is where the entire nation, the entire people, the entire multitude, crowd, cooking for one person. No matter how big that person is or that country is, they can never finish it. But Ofusharism as against Ohashierism, is where one person is cooking for the entire nation and the entire multitude. The nation will be hungry. That is the problem of Nigeria. Government is a guide and not a provider; to guide people on how to discover themselves and bring the best out of themselves. That is what is called education. So, the economy of Nigeria has no problem. The economy of Nigeria is a national problem. This nation has no problem. We don’t have any problem. The problem we have is the management of the resources and the people of Nigeria.

How do you feel with the position of some prominent northerners that power should not come down South in 2023?

When you talk about this issue of power and where it goes to, now, you begin to trivialise the issue of power, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Personally, I don’t want to be a President because of where I come from.

Why not?

No! I don’t want to be a President because of where I come from. I want to be a President because I can solve the problem of Nigeria. Take for instance, if my presidency will not unite this country, then what am I doing with the presidency? If my being a president cannot address the poverty and insecurity in this land, then why do I want to be president? Or if my presidency cannot address the economy of this nation so that we can be like the modern economy of the world, what is the need for the presidency? And if my presidency cannot give free education to all schools up to tertiary level, then why do I want to be a president? So, we are not going to be president because of region or where I come from, but because of what you have to offer to the people. That is my argument. And presidency of sentiments has never helped this nation and we must begin to think about presidency on issues and not about sentiments. But what people are agitating for and talking about is perhaps, what happens in a football match, competition. Take for instance; the Southwest has governed this Nigeria. We saw how the economy did well, we saw how security was handled and poverty was handled; and education, health were handled. Now, the South-South has handled the affairs of this nation and we saw the scorecard when South-South was there. The North has handled the affairs of the country and it is still handling the affairs of this country. We have seen how it is going. Let’s try an Igbo man to come and see what the economy will look like when an Igbo man comes to power. That is the kind of thing I want to hear, which is like a football match. The fact that you are in Chelsea or ManU does not make you not to be a member of the European Union. So, I think that is what we are saying and it would have been a challenge to say ok, look, when the South-South were in power, they did well; when the North were in power, they did well; when the Southwest were in power, they did well; when the Southeast came, the country saw itself in a supersonic development. It is a football match kind of character that at the end of it all, we are still one because we are one nation called Nigeria.

Is that a veiled way of saying bring in the Southeast next?

That is germane. That is great to say look, let us see. And Nigerians will be waiting, the Igbos have been talking about the presidency, let us see what they will do when they come around. And if they come around and Nigeria becomes one of the best countries in the world, people should applaud us and say, heyyyyyy! This is like football match because when you bring this issue of region into it, it tends to divide us. For me, it will get to a point where you say look, if this person is in this football match. After all, Chelsea will buy ManU players and do it well and they are all getting the same thing. What is good is scoring the goal. What is important is winning the match; what is important is developing the economy of the nation.

So, you believe power should shift to the Southeast in 2023? 

On the basis of the football match style thing.

What should leaders in the Southeast do to realise this dream?

All they need to do is if you are qualified from the Southeast, come out and tell us you are qualified. Let us know your track record, who have you been before? What have you done before successfully?

The problem in Nigeria is that people don’t ask questions. What has the person done in his life to be able to bring him into government? Let me tell you, power does not change anybody. It brings that which is in you out. It doesn’t change you. Take for instance, if you make a President Rochas, you know that every day, there will be construction on every street of Nigeria and you will see that there will be free education everywhere, children will be going to school. That is a President Rochas you will see. So, you know people by their character, what they like doing. If you see an accountant coming, you will see how he will be counting the money every day.

The argument by some stakeholders in your party is that the South East has rejected the APC and should not expect the political party to hand over its presidential ticket to a zone where it is not popular. What are your thoughts?

No! You see, again, again, 2023 is going to have a different style of politics because Nigerians are now smarter than they used to be. Nigerians will go for candidates and not necessarily for party. Even if you come from any party, Nigerians will say ah, parties have deceived us, this individual we know. That is what is going to happen.

But let me tell you about the APC. APC is not completely a failed party. It is having the biggest challenge resulting from lack of show of leadership. But what should happen in APC is that APC must go back to its original formation, how it was started. If you recall, there were four parties that formed APC – CPC, led by President Muhammadu Buhari; ACN led by Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, who brought the chunk of the governors; ANPP led by Ogbonnaya Onu and his group and APGA led by me. In fact, I gave the name APC to this party. That is the four legs upon which this party stood and if any of the two legs are shaking, the party can’t stand. That is what is happening.

So, which two legs of that quartet is shaking now?

In fact, not even two legs are shaking. About three legs are shaking (general laughter). So, these are the things. And once we fortified this thing, APC will pick back from the dust where it is and some of these people who just came and joined APC for whatever reason or what, the spirit of APC is what we need to go back to. And who will do that? President Muhammadu Buhari has to give the directives that go back to the history, how we all started that made us who we are.

You vied for the presidency on the platform of the APC in 2015. Would you throw your hat into the presidential ring in 2023?

First and foremost, I have run for the presidency three times now – 2003, if you recall; 2007 where I ran against Yar’Adua and I came second if you remember very well. And this third one which I ran in APC, actually, that outing which I came like one month to the primaries, was a strategic way of bringing the Southeast into the fold of the party because at that time, APC was wearing more of Northern-Southwest coloration and there was no way to let the people know that look, Igbos are part and parcel of that strategy without me running for president. That was why when it didn’t work, I went back to complete my governorship. It was just a strategic move at that time. So, I ran for those elections.

Asking me if I want to run for election in 2023, I think you should be the best judge at this time. I will make my pronouncement when the time comes. But for somebody who having run for election in 2003, 2007 and 2015, you should judge yourself.

Do you have the resources to run again?

I don’t need resources to run for election. In fact, if I am going to run for election, resources will never be my criteria. I will only send my message to the people. If they think I am qualified to do so, fine, because I have always told the people look, be careful before money buys your votes because that your vote is priceless. That vote is the education of your children; it is the security of your life. It is everything. So, if you sell it, if you sell the security of your life for N100,000 or N1,500, then  there depends. The child education, you pay for it. So, it is Iberiberism of the highest order to sell your vote.

Excuse me, what is Iberiberism?

Iberiberism is the foolishness at the highest level.

As a Senator from the South East zone, what is your take on the controversial Water Resources Bill which, many think, will be another Ruga in disguise?

I am tired and sick of this whole thing, the analysis of the press. Gentlemen, let’s build a nation. Let’s build a Nigerian nation. Seek ye first this nation and every other thing will fall in place. I think that is my answer to this thing because there are a lot of semantics and sentiments that are coming and interpretation and misinterpretation and everything. Once this nation is right, everything will be right.

What would be your explanation to the perception that the South East members of the National Assembly are not doing enough to fight for the collective interest of their people. The perception was derived from the silence by South East lawmakers during the passage of some sensitive bills, like the recent loan for infrastructure from China which excluded the South East?

Well, that loan has been an ongoing thing for many, many years before the coming of this. But we have made our case. We said you cannot borrow $22 billion and there is no part for the Southeast. I think that is the bone for consideration. It is just equity, it is just fairness. We don’t even need to be pushing for certain things. Like I said, until we accept to know that this nation is one nation, we will be making mistake. In fact, finding myself in the Senate, I tend to speak more for other parts of the nation than even the Southeast because I believe this nation should be one. We have Igbos in Kano, when there is Water Bill there, Igbos will enjoy from the Water Bill in Kano. You have Yorubas in Sokoto. When there is this thing in Sokoto, they will benefit. There are Yorubas in Imo State. They will benefit from there. So, are we not one nation? Let’s get this nation thing right and the spirit of the nation back to where it is supposed to be.

What do you think will make it possible for the South East to get another state, so that it comes at par with other geopolitical zones?

Well, this is another matter of equity. I think the Southeast deserves a state. I think they deserve it just for the purpose of equity because that tends to hamper the number of people they have in the Senate, the House and all that. And I think for the purpose of equity and justice, they should be given. But that should come more of like a presidential bill faster than anything else.

What advise will you offer Nigerians as recipe for peace?

Peace? First and foremost, we must try and recreate a meet that unites this country. Religion, tribe and sentiments have not helped us. We need to create a meet, a national meet that will unite the Nigerian nation where when one part of this country is injured; other parts of the country will feel it.  The American spirit! We must know when to unite and when to quarrel. But in a society of man, there has never been any society that you cannot find misunderstanding, even within the family. But you must create a meet. That is what we have not been able to do in Nigeria. Even in a family, when I got married to my wife, I said to her, don’t marry me, I will not marry you because if we marry each other, we are going to quarrel every day. But let us create a meet, a vision where you will be married to and I will be married to. That vision holds us together. So, no matter how will quarrel, that vision will bring us together. So, this nation needs a national meet, national vision that can unite us to feel that way, the same way we feel when we are playing a football match outside, when Nigeria is playing Ghana or Nigeria is in a World Cup. You know how we unite? We need to create that national meet that can unite us. That is the only way to go and it takes leadership to provide this meet.

Credit: The Sun

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