Why would Gov Rochas Okorocha say APGA is not a political party, what he said is it justifiable.
All schools that have been left to rot, including Owerri Township School, Akwakoma Girls School , Ikenegbu Girls School, Government College, Government Technical College have been given a facelift and we have built a science college for students who are interested in science.
So, talking about my political opponents, what shocks me is their lies about me and my performance and I ask them, who among their people has done even 50% or 30% of what I have done?
They are there for everybody to see but my problem is I am not very good with the press and I don’t like commissioning projects, because commissioning projects means you will spend another amount of money which could have been used to build another classroom block. So, I’d rather keep doing more projects than commissioning. Even if I want to commission the projects, it will take me two years, because I have done not less than 2,000 projects commissionable by Nigerian standards.
Your excellency, concerning the rural roads you mentioned, I happen to come from Orogwe in Owerri West here and our own road, for example is among roads that were said to be tarred. Right now, as we speak it’s not pliable as the contractor was only able to work from Irete to somewhere around Ndegwu. I also know that the road leading to Old Nekede has collapsed. What do you have to say about that?
Okay, let me explain that. The Orogwe road we are talking about, I don’t know why it is still like that . Some of these rural roads, I don’t know, but I am happy to say that some of them have been done. Let me tell you, I did not say we have overhauled all roads. This will be coming in the second phase of the programme for rural roads, but at least you have admitted that some of them have been done. The Nekede project is a Federal Government project just like the Port Harcourt road and people keep screaming that I should do something. What can you do when the contract has been awarded to a national contractor, Arab Contractors, who has abandoned the project for lack of payment by the Federal Government? Now, the same thing is applicable to Nekede road. That of Nekede was awarded at about N6 billion and to do the erosion control, but I couldn’t have waited for the Federal Government. Right now, as I am talking to you, work is going on there to at least make it passable for people. So, this government is very responsive. Our rural roads are still our focus but we have not finished work on all of them. We are not saying that we have overhauled or constructed all rural roads in Imo State, but some have been overhauled or constructed.
One would have expected that this being your second term, you would have appointed your cabinet, but three months after you were reelected, you are yet to name your commissioners. Are you taking a cue from what is happening at the federal level?
No, I am not. This time around, we’re trying to manage costs to be honest with you, because the situation in the country now is very tough. Secondly, before I appoint new commissioners, I must make sure I get the right people . Meanwhile, we have appointed a taskforce which consists of people who can resolve some of the pressing issues in the state for now. Very soon, I will appoint my commissioners. Political appointments are quite troublesome in this country as people do not care whether or not you spend all the money on appointing people. In fact, they prefer that I appoint one thousand people who do nothing. In any case, we have set up a committee to see how we can merge the ministries to reduce the number of commissioners. We intend to run a lean government and it takes time to put together.
You were first elected into office on APGA platform but you decamped to APC. What was your motivation and why APC and not PDP?
APGA is not a political party, it’s a regional association for Ndigbo in politics. I am not condemning APGA but APGA cannot give to us what we need nationally and locally and I saw that coming. For instance, I wouldn’t have been in APGA if PDP had given me a ticket. All my efforts to become governor, to become Senator, to become president in the PDP were not satiated and not that I was never qualified. Even when I won the election they denied me. I could have been a governor since 1979 but it was denied me. I could have been a senator, but they denied me. I ran for president, I came second but they wouldn’t even consider me for vice president. So, I left PDP because of injustice and when I came into APGA, I thought APGA was a platform on which to win that particular election, but I did make it clear to them that APGA is not a national party and we cannot still remain in our myopic world thinking that we can do it alone without others. It’s not a good image for Ndigbo and when I saw that the Yoruba who were running the ACN who even had five states went for a national party, then what was I waiting for? It’s better to own a 10% equity in a billion Naira business than to be a 100% owner of a N5,000 business. All of them are MDs but one MD is as useless as nothing. So, that was my point and you see today, it has paid off. If I had not decamped to APC and this election had taken place, the Igbo would have no identity at all in Nigeria. Can you imagine that?
Now that you are in APC, does that make Imo an APC state bearing in mind what happened in the last election?
Imo is an APC state.
Can it still be after your tenure in 2019?
APC will capture the entire South-east.
How is that going to work out?
First, it depends on President Buhari’s performance.I believe he will do very well. If President Buhari performs very well and Rochas Okorocha performs very well in Imo State, the whole South-East will support them. You see, people are tired of politics of sentiments, of where you come from. People are thinking about politics of issues, what they can get from the system. We have transformed from “vote for APGA, it’s an Igbo party” to deceive the people and in actuality it will not be pan-Igbo,it will be pan-Abuja. So, people are aware of all those things. So, I pray President Buhari succeeds, I know he will succeed, and I’ll do well in Imo. Then that’s it. Who doesn’t like good things? You see, political party success in Nigeria now depends on performance and not on PDP’s deception , not on propaganda on which it’s an expert. Do you know the hell I went through in the last election? Even my Chief Press Secretary was beaten mercilessly by the army on the order of the PDP candidate. He was seriously bruised and hospitalized for weeks, but I am happy that has come to an end. Look at PDP now,shouting just three months of not being in government, they have become restless already and I am wondering why they are restless. I wonder whether they can survive even one year, because they are too used to this ‘easy come, easy go’ mentality. So, for me, I think APC will do well as a party in the South-East, if the infrastructure we are talking about is in place and for people to see that my dear president is doing what he has promised to do and we will do our own part in the state.
Although you are very optimistic that President Buhari will do well, PDP in his first 100 days has already written him off. How do you look at that?
Is President Buhari written off? I don’t know about that. That is the biggest joke of the century. Even if Buhari keeps quiet the way he is keeping quiet, Nigeria will arrange itself. I am not judging Buhari based on his economic intelligence or policy, I am judging Buhari by his character . Do you know that as I speak to you now, Nigeria is fixing itself without Buhari talking. Corruption is going down on its own without Buhari talking. Let me tell you, leadership is everything. When a country is not doing well, fire the leader; when a state is not doing well, fire the governor; when a man is not doing well, fire his wife. There is nothing wrong with a nation but there is something wrong with the leadership of that nation. When I went to America with Buhari, I witnessed President Barack Obama shower encomiums on him and that is already opening doors everywhere. People are look at things differently. People look at Nigeria differently. No nation can grow beyond their leader. When you associate with people who are unintelligent and corrupt, people look at you the same way. People look at Imo from Rochas Okorocha conduct. You can’t look down on Imo, you can’t and neither can you blast Imolites for anything, no! Imo is up there now, it’s about leadership. If you are cheap your nation is cheap.
Most people say that governors of the South-East are not united and if you look at it from the point of view of the South-East Governors’ Forum; during your first term, you rarely attended their meetings and this time around, I don’t think it’s functional. What’s the situation?
It’s not true. In the South East Governors’ Forum, we are just like members of the same family – Enugu, Abia, Imo, Ebonyi and Anambra and our cordiality is wonderful. In fact, let me tell you, I see a new dawn in the Igbo nation in the crop of governors we have now. Believe me, that young man from Ebonyi is willing to perform. It’s the same with the Enugu man and Abia man too. I have seen passion in these people I mentioned to you now.
So, what happened in the old order?
In the old order, it’s what I call praise singing. I was tired of the meeting. I will go to meeting of governors and I will say, can we talk to Mr. President to see what he can do for us. Somebody will stand up and say ‘no we won’t talk to Mr. President. Mr. President knows what we need. He is a gentleman and so knows what we need. You don’t need to talk to him’. Four years passed and we couldn’t get anything for the South-East. That’s why I stopped going to the meetings. It was of no use. It was more of praise singing. The same thing that our people , the political leaders in Igbo land do and they never knew that President Jonathan was too close to me. He was like a friend and brother. Even his wife and I were close too but that does not apply to issues of policies. I say let us see what we can get for our people but they will say no, there is no need talking to him, he knows what we need. We cry more than the bereaved.
The major thrust of President Buhari’s campaign is the fight against corruption and now I think he has put the machineries in place, but some people still doubt if he has the capacity to fight corruption in this country considering the rot in the country. What do you think?
Well, let me say to you that the fight against corruption has started. It’s about style. You see, Nigerians expect that if Buhari comes into government, the following day everybody will be jailed. That was the expectation but I think President Buhari will do things differently. What President Buhari is interested in is recovering looted funds. I am sure he is making that effort across the whole world. Nigeria’s looted funds are not here, they are all over the place and he is talking to nations where these monies are being kept to see how he can retrieve it. That’s the best strategy against corruption for now. There is another way you can also fight it and you lose both the money and everything. So, you have to apply a systematic way of getting the much you can get before you do whatever you want to do that pleases your heart. But for now, I think he is interested in recovering looted money and I think the money would be retrieved, I believe that. Buhari’s fight against corruption might take a different approach from what people think, not the usual Nigerian way.
Your Excellency, you have always had this desire to become Nigeria’s president one day. As governor, your tenure will end in 2019, do you think it’s possible, from what we have on ground now, for an Igbo man to become president?
You see, I am not one of those who preach the gospel of sectional leadership for Nigeria i.e Hausa president, Yoruba president or Igbo president. There is nothing like Hausa president. Buhari is not an Hausa president, he is a Nigerian president of Hausa extraction.
So, what we need is a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction. What breeds tribalism and sectionalism is the way we look at issues. So, for me, it doesn’t really make a difference. If I want to do something and I see somebody who is doing it right, why fight it? If Buhari is doing well as the president, why would I want to truncate it by going on to contest against him in 2019? I wouldn’t do that. It’s only good, correct and fair that he be allowed to continue.
What if he’s not running again?
If he is not running again, that is a different kettle of fish. But why wouldn’t he want to do so if he is doing well. I, for one, never wanted to be governor of Imo State.
I have passed the stage, I was running for presidency. Circumstances made me contest the governorship of Imo. When I heard of the ugly situation in Imo State, government’s ineptitude and intimidation and even people being killed by vigilante, that was what troubled my heart and I resolved on a rescue mission and that’s why my government is on the avatar mission and I have rescued Imo State, unless no one wants to acknowledge the facts. So, I am not on this political mission for the sake of being called a governor or president, it’s for the people. So, if the people are happy and getting what they want, I should better go back to Rochas Foundation and become the President of Rochas Foundation and keep answering president.
That will touch lives of the downtrodden positively. So, this is life for me. I think we should have an institute of political education to really teach people to know whether they are going for political power to satiate ambition or because of vision. Seventy per cent of those who contest political office do so because they’re ambitious but for me, I have nothing to do with ambition, I have vision. It’s not because of the financial benefits, it’s for the glory of the job. That also for me, in 2019, is my biggest headache. Who are the people? I am looking at everybody in Imo State now, those in business, government, outside government, teachers, everybody I see around who can really hold this stake, who think about the people and not about amassing wealth.
When I see such a person, I will give the person my backing and I will tell Imo people, I think this person can do it. It’s up to you people to decide whether you want him or not. This is the kind of thing I want to do, because I have seen where a group of people they call political cabals come and put people in power only for such pupets to pay them salary. Do you know since I became governor I don’t pay any props, because I have none? Imo is free from the shackles of political bondage.
What legacy do you want to leave in Imo State?
Imo State of a new vision, anchored on the will of the people. Imo State whose unborn will rise to say, thanks to our founding fathers. I want to be remembered in history not for what I have but for the number of lives I have touched. That’s my driving force. So, Imo will be better and everything will be better. I am laying some silent foundations that subsequent governors will improve on and move on. But my principal concern is that we must never wait for Federal Government to decide what happens in every state.
Like now, we don’t have to wait for the Federal Government for power. So, I am trying to work out how we can develop things here.
We are trying to create wealth for the state. Open the doors of Imo State to the whole world so that people will come here and develop the state. We can do that and we must do it now.
In your opinion what do you think ? Is APGA not a political party? From his point of view is he right ?