From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Imo State Governor and the Chairman, All Progressives Peoples (APC) Governors Forum, Rochas Okorocha in an interactive session with members of State House Press Corps, noted that the neglect of the youths was responsible for the agitation in the South -East. According to him, the youths are frustrated and are using agitation to vent their anger.
He also accuses Ekiti state governor, Ayo Fayose of deliberately heating up the polity with his allegations that President Muhammadu Buhari was on life support.
What is your reaction to recent happenings in the polity?
As you are aware we are passing through a very difficult time in our nation and we have a lot of challenges – political, economical, social, and cultural and what have you. I want to advise that this is what many great nations of the world have passed through before getting to their point of greatness and Nigeria will not be an exemption. We must see this time as a trying period for Nigeria and by the grace of God we shall overcome. So this is the time to preach love, this is the time to love one another, this is the time to embrace one another, this is the time to preach peace especially in more of the things that unite us as a people and talk not at all about the things that will divide us.
And this called to question the recent statement created to Governor Fayose over the health of Mr. President. I want to advise that Fayose statement should not be regarded, it is baseless and there is no substance for that information. What he said is not right, it is uncalled for and that is simply heating up the polity.
In our culture and tradition we do not play politics with peoples’ lives and anybody can be sick, anybody can be in the hospital and so making such categorical statement which is unfounded that Mr. President is on life support, is to the best of my knowledge a statement of hate. That is a cheap talk and Nigerians should not regard it. What we should do right now is to pray for Mr. President and wish him well.
I do not know if Fayose is speaking from the point of view of being the chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum or he is speaking as a person or as a governor. I do not understand but whatever it is, people must disregard the statement.
Fayose also called for the President’s resignation. What’s your reaction?
Well, I have just said that even the speculation he is making is wrong, it is unfounded. And if anybody is to speak about the President’s health, Fayose does not have the qualifications to speak for the nation on whether Mr. President should resign or stay. It is not in our culture, it is not in our tradition. We sympathize with those who go through pains of ill-health, at that time we don’t wish them death, we wish them well. And Mr. President’s office is properly taken care of by Mr. Acting President of Nigeria until Mr. President comes back home and continues his work and concludes his term. But to say he should resign is cheap talk and does not make sense in anyway.
People say Mr. President is being treated with tax payers’ money and that demands accountability and full disclosure of his health issues to Nigerians. Don’t you believe that is necessary?
Well, let me say to you that if there is an announcement that President Buhari today lacks money to treat himself abroad, believe me more than 20 million Nigerians will contribute for that purpose. So this is neither here nor there. You must understand what he represents and who he is.
President Buhari naturally does not lack funds, he has never own funds himself but people supports him if the need be, he lives for the people he does not live for himself. Buhari must be seen as a great Nigerian who has made utmost sacrifice in many ramifications. You can see that from his family, you can see that from his children. He is not a man of wealth neither does he discusses it. Anytime he needs money I’m sure millions of Nigerians will contribute even if it is one, one kobo. So it is neither here nor there to talk about using national resources. He is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and we must honour our President, it is the office, not just because of him, the office belongs to all of us.
It is very funny when people try to bring down the office of the President thinking that they are bringing down Buhari. There are two different issues here: there is presidency and there is the person of Buhari but when it has to do with Nigeria’s presidency it concerns all of us. And we will take it out on any nation that insults our President but we can forgive anybody that insults Muhammadu Buhari as an individual but the Presidency of Nigeria is sacred and we must protect it. That is the alter ego of the nation and we must protect it and that is what great people and great nation do.
Part of the concerns about the President’s health is the fact that some of the functions he is supposed to carry out like the swearing in of ministers have been left hanging. What is your response to these issues and how will your party address them?
Like I said before there is absolutely no vacuum. You have an acting President who assumes all the powers of Mr. President. So I do not know if there are reasons why Mr. Acting President has not acted on that. But he has the full powers of the President. The Acting President can take any decision today and it will be binding on the nation because he is the acting President, he is not the Vice President anymore. He sits in place of Mr. President and performs all the constitutional duties of Mr. President. But if he is taking his times for obvious reasons that are understandable, because as acting President you want to make sure things are in their rightful places before you take any decision. There is no approval by acting President that was rejected by anybody. He summons meetings, and gives directives. He has enough powers for him to execute governmental functions.
What do you make of the recent consultations by Acting President Osinbajo over the eviction threats by Arewa youths and the secession threat by IPOB?
Well, we have all agreed that Nigeria remains a united and indissoluble country. But we must never take this unity of Nigeria for granted. We are better off as a bigger nation, we are better off as one nation. We are going through problems but these problems are not insurmountable. We cannot afford to divide ourselves now; it will be an ill wind that will blow no one any good.
So I support that, the governors’ forum support that, the APC governors support the unity of this country. We have deliberated on it and we are all proud of ourselves, none of us has spoken otherwise asking for division of this country, so Nigeria still remains united.
But one point is clear that we owe our youths, this generation and the future generation a duty of care and we must bequeath to them a legacy of unity and not a legacy of division. We may have made mistakes as a nation but let us begin to correct it. What is important nowis not about us but our children and their children’s children. So we should see Nigeria beyond this period and see Nigeria in view of 100 years to come only then will we appreciate the effort and amount of work before us that we must do to get things right and prepare the future for our children.
The Acting President left out Nnamdi Kanu who is a principal character in this whole episode while consulting with leaders of thoughts. Would you advise him to consult with Kanu?
On Nnamdi Kanu you must understand the position of a thing and what has created this hullabaloo if you like, and the big noise about this whole thing. Nnamdi Kanu’s group broke away from MOSSOP.
Last time I said, it depends on how we define this whole thing that is taken out of context. Nnamdi Kanu, a young man seeking relevance, agitating for whatever he believes in, what he stands for must be treated separately from the entire Igbo nation. The question is does Nnamdi Kanu have the capacity to lead Igbos to war? Or lead me and the governors to war? So you mean I will stand now and Nnamdi Kanu will tell me stand up let’s go to war? Sometimes we over dramatize issue just to make a big deal out of it and that has been the big challenge.
Like the gentleman that spoke for the Arewa youths, and these are not more than 17 young men speaking for millions of Arewa youths and it doesn’t make sense because if you ask any Arewa youth now if he is part of that event, he will tell you no. We don’t have that wisdom of narrowing things to the perspective where they belong but we like to enlarge it to create the confusion that we all enjoy and the confusion if not well taken care of will consume Nigeria one day. And that is what some of us are trying to avoid.
So the issue of Nnamdi Kanu should be treated as a young man agitating and seeking for relevance, these are two different issues. And he can ride on the back of supposed Igbo marginalization which has been said is not right, and ride on those sentiments and push his agenda but that does not mean that the entire Igbo are with him.
I was in Chatham House and I remembered how I was attacked by the IPOB boys when I was delivering my lecture. They walked up to me and they were shouting and I said calm down. Ironically, the young man has never visited Nigeria before. So it is our duty to call our younger ones to order.
However, it is true that the South -East has been neglected overtime politically, economically, socially and all that. Their roads are impassable; you cannot pass Port Harcourt road, Enugu road, Aba Road, Bayelsa road and all the roads. You can hardly see federal government presence in the South- East, all the things you see are through self help. Even the Onitsha Bridge has been a theoretical talk, fabrications which does not represent realities. So, this is a mix up.
He (Kanu) speaks his own and joins it to our issues and it now looks like a nationwide thing. That is not the issue. We have called for unity and have agreed that we will remain united. Very soon, some of us have taken it upon ourselves to reach out to these young men and talk to them. We must understand that our young men are frustrated; if they are as comfortable as we are they will not be able to say those things they are saying.
So whether we like it or not, this nation must make provision for the future generation who are now IT compliant, social media compliant, who have now access to all the goodies in the world without touching it. They smell it but can’t feel it so they are asking why. You can understand their frustrations and so they no longer want to take the stories from us. Even in families right now, my children want to push me out of the system, when you are talking they say no, we know it better. So we must just accept the realities of times and see what we can do for the youths of the federal republic of Nigeria. I think the ministry of Youth must be given attention now to engage them productively.
As your tenure winds down what will you want to be remembered for?
A good governor that impacted positively on the lives of the people; I’m in this job not for the profit of it but for the honour and glory of the job. So I want to leave a legacy. I want Imo people to miss me and they will definitely do. Believe me, they have not seen the developmental works we have been able to put in place before now and they will miss it. The only problem I have is that anybody that comes after me and does not perform will be stoned. I stand to be challenged and corrected by anybody that what we have done in Imo state in this six years can be comparable to what any governor in that state living or dead has done? And whether if we put all of them together they can match what we have done. Have you seen me sounding boisterous? That is the truth. But the point is I don’t make media noise, I don’t make foundation laying stones Programme, I don’t bring women to dance because I want to lay foundation project. I don’t commission projects because for me it doesn’t make sense. They say that is the only way to get the media to know what we are doing but to me it doesn’t make sense. What is the most important is that people are benefiting and people are happy.
There is no area in human existence that we have not touched. I can only give credit to God Almighty. There is just no area we have not touched and Owerri is now the fastest growing city outside Lagos and Abuja and I stand proud to say so. Ease of doing business is at the highest level.