His Royal Majesty, Eze Emma Saint George Ekeh has commended Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State for his good works in the state. He made the commendation among other issues in this interview.
What is your impression about governance in Imo?
Let me make it very clear. Apart from late Sam Mbakwe, Rochas happens to be the only governor I have seen that has given Imo State some form of hope whether you are talking about creation of infrastructure or otherwise. The truth has to be said even in the face of mounting opposition. He doesn’t pay me, if I get an allowance, I get it statutorily. You may think the roads are ‘China’ roads but he has opened the roads. When a former governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Jakande came into power, he built schools that we thought were poultry farms but today somebody has turned those schools into three storey-buildings. Someone has to lay the foundation.
Rochas tore the forest, created footpaths where people can push their wheelbarrows carrying their cassava out of their farms toward the market. He has done that. I am not saying that Rochas is a saint; he is a human being who has his own challenges. What I am saying is, here is a governor who has paid salaries. He would negotiate to say ok whatever is available, let us split it. I am not going to blame him, I will blame labour as well as Imolites who have abandoned home and do not want to come home to contribute both human resources and ideas because if a leader is overwhelmed by challenges of what he inherited, he is prone to errors; that is why you need wise men around to advise him. Though one thing is to give good advice and another thing is to accept good advice and implement it. If you get to Owerri, you can see the ambience, even a blind man can see the ambience but that does not mean there are no challenges or mistakes. We are not looking at perfection, we are looking at somebody who could say, ‘at this point, you should be able to expect this,’ it might be substandard but at least, half bread is better than none. I must give it to him. Instead of running away castigating him from abroad, from outside, come inside and fight with him, get to his house. If you want to block his gate, block his gate and say you are today the governor, we need you to address this issue. This is the way we want it. I do my best when I get to the parliament when it comes to addressing Ndi Eze. I speak my mind and I have attended meetings with him. We contribute ideas and that is why they say he changes like this or that because superior logic wins. The issue here is let people who are intellectually strong in political economics and industry come around and say we are here to help you as you are carrying too much load. If we want to fight, let us fight like brothers for progress of the state and I think that is the best way to go.
What is your message to Ndigbo outside Igboland?
Ndigbo have been stupid for a long time. The Yoruba have told us at the last event in a well packaged language that you guys have been foolish. Go home. And I keep telling Ndigbo that the land God created you in, knowing the industry He has put in you, should be more productive than the land you bought from somebody else. Ndigbo should look at the Yoruba. In Yoruba land, any Yoruba man that is up to the age of 60, 70, 80 years begins to go to the village. They only come to Lagos when they want to collect their dividend or come to visit their grandchildren. When they go home, they attend village meetings. If you leave the decisions to be taken by clowns, charlatans, that is what they will implement. Cockroaches will inhabit the mansions you have built. I told the elite some time ago that if they don’t behave themselves, they will be in exile and those mansions will be occupied by rats and cockroaches. Unfortunately, that is what is happening today.
Ndigbo need to know that they have been foolish. I owe them no apology for saying this. How can you claim to be better placed than the owner of the land where you are doing business? If the Governor tomorrow comes up and says every house here must pay N500m a year, if you don’t pay it, we confiscate the house. They will take the N500m from both the Yoruba and Igbo and return the benefits to the Yoruba through their village meetings and all that.
Where does that keep you? In the first place, why must the Igbo be the ones to keep saying, ‘we are going to the village whether it is Owerri, Orlu, Nsukka et al? Why don’t you go home to a mega city? We built Abuja and we are so proud we own more number of houses in Abuja. We say it without shame. We have built Lagos, developed Lagos and they look at you and laugh. You don’t know how much you have poured into the Lagos project. The day they don’t want you, there is nothing you can do about it.
Though not your first award, what is so special about the award you were recently given?
The most recent award that I received is the Okwuru –Igbo from the Igbo Speaking Community in Lagos. This Award is unnerving because of its simplicity. The award came from humble people. Those who organized that event are the grassroots people. These are people harassed all the time, people who will go about doing their businesses and get extorted, intimidated, people who face day to day crisis on the road, area boys, landlords and all that. These are people who appreciate what I have done advocating equality and fairness for the Igbo no matter where he lives in Nigeria. The bourgeoisie, who live in Ikoyi, Victoria Island, etc, have their facilities.
What have you done for them over the years?
I was in NADECO. I fought to establish a democratic government. I was pioneer National Secretary General, Pan-Ndigbo Foundation; in the steering committee of Pan Ndigbo. Pan Ndigbo, Arewa consultative forum, helmsmen of the PDM and the Yoruba were the factors that were used to form the PDP. I was also in the steering committee of the PDP and there, I tried to make sure that we found out the numerical strength of the Igbo residents in Lagos. Guy Ikoku, nationalist and statesman, and I had to go into the local governments to ascertain the population of the Igbo. We came out with a figure of 48 per cent of the Igbo making up Lagos; three percent Arewa, the remaining are Yoruba from different states of the South West and the Middle belt.
Why has this strength in population not helped the Igbo?
That is the issue. That is why the struggle remains valid. It is a structural problem. If the structure is wrong, anything you put on it will collapse. It is the same structural defect that has put us all in recession today. It is the same structural defect that has made it possible for the best brains to be in Aso Rock yet, our economy goes down. There is insecurity arising from the restiveness of the citizenry, all kinds of challenges, militancy and all that. For 40 years I have been fighting to correct that structural defect by insisting that we have a sovereign national conference and that we have that conference report implemented fully.
A national conference was held in the twilight of the Jonathan presidency and it represented all opinions, all sectors of this country, all had representation. Now the caliphate was represented, the Igbo were there among others and they took decisions that could solve permanently the problems of this country whether at state, local government or national level; that report from that conference should be implemented now so that Nigeria can have peace.
Mr. President said he is not interested in reading it and has dumped it in the archives?
If Mr. President says that and truly he is not joking, I would say Mr. President has to take his time to ask himself some questions about patriotism. Is he actually patriotic? The Emirs were there, his leaders were there, the country was well represented and they took decisions and you said he has thrown it into the archives, is he respecting this country?