Dr. Theodore Ekechi is the convener of Imo Restoration Coalition. He was recently appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari as a member, representing South East on the Board of the just established North East Development Commission (NEDC). The former commissioner for Information and Strategy in Imo State said the North East people voted massively for President Buhari because he is alive to his responsibility, adding that the establishment of the commission is a reward for their support for Mr. President’s second term in office.
You have just been appointed a member of the newly established North-East Development Commission (NEDC) by President Muhammadu Buhari; can this move by FG douse tension and restore peace in the region?
It is certainly the desire and express intention of the Federal Government that peace should be restored to the North East to create the conducive environment for regenerating the socio-economic potentials of the geo-political zone. While military force is a necessary condition to address terrorism and insurgency it is not sufficient. In a sense therefore, the North East Development Commission is both a supplementary and complimentary strategy to douse tension and restore peace in the region. This assertion better appreciated when you consider the mandate of the commission which entails (but not limited to) Healing of both body and soul. Counter radicalism, massive developmental projects and critical humanitarian activities to forestall relapse and reoccurrence.
Many see your appointment into NEDC as a compensation for helping the cabal in your party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) to dethrone Governor Okorocha’s political dynasty in Imo State, what is your take?
That is simply a mischievous perspective, certainly not by many as you alluded but by Okorocha and the remnants of his disciples. From inception of the party I have enjoyed national visibility, credibility and acceptance. I was National Coordinator of APC National Control Centre as well as Director of Election Planning and Monitoring of the Presidential Campaign Council in 2015. I was then nominated by both my state Executive Council and South East Caucus for the Imo state ministerial slot, a nomination that was initially endorsed in writing by Governor Okorocha. For the 2019 election, I was again nominated for the position of Director, Election Planning and Monitoring ostensibly as a testament for a job well done in 2015. Later changes ostensibly for strategic reasons saw my replacement by the hard working, multi-capacity Babatunde Raji Fashola, the minister of Power, Works and Housing. There is no doubt therefore that I have a meritorious, integrity and capacity-laden history with my party. For me, my appointment into the board of the North East Development Commission (NEDC) cannot be compensation for any previous service to party and fatherland, but a further call to give more to Nigeria and I am very proud and privileged to be so recognised and honoured by Mr. President. The familiar often reference to outside cabals is Okorocha’s failed strategy of dignifying his disgraceful routing by the coalition forces in Imo State which I am so proud to have initiated and spearheaded.
During the inauguration of the commission the president said that the commission is a compensation for the massive support he got from the North East during the past presidential election. How do you justify this revelation?
Well, one of the fundamental principles of our constitution is that the primary responsibility of government is to see to the welfare of the people. The North East people voted massively for a president who will be alive to his responsibility. Any good deed by the president as a president in the discharge of his duty in any part of this country is a dividend of democracy. His swift and bold response to the trauma of the North East people is responsible, right and just and qualifies as a dividend of democracy. In other words the people of the North East should not have any regret for massively voting for a responsive president.
Away from NEDC, now that power has shifted to Owerri zone which your coalition group pushed for, do you think the governor-elect; Emeka Ihedioha can surpass Okorocha’s achievements especially in the area of education and infrastructure development?
Nobody, no new governor within and outside the state can surpass Okorocha in littering Imo State with white elephant, non-growth and unsustainable projects. That is a record he will hold till eternity. Given the backlash of his impunity and reckless leadership and the judgment that awaits him post May 29, and the obvious lessons of his ‘shame’, any new governor will do far better than Okorocha in pursuing people oriented projects that will ultimately facilitate growth of the state’s socio-economic and political status, more so when that governor will not be goaded by an over ambitious, covetous first lady.
In a recent statement, your former boss, Gov Okorocha lamented that what he feared in PDP has befallen him in APC considering the way the party leadership treated him. Do you think APC has been fair to him, bearing in mind he brought the party to the state?
Point of correction, Okorocha was neither the sole founder nor the sole member of the party in Imo State. Please, go do your research and confirm. The problem is that Rochas is neither a team player, a democrat nor, as he has repeatedly confessed, a man who has respect for constituted authority, nay rule of law. With these natural vices how could he prosper within a democratic environment? It is only logical that he cannot have peace in any environment where order, discipline, justice, equity, fairness and good conscience are supposed to be the guiding principles of relationships. It is not surprising therefore that his predicament in APC should be tenfold of what it was in PDP because as you can see, APC is a much more progressive party where there is no room for impunity and lawlessness.
In fact and indeed, the national leadership of the party led by Oshiomhole patronised and indulged him unduly when they intervened to save him from the mesmerising defeat at the 2018 congress. We had him by the jugular before our national party chairman; unaware of his precedence gave him the life line that enabled him to wreak the havoc that is the lot of APC in Imo and other South East states today. Like I have always maintained, Okorocha has the record of the fasted friendship builder and conversely the record of the fastest friendship breaker.
The war of words between the camps Okorocha and Ihedioha portray a picture that the governor-elect is coming for vendetta, is that one of the agenda of the coalition?
In my opinion there is no need for war of words and given the mood of the people of Imo State, only transparent actions towards addressing the trauma caused by Okorocha’s injurious administration will suffice. The governor-elect knows that he is essentially a product of the anger of the people of the state against a man they once trusted like a god but who brazenly betrayed that trust. Okorocha raped his own citizens without a condom. So he cannot afford to let him go free. The new governor has a moral responsibility to facilitate Okorocha’s straight journey to prison and the recovery of all that the locust has stolen over the past eight years. When this is done it would and should be known as justice. It is no vendetta!
You are being accused of being used by Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu to decimate Okorocha’s rising political profile thereby trying to stop Igbo from producing the next president in 2023, how true? And what is your relationship with Tinubu?
What Igbo President? Through Rochas Okorocha? How? With the way and manner he had conducted himself? In the entire Imo State where he held sway for eight years there is no personality of note who can stand behind him including his former appointees. Even within the entire South East beyond APC, there is no reasonable personality –politician or otherwise who will commit to him. For eight years he worked exceedingly hard to ensure that he would be the only cock that crows from the South East to pave the way for his sole candidacy from the South. So who will sign his testimonial for the presidency? A politician who believes that to rise, rise and rise you must decimate or obliterate the political history of a people or all his perceived potential opponents will only have self-destruction waiting for him at the turn of his own political voyage. Before now, the sing song was that I was being sponsored by Ngige, Ogbonnaya Onu. Later he moved up to Rotimi Amaechi, Governor El-Rufai and Governor Kayode Fayemi. Today I hear Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, the very man Okorocha boasted that with him and the National Chairman, Oshiomhole he truncated our state APC congress! May I declare here, on my honour, very unequivocally that I have never discussed Rochas directly or indirectly with any of these great leaders. Typically, but regrettably, Rochas did not believe perhaps until recently that any person who worked under him was capable of doing anything on his own, hence the resort to the blackmail of sponsorship.
To the contrary, Rochas Okorocha has a complex of phobia and envy for Amaechi and Tinubu. He particularly wished to be Tinubu, but could not pay any supreme price for democracy as Tinubu did in the NADECO vs Abacha era. He wishes to be Asiwaju but he cannot make sacrifices to groom and empower followers who will hold sway for him for better or worse. He desires to be Jagaban but forgets that it is not a title meant forfamiliocrats hence Tinubu’s men are to be found far and beyond the Tinubu family dynasty.
Why did you turn down the offer by the incoming governor to serve as a member of the transition committee having worked so hard to install him as governor?
Let me quickly remind you that the incoming governor is PDP and I am of APC. So, I could not have installed a governor of another party. But if you say, as the convener, the activities of the Restoration Coalition facilitated the downfall of Rochas Okorocha in the state and therefore the opposition benefited from the ensuing confusion, you may be right. Again, there was never an offer to turn down, and there could not have been one. Notwithstanding that, he knows my goodwill and good wishes towards him both as a strong family friend and the political leader of my federal constituency. Emeka Ihedioha understands that I don’t belong to the incoming opposition party and therefore could not have nominated me into the transition committee. At the appropriate time, if my counsel is sought on way forward for Imo especially because of my deep knowledge of the outgoing administration I will gladly offer it.