He has been in the news of late for a single reason: his aspiration to succeed his father-in-law as Imo governor. Chief of Staff, Imo Government House, Ugwumba Uche Nwosu, to many is just the son-in-law to Governor Rochas Okorocha but unknown to them, both had similar backgrounds, experiencing the rough road to success.
In this interview with STANLEY UZOARU in Owerri, Nwosu bares it all, including how he met his wife, Okorocha’s daughter.
What does being the son-in-law to Governor Okorocha mean to you?
Forget about attaching the title of a governor to his name, he is a man that is known across the country and even outside the country. Before he became governor, when you mention the name Owelle Rochas Okorocha in the North, people are happy. There are some homes that when you mention the name Owelle Rochas Okorocha people will start clapping. It is so in the West and the South East. The name has opened ways for me. I have learnt a lot from this man called Rochas Okorocha. I finished my university working with him and till today I am still working with him. If I didn’t gain anything from him as an in-law, I have acquired a lot of knowledge from him. Most people don’t know the other side of Owelle as a family man, as a humanitarian and an administrator. Of course being a son-in-law to the governor does not stop me from doing what I am supposed to do as a Chief of Staff and a Staff of the state government. The man Rochas does not know whether you are a son-in-law or a brother or a sister. He is a man that your relationship with him does not justify your getting any position. In fact he will even be more happy to fire you if you are his relation and you are not doing your job well. He has a lot of in-laws, he has a lot of brothers but why has he chosen me to be his Chief of Staff. I used to tell people that as a Commissioner for Lands, where ever there are files, most other Commissioners will say why are you coming to line up with us to present files to the governor, your own is easy, you are the governor’s in-law, you can do that in the night and I will say no you must differentiate between being a son-in-law and working for Imo State. But frankly speaking I have learnt a lot and being his Chief of Staff and being close to him, has opened a lot of doors, knowledge, personality, the humanitarian side of it and finally integrating myself with the poorest of the poor in the society.
Going by the series of endorsement of your governorship ambition, as against other aspirants who just want to declare, do we take this to mean that you are under pressure to run?
Let me tell you something about David in the Bible, when God asked Samuel to go and anoint David; when he got to the family, the first person came, he was excited and he wanted to anoint the person but God told him no, the second came, the third came, the fourth came and the last one came and he said this must be the person I am waiting for but God said no, this is not the person. David never aspired to be the king of Israel. David was a small boy in the bush rearing the sheep without knowing that God has destined him to be a king. But the other ones came out and lined up, those are the ones aspiring to be one thing or the other and David from nowhere was anointed. People coming out to endorse me does not mean that they are pushing me to come and vie for the governor of Imo State. If God Almighty has said that it is Uche Nwosu, nobody can stop it.
One thing people don’t understand is that it is better for the people to choose their leader than the leader to choose himself. Some of them who aspire to one thing or the other choose themselves when the masses and the people have not chosen them, when the people have not told you to come and lead them and you are saying I must lead you people. This is the situation we have found ourselves in this country, people are coming from Local Governments, as it is today, APC executive members from 22 Local Government Areas have already come to endorse me, no kobo has been given to these people; does that mean that we don’t have other aspirants, of course we have the Araraume, the Deputy Governor, Jude Ejiogu and host of others, does it mean that those people won’t be happy if people come to endorse them? of course they will be happy to see the Exco members, those who will vote for them at the primaries to come to endorse them. But kings don’t merely aspire, kings are anointed and Kings are born and made by God not by man. So the issue of endorsement I believe is coming from people’s heart and what they are saying is come and be our governor and if the voice of the people is saying come and be our governor, who are you to say no.
In the last seven years, Governor Okorocha ran a government that displaced most of the Imo elite because he was in a hurry to develop the state, so will your government accommodate this class of people?
I believe what our elite in this state should know is that when Owelle Rochas Okorocha took over as governor of the state, Imo was in shambles, it was just a glorified village, no development; we just had the Douglas road, the Okigwe and Orlu roads but this man saw the need for rapid development, to rescue Imo from where it was to where it is now. Today, we are proud as Imolites, walking on the streets of Owerri , you can beat your chest I am from Owerri. So the issue of not working with the elite is not true, Owelle Rochas Okorocha is a governor whose door is open but most of the elite, the normal way they do their things before without minding what the poor people are going through, get the money, share it, I take mine, you take yours and that ends it. By now with the issue of sharing money, we won’t have the free education, we wouldn’t have had these roads, the first, second, third, fourth and fifth inland roads. You wouldn’t have seen these new schools and renovated ones, if we had continued with sharing the money. Most of the elite who understood Rochas Okorocha are working with us, they understand that the people come first before any other thing. Once we get the state right, when everything is right, like the governor will always say that when the plane is taking off, everybody will tighten the seat belt but when the plane is cruising, the seat belts will be loosened and the Air hostess will serve everybody. The governor started with taking off and we are entering the cruising level when people will know that Imo State has been rescued and now let’s have time and do the other one they call stomach infrastructure. But people will be saying that we don’t want Uche Nwosu to be governor because he is Okorocha’s son-in-law and if he becomes the governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha will manipulate him and tell him what to do. People don’t know Rochas Okorocha; he is one man that is proud and knows his onions. Once he leaves office, Imo people will be asking him to please come, we want to see you but once Owelle leaves a place, he leaves that place. I tell you that if tomorrow they say Uche Nwosu is the governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha will not say let me give you a list like other people do.
Most people see your ambition as a third term agenda for the governor, will you not be teleguided by Okorocha or are you going to be your own man and take your decisions in the best interest of the state?
I am telling you who the governor is, once Owelle Rochas Okorocha leaves the seat of power, the man I know very well will not even come close to this government house, it is we that will be telling him please come and visit us. Rochas Okorocha has made a lot of people, Senators, Ministers, House members, how many times has he called to say I want to put this or that in the National Assembly or called any Minister and say I want to get this from you. But that does not mean that whenever as an elder statesman, just like we have Achike Udenwa, Ikedi Ohakim, we need advice, we should not go to them but the man I know very well who I have worked with for over 20 years is not a man who will leave a place and come back to that place and start saying this will happen.
Apart from the fact that being the governor’s in-law opens doors for you, what are the challenges you’re facing?
Nothing comes without a challenge, I remember very well when His Excellency ran for Senate, ran for President, ran for the Chairman of ANPP, ran for Chairman of PDP, ran for Youth leader of PDP and he lost most of these elections, and most people thought that the world has ended, that Okorocha cannot come back again. A lot of people left but we remained with him because we were not looking at the outward Rochas Okorocha, we were looking at the man inside him, we were looking at tomorrow. Few of us that were with him stayed until 2011 when the doors opened and he became the governor. Yes, the challenge in working with Okorocha is that he is a man who works 24 hours, you must be up and doing, we wake up by 5am and take our shower and by 6 o’clock, we will move from one street to another, you must be ready to work. Owelle is not a man you say that you want to go and take champagne with, no it is not him. But the challenge there is that anybody who is not ready to work can’t fit in except those who are ready to work and those who are ready to follow him.
Can you tell us how you met your wife, I mean the governor’s daughter?
The first day I set my eyes on my wife was in Jos, then I was the Personal Assistant to Owelle Rochas Okorocha. Then he was the Adviser to the President on Inter Party Affairs and we went to Jos one day and we slept in Jos and we woke up one morning, I saw my wife then a younger person wash all the plates and after that, she mopped all the rooms and when we went for the second time and she did the same thing and even the third time, I was asking myself that with all the wealth around the father, it was still possible for her to do this. She can still have time to sit down and wash the plates and not just the plates that her brothers ate with but both the ones used by other people including me. Plates somebody like me ate with, she just gathered everything and washed them. So, to me, I saw a virtuous and humble woman, somebody who is not controlled by the wealth of the father, I saw a woman who is not moved by the riches of the father. One thing led to another, I developed interest in her and being a Personal Assistant to your boss, you know it is difficult to approach your boss and say I want to marry your daughter but I took the bold step. One morning, I went to Her Excellency, I didn’t want to go to the governor because I was scared I didn’t know what to tell him.
So one morning, I went to her and said I wanted to see you and she asked me if there was any problem and I said I wanted to tell her something private and she said I should come back in the evening. In the evening when I went to see her, behold my boss was there, I didn’t know how to say what I wanted to say and His Excellency looked at me and asked me if anything was wrong. I said no, that I came to see Her Excellency so she laughed and said we should go downstairs and when we got down, I told her that I wanted to get married to her daughter. She sat back and looked at me and said you want to marry my daughter and I said yes. I think the boldness in me made her to start thinking about this young man that had the boldness to say openly that he wants to marry her daughter even as the PA to the father. She said ok and asked me if I had told the father and I said no, that I wanted to tell her first but I asked her to start working on him for me,. She smiled and walked away.
Finally, the day I told him, she was looking at me and he said I know, Madam has told me, he asked if I had spoken to her and I said I had already told her and he said if she says yes, that he can’t stop it. That was it, I could not believe it. If it were to be some families, they will not take that, Owelle Rochas Okorocha as a wealthy man that time would have wanted the son of a governor or another big man to marry the daughter but he okayed it and before you knew what was happening, we were married and God has blessed us with three boys.
Has your endorsement by the governor to succeed him in anyway affected your relationship with other members of the family?
That cannot affect my relationship with my boss, the Deputy Governor. While in Rochas Group, the Deputy Governor was the Chief of Staff and I was the Deputy Chief of Staff. I tell people that if tomorrow, Owelle Rochas Okorocha tellsme that this other person should go, I will say no problem sir. What matters is the family, not who in the family. After all, among David’s family he was the smallest but he was anointed king, God did not go for the most senior. If tomorrow I become the governor of the state, will it stop me from seeing my boss who is the deputy governor of the state and I will look at him with disrespect? God forbid, I will still see him as my boss. When I was little, these people were my bosses and now that God has lifted me up, I will still show them respect. If I didn’t change as a Commissioner and I didn’t change as a Chief of Staff and I still remained myself and respected people, nothing can change me in life.