First Lady of Imo State, Mrs. Nneoma Nkechi Okorocha, is a delectable woman that knows her onions as regards playing the role of a mother to her children, wife to her husband and being the First Lady of Imo State. Recently she spoke with a select group of journalists, during which she addressed some misinterpretations flying around her husband, her family and the state. She also made some interesting revelations about the nitty gritty of marriage, her charity works and other issues.
What do you feel about your husband attempting to become the Nigerian president three times and failing?
After the All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP) issue, I remember they were driving around the streets of Jos immediately after the loss. I told him that I hope he knew it was not his problem that he didn’t win, if there’s anybody whose problem this was it should be He that had sent you to go and do what you’re doing. I looked directly into his eyes as I said it and urged him to believe that God was still preparing him. That it didn’t happen then meant that it was not yet time. If you remember, he almost got it.
You already have two happily married daughters. What are the nuggets you’d share with young women who desire successful marriage?
What I would say to the young ladies of our time is that they should first establish a close relationship with God. I’d also like to warn them to be careful about who they call their friends. They have to be careful, who they surround themselves with. In my nearly 30 years of marriage and till now, I don’t think I had ever gone to anybody, family members, let alone friends to discuss issues that I’m having with my husband. With due respect to my family members and friends out there, none of them is qualified to interfere in issues between my husband and I.
The reasons you might want to know. When they’re going to get involved, some of them would be trying to be overly protective of you, they’d be speaking from the emotions they have for you which may not be what you need at that time. So, I want to advise young ladies and even married women to watch their companies. Not what you allow yourself to hear because what you hear. who you become is a product of what you hear.
In giving to charity, were there not times when he gave too much at a time the family needed what turned out to be his gift?
Well, the gift in question might be finance, material or emotional. From day one that I got married to him; I remember the first time we went home, when the children hadn’t started coming, and somehow he was blessed with one contract at a time there was this harvest and bazaar. I remember the briefcase he was carrying had money in it and my father-in-law was there watching me bringing out the money for him to buy everything he was buying. Then, my father-in-law called me when we got home and said: “I’d never seen a thing like that. Instead of you to caution your husband about how he’ was spending, you were even the one helping him take stacks of cash from his briefcase.” I think it’s the ability to understand the make-up of your husband and the reason for his being and keying into the purpose of God for his existence.
By the special grace of God, I came from a big family where giving is not a problem. From day one, it has always been a matter of giving and not just financially. I remember again sometime when I was in Jos, I think he went to Port Harcourt. He was already involved in politics at the time. He said, “I’ve got you another son, Rochas Jnr.” This is a man who already had three sons, but I understood him. He had actually got a boy he was adopting. He came home with the boy and narrated how they met, though at the end of the day, there were some things that were not right about adopting the boy and Rochas had to play safe. As much as you want to touch lives, you also have to prepare yourself in spirit. But that’s Rochas for you.
Had there been anytime things got so bad and you felt like quitting the marriage?
Never! That’s because from day one at the point I was saying yes to him, the plan was not for me to quit after about five, ten or fifteen years. As a matter of fact, I don’t even know the address to my village. So, one thing that will help you as a wife is the understanding that you don’t have any other choice than to make the marriage work. So, it’s only when you have ‘Option B’ that you can try something else. It’s actually until death do us part.
How do you cope running your foundation, being a mother and a wife?
Honestly, I don’t even know how I do it, I just know that the grace of God has been there and it’s sufficient. The Bible says, “He (God) that He calls, He equips.” And I believe that my husband and I, having the opportunity to serve as governor and wife of the governor of Imo State is entirely God’s plan. That consciousness has always been there for me to be able to play my part in these strata.
Being married to a politician requires a lot of perseverance because they’re hardly around the house. How do you cope with that manner of schedule?
He’s truly hardly there but that’s not necessarily because he’s a politician. He’s someone always on his toes 24/7- and he’s been like that long before he joined politics. I will always tell women that there’s a need for them to understand why God has given them the opportunity to be wives. There are works that need to be done and once that fact is duly established, it makes it a lot easier for you not to bother about the mundane things. I believe that my husband is on a divine mission especially as it concerns the downtrodden and the less privileged. So, I understand that I just have to make the home front very peaceful and making it peaceful starts with understanding why he’s not available at the time I want him. So, I think it’s been a journey but I thank God for opening my eyes to understand why He has called me to be his wife.
You have six children. Was he around to witness the labour room stress of bringing forth any of them?
He’s a man on the move – maybe he was with me during the labour to bring forth maybe one or two of them. But in most cases he’s busy out there trying to make ends meet.
He said he was sure you were his wife the first time he saw you. What are the qualities that struck you about him before marriage?
I saw him as somebody who knows what he wants and is focused; who will do what he feels is right to do, not necessarily because everybody wants him to do it. That’s some of my attraction to him. He doesn’t feel anything is impossible.
How did he approach you exactly?
He didn’t even approach me in an order one can explain. The first day we met through a cousin of mine, he just came to tell her that, “I will marry this girl.” I was like, who is this one? And after that, while we were driving, we drove to one late professor’s place and on introduction, he just told the man, “Meet my wife.” I was embarrassed. And that was it. Before we knew what was happening, we became spouses.
A lot of times pretty young women hardly pay attention to men with any form of physical deformity. Were you not at first discouraged by the fact that he limps as a beautiful young woman that you were?
I saw a lot more than that. I saw a very determined man and you know his limping isn’t even quite visible. I saw a man whose heart is big and for me – that was key. Our marriage is almost 30 years, but everyday feels like we just met yesterday. So, it wasn’t anything lustful, it was pretty much a divine arrangement.
There was a story at a time that when your husband appointed the actress, Nkiru Sylvanus, as a special adviser, you were sidelined and you fought the appointment…
Nkiru Sylvanus till tomorrow is my daughter. People just talk and like I always tell people, they have the right to talk. So for you to bother yourself about all this hearsays is not healthy. This is a young woman that can walk into my bedroom if she comes to the Government House today. So, it’s our understanding as a people and the way some of our people just think. Nkiru wasn’t the only female my husband appointed; some of them are old enough to be my elder sister. If you’re a public person people must talk about you; that was how they also said that my husband once slapped me and I fainted. So, there was a time someone also came to my house in Jos, an older person and that was when my husband just started politics. She said, “Do you mean you have your own biological children?” She said so because there was a rumour that I didn’t have children and that was why Rochas was adopting kids and building schools to train them.
How much are you into jewelry?
Jewelry? That will come when it will come. As you can see, I’m wearing a costume even though it’s not diamond, I believe first thing first. If anyone tells you I don’t believe in those things, the person is right. That doesn’t mean I don’t wear jewelry but there’s time for everything.
What’s your fashion sense like?
I don’t consider myself as a fashionista. I just try to look nice, simple and comfortable.
At what point did you set up your foundation?
Well, we have a family foundation which is Rochas Foundation, and even before I became the wife of the governor, I had mine named Women of Divine Destiny Initiative and when I became the wife of the governor, I just thought I should still go on with that. And by the way, I’m very passionate about the woman and the family. As I have told you, I have a wonderful relationship with my husband and my children and I also know that some people have issues in their homes. When I sit down and analyse marital problems, for me, they are things that shouldn’t even be in the first place. That’s why I came up with the initiative to gather people to approach God through prayers and of course, educate women with the scriptures and help them become the women God wants them to be. So, in my foundation, we have some other offshoots, one is: She Needs a Roof Project. This is a project created to put a roof over the heads of widows and orphans. Having been able to travel far and wide, I came face-to-face with the living conditions of these widows and orphans. Some of them are living in homes where you cannot expect human beings to inhabit. And our research revealed that it has affected them psychologically. To the glory of God, we have been able to build almost 200 houses, fully furnished for the widows and orphans.
I want to say I’m excited and grateful that God found me worthy to be used as a vessel to give hope to the hopeless and put smiles on the faces of people. By the time we are handing over the houses to these people, you would be seeing different beings all together and that is my joy and the diamond and gold I like to wear. We also have the morning Women Prayer; we gather every Month to pray for the country, state and families. And we’ve had renowned men of God join us for service. We’ve had people like Mummy Folu Adeboye, Bishop Idahosa and many others. Today, most women in Imo State have testified to how this forum has healed their homes and some confessed that if they had attended the meeting, they wouldn’t have lost their homes the way they did. We have another one called Nneoma Kitchen. Coming from Jos, every last Friday, we cook at Moshalashi Jimoh (Jumat Service) because my family believes so much in giving – we used that opportunity to feed the less privileged. So, we continue to feed the poor in Imo State. In this, we actually cook by ourselves with some political appointees and we go out to feed the poor. We also have a leadership summit where we bring students from both public and private schools together and speak to them. We realise that the problem we have as a people is that of leadership. Africa is looking up to Nigeria and we believe in catching tomorrow’s leaders young.