From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
Former Imo State governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, is a reporter’s delight any day anytime.
In this exclusive interview with Sunday Sun, he spoke on a wide range of issues, especially the forthcoming presidential primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The senator representing Imo West equally reacted to the unending crisis raging between him and the incumbent governor of Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodimma, why the killings in the Southeast has persisted and the practical solutions to solving the escalating killings.
Do you in anyway feel intimidated by the galaxy of APC presidential aspirants squaring it up with you?
In the contrary, I am rather happy because it makes the competition much more interesting. You may recall that I am more or less a veteran on this, having contested for presidency first, second and third times. So, it is not a strange terrain for me. What you have seen being displayed will rather make it more interested. Sincerely speaking, I am happy to see these arrays of people contesting for the office of the president. This is the time for the party to assess the individual track records and who they are before deciding. So, I am not in any way threatened or intimidated. In the contrary, I feel much more qualified to bring victory to our party if given the presidential ticket.
Which mode of presidential primaries will you prefer?
We should not be talking about the mode of the primaries, but the mood of the nation which is what Nigerians need this time. I am right to say that Nigeria needs three basic things now, the first is a unifier, an individual who can win this election and every part of this nation will feel belonged. We are talking about a detribalised Nigerian, and that is where Rochas comes first. I don’t have any tribal sentiment or mark. The second is that Nigeria needs somebody who understands the problems of this country and can grow the economy. I have been able to identify the problems of this country and that is about wealth creation. Other aspirants may have 10, 15 to 20-point agenda, but I have only one. Create you the wealth of this country and every other problem will be solved. What we are battling with is lack of adequate funds to fix our nation, and the hunger, poverty, insecurity, joblessness for our youths. It is not everyone that has the capacity to create wealth. Therefore, at the end, Rochas stands out head and shoulders above others in this case. The third point is finding where we are in this country and the mood of the nation, you will find out that this nation requires somebody with compassionate heart, somebody with the heart of gold and somebody that cares because you cannot give what you don’t have. I care especially for the poor and the downtrodden and I am sure that their prayers will see me through. This is where I stand tall above others especially as it concerns the poor and the needy. High percentage of this country is in poverty.
These three major issues will be the deciding factors for the party and Nigerians to choose their next president. Another very important point also is that the APC is wise enough to know which candidate can defeat the opposition party and who is nationally accepted. The good thing is that they know that I have that national acceptance whether from the Muslims, Christians, Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba. That again stands me out and I believe that by God’s grace, I will clinch the presidency of Nigeria and what is holding me from the Aso Rock Villa is the ticket of the APC. And once I have it, the did is done. There will be a new and great Nigeria, where everybody will be proud of under my leadership.
What will be your reaction should Buhari or the party adopt consensus option for presidential candidate?
I don’t see that happening. What is likely to happen is that the party will consider the mood of the nation. Just as the southerners are saying that it is wrong for the northerners to aspire again after eight years, the same mood suggests that it will not be proper for the Southwest to contest again to keep the same power after having eight years of presidency and eight years of vice presidency. The consensus we will be looking at is the type that will narrow it to the Southeast. It is the best consensus for the APC.
Why has it become difficult for you to mend fences with Governor Hope Uzodimma?
That is a very difficult question and I don’t even have an answer. Here is a willing heart for peace, to mend fences and there is no receiving heart for peace. However, I don’t think it is an issue any longer. We have pushed that behind us and forged ahead. I even made the ultimate sacrifice particularly in the last national convention of our party when I told my candidate to withdraw to allow the governor’s candidate for the Zonal Vice Chairman to go. He picked all the positions.
I had a court judgment for the State Exco of Imo, but they are not recognised. I again, maintained my calm. What else will I prove that I want peace at all costs, but when you want peace at all costs, and it is not forthcoming, you must see it natural and divine. My major concern is the level of killings in the state especially in my senatorial zone. If there is anything making my heart to bleed, it is because people are beheaded on daily basis. Human body treated like a trash.
Such attitude is very, very unIgbo. Never in our checkered history or culture did it happen or did we condescend this low. This is only happening within this administration. And anytime that anything is going wrong in any state, hold the leadership responsible. I was governor for eight years, there was an absolute peace. I tolerated all the political nonsense and that is what leadership is all about. If you are not ready to tolerate, don’t go into leadership. This is the simple truth and how it is supposed to be.
But he said that political opponents are responsible for the killings?
He said that no PDP person was killed, but only the APC and that it is political opponents so it is no longer about Rochas, PDP will have to answer if they are actually responsible for the killings or not. I have challenged him to mention names when he said it was political opponents, but that didn’t happen. He seems to have narrowed it very well. Since PDP are not killed, it means the people doing the killings must be PDP and they should explain to us.
What are the practical solutions to the killings in the Southeast and do you think government has done enough?
It is unfortunate and that is what I rather say because I had expected that the government should have done more engagements rather than being confrontational since government has shown absolute weakness and inability to handle the situation. The confession of inadequacy is not a disgrace to any man in leadership. Accepting it and making efforts to correct it is the wisdom behind leadership.
Deep down you, what are your fears as you go into the presidential race?
Absolutely no fear, I will be the president of Nigeria. If this nation is to grow and be great, Rochas should be on the driving seat. I am confident of becoming it and I will achieve it. Above all, God loves this country and He is about to do magic thing for this country. And 2023 will be the beginning of a new Nigeria.