The senator representing Imo West Senatorial District and former governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, has said that going by the current security situation in the country, it is clear that the Federal Government has no solution to the problem.
Okorocha called on Nigerians to make the security problem their issue so that where the government is failing, the people will not fail.
Okorocha maintained that the security situation in the country has reached a crescendo where the people have to help themselves, while still looking up to the government for support.
Okorocha speaking also on happenings in Imo State asked Governor Hope Uzodinma to calm down because his tenure will end one day.
We will begin with the state of the nation. You will agree that we are at a tipping point as far as insecurity is concerned. What is the way out?
Security has become a major challenge in our country. The security challenge that we are facing today is as a result of accumulative issues that we ignored in the past that now accumulated to this dangerous point we find ourselves. And if nothing is done now, it might get worst in the next 20 years than we have now. God forbid! So, security is a major challenge.
What we can do right now is to call all and sundry and make it our issue and not just government’s issue so that where government is failing, the people themselves should not fail. In other words, we have our traditional rulers; we have our communities; we have our leaders at various levels, even in Chibok. We have youths; we have people because it has gotten to a point where we have to look inwards on how we can help ourselves, while still looking up to government for support because if the government had had the final solution to this, they would have solved it.
Are you saying that it has overwhelmed the government?
The security right now has proven stubborn beyond reasonable doubt. And if the government has the solution to stop it right now, they would have done that. So, what we need to do is to completely decentralise the security network such that we just assume, for instance, if you come to your community and you know that there is no police or army to help you, the youths can also gather together to see how they can help themselves and then, ask the police to support them in helping themselves.
What about the issue of self help, people carrying guns?
Self help does not amount to carrying guns right now. It is not what it is. But you see, every security is local. Everything that happens, happens within a community. That is the point I am making. It happens within an area. People from that area should be our first point of contact to start solving that security problem, while government comes and listens to the people on ground to guide them and help them on how to solve that particular problem. But you see, we do our master plans here from Abuja and we go without local information and we strike, striking the wrong places. It is not really producing any result.
Can state police solve all these?
State police, what is called a systematic-guided state police would help.
How do you mean?
Systematic-guided police means state police that deals only with criminals – armed robbery, kidnapping, and all these terrorists’ activities. But not going into political issues or civil issues because they will witch-hunt. So, it will be a guided one that has specific role. If all the state police does is to listen, treat the issue of insecurity, that is it all. But not to go into other places because some of these leaders or governors or some people may use the power for other results.
How do you feel that a government you brought to power is losing it? How do you feel as a person?
It is not that it is losing it, but the challenges are overwhelming. The situation is overwhelming! Remember that what we have today as insecurity was what we ignored 20 years ago when children were not going to school and we didn’t care. Twenty years ago, it was 2.5, three million children out of school and we did nothing then and it is increasing in geometric progression. And those out of school children have resulted to what we have today.
Thirty years ago, we ignored agriculture and we allowed this to come to a point where we cannot feed ourselves. Twenty-five years ago, even 10 years ago, we had oil boom. We didn’t make good use of those resources to help ourselves to prepare for tomorrow. Now, these things have come to us. So, whether again you will say that it is a cumulative problem that has come at a point and still growing. My worry is not even the Nigeria of today that we see. It is still better off today. But the Nigeria of tomorrow if nothing is done today to fix it.
But from what is happening now, do you foresee a total breakdown of law and order?
No. There will be no breakdown of law and order.
You saw what happened in Ibadan, Sunday Adeyemo, also called Sunday Igboho, going to help his people…?
(Cuts in) All these will happen naturally for it to get better. I don’t see a total breakdown of law and order, but it will create enough awareness and it will determine the Nigeria of tomorrow, the future of Nigeria.
This is a test that we are all going through now and I believe that very soon, it will get to something that we must have learnt from our mistakes and it will also help us in the choice of our leaders, how we vote people and what the criteria are. So, some sentiments we used that guided our decision to vote will now be all eradicated. We will go for the issues that matter and no longer sentiments.
In that case, where do you stand on 2023?
2023 like what?
Presidency? Let the man who has what it takes upstairs, who can unite this country, a man who has a vision to fix the economy in a rocket speed, be allowed.
So, it mustn’t be an Igbo man?
The sentiment of an Igbo man, if it must be an Igbo man, it wouldn’t just be any Igbo man, it must be that Igbo man who has what it takes.
Is it Owelle?
(Laughs) It is for the people to judge. But we must choose leaders based on their track record. You see, there is something that God has given to mankind. You are who you are and you cannot change who you are. But we keep making the same mistakes that people will change because they now occupy an office. No! What is your track record? How have you been able to manage your home, even to start with? How have you been able to succeed in life? How have you been able to manage your relationship with people? How have you been able to manage the resources you had? How have you been able to relate with your community? If you have failed in all these criteria, what makes you think that you will now build a nation?
Your Excellency, can you manage this nation?
Definitely! Definitely! Definitely! It is all about vision, it is all about what you have inside of you on how to fix the nation. Ask me any question on what I can do about any sector of the economy of Nigeria and I will tell you right away. And I wouldn’t go outside to look for who will tell me how to do it or how it will be done.
The economy is still wobbling and the common man on the street is overstretched. What is the way?
Now, there is nothing wrong with the economy of Nigeria. But there is something wrong with the management of the economy of Nigeria. There is nothing wrong with Nigeria as a nation. The wealth of this nation is still intact. Nothing has disappeared. The gift of God is all together, both human and material resources. They are all together. Nothing has left us. But it is the management of the human and material resources that led us to where we are now. So, it is the management of the resources of this land. Take, for instance, I have an economic policy that is called KMR.
What? KMR – Kobo Must Return (General laughter).
Kobo Must Return? Explain to us…
Let me tell you, the simple KMR, Kobo Must Return, means all participatory economy where ordinary person can participate in the economy of a nation. But right now, what we have is few people up there, practising an economy, or doing an economy that others are suspecting us. That is why I don’t like football.
You don’t like football?
No. Do you know why?
I enjoy it as a game, but I don’t like it. It is a selfish game where only 22 people play and about 100,000 people watching them and at the end of it all, 22 people get medals and other people will go home. So, that is Nigerian economy. This is all participatory economy. And you know agriculture speaks the language of kobo and oil speaks the language of dollar. That is why the exchange rate is doing what it is doing and nothing can bring down the exchange rate in Nigeria unless we make agriculture the main budgetary pivot upon which other economies must revolve. So, this is it. And it is called KMR, Kobo Must Return.
That is my economic policy and when you go into details, you will see that it goes into security, it goes into power, and it goes into everything. It is KMR. I had developed what I call again; let me give you another word that might be interesting to you. I have two economic terms that are localised to me. People don’t like it when I speak my own English. It is Ohashierism and Ofushierism. What Nigeria is practising today is Ofushierism. Ofushierism means Ofuonye, one person preparing food for the entire nation and the nation is hungry.
But I am going to practise Ohashierism, which is bottom-top approach, where everybody is participating and cooking for the nation and the nation will have surplus. That is the simple way of achieving it.
Let’s go local now. Recently, Imo appears to be in the news for the wrong reasons. It has become a centre for IPOB activities and in Orlu, your senatorial zone, in particular. What is going on?
Well, I think the Orlu situation is rather unfortunate. It is what I will call inexperience.
On the part of who?
Of government in handling local issues. Now, there are rules of engagements. First, as a governor, remember I am a senator representing Orlu. And I was governor of that place for eight years. The rules of engagement is one, you engage the youths of the areas, call them for a meeting, what is really happening? You get the first reason. But these are not spirits, they are human beings. Thereafter, you move to the level of traditional rulers and the clergies. Tell us what is really happening, how can we solve the problem? This is how to go. Even before you bring the civil defence to give you information, Security Council meeting, then you bring the police. When the situation has gotten beyond that, army will now come in and when army comes in, it has reached a terrorists level where it has gone beyond Mekwatansy, that is, it has gone beyond repair.
Then, Air Force will come because when you get Army and Air Force, they are coming to shoot and kill. That is what it actually is. And it hasn’t gotten to that. I went to Orlu. I mean, it hasn’t gotten to that stage. But I think what the governor is doing is that he is using the scaring method to scare people and I think he is tying it to his re-election so that people can get scared of him so that if he decides to do the Ben Johnson way of his election, he can do it easily.
That is the only reason I can give because it was uncalled for. And after Air Force came there, nobody was arrested because Air Force doesn’t come down, they stay on the air to shoot. Now, the people of Orlu are scared. What really has happened? What led us to this? So, I think it is inexperience on the side of the government.
Again, it appears your party in Imo State is in disarray considering your problems with Governor Uzodimma. There are different chairmen and different factions. What is your take on this?
There is nothing in disarray except the fact that the governor does not want to obey the court judgment. There is a court judgment, a Court of Appeal judgment and now, there is a Supreme Court judgment, authenticating the real elected chairman of the party that was there before the governor came and dissolved them. Now, we have gotten a Supreme Court judgment, but the governor doesn’t want to handover the materials for registration. He is now using his own people, enforcing the same ‘I must, I must, I must hit hard and frighten you, I am a giant, I can destroy anything, I can do and undo.’ You know that kind of power thing.
I think he is either trying to exercise some bit of power abuse. I see that and I don’t know whether it is taste for blood or taste for power. I don’t know what he really wants. Why will he be happy if people are being killed? Why do you want to create tension where people can fight and destroy themselves? Like what happened in Imo State, if I had not asked the people to please remain calm, by now, I am sure lives would have been lost in Imo State because people will react. My supporters will come and fight and poor people will be killed. It took me a lot to convince people not to do that.
And secondly, that day that his thugs came and were shooting and shot my son-in-law, and shot my orderly, if my security men had reacted, today, the story would have been different. So, I am still trying to advise the governor to take it easy, like when you say calm down, calm down governor because this tenure will come to an end.
In the midst of all these, people have been saying that you came into power under APGA, questioning why you left to join APC?
Good question! Because APGA was a small, regional party. I wanted to play in the big political space and to take my people, the Igbo to the big political space where they can also be relevant in what is happening in Nigeria. Already, the Igbo have suffered a lot of…
No, not marginalisation. A lot of bad talks, which do not reflect the practical realities. Nigerians do not understand the Igbo. But the problem is that the Igbo might be too mouthy, they talk, but inside them, these are wonderful, nice people that have been misrepresented in this country. So, when you are suffering the image of that being an Igbo man which today became an issue because of the way they are painted and then, you want to also go and put yourself in a small party again, let the people know as if you are tribalistic, you are sectional. The Igbo are not. That is why you find them everywhere all over Nigeria. They are not sectional, we are not tribalistic people. So, I don’t like tribal party in a nation that is called Nigeria. It is better to be nationalistic because Nigeria is ours.
You recall that when you joined APGA, people were calling you all manner of names like Okoro-Hausa, that you sold out. Looking back, how did you feel at that time?
Well, I have been vindicated. All of them have become Okoro-Hausa now because those who were in PDP, all of them, have come back to join the same APC and struggling for it. This is why sometimes, it is so funny, it is laughable that even the APC leadership will be watching those who started the party and got injured as a result, are now pushed aside and people who came with congratulatory message now took over the seat and became owners of the party.
So, it is rather very, very unfortunate and I blame the APC leadership for all these and that is what is killing the party and that is what is putting the party to extinction. Until we return back to the basics and remember how it all started, this is it. Like in Imo, like all these leaders who are now in APC, I defeated all of them when they were all in PDP. I defeated them in APGA, I defeated them in APC, so what is the magic that they now perform to become the preferred choice? And they watched in Imo where number four became number one. So, we are talking about corruption and injustice. It is neither here nor there.
Looking at your tenure, people keep remembering all the promises you made in Imo and some have said that even the ones you managed to do, they are substandard which you also blamed on acid rain. What is your take on the infrastructure you put in place in Imo?
You know what we lack here in this country and I want to blame the journalists, is that we don’t have investigative journalism. You are here in Abuja, how many hours flight, how many hours by road to get to Owerri, to see for yourself what Rochas Okorocha has done?
Now, when you said what promise have I made and what I did was substandard, let me ask you, is international cargo airport substandard? And why did the vice president adjudged it by far, one of the best in the country? Is the high court built by Rochas substandard? Is the police headquarters built by Rochas substandard? Is the prison built by Rochas substandard? Are the 27 general hospitals substandard? Is the Somto Hospital that he (Uzodimma) pulled down substandard? Is the Government House substandard? What was it that was really not up to this? All the roads I opened up, who opened up Owerri? Who made Owerri today a capital? I made Owerri capital. My administration made it capital. Was free education substandard?
So, why do people always…
(Cuts in) That is why I said I blame you the journalist and very soon, I will stop granting interviews because if you don’t go for investigative journalism, if it is in America, this kind of thing would not happen. I have over thousands of projects. Can I be honest to you and I have challenged it, I have said it severally, severally, severally, one million times. I challenge everybody to see whether any government, past or present, has measured what I have done in Imo State in eight years. And put all together, everything they have done, minus Mbakwe, whether all put together will match. And if they compare and they match, I resign from politics for the rest of my life. I mean, I don’t know. Owerri is not far.
I tarred the whole roads in Owerri to eight lanes. Who changed the whole roads? There is no project any governor can do today in the state capital other than maintaining my projects I have done. And when you say why do you have the zero potholes programme, Lagos does zero potholes, Akwa Ibom does, all the states because for every road done, from time to time, you have to maintain the roads.
That is why it is called zero potholes. What Imo State governor is doing now is zero potholes for which he has given N55 billion contract to make to make zero potholes along Orlu. He is not scraping the road completely and doing a new road, he is only patching the ones that have been done and it is allowed. What causes that? What causes potholes? I will give you the reasons. Not acidic rain only, when the drainages are not managed, when people fill up drainage with rubbish, the water escapes and attack the road.
When a road is made for 40 tons and a trailer carrying 75 tons goes on it, it is bound to have a pothole. But you should respect the vision of Rochas Okorocha in that state. It is not yet beaten. And I don’t think it can be beaten soon. But I pray it should be beaten.
At the time of your departure from office, people are saying that why didn’t you consider Madumere since it was the turn of Owerri Zone and having worked with you for over 20 years as a domestic staff, why didn’t you go for him rather than Ugwumba Uche Nwosu?
Well, I tell you, Madumere was my political son for more than 23 years. I picked him up from the US. And he was here. He started as a personal assistant in my office. I could remember his salary then was about N18,000. He was like my boy. He is like my son. So, I know him better than anyone knows him.
So, you feel he cannot be governor?
It will take a miracle of God. He is not electable.
Let me tell you. You see, attitude matters a lot. Human relations matter a lot. I know all my children. I would have preferred that Madumere goes for governor because I made him chief of staff. He didn’t run for election, I made him deputy governor. If I had taken him that far, you know I wanted him to be… But if I take him to the field, we will lose election even before we start.
But if you could give him chief of staff, deputy governor, why can’t he be governor?
No, because as a deputy governor, it was I that elected him. They don’t see him. But being governor means they will elect him and I know they will not elect him. In fact, Madumere, if you want to try what I have just said, Madumere should go for local government election. If Madumere wins local government election, then I will raise his hand up for president. Uche was never my choice. I tried to see how to manipulate it for either… I had five of them that I was showing my support.
Who were the other ones?
It was Madumere, Jude Ejiogu, Chike Okafor, Uche Nwosu and… I have forgotten the other person, but I will remember his name. But these four people, I gave them positions and I kept trying them to see how they will perform. This one was my commissioner for finance; this one was my chief of staff again, SSG; this one was my chief of staff, deputy governor; this one was my commissioner, chief of staff, that was Uche.
But Uche sold himself to the people that when I asked them to go to the field, let the people tell me who they want, because we must support a candidate. When they went out, Uche won the 27 over 27 local governments, so if I did not support Uche, Uche had gone for election, Uche would have won election with or without me – his popularity.
People believe you were so powerful that you shouldn’t have lost out in installing Uche Nwosu. What happened?
Uche won. Uche won election. Uche, as at the time the 24 local government’s results came out, Uche was leading Emeka Ihedioha with 41,000 votes. So, you can imagine and the total votes then counted were about one hundred and eighty-something thousand. So, Uche was a clear winner. Now, when they went back and with the influence of Abuja and those who were working against me, they made the INEC REC to postpone the counting of results and they said results were coming more from the three Mbaise.
Now, three Mbaise came with 133,000 votes. How can three Mbaise results be more than the whole 24 local governments? That is why even, Emeka never made the two-third. Emeka had only 12 local governments out of 27. So, he needed 18 local governments, but he was still declared winner. The instruction to declare the winner came from here, Abuja. He didn’t win. Uche won. And that is why till today, the injustice that is in that land is what is causing the whole problems because Uche, having won with such huge margin against Emeka, and Hope came the far distant fourth, so there was no way he could have jumped. And Araraume came third. Uche came first, Emeka came second, Araraume came third and Hope came fourth. So, there was no way they would have jumped Emeka, and jumped Araraume and give it to Hope.
That was why they had no choice but to say Emeka should go instead of Uche because they felt Uche being there as a governor would give Rochas added advantage for whatever political he wanted to do. And they went and lied to the presidency that my son-in-law was running, my wife was running, my son was running, my sister was running, so, five of us were running for election from one family. And they bought that cheap lie. And I said, where does the constitution say an in-law cannot contest election? And yet, you have people whose in-laws are holding positions. So, what was wrong for a young man, who is young and want to serve the state? And he is the most experienced. Among all my students I was teaching, he was the most humble, the one that would have continued from where I stopped. Imo would have been closed to being the best today in the country if Uche had continued.
Let’s look at Uzodinma. At what point did you disagree with him because he was in the Senate while you were governor?
But you know Hope Uzodinma was in the PDP and I was in APC. Hope Uzodimma was in PDP when I was in APGA. In these two elections, we were not working together politically. We have not been in the same political camp. We have never been in a political camp because Hope has a history and a style. We know him just like he knows me.
Did he consult you before he joined the APC?
He didn’t consult me. In fact, he wasn’t registered as a member of the APC in the ward. It was Oshiomhole that did all the conspiracy here and gave it to him. Hope never contested. So, the disagreement you are talking, we didn’t have quite disagreement because he wasn’t part of my political something. I just woke up one day, two weeks to primaries, that somebody came and said he has joined APC and he was going to run for election and they gave him Gulak. Gulak came and carried the papers and ran away with the papers and all that. It sounds very childish.
So, this is exactly what has happened. Hope was never a candidate of APC. In fact, in the last election, Hope lost even in the Senate. He was using his usual way, the way to get… Hope has never won election. Let me put it this way. Hope has never won election in his life.
What is the root cause of your quarrel with him?
The root cause of my quarrel I can imagine, are two things because I don’t know. The first time when he was declared winner as governor, I went because we said we are in the same party. I said let bygone be bygone and after all, Apostle Paul was a criminal and wrote the best Scripture of the New Testament. Let us work together.
I went to him and said to Hope Uzodinma, congratulations, you are now a governor, I like to work with you and I would like to support you. Look at what you should do, number one, as a governor, you would naturally want to lead the party, but please, don’t throw away all the whole structures. If you want to bring your people, at least, divide it 50/50, put the chairman, put some people and give them a sense of belonging. I am not going to run for governor, I don’t even intend to run for Senate again, so you have the state to yourself and I will not bother you. I am not requesting for any appointment. Nothing! I gave him that advice. But I said to him also, you see, I know you have people who have sent you from Abuja to fight me and all those things. Can we now leave them? We are brothers. If the only way you can satisfy them is for you to see that they are fighting me, you can even act it up. God bear me witness.
I told him all these things. I said you can act it up, but let’s help our dear people of Imo State. They are in dire need of leadership. Let’s help them; they are in dire need of good governance. Let’s help them. I said number two. But number three, don’t use PDP witch-hunting panel to witch-hunt me. If you want to set a panel, you are now APC, set an APC panel because a PDP state chairman of a party heading a panel can never give me a good judgment. Get lawyers; get people who are neutral to investigate whatever you want to investigate. He promised and he did nothing. The following day, he didn’t pick my calls. I said, what is wrong with this man? He made appointment, nobody was carried along, and rather, he said he was going to recover all stolen property of Imo State. I was so shocked.
Again, the governors called us. The governors of APC called us at Plateau Lodge. Hope was there and I was there. The only thing, when I realised that it was envy, was when he said that my house in Imo State was bigger than the state government. I said, what has that gone to do with you? This house that you are talking about, I bought it 20 years ago from Spibat, a construction company. It was an old property and I turned that place into a city. So, what is his problem? But, all said and done, the governors intervened. Fayemi was there, all the governors were there. And before us, Hope Uzodinma told them that he was only doing a panel; that he set up a panel to pacify some of his political supporters who felt they should take Rochas’ neck as political witch-hunt.
He did make that statement and that he was not going to make use of that report, that he will just put it under the drawer. He told us this. I said I don’t trust this man. I told Fayemi, I don’t trust this man. Fayemi said no, no, no, he can’t say it before us, no, no, no. Fayemi is alive. And what did he do, he went, cooked up what he called White Paper report. The report was never published for anybody to read, procedures were never published, White Paper was never published, and he said he had exco meeting. So, the exco met and gave the White Paper power to go and seal up the foundation property managed by my wife. And when he got to the foundation property, the commissioner got there, he said why do you shoot? And why do you loot the property you have gone to seal? That was the story of all these. So, there is no…
My only problem with Hope Uzodinma is that he lies a lot. Hope Uzodinma lies a lot. If he can remove the lies because whenever he says good morning, I can’t even believe his good morning and good afternoon.
People are also saying that when a White Paper has already sealed the estate, why did you go and unseal it knowing the power of a White Paper?
What is the power of White Paper? White Paper does not give you the authority as a judiciary. It is only the court of law that has the power to seal up a property. And I went there, not because it was sealed, because it was being looted.
Everything! You see, nobody wants to hear our story. Everything in that hotel has been looted, shattered everything. Mattresses looted. If you seal up a property, you should seal it up. What Hope wanted to do was that he believed that the masses of Nigeria, the masses of Imo State, like to see that if somebody is a big man, let’s go and attack his property. That was what he wanted to see. But he can’t succeed in that with the people of Imo State because they know me. When that failed, he went for self help and went and locked up the place. And if you watch the funny video, when the commissioner was locking up the place, he was inside the hotel and locking up the place. Where did he go out from there?
Having sealed it from inside, where did he go out from? So, that is our concern about it. But I only went there, having called the commissioner of police. I called the commissioner of police; I called the director of DSS before going there. I said, did you send anybody there? They said they sent nobody. So, who would have been there? He took Government House’s security to go and do that and some of them were fake police who put mask. You know they put mask. You know those who were shooting were putting hood over their face. So, they came here for a very bad mission.
There are those who also say that during your tenure as governor, you would not have tolerated that if it was the other way round. What is your take on this?
I wouldn’t have sealed anybody’s property. And I never sealed anybody’s property. As a governor, I didn’t lock up anybody. As a governor, I never invited the military or air force to come and shoot the people. I never! In fact,
I was the most abused governor, Okoro-Hausa and all that. Have you ever heard me take somebody to the cell? But Hope Uzodinma locked up a widow for 12 months with the police. And you know one thing that he brags about? He says he has the court of Nigeria in his pocket; he has the police in his pocket; he has the army in his pocket and he has immunity. That is what he says to everybody. So, ask yourself, I had the same powers. I was a governor, how many people did I ever arrest? In fact, there was a situation where a Keke man hit my car.
As a governor?
As a governor! And I came down and I helped him moved out his Keke. I was a governor when a Mercedes car caused me to have an accident. When I came back, I bought a car for the man. So, when you are a governor, you should take nonsense. Every leader must be a nonsense taker or you can’t lead the people.
And both of you are Catholics?
Both of us are Catholics, but his Catholic must be different from my Catholic.
We expected both of you from the same faith to be closer. Isn’t it?
We went to a Catholic Church one day, I think that is the last one that made him angry. What I think makes Hope angry or whatever he is doing, he can’t stand my popularity. Like we went to the Catholic Church when they were burying Bishop Ochiagha, they called his name and people were murmuring. Thousands! They were murmuring. When they called my name, the Church went loose. I think he doesn’t like a thing like that. But you can’t suppress the fact. You can’t. – Culled from The Sun.