I ’ll still be president – Rochas Okorocha

After two previous attempts, Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha last week put back on track his presidential dream, urging the electorate to evaluate the second term ambitions of serving governors within the context of performance.  He spoke in Owerri, the state capital, on Tuesday while hosting a team from The Sun Publishing Company Limited, publishers of The Sun titles. The team comprised the Managing Director/ Editor-In Chief, Mr. Tony Onyima, Daily Editor, Mr. Steve Nwosu, Political Editor, Mr. Chidi Obineche, and the South-east Bureau Chief, Mr. Chidi Nnadi.



Okorocha said he would use his current position as a launch pad, because “I am here to demonstrate my vision and leadership skills.” Stretching further his desire for the presidential diadem, Okorocha, who described himself as an unconventional governor said: “If I am going to contest for president in 2015, then my one term ends. If I am going to contest for president in 2019, then it is better to face what I am doing. But the truth is that my ambition to run for the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is not cancelled.” He criticised the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for not putting performance as a benchmark in the quest for second term by public office holders.

“I remember that the issue of second term is not a right for anyone who has been a governor. Whether you have done well or not, you’re entitled to a second term. Let whatever you have done speak for you. I have argued that with the leaders of the PDP. It is wrong.” The governor, who is of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), also relieved his ordeal when he was a member of the PDP. He accused the PDP of failing him at critical points in his political career, and lacking the basic tenets of internal democracy; vowing not to ever have anything to do with the party again.

“Through all my political life, PDP has failed me. First, I wanted to be governor under the PDP. It was taken away from me. I wanted to be a senator, I went under PDP and won, but they denied me the ticket. I came to run for president under the PDP, and I came second. Then, I wanted to be the national chairman, it was not possible. I wouldn’t have achieved my political ambition under PDP. If I had gone for the governorship under PDP in 2011, Ohakim would have stopped me at the primary. That’s to tell you my odyssey in PDP. I have paid my dues in PDP, thinking that the PDP has internal democracy. The party has a problem of internal democracy.”

He declared his intention to reposition APGA as a strong national party with vision. Although, he acknowledged his newness on the platform, he said the current crisis plaguing it was not as much the issue as the loss of vision and communication. Restating its vision, he said: “If it is just an addendum to the PDP, then it is not growing. Our vision for it is to make it a strong national platform, completely independent with its roots in Igbo land; we can quickly reach out and be strong in other parts of the country.

“We are going to strengthen the party, reorganize it. The issue of leadership is even an infinitesimal part of the problem as compared with vision. Yesterday, every Igboman believes APGA is their party. You can’t win election in the South-east without their support.”  On the challenge of running the affairs of Imo state, he said it was daunting but surmountable, saying he met a state that was not doing well, with poverty, debts, lack of trust, corruption and deceit dotting the landscape.

“And the state had also this image of not doing well poverty, lack was everywhere. I was faced with that challenge too. How will I now change the minds of the people? And there was complete disconnect between the people and the government. People no longer believed in the government. So, the issue of trust was not there at all. People no longer trust the government. They saw government as a set up for self-aggrandizement. So I had this challenge to bring back the confidence of the people back to government, and see a synergy, a working relationship between the people and the government. So I had to close the rank and the disconnect between the two.”

He continues: “Then I found that the budgetary system was such that you only talked about welfare. The entire state was run on welfare. Everything was built around salaries, donations, publicity, parties and 75 per cent of the budget. So less than 20 per cent of the budget went for capital projects. And that must explain why there was nothing like capital projects at all in the state. “What I met was just one office building, and one uncompleted Ahiajoku hall, and a few roads, here and there, some of them expanded in the name of dualization. So that was the challenge. What I saw was deceit in governance arising from ignorance, total ignorance. I realized that what the state has had were politicians leading the state, and not leaders.”

To further bridge the gap between the people and the government, Okorocha introduced the controversial 4th tier government by making the traditional rulers the chairmen of the Community Government Council (CGC), the President General (PG) of the community the secretary, with indigenous civil servants as the support staff. He believed the CGC wiould unlock the comatose resources of the area and serve as a catalyst for grassroots development.

He further spoke on the progress of his administration’s programmes such as free education at all levels, revamping of the agricultural potentials, among others.