In this interview with Thisday, Governor Rochas Okorocha, responded to allegations that he was elected in error by the PDP, as well as other issues after the PDP rally in Owerri, the state capital. Chuks Okocha presents the excerpt
PDP has alleged that you won the governorship by default. Is it true?
Let my start by saying that PDP lied. It was not by accident, it was the mandate of the people freely given by Imo State. And let me put the record right, PDP has never won any election in Imo State. The election of Udenwa was won by me in 1999. It was not Achike Udenwa who won that election. So, it was not true and after that came Ohakim. So, they wouldn’t have said it was a mistake. I have always won election in Imo State. What happened today was a political 419; the more you look, the less you see. The so called crowd they said they had was not Imolites. They don’t have up to 2000 Imolities there. This is a South-east, South-south rally.
You saw a lot of people from Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu and even Bayelsa- they all came together and they said they had a rally in Imo and that they have come to capture Imo. In fact, they are making the people even angrier by saying that. It is not true that Imo is PDP. Imo is not PDP; it has since left PDP but what shocked me was that of all these their rallies, not one of them was able to request from Mr. President what he can do for Imo people, nothing. All they were talking was how they will capture power.
After capturing the power, what next? What have they done with the power given to them in the last 12 years in the state? But I am happy, if you listened to them very well, none of them has said that this government is not performing. I think they did not find any reason at all to advance. And again, it is very important to set certain records right. That those who have joined PDP today are much expired like expired medicine in medicine shop. So, for me, it was rather painful that the Presidency can spend as much as N250million, mobilising who is who in Nigeria to come to Imo State to buy products that are not up to N1million naira put together, politically in value.
I think they must have deceived the president. First, they did not want him to see the amazing development in the state, so, they took him by the Helicopter. Even the school where they landed, Owerri City School, Mr. President will ask question about when it was built. For me, it was wrong to say that it is by accident that I emerged. That was one of the biggest insults they have given to me as a person. They had every security agency at their beck and call, the masses resisted them and voted and I became the governor and somebody said it was accident. Is there any candidate they presented that was better than the one they had at that time?
Achike Udenwa said about 15000 APC members defected to PDP, how true is it? Two, someone said you are performing but he mentioned one oil palm he claimed was started Michael Okpara, but which you have tried to annex through a construction company. He also said your free education was a 419 which gives more admission to non-indigenes?
These are all liars. They have Ph.D in lying. They are Professors in lies. It is not correct. First, Achike Udenwa who said he had 15000 people, if he had 15000 people he would have won the Senatorial seat for Orlu. So, where is the 15000? He also said he went to Anambra and all the buses were hired, even up to Bayelsa because they were chartering people to come and witness their event. I wish you can go round to get the feelings of the people. Udenwa should show us his membership card for APC; he is not a registered member. You cannot say you are APC when you don’t have a card.
We have just done our registration early last week. So, when did he have his membership card that he would bring 15000 people? They are all liars! They are political lairs trying to deceive the people of Imo State but unfortunately, the people know them better. And they couldn’t have talked about my free education. Again, how can free education be lie? They should show me one student in Imo State who is paying school fees from primary to the university. None! And how could it not have been free when we even provide school uniform, lockers, books and shoes? How could I have annexed the Ada Palm which I changed to Imo Palm Plantation and Ada Palm made for us N3.2billion which we used in building schools that their children are going to? So, they are lying. Ada Palm was built by Michael Okpara and for so many years, it has never made a dime.
In fact, government owed N1.2billion severance allowance to workers but when I came in, I revamped the place, brought in some international companies, constructed roads and they gave us N3.6. So, if it is my company and I gave Imo State N3.6, to God be the glory.
They have nothing to offer but one question they should ask themselves because everyone of them admitted that the state gave Mr. President 1.3 million votes three years ago and to have that figure means it is extra-ordinary that 1.3million voted because I became a sitting governor with less than 400,000 votes.
So how can somebody get 1.3millon votes? But let us assume that it was correct because we love him and we have confidence in him but three years after, I felt like crying. The only ‘thank you’ we can get was to come and commission Udenwa as a project from Orlu zone, commission Chris as a project from Owerri zone and commission Ararume for Okigwe zone. They are three projects and an addendum, Mike Ahamba. How could you, three years and you did not come to the state. What they have come to solicit was our support for 2015. So, all that we are good for is to cast vote and not good enough to receive the dividends of democracy.
Let me tell them that we are not fools. I wish they have come here, if they have no projects, beg me to give them some of the projects to commission, may be the Government House, which I rebuilt or the International Conference Centre, the freedom Square, Ikemba Ojukwu Centre and the Owerri City School where they landed. Even the stadium where they stayed today, I made it look better but it is so annoying that three years after, the thank you is to solicit more votes. If they had said thank you and say they will come back to do something before they solicit our votes, fine. Rather, all the leaders were saying was that they will take power from them. ‘All of us have gathered’. Look at those who gathered, these are the gatherings of the problem of Imo State. Thank God they are now in one basket, very easy to evacuate politically and they know they couldn’t have done these things, even the little they had was because of the presidential presence.
Let any of them come any other day, let any of them invite 100 people in Imo State to visit them without paying for it. I think the Imo people will be weeping today. This visit has provoked rather than comfort them and that is the reason I am appealing to them. On Monday, let them bring out their brooms and sweep away this evil visit that might have affected our people. They have nobody on the ground. I don’t know the face Udenwa will use to go to all and ask his people to vote for him. I tarred the road to his house. I am doing the road to his house today. Today, Orlu is a new city. So, what will he tell his people?
The chairman, PDP governors’ forum alleged that you are immersing federal projects and showcasing as achievements of your government?
Akpabio, my friend, sometimes talks from both sides of his mouth and it is unfortunate. I don’t know whether he talks before he thinks or two of them confusing each other because he wouldn’t have said that but I think he was overwhelmed by the number of projects that I am doing in Imo State. He could not believe that a single person with N4.5 billion naira monthly can do such a job that he with over N40billion a month cannot do.
So, it is natural that he will think they are federal projects but they should tell him they are not federal projects; they were built by me. I didn’t want to join issues with my friend and colleague but this was the second time he was making derogatory statement against Imo State. The last time he said that small state where the governor wears cloths with traditional rulers and I thought he was a friend but if he says that again, I will respond.
They said most of the projects were executed by PDP and that at night, you commission them as your own, does it mean anything to you?
What is hostel? I don’t consider hostel as part of the projects I have done in Imo State. Even the one of Onitsha road was the project started 12 years ago by former President Obasanjo. He did that job, it was not done by the current administration but even at that, there is no single NDDC road. NDDC is the highest form of 419 adopted by PDP. They collect money and do nothing. I did Aba road. I have counted what I did for the state but what have they done to deserve a single accolade? The President might not even be aware that nothing has been done in the state and rather than tell him the true, they did not want him to see; they decided to fly him where one can drive in 15 minutes. I don’t want people to be deceived. Imo people are not fools and they can never be deceived again because 12 years of PDP has been terrible.
The eight years of Udenwa was a waste, nothing to show for it, then the four years of Ohakim was a disaster. What I have done as a governor in two and half years is more than what these people put together had done for the past 12 years. See the maturity I showed today, I went to the airport and received the president. That is politics but any time any APC member tries to go to Abia or Ebonyi, they start fighting. They use police to stop them. But that will not happen again. I have come to expose who they are.
Is it true that you tried to leave the country in order not to come and receive the president?
They are lairs. I visited the people when I was in PDP in Imo State. I know them very well. Imagine where you have Hope, Ararume, Ihedioha, Udenwa, Ohakim, then add Ilomuanya, who said he was a traditional ruler. When you put them together, you will understand the characters we have in the state. How would I want to leave? I was asking for the programme to receive the president. He is the president of Nigeria, not of PDP. It is duty incumbent on me to receive him and hand him over to his party and that was what I did. I received him, handed him over to his people and wished them well.
Did you direct your people to destroy the president’s banners?
They can always say anything. Very childish! If I want to destroy their posters, why did we give him the stadium?
That you influenced the cost of renting the stadium from N500,000 to N5million?
Even if I charge them N10million, they have the money. That is good IGR for the state. The money they stacked away in the past 12 years, where did they keep it? They should pay now but the good thing is that I did not refuse them the stadium. When I was running for governor, I gave them N10million but they refused me. Even at that, the fact that I allowed them to use the facilities in the stadium means that I am generous enough.
They described you as an emperor and said they did not guide their votes the last time but are ready to do that in 2015?
Powerful! Rochas with the Presidency, PDP and the incumbent governor, yet, I took his votes, then, something must be wrong. I came in through an inconsequential party (APGA) and was able to mobilise people to take their vote because they didn’t guide their votes? That means that something was wrong. And they said I am an Emperor, Emperor of the masses then, the touch bearer and advocate of the masses. But for me, they need to be politically scared of me, all of them put together. The only person that spoke so well at that rally was Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu. He talked like an elder statesman and I salute him. He made my day. He made them know the truth, that they should not go that way because they will be very unpopular. I have problem here, the Imo people should not let me go. I wanted to go for presidency but they said I should not go.
Are you seeking re-election?
That is the decision I am yet to make.