Former Commissioner for Information and Strategy in Governor Rochas Okorocha’s administration Dr. Theodore Ekechi, a former Commissioner for Information and Strategy in Governor Rochas Okorocha’s administration is the convener of Imo Restoration Coalition. In this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI said the stay of Okorocha in the 9th Senate is temporary. He also speaks on other issues. Excerpts:
The former Governor of Imo State, Sen. Rochas Okorocha was handed his certificate of return by INEC as senator representing Imo West after the election of the principal officers of the 9thAssembly, as a critic of the former governor, how do you feel now that Okorocha is a senator?
I have always wished him well as a person. His aspiration to become a Senator after serving as a governor for eight years is not out of place and not unprecedented. But he exposed and overreached himself so much as a governor that he left office not as a hero or a statesman but as a former leader who is now angrily despised and ridiculed by the same people who once worshiped him and held him in awe. Otherwise, should a sitting governor (as it were) of his status struggle so embarrassingly to become a Senator in a state he reigned for 8 years? The presentation of certificate of return and eventual swearing-in purely on technical ground amounts to a pyrrhic victory especially in the face of the plethora of cases pending in the courts and the tribunal.
Okorocha might have been sworn-in as a Senator on technical, legal lacuna, but Imo people, Nigerians and indeed INEC know for truth that it was a victory obtained through the “barrel of the gun”. I truly support INEC’s decision to appeal. Otherwise, in the next dispensation people will simply undermine the electoral process, wait on the final day of result declaration, with gun trotting bandits compel the returning officer to announce them and on the strength of Rochas Okorocha’s precedence are sworn-in as president, governor or lawmaker.
There is this insinuation that Adams Oshiomhole and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu are behind the withholding of Okorocha’s certificate. Do you share that view?
To the best of my knowledge, those are sponsored insinuations by Okorocha himself. For every of his misfortune he has always located a personality of high profile to accuse in order to mitigate the shame and odium associated with it. When I convened the Restoration Coalition and made the Imerienwe declaration that galvanised Imo people against his impunity, he accused “some forces in Abuja who are envious of his high political profile” as sponsoring me. He never for one day acknowledged my independent mindedness on that mission even though he knows that much of me. When he was routed at the Congress, he accused Oyegun, Amaechi as his nemesis and not Senator Izunaso with the coalition. When his son-in-law lost the APC nomination, he accused Oshiomhole with some “forces in the villa” and not Hope Uzodinma with the coalition. When he was caged at the Senatorial election that culminated in this impasse, he is accusing Tinubu, Oshiomhole with El Rufai and not Hon. Jones Onyeyiri (the PDP candidate), his party or the coalition. Because Rochas very loudly and openly boasted that there were no more “men” in Imo state having retired all of them, he is at great pain and odds accepting that his predicament is from the home front.
What is your take on insinuation that with the emergence of Sen. Ahmed Lawan and Hon Femi Gbajabiamila as Senate President and Speaker of the 9th National Assembly respectively, Tinubu may have hijacked the legislature, as the two men are his loyalists?
I do not know very much about the person and personality of Senator Lawan. But the Femi Gbajabiamila I know, as a Lagos boy with strong Surulere ties who shares neighborhood and constituency with him, will live up to the billing of a statesman and a lawmaker. He cannot be hijacked. And indeed, if Tinubu really has a presidential ambition as is widely speculated, hijacking the legislature, if he can so do, will boomerang against his political status and stature. He is a smart politician who works and walks along the line of the mood of the people.
There is fear that the present leadership of the National Assembly as constituted is an appendage of the executive because virtually all the principal officers are members of the ruling party isn’t that a source of national concern to you too?
To the contrary it should be a source of confidence and fairness to national governance. When you give a man responsibility you should also give him the corresponding authority to deliver on his mandate. Indeed, what we have now is consistent with the tradition of democracy all over the world – be it presidential or parliamentary. A party that has majority in both legislative chambers and a presidential mandate should not be unduly distracted or constrained in delivering those promises that got it the peoples mandate in the first place.
It is obvious that the South-East lost out in the struggle for leadership positions in the 9thAssembly, but with the return of Sen. Benjamin Uwajumogu as a ranking Senator, how would this affect the fortune of APC in the region come 2023?
I thank God for the Federal High Court judgment ordering INEC to issue Sen. Uwajumogu a certificate of return which I will describe as milestone in the political struggle embarked upon my coalition which both Uwajumogu and I were members. Yes, with Senator Uwajumogu and the likes of Sen. Orji Uzor Kalu in the 9th Senate, South-East is now well positioned to get what rightful belong to us. So, the court verdict has justified the coalition as truly Okorocha destroyed Imo. Initially, I must confess to you how dampened was by the development. On inability of South-East to produce the Senate President or Speaker and its effect, I am not laying the blame on anybody or group’s doorstep except the South East and South East leadership. Any of my brethren who did not see this coming should think twice about his political tutelage. Without a strong leadership among ourselves we will continue to play our new role of orphans of Nigeria socio-political theater. Rather than brood over this political calamity it is an opportunity for us to go back to the table to earnestly enquire the source of water that contaminated the pumpkin. It is also an opportunity for true leadership emergence. 2023 is not a date, it is a defining phenomenon.
You made mention of Kalu and Uwajumogu, what about Okorocha?
Like I have always said, Okorocha is a big mistake to the Igbo race. He is like a poison wherever he find himself. Mark my word, Okorocha’s election will soon be upturned at the election tribunal because it is unconstitutional to win election with a gun. So, he is a minus to South-East in the Senate.