Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State
By Chuks Okocha
Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State says he is on a mission to ensure that the five South-east states are governed by the All Progressives Grand Alliance by 2015, just as the Action Congress of Nigeria holds way in the South-west.
Okorocha denied insinuations that he might be on his way back to the Peoples Democratic Party, saying the ruling party at the centre has narrow prospects. He accused the Independent National Electoral Commission of double-dealing in the bye-election for the Oguta constituency seat in the Imo State House of Assembly.
In an interview with THISDAY to mark his 50th birthday, which will be celebrated in Owerri Monday, Okorocha promised to reclaim the political identity of his native South-east zone within the Nigerian federation using APGA as the vehicle.
On his rumoured return to PDP, the governor said, “Even if I contested the 2011 governorship election on the platform of the PDP, I would have failed the election. I paid the first rent for the PDP to take off as a political party. PDP has not been fair to me. I won the governorship ticket in 1999, I was denied the ticket, I won the Orlu senatorial ticket, I was again denied the ticket, I wanted to be national chairman because I have national acceptance, and I was again denied the ticket. For me, there is no light in the tunnel for the PDP, unless the party becomes ‘born-again.’”
Okorocha took time to explain the controversy surrounding the Oguta State Constituency election in which INEC declared the PDP candidate winner, but he had been accused of frustrating the swearing in of the successful candidate.
According to the governor, who accused the INEC chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, of insincerity in the Oguta poll, “The INEC chairman said that he consulted judges, both serving and retired, and Senior Advocates of Nigeria, and it was agreed that there should be a supplementary/bye-election and some local government elections were cancelled. With the cancellation of some local governments, how come that INEC came to the conclusion that the election will be conducted in only four local governments?
“This was what made all the political parties to boycott the election. There are still lots of explanations on the side of INEC on how it reached the conclusion to conduct the bye-election in only four wards, instead of all the local government.”
On his faceoff with elected local government chairmen in the state following his controversial dissolution of the council executives, Okorocha said, “It is a known fact; the state House of Assembly has also said their tenure expired on August 8, 2012. So, if their tenure expired on the 8th of August, you cannot go into another person’s tenure. It is a law gazetted.”
Okorocha said his decision to invest his security vote amounting over N4 billion in education was anchored on the fact that “education remains the best legacy to be bequeathed to the people. This is the sacrifice I have to make to my people.”
He also spoke on how, on assumption of office, he defrayed that state’s debt profile, including the N6 billion loan his predecessor had, allegedly, collected two months before the 2011 governorship election.
The governor described his relationship with Jonathan as “cordial, more than cordial. I knew him before he became the president. In fact, our relationship started when he was the deputy governor of Bayelsa State.”
Besides Okorocha’s Imo and Anambra, the other three South-east states are controlled by PDP.