Senator Rochas Anayo Okorocha, immediate-past Governor of Imo state and Chairman, Senate Committee on Culture and Tourism addressed journalists in Kano on Saturday after attending a wedding ceremony at the Palace of the Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi 11. Rochas whose major mission to the ancient commercial city was to pay a private visit to his former colleague and friend, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, barred his mind to journalists on the internal crisis rocking the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC). While expressing fear that the party may not live beyond President Muhammadu Buhari’s second-tenure, he called for purposeful leadership in the APC. He also spoke on the clamor for Nigeria president from the Igbo extraction, security and border closure
What is your mission to Kano?
I am in Kano to see the Governor of Kano state, a friend of mine and a longtime colleague. We both attended a wedding at the Emir’s Palace which also gave me the opportunity to meet with the Emir of Kano to exchange pleasantries.
There has been clamour for 2023 Igbo presidency from top politicians in the South-East. As a major stakeholder, what is your opinion on it?
I don’t think there is anything called Igbo presidency in Nigeria. We don’t have such nomenclature. What we have is Nigeria presidency. So, you can’t have an Igbo presidency. What you should now be asking should be what do you make of a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction. If that is the question you are asking, I will tell you that democracy is about the people and the South-East is not on its own, it is part and parcel of this country. It is possible to have a Nigeria president from the Igbo extraction and there is nothing wrong for people from other ethnic groups contesting. We have come to a very crucial moment in our nation’s political history. I want to say that the sentiment of where you come from should not determine the position you are holding in this country, rather we should start thinking about people who have something up-stairs; and who can afford to sustain democracy and development in this country. We have a lot of them in Igbo land, so you cannot just be a president because you want to be a president. You want to be a president because you can guarantee security in this country, you can bring about harmonious co-relationship among the various ethnic groups. You can put food on table of Nigerians and also create job for the youths of this country. This is what should be the criteria of politics in Nigeria, and not where you come from. Over the years, we have been in this situation of where you come from to determine what position you hold and that has not produced the best of results, so you must be thinking of people who have the capacity and capability of handling the affairs of this nation and make it the giant of Africa that it should be. If it is on that note, then, I agree with everybody that we need a Nigerian president that is for all Nigerians.
Why do you think people use the nomenclature “Igbo presidency?”
You see, the other challenge you have is that most of the time, we have allowed primordial sentiments to control the political atmosphere of this country and that has not yielded a positive result. At this point in time, let us look for credible people be it Local Government chairman, state and Federal lawmakers, we need credible people to occupy political positions.
You have been following the protracted political feud between the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole and Edo state Governor, Godwin Obaseki, do you think such political crisis portend well for APC as a party?
Well, a political party should be a group of people who share common political interest and beliefs. People who pursue a common goal or common objective for the good of the common man. That will be my understanding of a political party, but any political party that is full of internal crisis is no longer a political party in the real sense of it as a political party. This idea of crisis and idea of commotions shows that the said party does not have a common ideology. If the ideology is one and you believe in one thing, there should not be reason for disagreement at that level. You might have a minor disagreement, but when it comes to the issue of do-or-die, it is no longer a political party. So, let us see what we can do in this country to redefine what we mean by internal democracy. This is why people have options, this is why we don’t believe in one party system. We must have different political parties and identify the one that is in line with your vision, the one that is line with your political belief. What has been our challenge in Nigeria is that we don’t really have a common vision and common ideology for our political parties. So, it is just what we call Agidi and Goro combination. People come from all different beliefs, meet up in one place and form a political party. So, until we have such a political party that is more like a family in their belief, then we are still growing our democracy. Talking about what is happening in Edo state, it is unfortunate but a true political party cannot work against itself. So, I want to advise that they reconcile and relax their differences. The truth is that a party that is divided among itself can never stand.
Some political pundits have expressed fear that APC might implode. Do you entertain such fear?
Well, I have said this earlier, APC is a party that we hurriedly put together when we were governors because we felt that the government at that time was not living up to expectation and we wanted to make sure that we brought about change at that time. That is why we came together and formed the All Progressive Congress and we ensured that the party got power in 2015. That was how it was then and we achieved that. Right now, I think we should continue with the same pace that we started with in 2015 election but that isn’t seem to be the case. President Muhammadu Buhari gave character to APC. He brought his integrity to bear on the party. He made the party what it is in the northern part of the country and the masses of the North saw him as a true leader, and we all rode on that to achieve that victory, but after the credibility of Buhari into this party, there seem to be no alternative in the same manner that will drive this party to 2023 victory. This is why I expressed my concern that if we are not very careful, APC might go with Buhari in 2023, and that will be a very unfortunate situation for the founding fathers of APC. The party needs to show purposeful leadership and character.
Why do you think the problem of insecurity still persist in Nigeria?
Indeed, it is worrisome that what started like a mere security challenge has taken a different dimension. It is unfortunate that we are getting deeper and deeper into the problem which ought not to be. There are many factors that could lead to the present security situation. Most people argue that poverty and insecurity are twin brothers. Illiteracy also plays its own ugly role. People seem not to understand their environment and what they need to do. Nigeria is not the only country where you have insecurity. It seems to be a global issue because insecurity is everywhere in the world. The only thing left for now is to change our style, because it is as if we have adopted a bad method of fighting crime in this number of years, and it is giving results in arithmetic progression, we need to change to a style that will give us result in a geometrical progression. We need to eradicate insurgency as quickly as possible. So, we need to change our style. So, time has come for us to bring about new ideas to tackle security challenges in the country.
What is your take on the border closure policy of the Federal Government?
Well, the border closure has become a very serious issue. But what I don’t know is whether we are achieving results on the intention for border closure because we have more than 3000 entry points in this country. If we close the border, what have we done with some other bushes that surround Cotonou, Cameroon and other places. I think border closure means that we should begin to look inward on better ways to feed ourselves. By creating that kind of atmosphere, people will now begin to understand why we should be self-reliant and ensure food security. Any time you see us eat a bag of rice produced in China, it simply means that you have created jobs for people in China while we are here as a consuming nation. So, whether we want to face this now or later, we must pay this price, either by this generation or the generation to come. To say so means that there is nothing wrong to encourage local production. What I consider very afraid is that if you travel from Sokoto to Kano, Lagos, Owerri, Ogun and Ondo and see any smoke coming out from the roof, that smoke is not a smoke for production, it is a smoke for consumption. It is either the smoke for pepper soup or smoke for fried fish or smoke for Jollof rice. This nation for too long has been a consuming nation and not a productive nation. This also has made our own problems more worrisome because we are not economically independent. We depend on other countries for virtually everything that we eat and use; and that is not good for our youths and the generation yet unborn. So, border closure is a creation of awareness for us to begin to consume what we produce. So, we should take more practical approach in ensuring that we encourage the youths and the people to look inwards and produce those things that we import.