Posted by Wale Akinola on
The immediate past special adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo on inter-party affairs, Chief Rochas Okorocha, is an Igbo who wants to succeed the president in 2007. But the presidential aspirant says he does not pray that Nigerians should ask his Igbo people to produce the president.
The immediate past special adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo on inter-party affairs, Chief Rochas Okorocha, is an Igbo who wants to succeed the president in 2007. But the presidential aspirant says he does not pray that Nigerians should ask his Igbo people to produce the president. Why? Find out the answer in this interview with Okorocha who also does not believe in the agitation for rotational presidency. He also says third term is governors’ agenda not Obasanjo’s. Excerpts:
You were an All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) presidential aspirant in 2003. Today, you are pitching your tent with newly christened Action Alliance (AA), formerly National Mass Movement of Nigeria (NMMN). What really gives the new ray of hope in your presidential Aaspiration?
It is true that I was a presidential aspirant under ANPP and it is also true that I did my best to bring the party up and to make the party more popular than it was. But, my movement into Action Alliance is simply as a result of my desire to bring about positive change in this country. It is a desire to build a party that has vision, a party that will be truly a political party in the real sense, and a party that can allow ordinary man to participate and contribute to how he/she is being governed.
It is all about vision. It is all about our dream for Nigeria, how we intend to better the country. How to change from the old order which has kept us perpetually in political and economic bondage. How to chart a new course, sing a new song, and move Nigeria in a supersonic speed to catch up in the next 10 or 15 years with the developed country. For at the rate we’re going politically, it might take us forever if not 500,000 years to catch up with countries like USA, Britain etc. AA is all about a new vision that will put Nigeria in the right track.
Why Action Alliance (AA) and not any other political party? What gives you assurance that AA is the party to look out for come 2007?
What gives me assurance that AA will make it come 2007 is that, looking at the situation today, you can see that people, at least 90 per cent of Nigerians, are fed up with the kind of politics we practise these days. The polity is characterised by dominance, dictatorship. It is that of one-man who stays at the federal, state or local government and determines what goes on in the party. Party is no longer a party in the real sense, where it takes the interest of all in a democratic setting to decide what happens and who gets what. So, people are fed up with that.
There is a serious fear that there might not be election at the state government level, because governors might have decided who will succeed them. The same thing is applicable at the local government level. People are not happy with this development. They are completely disenchanted. They are looking for an avenue where they can really express their democractic power or their voting right. In fact, most people do not believe in Nigeria’s democracy. They don’t even care whether they should vote or not, because their vote does not count. They believe that it doesn’t make any difference, after all the person that would rule them has been pre-determined, even before the election.
We’re using Action Alliance to tell them that, look that’s not all about democracy. Join this party, and it will never be business as usual. We say come to AA, and achieve your political dream of justice, fairness, equity and collective responsibility for our great country. This will affect the ordinary man on the street positively.
So, in Action Alliance, we allow you to rediscover yourself. The party is asking the aggrieved people, the women, the youths, to take over this party as their own party. This is what we’re doing now, and is receiving massive support from people all over the country.
It is a common knowledge that you had served under Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led Federal Government. One would have expected you to decamp to the party, considering the number of political associates you have in PDP fold. What are your impressions about PDP, a party considered to be the biggest in Africa?
I was an ANPP member. But, I was appointed as Special Adviser to the President on Inter-Party Relations. That did not make me a member of PDP. I worked very well with President Olusegun Obasanjo. I saw him as a man of great ideas, a man who means well and I see him as a very intelligent man, who has passions for success. But, I don’t see PDP as a political party. I think, giving the origin of the party, it is an association of different people just to get the military out of governance. It is never a party built on vision, ideology, programme, or agenda.
That is what occasioned today the crisis you see in PDP fold. I can tell you that we don’t have up to 5,000 real PDP members in this country. What we have is an indirect membership. Those who must go with the government of the power for the purposes of achieving their selfish ends and daily bread. Deeper in their minds, they are not PDP. They don’t think PDP. So, people get it wrong to say that PDP is the largest in Africa. PDP is not the largest in Africa, if it is, why do you have a party where the legislators who are PDP members want to remove the President who is a PDP member. The House of Representatives wants to remove PDP President, PDP governors fight PDP President, PDP President fights PDP Senators, etc.
The earlier we remove these people and put them where they belong, the more there would be peace in this country. And that is my worry that if we don’t do this now, it might lead us to a one-party system which may bring about anarchy in our society. PDP is not as strong as people imagined. Agreed the President is a PDP member, but that does not make PDP a strong party. But, I tell you President Obasanjo is strong and powerful, because he is the Commander-in-Chief. But PDP is not strong. If you remove Obasanjo from PDP, the party is as good as an ordinary NGO that is desperately looking for power, not even a party. The respect we have for PDP today is because of the respect for Obasanjo who is the Commander-in-Chief and the power he wields. Remove Obasanjo today, PDP is not up to AD.
The clarion call for power shift again appears to be gaining momentum in our political landscape. The North has said power must return to them, having resided in the South for eight years. How do you situate your presidential aspiration in this political context?
In the constitution of this country, we don’t have what is called North/South dichotomy. But due to political maneuverings, some political elite have introduced the idea just to suit their selfish desire for power. In the constitution, what we have is the six geo-political zones, 36 state governments, and 774 local governments. Nobody will ever share money in the country on the basis of North/South. So, when you talk about South and North, it confuses me. If you’re talking about the South, a Yoruba man is different from an Ibo man. And an Ibo man is different from the South-South man. So, what part of the South are you talking about? In the North, the Middle Belt man is different from Hausa/Fulani man, Nupe man is different. So, what are you talking about on the issue of rotational presidency? One major danger in our polity today is that some politicians have decided to use this term to suit themselves. Ask them where in South should the power go, they will not tell. Where in North, they will avoid your question. All they have said is North, South. I don’t want to talk about this issue of rotation based on North/South.
In fairness, there was an initial tripod upon which this nation ab initio took from. These included Hausa/Fulani, the Eastern people or Igbo and the Yoruba. Using this as a parameter, Hausa/Fulani have taken their turn to be the president, Yoruba man has taken his turn, and the Igbo man is yet to have a taste of the presidency. But, that is not even the basis of argument.
Democracy is not all about sentiment, it is about number. My point is that I don’t subscribe to rotational presidency at all. That will not help our democracy. It will only widen the gap of tribalism and disunity in this country. What we need is to take presidency to an individual who has what it takes to move the nation forward. Since we cannot rotate hunger, we cannot rotate diseases, we cannot rotate anguish and anger, there is no point talking about rotational presidency. Parties may want to handle that.
Individuals and group of people may want to decide that. But, we’ve come to a stage in this country or in our life where presidency should not be determined on the basis of rotation based on tribes or religion. Let the man who has the right philosophy, the decision that it takes to move this country forward be allowed to rule irrespective of where he comes from. Because what is important to the ordinary man is he who understands the essence of power, and can use it judiciously. That is what Action Alliance is asking for, not where the presidency comes from.
You’re from the South-east zone, a zone believed to be highly marginalised. How would you react to this assertion?
I’m very careful using the term marginalisation. Are we marginalised as a group, or as an individual? The term marginalisation should no longer be discussed at the zonal level, we should discuss Nigerians who are marginalised. What we have in this country is that there is a complete marginalisation of the ordinary man. The ordinary man in South-East is marginalised just like the ordinary man in the North-West. I just want us to separate this country into two: The oppressed and the oppressors. That is the awareness we’re trying to create in Action Alliance. That in this country we have the oppressors and the oppressed. We have those who take the advantage of the ignorance of the ordinary masses and live a wonderful life only for themselves and their children against the interests of the ordinary man. So, the ordinary man is a man that is marginalised.
There are structures of people who marginalised these people. These are the people we should be talking about. As far as I’m concerned, my definition is a relative one, depending on which angle you’re looking at it from. In other words, South-East marginalisation is a relative term. Because within South-East, some people are marginalised, some even at the ward level. If you go to some states in the South-East, certain local governments are being marginalised from the governor who comes from the same state.
Igbo presidency project is much-touted, but with no concerted effort. How do you explain the absence of unity of purpose towards Igbo presidency?
I don’t believe in Igbo presidency, and I don’t want to be an Igbo president. I want to be a Nigerian president. My presidency is not for Igbo alone, but for the entire Nigeria. I think this term should really be removed from the minds of Nigerians. Because it is not doing Igbo any good.
Once you talk about Igbo presidency, you reduce the whole Nigerian president to a tribal sentiment, which has been very disastrous. We don’t have a Yoruba president. I have never heard of it. I have never heard of Hausa president. Why is it that any time they talk, they talk about Igbo president? Whoever has coined this word must be doing a disservice to the Igbo nation. We should be talking about Nigerian president who speaks Igbo language, a man who understands Igbo language.
I will tell you that in the history of man, there has never been anything like true unity of purpose. Even in a family, how united are the members of the family, not to talk about a people? Even if you say Igbo should produce the president today, the Igbos cannot come together to produce a president, even the North etc. So, presidency has nothing to do with the tribe, it is about an individual. For instance, tell Igbo nation to produce a president, Anambra State will say it has always been its birthright. Abia State will say it has never had it before. Imo State will say it is our own turn. All this will only further create confusion. I don’t even pray that Nigerians should tell Igbo to produce the president. Any day that is announced, they have set up a disaster in every part of this country. For Igbo, power is not given, it is earned. You cannot sit at home and say you want to become president and no effort is made. I hear many Nigerians saying: but if we give you this presidency, you’re not united. I said even other people of the country have their own political weaknesses. This should never be used as a criterion to disqualify Ndi Igbo from contributing their own quota to nation-building.
What is the vision of Action Alliance?
I will simply say it is rewriting completely the cause of history in Nigeria. In the time past, the leaders who seemed to know all, who appeared to know everything have been responsible for feeding this nation. What they supplied to us is not enough. The resources from oil is not enough for us, their own ideas is not enough for the masses, and yet they are holding us to it, saying they must be the givers, and everybody should sit down and beg. So, the system we have been practising is such system that has made masses at the receiving end. Because it is not enough we start struggling for the few. And that is poverty. That is my definition of poverty. Poverty in Nigeria is not the absence of resources. The number of people struggling for the limited resources is more than what the resources can carry. Those who are in power, grab it from the top, which is called corruption, and the little can no longer reach the downtrodden.
In Action Alliance, we’re set to reverse the order. Instead of these leaders given, let for the first time the masses give. When the masses give to these people, there would be more than enough. There is a proverb in my language which says when an individual cooks for a large number of crowd, no matter how big the food, the crowd will finish it. But, when the crowd cook for an individual, no matter how big he is, he can never finish it. Let the masses take care of the nation, and not the nation taking of the masses. The masses have something to offer. But, because of the leaders’ undoing, we have killed the talent in the ordinary man. We will not call it reforms, but it can be called a systematic revolution that changes the old system order.
There appears to be a covert campaign going on by some state governors towards a third term agenda, which will give the President a fresh mandate of six years, beginning from 2007 and hand over in 2013. How do you react to this?
The call is selfish. I think the governors are scheming for themselves and not for the President, because we have never heard the president asking for third term. The governors are being smart, anchoring their selfish agenda on the President to finish their unfinished business or whatever it is. That is not good for our democracy. But, what is important is that President Obasanjo has come up with some reforms which look like a long-term process. I wish he had started these reforms right from his first day in office in 1999. If he had done this, he would have gone far.
But at the same time, I believe he must have taken the first four years to study and use another four years to implement his agenda. Definitely, I think time is enough on his side, but what I think the President should do is to package the reform exercise in such a way that no matter who comes in must continue with it. I think that is what the nation should be talking about. Six-year single term, to me, again, shouldn’t be an issue to worry ourselves about. There is nothing wrong with four years.