A former governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha is the current senator representing Imo West in the 9th Nigerian Senate. In this interview, he speakers on the 2023 presidency and why Igbos should be given a chance; dwindling fortunes of the governing APC and his philanthropic activities, amongst others.
Daily Trust: At 58, you have impacted the lives of Nigerians, and humanity, positively; what really prompted you to become a philanthropist?
Rochas Okorocha: I will simply say that being a philanthropist or being a charitable person is more spiritual than physical. I think it is something that is innate with one’s spirit. I love giving, I hate injustice and I hate poverty, so I try to fight these two evils.
Given that my background is not that of buoyancy; I come from the same class of people you consider as very poor and because of that, I took it upon myself (a sort of spiritual oath that anytime I am blessed by God I will bless others) to give back to my world and make the society a better place.
Rochas Foundation has been in the business of giving free education to the poorest of the poor, the less privilege, the vulnerable. We have over 22,000 children now on our records; some are still in school and every year, we admit about 2,000 children into our schools.
Right now, we see young men with three stars in the police, army, air force, customs, immigrations, civil service, banks etc. These are children who ordinarily had no hope of going to school but now becoming something. So, the joy alone is worth more than what food and champagne will give you.
On the 2023 presidency, the Igbos have been crying that they have been marginalised. Is the South East ripe for the presidency?
Well, I really don’t understand whether people run for presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria because of where they come from or because of what they can do for the nation. I think these are two different things.
Sometimes, it looks like when you talk about presidency, the only qualification is where you come from, your religion and not what you can give to the people. This is where I differ.
If I am running for president, I should be running because of what I can do for my people and not necessarily because of where I come from.
These are some of the mistakes we have made in this country in choosing leaders at all levels – these sentiments have all been there.
So, first and foremost, we must begin to allow leaders that have track records and vision for the people to come and lead the people and not necessarily because you come from A, B, C, D.
The only reason I would give credit to the quest for president of Igbo extraction is to see how the economy would fare since the South West,
South South and North have all governed and we all saw the state of the economy during those administrations.
In essence, would you support Igbo presidency in 2023?
A Nigerian president of Igbo extraction is what we are talking about and I have just said that if other places have done it, let us see what the Igbo can do for the nation.
In Nigeria today, you have some ethnic groups in the North who prefer that power should come from the South because they believe that anytime a southerner is in power, they enjoy government at its best.
You also have southerners who believe that a northerner should be in power because when they are in power, they enjoy the best. So, who is deceiving who?
Will you contest in 2023?
Having contested in 2003, 2007, 2015, you are asking me at this time if I will contest, that is very interesting. What has kept me wanting to run for president is not just because I want to be president. If I am going to be a president of failure, then I don’t want to be a president. But if my presidency will unite this country, then I want to be president. If my presidency will address the issue of poverty and insecurity, I would want to be president. If my presidency will address the economy of this nation and we will begin to talk like other developed nations, then I want to be president. If my presidency will guarantee free education for the poorest of the poor, I want to be a president.
Your party, the APC, seems to be on a life support. Is there hope for the APC in the 2023 elections?
Starting with the report of the Edo State governorship elections, it sounds quite interesting. You see, when injustice comes into a matter, the centre can no longer hold; that is a problem of the party. I forewarned about what is happening today in our party.
We don’t have APC in the whole of South-South, that is a bad sign and signal. And in the South-East, we can literally say we don’t have APC, we just managed through the ‘Ben Johnson’ way to get one seat and that does not make our image good.
It is unfortunate that these things are happening under the leadership of President Buhari who we consider a clean, honest and patriotic man.
I think what happened is that people took advantage of the nature of President Buhari who, most of the time, chooses to keep quiet and trust people without asking questions. These people have betrayed the trust he reposed in them in governance and have taken advantage of it to mess up a lot of things in this nation. So, President Buhari’s kind of trust on his lieutenants is a major issue, and that is what has ruined our party.