Senator Rochas Okorocha, representing Imo West Senatorial District at the red chamber has said that in 2023, there must be a new Nigeria devoid of deceit where everyone will see themselves as a member of one big family.
In this interview with our Sundiata Post Political correspondent, Chibuike Nwabuko, the Imo West senator condemned the behaviour of the leaders for having not communicated friendship, brotherliness and oneness to the people.
The two term governor of Imo State also gave insight as to why he proposed the National Unity Bill; more roles to traditional rulers and Federal University of Creative Arts.
Come along with me, it promises to be interesting and educating.
What is the idea behind the National Unity Bill you proposed that have passed first reading at the senate?
The National Unity Bill which I proposed which has passed first reading is a bill that seek to address the issue of the unity of this country. We all claim that Nigeria is united but in practical term, Nigeria is far from being united – ethnicity, religion have divided this country. Political parties have divided this country beyond recognition and this is why we are not walking as a team; that is why it has become very difficult to govern this country and that is why it is difficult to fight insurgency. This is why it is difficult to handle the issue of banditry and criminal activities in this nation.
Another thing I realised as a politician in this country is that our communication system is very bad. What the South Western leaders tell their people is different from what they say nationally; what the South East leaders tell their people is different from what they say nationally, same with North and South-South leaders. When they go back home they tell their people that Nigeria doesn’t want us, that Nigeria hates us and we are marginalized but when they come to Abuja here, they visit each other having tea and coffee together. So they pass wrong messages to ordinary citizens. We leaders pass wrong messages to ordinary citizens for selfish political reasons.
So, we have not really communicated love, friendship and brotherhood to our people. We have not gone back to tell the Igbo man that Hausa man is your brother and that he loves you. We have not gone to South-South and say that Yoruba man loves you, we are one people.
Nigeria’s unity in still a theoretical fabrication which does not reflex any practical realities. So this is why I seek for this National Day Unity Bill to create the consciousness of unity in our nation. We celebrate our independence day – that is the day we assume we got free from the colonial masters. But we have not actually celebrated our unity and since the amalgamation of the southern and northern protectorates, there has not been any conscious asttempt to really unit this country and create the awareness that there is no difference between the Igbo man, Hausa man and the Efic or Yoruba man. That we are one people.
This lack of oneness is what is giving rise to all these economic and political problems and security problem. Take for instance the entire issue of Boko Haram, banditry and kidnapping put all of then together, I don’t think they are up to 10,000 people nation wide from what we see. So how can 10,000 people chase away 200 million people. It means that those 200 million people are not united but the 10,000 people are united so this issue of the national unity bill will really help us to understand the need for oneness.
Looking at your face now, I can’t actually say where you come from so what actually brought this issue of hate based on religion and ethnicity in this country. Most of the times when you see that your friend belongs to another political party, you stop taking to each other and you become enemies for life. So democracy is not meant to create enemies. This religion we practice is the comfort and convenient of your faith and must not be imposed on another person. So this is why I am proposing the National Day Bill for all Nigerians to come together, sets a day aside and to remind themselves that they are one. If you don’t do that, then this division will continue and we keep suffering economically, politically and even spiritually.
A school of thought is of the believe that Nigeria was not able to achieve unity (nationalism) at independence that was why we could not get our independent in1956. A part of the county rejected the independence then until it was shifted to 1960. How are you going to assuage the feelings of all sections of the country to get this unity you are talking about?
Time heals wound. This things are forgotten. We can come together as a nation and say look, old things have passed away let us start a new thing. I have my children and most of their friends are from the North. They are very comfortable with the people from the South and South West. So what will you tell this kids. Will I go back and tell my son not to relate with Yoruba man or the Igbo man? What do you benefit from it? What we have before were myopic leaders who did not see beyond the shores of their land. And so for them to rise and become relevant, they preach the gospel of ethnic championism and they don’t see the larger Nigeria. I have always told people that it is better to be a director of N1billion business than to become the M.D Chief Executive of N100,000 business. But some of them want to be Chairman, M.D or President of a small enclave they call community where they come from rather than being a director or share holder in a bigger business where they make profit. So this issue is selfishness, it has nothing to do with our culture, people and marginalisation. It has everything to do with those little minded myopic leaders who don’t see beyond their family circle that preaches this gospel of division.
Today in Africa, Nigeria has the Highest population, we have the largest market and everything. So how can you shrink yourself from being big to being small, something is wrong with the persons medulla oblongata. They don’t know that when we come together as a people we benefit more. I don’t want to travel to Lagos or any part of this country and I now feel I am not part of it, God forbid. Let’s make this nation, it is no longer for us but for you the younger ones, because if you don’t correct this in this country now, then that will affect our nation and this is why this 2023, Nigeria must insist that the qualification to become a president is that you must be national in outlook. You must accommodate every tribe and religion and you must be a bridge that will unify every part of this country. That should be number one criteria to becoming a president. But if you have attributes of sectionalism, tribalism; you have no business here or those who think only about their family and their wives and children and their neighbours don’t matter to them should have not business being a president of this country unless we want to go 100 years backward.
Distinguished sir, we want to talk of your other bills like: more roles to traditional rulers and Federal University of Creative Arts. These are some of your bills. Can you throw more lights on them?
Well, let me start with University of Creative Technology in Orlu. Technology is the way to go and one of the gifts of this nation now is the industry of entertainment. Nigeria is a world leader when you come to the issue of entertainment. Now call it the movie stars, musicians. You don’t know how much we have done. We are the only country now challenging America. There was a time America said that Nigeria movie can be produced in 5 seconds, Yes but we are changing now. We are improving on that. Nigeria is popular today because of our stars, musicians, actors and actresses. In fact, Lie Mohammed was telling me a story that he was going to a country and when he said he is the Minister of Information they said wait here, they move him by the side, but when they see Kanu Nwankwo coming, the whole road cleared. So that tells you how important this industry is but no attention has been given to the entertainment industry in this country.
So the Creative Technology is a University that is tailored towards our economy because most of our Universities in Nigeria is not tailored towards our economy. It is just go and read and have certificate and do nothing. But what you can create in the movie industry, film industry, music industry in animation – these are some of the things so that people can be gainfully employed without looking for white caller job any more. It is “Be Your Own Boss University” if it finally comes into being and the South East is known for this – they started most of these movies and they are very good at it. So encourage them and export it. This will give us earnings in billions of dollars. Do you know that last year NIDO brought about N25billion dollars direct through this remittance so we need to diversify our economy with things like this. So that is the reason for that.
Then about more roles to the traditional rulers. “Every society of mankind is created by God with their culture and tradition. No society or nation can grow above or beyond their tradition and culture for those are in relationship with God” – Rochas Okorocha. So culture has a key!
Every economy that is not culturised in tandem with the people can never do well. So what we practice is strange culture and strange economy that is why we cannot do well with it. That is why I said traditional rulers who are the custodians of our culture must be given a role in governance. Federal government is taking too much. When government makes policy statement and what the community agrees is against what government is saying, they will not do what government is saying and I say again as Rochas Okorocha that the best form of governance is the one that allows people to govern themselves. You know something, we are stronger at community level than we are strong at state level. I give you example. If you go to my community and somebody gives us one cow for a community, I tell you that nobody can take a hair out of that cow. There is no corruption at that level. If you try to do anything funny the villagers will beat the hell out of you. Even if it is the eye, nose or tail, they know who gets it. But take the same cow to local government, one person will eat it and nobody will care. The same thing is applicable to the government money at account, if you bring the allocation to the state everybody believes that the money belongs to the governor. You take it to the local government, it belongs to the local government chairman. Even if you steal the money at local government level nobody will talk to you but take N100,000 to community and let somebody take N1, that person will pack out of his house, so there’s natural check and balance about corruption.
So corruption must be fought right from community level. This thing that one person supervises the whole world is not possible. Again this issue of security can best be handled by traditional rulers. Let me shock you. If the amount of money given to the military to fight Boko Haram in Maiduguri which is in trillions of naira, take one tenth of it and give it to Borno people to fight insurgency, there will be no insurgency in Borno. That takes me to another arm of devolution of power. As a governor in Imo State, I introduced what is called community government council which is like government at the community level and it is the most effective government and that is how I was able to stop kidnapping. But then how much did I pay. I give the traditional rulers only N100,000 with the women leader, youth leaders and gave them the name “Chief Security Officer of Community” and they made the impact. But you would have given to the national security N2b, N1b and buy fuel and vehicle, then these innocent police and DSS officers will enter the same vehicle and drive to the community and pass the criminals and the criminals will be waving at them without them knowing that they are criminals band they will laugh at them because they don’t know them. But if I give it to traditional ruler and a criminal wants to do anything, he will say where are you going to, my friend come here I catch you.
You dropped a bomb that Nigerians should be expectant, that political party is coming – a little to the left and a little to the right so what…
Fantastic idea and everyone should embrace it. What I was talking about actually was governance much more than party. Let people know that governance is more important than party. There is so much emphasis on party and party does not change a system, party cannot correct the economy, cannot stop the insurgency and cannot guarantee food on the table of a common man. It takes a leader with a vision, a good man with vision to change the story. So party as far as I am concerned is inconsequential in a nation that is serious. But for a very unserious nation, party is important.
So we are looking for people who have something upstairs and this is why I said let the good people with vision who love this country come together and provide leadership and the name party will come naturally. What does APC and PDP mean. It’s just somebody sat down in his house and come up with names. I gave the name APC. I just sat down one day and say since these people are called PDP, I came up with All Progressive Congress, A from APGA, CPC, C, ACN, C that is how the name came. I didn’t bring it because there was a vision behind it. It is just a word I put together so what happens in leadership is not a party. That call which most people did not understand, I was calling for leadership with vision, governance and not party and once somebody emerges, party should be picked up as a basket to collect your members like a bus but it does not do the work. The bus only drops you to where you are going to work. So party can only take you to where you are going to but cannot do the job for you. So party as far as am concerned means nothing.
Owelle Rochas Okorocha is a household name and your philantropism is without frontier. But today, Nigeria is polarized with ethnic agitations. What is your message to Nigerians and what are your plans for 2023?
You know sometimes people talk about this my Foundation without seeing the joy I derive from its. Only some weeks ago, I saw some of my children walking as military officers and I was wondering what are they doing. This one took back step and gave me a salute another one police officer saluted me, another one air force officer saluted me. Who are they? They said Daddy we are children of Rochas Foundation. I mean the joy that goes home with me is much more than what dollar and naira can provide. So I find joy and all these children, 95% of them have no father no mother. They were picked up from the streets. So from nothing to something is my joy and that is what is my interest. Each time you see me talking about election or running for office, believe me, I am not doing so for anything personal to me. Not to have fame, God have given me that, not wealth, thank God almighty, not comfort, not anything but you see, in my 23 to 25 years of Rochas Foundation, I can only boast of about 25,000 children, orphans in school. I have gone to Africa, I brought from Africa. When I became governor of Imo State, just for eight years, I was able to introduce free education up to university and almost 1 million people benefited within 8 years. So you can see that my seeking for political office or allowing myself to go through this insulting project called polities where everybody speaks to you the way they want is just because it gives me a larger latitude to do what I would have done under my small idea. So if I say to Nigerians now that 2023 I will make education free, believed me I will do it no child will pay N1 up to university level. It is vision and when I did that in Imo State women who sold wrapper before they pay school fees or sold their chicken before paying school fees. So there are chicken being reared for school fees, goats being reared for school fees while they are not eating because they have to starve to be able to save to pay school fees. One woman told me that you don’t know what you did for us as a governor. Before now her son was in one of the church schools where she is a member. A day came that the school fees was not paid and her child was sent out of the exam hall. So even church could not help at that time. The same religious we practice could not help at that time and that is how that child missed exam. So you can see what most people go through.
School fees can create hypertension when you see other children going to school but yours cannot go. That school fees cause kids to become prostitutes on the university when their parents could not pay school fees they just have to go for money any how. Cultism is also to look for school fees. You don’t know the danger school fees have caused to this country. I think some of you who pay school fees can know what it’s all about when time comes for it in January. This was the pain I was able to remove from the parents.
Secondly, when I was governor, we were paying N500 and N1000 stipends. So a woman had no money and when she came back one day, her children brought N5,000 and she was excited and that took care of their food. So what am I saying, this nation is blessed and if I tell you that I will make this country remain more united, I know what to do because I have the vision.
One gentleman said to me: how can any of us kill Igbos in Sabin gari when you left your home town and built school for us. You see, small thing can make people happy. But you come to the Senate we are very united. So why can’t we preach unity in our villages, why do you deceive people with division. You cannot give what you don’t have.
So in 2023, there must be a new Nigeria completely. New Nigeria devoid of deceit. I am for new Nigeria where everyone will see themselves as member of one family.