Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, bares it all in an interview with select Editors in Abuja. arguing that there was no justification for the travails he is being subjected to by the leadership of the All Progressives Congress and the Independent National Electoral Commission in his bid to collect his Certificate of Return as the duly elected winner of the Senatorial election in Imo West. Our Deputy Editor, Nation’s Capital, Yomi Odunuga, was there. Excerpts
HOW far have you gone in your bid to retrieve the senatorial Certificate of Return seized by the Independent National Electoral Commission?
I had written a letter to INEC informing the officials about their wrong doings and illegal actions taken by INEC to withhold my certificate on mere allegation of duress, which was never founded, neither was there any committee set up to investigate the matter. INEC on their own believed the reports by their returning officer, without investigating the authenticity of such allegation. So, there was no issue of fair hearing at all on whether I committed the offence that their person alleged. What is important here is that INEC doesn’t have the power to withhold my Certificate of Return, having declared a result. Both the Certificate of Return and the declaration are just one subject matter, just that the other one is ceremonial because result has been declared. Looking at some of the activities that have taken place since this issue of my certificate, it became obvious that the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu, was up to a game with the Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, who are being used to frustrate my coming to the Senate and this is politically motivated. I’ve given enough time that INEC might correct itself and do the needful and issue a Certificate of Return, all to no avail. To buttress the point more, even after issuance of this letter to INEC, many things have happened within the week; for instance, INEC that made a submission to the tribunal in Owerri has gone back requesting that they want to withdraw the submission they have made. The submission they made was defending the declaration by INEC, which is normal that INEC ought to defend their declaration. But because that submission was seen to be in my favour, INEC has gone back to say they will withdraw the submission, which is also out of time. Now, they went through an affidavit by the Head of Legal Department; one Mr. Elekwa, who made the submission, has now gone back to say he wants to withdraw and reliably, I was informed that he was under threat by one Festus Okoye, who has threatened to sack him from INEC if he does not withdraw. So, there is a huge threat going on now in INEC to sack the gentleman for not doing the wrong thing or being part of the script and I’m sure, for some reason, they may have forgotten to inform him to do the wrong thing because if they had informed him to do the wrong thing, he would have done that. He went there believing that he was defending INEC the normal way they should. Festus Okoye is the man being used as the hatchet man now to do this in line with the game being played by the National Chairman of APC.
What fact do you have to buttress the belief that the APC Chairman is involved in your travails with INEC?
Surprisingly, and again to also buttress the point, the APC National Chairman has gone to the tribunal asking to withdraw the matter which APC had filed defending the victory of APC at the Senate. What INEC is doing is the same thing the APC is doing. So, this tells you that there is a game going on. But I wonder what they will do with the certificate. If they don’t give me the certificate, who will they give it to? Maybe they will give it to Festus Okoye because Festus Okoye is from my senatorial zone. But what these gentlemen are doing is presenting INEC as a lying organisation and that is dangerous for our democracy because, as it stands right now, the image of INEC is bastardized for this singular act and they are setting a bad precedent. What that means is that tomorrow, somebody can withdraw the result of anybody because you don’t like his face or because you feel he is going to politically challenge you in the future. But, it is rather very funny to see this happening in our own time and generation. What is happening now is what happened in the primitive days, not now in this modern world.
Has INEC responded to your letter?
They have not responded to my letter. They have said nothing to me. I wrote that letter in my capacity as the Governor of a State who contested for the Senate and INEC cannot ignore my letter. So, I demand explanation from INEC as to why they have withheld it.
But you went to court?
I took INEC to court in a matter between me and INEC, to give me my certificate, which is the normal thing. But INEC has also now connived with other parties, the Peoples Democratic Party and also the All Progressive Grand Alliance, to be a joinder. Even today, they also said somebody else wants to join. Everyday, somebody keeps joining, just to delay the matter. There is complete high level of conspiracy to fight Rochas. But I assure them, they will fail.
Why the conspiracy?
It’s politically motivated definitely. If not, why do this? The story started when they imposed a candidate on Imo State; when they imposed Hope Uzodinma who came two weeks to our primaries and they want to give him the ticket at all cost, leaving the people who founded the party, who won the primaries. You remember Gulak came and ran away with the result sheets. They upheld it.
You said the National Chairman of the party is part of your travails. But I remember that you were one of those who supported him to emerge as the National Chairman of your party. What suddenly happened that he is now against you?
Yes, he is part and parcel of the game plan. There is nothing personal between Adams Oshiomhole and I other than that Adams Oshiomhole is part and parcel of this high level conspiracy to bring down Rochas politically. This is just aimed at making sure that Rochas doesn’t have a solid foundation politically. They say if I get to the Senate, I want to run for the President and all of that; that I want to run for 2023 elections. Who told them? Have I declared? You wait until I declare and when I do declare, we now fight politically.
It’s totally unacceptable. That the party I formed that brought out the APC we have today will treat me in this manner is also unfortunate because the evil I feared in the PDP has befallen me ten times in the APC. I hate injustice and that’s what I’m seeing on daily basis now playing out. What they are doing makes them to also appear to me as cowards. When you want to fight a man, you come out and take responsibility and say I will fight Rochas. But they are hiding. If they are man enough, let them come out and say Rochas, I’m going to fight you, let me know how they want to fight.
Part of the problems you have with your party is because of the alleged anti-party activities that you carried out in Imo State by asking one of your principal officers to join another party to contest the gubernatorial poll and you used your machinery to support him. Is that true?
This is just a later development. It has been on. You forgot there was a primary. You forgot there was even a Congress where the then Organising Secretary, Osita Izunaso, ran away with the ballot boxes and the Police Commissioner was later transferred? It’s just a booklet that is opened page by page on a daily basis. You forgot that Gulak even came and ran away with the result sheets and said election is finished. The security were there and all of these people. That’s part of the conspiracy. It’s not about anti-party.
You met with the President on this matter on two occasions. How come the party has not resolved the problem?
What I took to the President was entirely a different matter because I believe that this matter shouldn’t be a matter that Mr. President should come in. If you know President Muhammadu Buhari as a person, he is not such a person who interferes.
I don’t think Mr. President is behind this. Buhari is definitely not behind this. If you know President Muhammadu Buhari in his own style, you will know that he will keep quiet and never say anything about this until they prove themselves right or wrong.
If those behind it are very close to President, can’t the President call them to order?
Remember this matter has to do with INEC and INEC is perceived to be independent and if Mr. President is going to talk to INEC, he’s interfering with the independence of INEC. Whether Mr. President speaks or not, what is right is right and what is wrong is wrong.
With all of these, do you still feel comfortable about remaining in the APC?
I’m in the APC. I’ve never thought of leaving the party for now and I have no reason because I won under the platform of APC.
When you say the misfortune you feared in PDP has befallen you ten times in the APC, are you still comfortable remaining and allowing the misfortune to multiply?
Where will I go to? I have to be in the APC. I formed the APC.
Are you stranded?
I’m not stranded. I’m in APC and I have not indicated that I’m going to leave APC. Remember that the intention of these people is to frustrate me out of politics and out of APC so that they can have a field of play. But all I advise today is that let no institution or organisation allow itself to be used as an instrument to destroy somebody politically who has committed no offence.
If by chance you meet Adams Oshiomhole today, what will you tell him?
We will chat as usual. What will I do to him? The last time I saw Oshiomhole was when I went to Oshiomhole’s office and he sent his State Security Service man to insult me in his office, before the governorship candidate of Akwa Ibom, the NDDC guy who also reacted against the gentleman. An SSS was pushing me out as a governor from his office. So, I’ve taken enough of insults from Oshiomhole and all those that are planning this evil.
You said the anti-graft agencies are on the trail of many people in your government. Are you suspecting that they are part of this conspiracy because what they said before the election, they claimed that you were taking money from government coffers to buy votes?
First and foremost, if you think right and people reason well, if you want to withdraw N17 billion in this country now, it will take you two years to get N17 billion from all the banks in Nigeria. So, these are frivolities. But anybody can say anything against you just to find a way to attack you and I’m saying that they should apply some reasonability in what they do. Nobody should be used as an instrument to fight anybody because of some political reasons. If not, such institutions also will lose their credibility.