New Telegraph

My ordeal with EFCC, politically motivated –Okorocha

Senator Rochas Okorocha is a presidential aspirant on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). The former governor of Imo State, in this interview monitored on Arise Television, speaks on his presidential ambition, the latest charges against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and disputes with Governor Hope Uzodinma, among other issues. ANAYO EZUGWU reports

Why do you want to be president of Nigeria and what do you have to offer?

I want to bring about visionary leadership to lead our country, and you may ask why I want to continue to run for the presidency. I first ran for the office president in 2003, I ran again in 2007 and came second to President Umaru Yar’Adua of the blessed memory at the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) primary, then I came to APC. One question would be: Why am I coming out every time to contest for the presidency? I think I have what it takes to make this country great.t is that passion and vision in me that is driving me constantly to offer myself to serve my fatherland. What do I have different? If you look at the mood of the nation now, you will find out that some of the threatening issues we have are economic issues. We have unity issues as many people are calling for separation, division, and we have poverty issues.

All these issues are linked somehow and I see myself as someone who qualifies to address these issues. And I’m talking about my track records because issues of unity of this country are bothering me a lot and Nigerians are looking for that leader who can give everyone a sense of belonging.

When I said I can unite Nigeria, I’m not saying I will, I’m saying I have done that because there is no part of this country that you will go to today without seeing my presence, my signature or my impact. If I don’t love this country irrespective of tribe and religion, you cannot see me in South-West, South-South, North and South-East. I’m everywhere, which shows that it is something I have done through my track record. The other point we are talking about is who actually has a passionate heart and can listen to the poor, the needy and the indigent.

I have a compassionate heart and I think I can address these issues. And then the major one is the economic problem; who can create wealth, who can restore our middle class, who can manage the resources of our land because Nigeria is blessed. I think it is someone with business acumen, which I have in quantum to address the economic challenges of this country and be able to create wealth because the problem of Nigeria is wealth. If Nigeria has enough wealth and creates jobs for people, we will not have all these insurgents and cry for separation. Where poverty exists, sentiments of tribalism appear and separation is the order of the day. So, these are some of the things I look out for. I’m not really coming to run for the office president for running sake.

What do you make of the latest charges against you by the EFCC in the tune of N2.9 billion, few hours after you declared for the 2023 presidency?

This issue of EFCC is becoming a recurring decimal and I keep wondering about what is really happening because though I have not been served and I’m not aware of this charge. I only found out through social media and television but nobody has served me to say you have N2.9 billion charges. I am taken aback and I am shocked with this kind of presentation. And that is why I am quick to agree with those who tell me that this is politically motivated; why even on the day that I am declaring that they are bringing all these things to cause distractions. For the past two years, probably I have suffered so much humiliation and hate more than anyone in the history of Nigeria and it is something I can catalogue. It is not true that I embezzled such an amount of money rather what I have with EFCC now is an order against them from Federal High Court Abuja. Till today, as I speak with you, EFCC has not obeyed that, rather they asked the judge to resign from the case so that they can achieve whatever is the desperation. Again, I have another judgement against the EFCC from a High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, again EFCC has refused to obey that order, based on my fundamental human rights and administration of Imo State, which ordered them to stop my harassment and arresting me at will and all that. Yet EFCC went back to the same court asking the judge to resign from the case.

In other words, whenever I get a judgement against EFCC; it is abnormal until EFCC gets a judgement then the judge would be a good judge. I have seen some kind of intimidation going on and this should not be allowed to happen in this present time. It is not good for our history and whoever that is doing this. I think someone is acting behind, asking EFCC to do this. It is clear that the agenda is to rubbish my image and rubbish me for this 2023 presidential election but I don’t think they will succeed. What shocked me actually is the manner in which EFCC deals with the judges when it comes to matters like this or concerns me. When these things happen to somebody like me, I don’t know what the fate of ordinary people is. But going straight into the point I was saying before, I heard it was N70 billion. Secondly, the last time EFCC published N5.9 billion recovered from Rochas account. I challenged EFCC, if you are saying the truth as a financial crime fighter; show me proof that such money was recovered from my account. Since that day, EFCC has never said a word and now they have reduced it to N2.9 billion. It seems EFCC wants money from me at all cost. I don’t know what it is about and I wish it is money because if I say how much I’m being owed by the government of Nigeria, it will be something that is substantial. I am Rochas before becoming a governor and anybody can go to my file with the Code of Conduct Bureau and check the assets I had before becoming governor and then check my assets now and see whether governorship made me richer or made me poorer.

You raised a point about assets that you have and you have been quoted as saying that Imo State government owes you about N8 billion in security vote, and that before becoming governor, you were richer than Imo State government. Now you have added to it that even the Nigerian government owes you. What are these assets you talked about?

I didn’t say I’m richer than Nigeria because nobody can be richer than a nation. Let me go to Imo State; from my eight years in office as a governor, I never took one naira as a security vote, I never bought any official car for myself and I never spent government money in feeding myself and my family. That might shock you because I didn’t need it. This is verifiable, but again, when I said the government is owing me, I’m right about it. At the appropriate time, I will make that known if there is actually a need for it. But as I said, I am a leader in this government and I do not want to be seen as fighting a government I’m part of because most of these things happening, I can assure you very well that the leader of this country, President Muhammadu Buhari, may not be aware of it. That is my conviction and I am certain that it is people from my state who are pushing all these things to see that I am down at all cost. If you are asking for my source of wealth, I may enumerate them now but I don’t know whether you have all the time. I say to you, go to the Code of Conduct Bureau and see the properties that I have and where they are located and what I have now. That is a simple way of proving it and my account is open for everybody to see. I made my wealth through real estate. You can’t talk about Abuja real estate without talking about Rochas. I made my fortune through fixed vehicle sales. If you recall, I supplied the 1,000 Land Cruiser Prado jeeps to the Nigerian Police. I wouldn’t be running the Rochas Foundation with over 25,000 children if I don’t have resources and I didn’t start when I became governor. This has existed 24 years ago and I have over 6,000 graduates from the foundation and I am talking about Hausas, Yorubas, Igbos and other tribes in Nigeria. So, I can’t be hungry in my life anymore. I don’t know why this country hates progress. I come to offer myself to run for this office and I am not doing so for the profit of the job, I am not doing so because I am looking for wealth or looking for fame, God has blessed me and maybe that is what attracts hate for me.

How do you plan to deal with the problem of unemployment if elected president?

The best way to govern society is to allow them to govern themselves. The best way to engage the youth is to allow them to discover their talent and use it for the development of their nation. The government can never afford to employ everybody and that was what I did in Imo State when I introduced Imo College of Advanced Professional Studies. In other words, if you are through with university education, you spend six months or one-year learning underground water welding, computer engineering or any other thing that can equip you. Do you know that Shell took some of them and they are earning more than N500,000 monthly because of the underground water welding they learnt. I brought people from South Africa and Ireland to teach these people. Listen, there is a job in this country and there is no reason why any young man cannot work in this country; is just that we have not worked it out for them to understand.

What is your relationship with the current Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodinma?

My relationship with the governor of Imo State, quite frankly I don’t know, and I think the young man just hate me for whatever it is. I am yet to know what his reasons are or it is just hate and some level of envy. What would be my relationship with him, I will not be governor of Imo State again, I will not run for Senate again and I am not in the state to occupy his space. I think the only thing I see is the person who defeated him in the primary, Uche Nwosu. Uche defeated him in the governorship primary but he took it by force. He defeated him in the main election; he took it by technicalities after coming number four in the election. Let us leave that aside, all that is happening to me whether EFCC or whatever is emanating from my home. It is not coming from Adamawa or Sokoto or Kaduna or Lagos or anywhere, it is coming from my home and it is unfortunate.

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