Dr. Theodore Okwuruni Ejike Ekechi is an outdoor advertising practitioner and chairman of Allianz Media Limited. He is the Director of Monitoring and Planning of the APC Presidential Campaign Organisation and immediate past commissioner for Information in Imo State. In this interview with some journalists, he allayed fears of the people of the South East that they would be kept in the background by the incoming APC administration. Damian Duruiheoma was there. Excerpts:
We witnessed an attempt by an INEC official and a police officer to do away with result sheets in your booth. What really took place?
Well, there was an attempt to clandestinely remove the result without the consent of the other party agents and of course you know what the motive is—to go and write the result. But, luckily for us, we have the people and they were able to let the cat out of the bag. Luckily enough, we mobilized enough supporters to stop them. So that was the little incident that you witnessed there.
Are you comfortable with the role of the security during the election?
I won’t say that I am too comfortable with the role of the security because most times during the election you don’t understand the source of the security agents. You don’t know who they were working for, whether they were working for the INEC or a particular political party.
Do you think the supplementary election was necessary going by low turn out that characterized it?
Well, you and I know that seriously speaking, there wouldn’t have been any need for this rerun. But you know that the way of the law is different from the way of man. That is why they say the law is an ass. So because the law had to be satisfied to the letter, that is why this election had to take place and because some people do not want to be humble in defeat and because some people do not want to put their ego aside by throwing in the towel and accepting defeat, that’s why we are having this rerun.
However, Imo State presents a peculiar situation in Nigerian political calculation. This is a place where you find there is a serious dichotomy between the leaders and the led, a clear dichotomy between the people, the voters and the professional politicians. There is a traditional resistant by the professional politicians against the forces of the people who really want to take over power. It is that resistance that you can now see that is becoming a recurring decimal. What I think people should look at more is the person or the personae of the resistance. The symbol of that resistance, alta ego of that resistance, the motivator of the resistance is Rochas Okorocha. Only a man like him with that kind of amazing spontaneous followership can galvanize the people to resist the powerful political bloc. That is why if you look at the APC as led by Owelle Anayo Rochas Okorocha, you don’t see any of the big names in politics in Imo State. The people are on one side, the professional politicians are on the other. It will continue to happen until when the people would have completely overwhelmed them. The moment we have any other weakling as the governorship candidate on the side of the people, that person would be over run. But as long as we have people that are charismatic that have won the heart of the people of Imo State, it doesn’t matter how many supplementary elections, the people will always triumph.
Don’t forget that what has led to the supplementary election in the state is that forces on the other side have tried all manipulations. They rigged and rigged and got to the last bus stop of rigging. If it were possible the same rigging would have taken away the governor from office but was resisted by the people. So when their rigging techniques were exhausted, they resorted to inconclusive election. So another name for exhausted rigging is inconclusive election. If you want to check the dictionary meaning, you may not find it, but the real meaning is an exhaustion of all rigging tactics and techniques to the point that there is nothing again to manipulate or add. That is the meaning of inconclusive election.
From our observation during the monitoring of the election, we noticed a high incidence of voter apathy in most of the LGAs except here in your village. Don’t you think that this is a testimony that the people have grown so disillusioned about the system?
That is why we are saying when the governor suggested that there was no need for this re-run because we know that no matter how many re-run, the result will always be the same—Owelle Rochas Okorocha will always win. We have been saying it and shouting to the roof tops that the people should not be pushed to the wall. When you go ahead to conduct this rerun, you can only succeed in dislocating and disorienting people not only in Imo but all over the country. I give you an example, today I would ordinarily been at the altar with my wife for the wedding of my godson, who ought to wed today. This wedding has been fixed more than four months ago. Today, there are people who ordinarily would be traveling from Gombe, Maiduguri, Akure, etc. You may say Gombe is not voting, but there are people who are on transit from there going to Akwa Ibom and because there are elections in Imo State, they will not go beyond Ihiala in Anambra into Imo State on their way to Cross River State. That is a huge cost we are talking.
There are expatriates, companies, banks that have transactions and meetings today. There are airlines that should fly in and out today. They have been restricted. That the rerun is taking place today doesn’t mean that the restriction is only ending today. There are people who have election phobia and would not want to come within 10 kilometers of the state where election is taking place two days after the election. We are talking about people who ordinarily would want to come home to vote where they registered but who would have been forced to go back and not return again. Such people you won’t see them again for the election. We are talking about people who have missed the farming contracts that they have had because of the previous elections, they certainly would not bother to come out for the election. There are so many reasons. There are people who feel, what’s the point of coming to vote after their votes were cancelled without any just cause? I give you an example. The election-taking place in Upe in Umunam Imerienwe was concluded on April 11 without any problem, but we heard the result was cancelled. There was no incidence whatsoever. We have the result sheet as I talk to you, suddenly somebody somewhere in Owerri cancelled it. So the people would ask: why would I have to bother myself again for this election when I’m not sure they will not cancel it after this time? But as you really pointed out, we have this high turn out here because there is higher resistance. The people want to make a point that in spite of all the billions that are pouring in this place, we want to make a point that this local government does not belong to anybody from Aboh Mbaise. So much millions have been brought to this place to the extent that if you give it to other local government areas, they would have been overwhelmed.
Many Igbos are apprehensive that the incoming government of General Buhari has zoned all federal positions without anyone given to the South East. Also, from what we have read, top and juicy federal ministries have been shared without any one for the South east, don’t you think that this may not augur well for the growth of the party in South East?
Well, I cannot speak about the zoning of the positions because I’m not the party. Those things are mere speculations because to the best of my knowledge the party has not made any statement regarding zoning of positions. Even if they do, I am still not competent to talk about why and how the zoning is made since I am neither a national officer of the party nor the president-elect.
But are you not worried by the people’s apprehension over the matter?
There should be no reason for apprehension. APC is a fair and equitable party. Apprehension should not be pre-emptive until a categorical statement comes out from the party. I think it would be preposterous to draw conclusions now. There are so many versions that you can find on the social media. Don’t forget that some people may be doing this in order to poke the minds of the people that will take the decisions.
There is this feeling that Buhari and Okorocha are going to be strange bed fellows. Buhari was said to have cautioned the governor that he talks too much. And again when he visited Imo for his campaign and was taken to the governor’s Spibat mansion, Buhari exclaimed at the sight of the estate and told the governor that he must be a corrupt man by owning this size of estate. What is your take on that?
I don’t think you were there and Buhar couldn’t have said that. I was privileged to have seen Spibat. I am also privileged to have seen the document that transferred Spibat to Anayo Okorocha some nine years ago before he became governor of Imo State. I am privileged to have seen Lamonde Hotels in Abuja four years before he became governor. I was privileged to have seen the shopping mall he has in Abuja years before he became the governor. I am also privileged to have gone to Ogboko, though after he has become the governor and I saw the relics of the houses and I knew those blocks were not put up less than 10 years before he became the governor of Imo State. It was obvious to me that Owelle was already a billionaire—not a millionaire because most of us are millionaires and we were not comparable— before he became the governor. It was also obvious to me that he did not become a millionaire by winning a lottery. It wasn’t through an award given to him by a court of competent jurisdiction, in other words making him over night, no. It is also not a stock of naira that he deposited in a bank. Owelle was a billionaire who has a structured business that was bringing in money regularly whether he is there or not. It will be wrong for people to expect that his graph should be looking down instead of looking up. So the graph was already looking up before he became a governor. It won’t be a surprise today that even while as a governor he can still afford to continue to maintain the property he had acquired before going into office. So, there is nothing that I see that Owelle owns today that is unusual.
Some put the value of that Spibat at N75 billion. Is that one individual can maintain?
Well, if that is up to that, I want to plead that you also call me a billionaire because I have properties as almost as that size too. I don’t think they are up to that billions you are talking about. This one (My country home) is about 10 percent of that Spibat you know. The difference is that my own is located in a very serene environment. Even if it N75 billion as you said, what is the dollar rate of naira now and what was it then15 years ago? 15 years ago, the dollar to the naira was about N75 or N65. But today a dollar is N225. That is more than three time what it was then. Now you said he bought that place at $1 million in 2000 or 1999. Multiply it now taking into consideration that one million dollar then should be about three to four million dollar now. Add that to the good will that the place has acquired because of the development of the roads around that side. Then add that to the improvement certainly that could have been added to the structure. It will be unfair to say that there are no other sources of income coming to Owelle from his businesses
Recently, a local paper in Owerri reported that the PDP governorship aspirant in Imo, Chief Emeka Ihedioha has been romancing with the topnotch of the APC in order for him to defect to the party. How true is this?
Well, I don’t want comment about Emeka Ihedioha but I know that almost who is who in PDP are trying to jump into APC. That defines their character for you.. I don’t want to say more about that. Once they are out power, they begin to feel like fish out of water, whereas in the APC, you would find people who have been in the opposition for the past 16 years without recourse to the ruling party. That also tells you the character of the people in APC.
Your name have continually been mentioned in any permutation about those that will emerge as the members of the incoming federal executive council by way of being a technocrat. Are you prepared to serve the nation if this opportunity finally calls?
I’ve already served the nation by helping to bring about change (as the director of planning and of the APC Presidential Campaign Organisation) so far that I was part of the change process. We call ourselves the change agents. It wasn’t actually the same Moses that brought the Israelites out of Egypt that eventually took them to Promised Land. The important thing is that in religious history, you cannot talk about the liberation of the Israelites from Egypt without talking about Moses. At any point in time, we play our part without necessarily looking for anything in return. So let those who the cap fit wear it.
Politics, they say, is all about getting one own people’s share of the national position, don’t you think it will be good to press on and get your people’s share of the position since you have been there in the campaign group?
There is a certain wise man from the east who saw a star and followed it and it turned out that the star led to the house of the king. That wise man is Owelle Rochas Anayo Okorocha. It will be wrong for anybody to discountenance him from the power equation within the APC. Whatever short fall we had within the South East is something that we caused ourselves. We the Igbo shot ourselves in the foot by playing band wagon politics. Some people want to go to the kitchen when the food is ready, and not bothering to gather the ingredients to make the food. But one man saw it earlier and started the race. Despite the constraints and issues that made him look like a lone ranger, I want to say that Owelle has the capacity to ensure that whatever is due for the south east will always come to them. People like who are close to him will always be there to implement whatever the general directs.
In other words, you have adopted him as a godfather?
The word is not godfather. Owelle actually came to fight godfatherism. So for a man ttha came to fight godfatherism, he cannot be nurturing godsons. Owelle is not a godfather, but you can call him father, you can call him the motivator, the inspirer. I see him more like a source of inspiration, a motivator and as a teacher than as a father.
From the insinuations out there across the state, it seems many people voted for Rochas again because they did not have a better choice. This is because most Imolites including those in his government complained bitterly of his ‘familiocracy’, which many came to define as the government of the family for the family and by the family. So, do you see a new Owelle from May 29 or what kind of administration is Governor Okorocha offering Imolites in his second term?
Though, I’m not Owelle’s spokesman, but I cannot deny that I am in a position to venture or attempt to speak what I may call Owelle’s mind even though I don’t have the mandate to speak for him. But, having worked for him, somehow I have come to understand him and his own style of leadership.
I want to confirm that Owelle is not a speculator. He is a highly intelligent person who believes that big names do not produce results. In his search for people who can produce results, Owelle does not bother whether you are from Ideato or Ngor Okpala, whether you are from Okigwe or whether you are from Oguta. What bothers him about that time is he thinks that you can produce. So, I think often times, many people have misconstrued his attitude to governance.
Secondly, Owelle runs the most transparent government that I have seen so far. When people talk about transparency, they think it is in terms of publishing records of accounts of this state in the newspaper periodically. They think it is the Accountant-General interacting with media men from time to time. I think the process of deciding to spend money, the transparency is more important than the transparency of the final accounts of the governor. This is a governor who runs such a very transparent government that all the negotiations in the government house, Owerri, are done in the open inside the bush bar. They are done in his lodge; they are done at contract sites; they are done in the executive council chamber. For those who are very constant in going to the Government House, you would have noticed that there is no specific place for the commissioner or visitors to sit in Government House. So, the moment the governor begins to treat files everybody there is entitled to listen. Almost everybody that goes to the Government House and comes back is an authority in terms of award of contracts, sums and all that.
Now if in that process, one or two people who are related to him are involved, we should be applauding him and not condemning him. Some of other governors would keep their brothers and sisters in the background and ensure that nobody else hears any conversation between them.
Most times people are wont to celebrate the negative sides of people’s strides in life and not the positive sides. And in trying to do that, I won’t say it’s not good because in journalism, we are always interested in the story that man bites dog and not dog bites man.
Let’s check the statistics, in the executive council, we have about 24 commis