Uche Nwosu, the Chief of Staff to Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, has indicated his interest in succeeding his boss as the next governor of the state. But because of his relationship as the son-in-law to the incumbent, not a few have criticised his ambition. Nwosu in this interview with Chidiebube Okeoma says he is eminently qualified to aspire to the highest office in the state
You must feel privileged that your father-in-law, Governor Rochas Okorocha, is really pushing for you to succeed him…
I think whoever he (Okorocha) thinks or wants to replace him must be divine. Something must have made the governor to think in that direction. He is the governor of the state and he has watched all his aides for six to seven years and he must have seen special qualities and leadership prowess in the person he is rooting for to take over from him in 2019. Whatever decision he takes, I will take it in good faith, with the conviction that the governor will always make the right choice.
Why do you think Okorocha is so interested in having you to succeed him and not his deputy, for instance?
It is about the person, Uche Nwosu. It is about what the governor thinks is the best for the state. It is about developmental leadership. It is about who will move Imo State forward after 2019. Remember that we are one family in the ‘rescue mission government’ of Imo State. The deputy governor, Eze Madumere, was the chief of staff when we were at the Rochas Group, while I was the Personal Assistant to the President of the Rochas Group, Rochas Okorocha. It’s a story similar to that of the House of Jesse in the Bible. At the Rochas Group, I was the fourth person in ranking. Our then General Manager, Rochas Okorocha, is now the governor; the then chief of staff, Eze Madumere, is now the deputy governor; we have Nonye Rajis, who was the Nigerian ambassador to Singapore when Goodluck Jonathan was the President of Nigeria. Rajis was the third in rank at the Rochas Group and she became an ambassador. When Rochas Okorocha became governor, his ex-chief of staff became his deputy. Just like the house of Jesse in the Bible, David was not the first or even second child; he was the eighth, but out of the sons of Jesse, he who was the least, that is David, was chosen to be the king of Israel. What is happening in Imo State about who replaces Okorocha is divine. Even the governor does not know how his choice of who would succeed him came about, but I believe that whatever decision the governor took is divine and it is the grace of God that is working.
Have you always had the ambition of becoming a governor or was the idea just sold to you by Okorocha?
The idea was never sold to me by Okorocha. The people of Imo State sold the idea to me. The Imo people pushed and said I was the person they wanted to succeed Okorocha in 2019. You might have heard about the numerous endorsements from various local government areas adopting me to become the next governor of the state. The governor never asked anybody to come for endorsements; the governor only said if the Imo people told him who they wanted, he would support the person. He said he would have no other option but to support whoever the people wanted to become governor because the ‘voice of the people is the voice of God’. Okorocha did not on his own come out and ask me to run for governorship election. He had to listen to the people. Did you know that stakeholders in the 24 local government areas of the state have already endorsed me to become the next governor? Being a human being, Okorocha had to listen to and obey the voice of the people. I think it is the decision of the people that the governor is just obeying.
But some Imo indigenes and residents have expressed their disapproval at Okorocha choosing you as the man to succeed him. How would you react to that?
The ones who are against this divine project are few. We don’t listen to the few persons who are privileged to have access to the press; we listen to the majority. How do you describe the endorsements from people in the 24 local government areas and the wards? The youths who have been insisting on having Uche Nwosu as the next governor, are they not Imo people? So, if two or three persons who have access to radio or newspapers talk against the overwhelming wish of the people of Imo State, we cannot count them as ‘many’ people. The few persons who went to Ngor Okpala and held a press conference cannot be compared to the millions of people in the rural areas of the state who are supporting this divine project but do not have access to the press. In politics, the minority will have their say but the majority will have their way.
Many people who are opposed to this arrangement have accused Okorocha of favouritism and cronyism…
There is nothing like favouritism because I maintain that the governor cannot impose anybody on Imo people. Have you forgotten that this is a governor who did not pick anybody to succeed him? He did not just sleep and wake up and dictate who should succeed him. He is only respecting the decision of the people of Imo State, who own the government. Remember that we are going to do primary, so what’s happening does not mean that Okorocha will impose Uche Nwosu on the Imo people or the All Progressives Congress members. At the primary, if it is the will of God that the people’s choice will win, to God be the glory, but I know you can’t dwarf a man upon whom the grace of God has fallen.
You, Okorocha’s son-in-law, are his chief of staff; his sister is the deputy chief of staff and Commissioner for Happiness and Purpose Fulfilment; his in-law, Anthony Anwuka, was the name sent as the state’s nomination for the federal cabinet; Anwuka’s wife, Justice Christiana, is the President of Imo State Customary Court of Appeal, and so on. Don’t you think Okorocha’s is guilty of nepotistic?
It is only in Africa, especially in Nigeria, that we think that once you are related to a government official, it is bad. As a journalist, I believe that you know the history of America, from where we borrowed our democracy. I believe you know the politics in Lagos and Kwara states. Relationship is not a barrier to occupying government position. In America, for instance, when Mr. Bush Snr, was the president, his son was a governor, and after his tenure, his own son took over and America didn’t go up in flames. What we should be emphasising on is to have whoever will come on board and improve upon what is on the ground. That is how America is growing. America is not growing by looking at the infantile claims of family or marital relationships. In Rivers State, (Nyesom) Wike is the governor and his wife is a serving judge. We should be talking about leadership qualities, not family relationships.
Don’t you think that it will be unfair on the people of Imo State if after Okorocha has spent eight years in office, his son-in-law takes charge and he also will think of spending another eight years?
The governor is Rochas Okorocha and I am Uche Nwosu. The governor is from Ideato South Local Government Area and I am from Nkwerre Local Government Area. Am I proud to be a son-in-law to the governor? The answer is yes. Am I Rochas Okorocha? The answer is no. Do I have the constitutional right to vie for the governorship position? The answer is yes. Is being an in-law to the governor an advantage? The answer is yes. What the Imo people are looking for is somebody who will deliver the dividends of democracy to them, It doesn’t matter whether the person is a son-in-law or mother-in-law to the governor or not. Okorocha is not the first governor in Imo State to make his relation his chief of staff. Achike Udenwa was governor for eight years and his kinsman was his chief of staff. Ikedi Ohakim was also governor for four years and his immediate younger brother was his chief of staff. What the people of the state are looking for is getting the dividends of democracy. Where you come from and whose in-law you are is immaterial to them.
Some people are saying that if former governors of the state had all tried to work it out for their family members to replace them, the process would have been abused by now. How would you respond to that?
Imo State governorship election in 2019 is not in any way about family membership. I am not from the same local government area with the governor. Imo 2019 is about issues and not about immaterial sentiments. We are talking about who will drive the Imo project forward — who is that person that would sustain the free education programme in the state which has been sustained for seven years? Who will continue with the developmental strides of the governor in road construction, infrastructural and health care development. I want the people’s argument to be about the progress of the state, not in-law stuff and other irrelevant issues that do not guarantee progress.
Okorocha is from Orlu zone and will be spending eight years in office. You are also from Orlu zone and if elected, you would also want to spend eight years in office. In the past, the state has had governors from Orlu and Okigwe zones but none from Owerri zone. Do you think it will be fair on the people of Owerri if you become the governor?
Zoning does not exist in Imo State. It is not also part of our constitution. In America where we borrowed this democracy from, zoning does not exist. What exists in Imo is leadership delivery. Who is that person that would develop the state? After all, we have had governors in the past who did not do anything meaningful to develop their immediate localities. Ohakim was governor for four years but did nothing to develop his zone. Okorocha has developed Okigwe zone more than Ohakim did. Is Okorocha from Okigwe zone? No. Evan Enwerem was from Owerri zone and he was governor, but Okorocha has developed Owerri zone more than Enwerem did. Is Okorocha from Owerri zone? Achike Udenwa, as an Orlu man, was governor for eight years, but Okorocha has developed Orlu zone far more than he did. We should be talking about leadership excellence and pragmatism. We should be talking about having the political will and courage to drive development. That is the kind of governor Imo needs in 2019.
Your supporters and those of the deputy governor, Madumere, were said to have clashed some weeks ago and some residents are worried that may be the sign that the next election would be marred by violence because of the alleged desperation of the players. What is your take on this?
Nothing like that happened. My supporters and those of the deputy governor did not clash and will never clash. The report was misleading. People are trying to instigate crisis where there is none. For me, it is not a do-or-die affair. Imo people have the right to decide who they want to be their next governor. I am in this race because the Imo people insisted that I run. For me, there is nothing desperate about it. I am a peaceful man. I am a law-abiding citizen of this country. I will never be a party to any act that would threaten the peace and unity of the country. Nobody in the ‘rescue mission government’ is desperate to become governor. Some people have failed to understand that before the general elections, primaries at the party level would be conducted. It is whoever that wins the primary that stands a chance of becoming a governor. If I lose the APC ticket at the primary, I will remain in the party and support whoever emerges to win the governorship election. I equally want the other aspirants to do the same if I win the ticket. But note, Uche Nwosu is not desperate to become governor.
There have been allegations that you and the governor’s wife, Nkechi, have been plotting to have the deputy governor impeached. Is it true?
There is absolutely nothing like that. We are one family in the ‘rescue mission’. The deputy governor is like my own elder brother. He is like a son to the first lady. The allegations are unfounded wicked rumours which were targeted at causing a crisis in our political family. The deputy governor is my boss. I will never disrespect him. If I become the governor tomorrow, my office will not make me to disrespect him. I will respect him because he is my boss. There is no war between us. Just like me, he is also not desperate to become governor.
The government has denied the report that some people loyal to you assaulted the Archbishop of Owerri Catholic Diocese, can you tell us what happened?
Nothing happened. I don’t want to speak further on that because the archbishop himself has come out to say that he was never assaulted. I am a member of the Catholic Church and there is no way I can be in a place where a Catholic archbishop is being assaulted. The archbishop has clarified the issue by saying that he was never assaulted, so I will leave it at that. I can’t be more Catholic than the archbishop.
Some Imo people are saying that Okorocha wants you to succeed him to cover up his tracks because of alleged corruption allegations. What would you say to that?
These allegations are very laughable. They are laughable in the sense that we have not been part of any shoddy deals. All the deals we’ve been involved in have been to see to the development of the state. Remember that the governor is not forcing me on the Imo people, the people themselves are the ones forcing Okorocha to support me. What tracks am I going to cover up if not to continue from where the governor will stop in 2019? Among other things, I’m to sustain the eight years of free education from primary school to university level and the developmental projects. My emergence will sustain the legacies of Rochas Okorocha. That is the position of the Imo people. There is no track to cover up because we are running a transparent and corruption-free government. Governor Okorocha is too big to look for who will cover him up once he leaves office. You will never see him around lobbying like sending his own list of commissioner nominees. He is a global icon and he has done what all the governors of the state could not achieve. There is nothing to cover up except to sustain the legacies of the outgoing governor.