•Why I never supported IPOB
Governor Rochas Okorocha believes that the activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra(IPOB) should be condemned by not only the Igbo but other well-meaning Nigerians. His argument is that Nigeria would always fare better as one united country than exist under several independent entities. He made his position known in an interactive session with journalists in Owerri, the Imo State capital. WILLY EYA recorded the proceedings.
Are you going to contest the 2019 presidential election in the event that President Buhari declines to run?
My name is Owelle Rochas Okorocha and not President Muhammadu Buhari. It is only Buhari who can say whether he is contesting or not. But as far as I am concerned, President Buhari is well now as you can see. He is strong and well; he has gone to the United Nations. So, it is left for Buhari to say whether he would run or not. The man, Buhari has the character to lead this country. We should wait for him to make a statement on the issue of 2019.
What is your view on the proscription of the Indigenous People of Biafra(IPOB) and tagging it as a terrorist organization?
I have made my mind clear on this. IPOB is not good for the South East. It is not the best way to complain of marginalization to the Federal Government of Nigeria. There are better ways to do it. And if IPOB must do a thing like that, it should have changed its name from sovereignty. You can call it any name but remove Biafra. Is that the way Ijaw youths and Arewa youths fought? They would have made more impact but for everything that an Igbo man does, we want to go to the extreme. Now you want to separate yourself from Nigeria, meanwhile, the South-South would not go with you; Edo, Rivers, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom and Cross River would not go with you. If they cut us here now as South East, if I need to go to Rivers, I would go and ask for passport and visa and we are all keeping quiet. These guys are kind actually. If there is a crisis, there is no Hausa man in Imo State or Igbo land who has a duplex. There is no Yoruba man who has a room and parlour or a duplex or a N20 million investment anywhere. But the Igbo have trillions of naira investments in Lagos, Abuja and everywhere and the same people are looking for secession. These people are kind. If they ask you to go now, what happens; you lose those properties to Lagos and the South West; you lose your properties in the North and so on and all of us are keeping quiet and supporting IPOB. We thought we were getting at the Federal Government. It was very childish and those who are behind these should stop. I was speaking to the Ooni of Ife and I said do you know that Hausa love Igbo people so much but the Igbo love the Yoruba a lot and the Yoruba love the Hausa a lot. Have you thought of it? Have you ever seen where an Igbo man and a Yoruba man fought and spilt blood? Give me one example in history. But they are cat and mouse. I was talking to the Ooni recently and he said that the Igbo and Hausa are the same family but they are made to become cat and mouse. Look at the situation. The South-South has produced the president, the South West has produced the President and vice. The North has produced many presidents. The hope is that by the Nigerian sharing formula, the next ship whatever arrangement, the next people that should be considered is the South East. But the South East again has created an image of danger to the rest of Nigeria that if they give them the presidency, they would secede. So, where are we in our wisdom and intelligence? You can judge especially those of us in the Diaspora who have never come home. If they discuss the Nigerian problem here, you think they have a solution to it. So, that is my position on IPOB. But my advice is that the Igbo should change their style and condemn this IPOB thing in a manner that should be done. Allow us to flow with the rest of Nigerians now because we shall benefit more than anyone else. Do you know how the Northerners feel? They feel a sense of hate. The question the Northerners would ask you is if Jonathan were in power, will the situation be the same. Believe me, the IPOB would not be at this level. I know the feeling just like I told Nigerians that the Igbo have a feeling of abandonment. But it is the same way the Northerners feel that this is an attack on their government. Wise people should have done things differently. I advised Ndigbo. Politically, you are not at an advantage; economically, you are not at an advantage. Sometimes some come to complain about non-inclusion of Ndigbo in appointments. When Ndigbo were ministers of Finance, Senate President, Secretary to the Government of the federation, Police head, what did you get? You want to hear the hard truth. The Igbo play the worst politics quote me. They play this politics of protecting one of their own from the South-South zone. It has now become obvious and the Northerners now understand that they can become president with or without Ndigbo. Before, there was a fear about that. So Yoruba and the Hausa now understand that Kano and Lagos determine the elections in Nigeria. So, we must change our style and condemn it. If anybody joins you to praise you and raise your mind to say oh you are marginalized, the person is not helping you. We played very bad politics in 2015 and we must condemn what is happening now and find a way to re-engineer ourselves into the system.
Why did South East governors ban IPOB?
Some of us came out and made a big statement on IPOB. I condemned it from time. I have never supported IPOB. Who is Nnamdi Kanu to tell Rochas Okorocha to follow him to war? He said he was going to war. Most of the elite of the Igbo nation feel emotional about IPOB especially the clergies. I have engaged the clergies and they feel the same way.
The elite should be engaged and made to change their stand because even if you are made the president, these questions must continue to come up. There is something wrong basically. I believe that it is either that enough information is not out there or that they are not taken properly. We must teach Nigerians how to free their minds. This is because when we are communicating, some people already have a preconceived mindset. I see this as a major challenge that we have. I believe that agitation in Nigeria is a way to get more whether right or wrong. I have been to the Northern part of this country and I weep each time in some of them. When I went to Liberia some time, I saw how great Nigeria is. So, there is a need for every Nigerian to move around. This is because if you go to some of these places like Borno and some rural areas, you might come here and speak a different language. Rather than complaining, you might be organizing a fundraising to save the situation. (The Sun)