The governorship candidate of the Action Alliance in Imo State and son-in-law of Governor Rochas Okorocha, Uche Nwosu, tells CHIDIEBUBE OKEOMA about his defection to the AA from the All Progressives Congress
You recently defected to the Action Alliance party from the All Progressives Congress after failing to get the latter’s governorship ticket for your state. Was it your father-in-law, Governor Rochas Okorocha, that forced you to join the AA having lost out in the APC?
The governor did not force me to join the AA after the impunity meted out to me by the APC. Imo people asked me to join a new party. Forty-three political parties approached me and at the end of day, the AA was chosen because of its unique manifesto.
You have described the APC as a party with injustice, impunity and lack of respect for party’s constitution, some people will ask if you exhausted the party’s internal machinery for resolving differences or go to court to get justice?
We exhausted all the internal machinery; we also went to court. The whole issue was about Adams Oshiomhole (Chairman of the APC). We were in court to seek justice but Imo people insisted I go to another party so as to enable them to vote for me in the next governorship election.
What support do you think the governor can give you now as he cannot openly campaign for you since he is still in APC while you’re in AA?
Imo 2019 is beyond one person. It is beyond the governor; it is about Imo people. I draw my strength from the people of Imo State and not from the governor. The support I have been getting has been massive. My name is very popular on the streets.
So have you abandoned your manifesto to embrace that of your new party?
I am still going ahead with my manifesto and also incorporating the manifesto of the AA. To be candid, what we have in mind is what the AA has in mind and that include free education and carrying the masses along, which the party’s logo states clearly. The most important thing is that the masses should know that it’s their government. There will be nothing like intimidation or harassment of the masses by the ‘big men’. It is my manifesto and that of the AA. My new party believes in the masses and I believe in the masses. It is a perfect combination and that is what we will use to move Imo State forward.
There was a report that you were rejected by the leadership of AA, which said you had yet to even register as a member of the party and later there was speculation that you paid millions of naira to dislodge the governorship candidate of the AA and hijack the party leadership. How much did you pay?
First, let me take it from the angle of dislodging the candidate of the AA. You should confirm from the Independent National Electoral Commission, if the party submitted any name to it as its governorship candidate. No name was ever with INEC. My name is there and it is laughable to say I paid a huge amount of money to get the ticket. I did not pay a dime. The AA was one of the 43 political parties that approached me after the injustice Oshiomhole meted out to me in the APC. Even the AA party chairman has declared and stated clearly that nobody paid for the nomination fee.
What many people believe is that the governor is desperate for you to succeed him because he trusts you to cover his tracks after he leaves office as his son-in-law, and also that you are desperate to succeed him. Why are you desperate to succeed your father-in-law in office?
I am not desperate to succeed Governor Rochas Okorocha. I only want to continue from where he will stop. The governor has built 27 hospitals and they need to be upgraded; that I shall do once I am sworn in next year. If the governor has built roads in Imo State, especially the ones in the city, we must continue from there because government is a continuum. It does not also mean that I am not coming with my own projects and ideas. While the governor is leaving office, Imo people need to know what I am about to give to them. On education, we already have free education. Am I going to continue with the free education or would I terminate it? Those who are against my candidacy are the people who want to terminate the free education, which has helped millions of poor families in Imo. I must continue with the free education programme of the government up to university level because it has helped a lot of people in this state. The poor who could not pay their school fees can go to school. I have said that there will be free Internet in all schools. I will ensure that our secondary schools are equipped with computers and Internet facilities. The same thing will apply to the university, where students will be taught how not to depend on people. We should reintroduce mentorship into our school system. When I was in secondary school, we used to have mentorship classes and it should be reintroduced. There are many students in schools who have me as their role model; they need to hear me talk to them. People like Daniel Amokachi (a football legend) and Rochas Okorocha are our role models. On payment of salaries, they have been paid up to date and we will sustain it. We should bring back overwork allowances because some workers stay till 7pm; such workers need to be encouraged.
People say that Okorocha wants to be calling the shots after he leaves office and that is the reason why he is hell-bent on ensuring you succeed him. They say you will be a puppet governor.
I, Ugwumba Uche Nwosu, will never be a puppet governor. Governor Okorocha is not imposing me on Imo people; rather, the people want me to be their next governor. The governor on his own cannot even stop Imo people from bringing me out now. Imo people brought me out and not the governor; the governor only has one vote. On Election Day, the governor will be in Ogboko to cast his vote. My votes are coming from Imo people and not from the governor. The governor cannot say ‘Nwosu, you cannot run’ and I can’t even say I will not run again. The issue of governorship is now beyond me. Imo people from all walks of life want me, so do not listen to such rumours. By the time Governor Okorocha will leave the government house, people will be the ones to beg him to visit the place. It will be hard for Governor Okorocha I know to control me; he is a very principled man. He will not even ask me to appoint anybody as commissioner.
You were quoted as saying that Okorocha would win a seat in the Senate for the AA. How would that happen when the governor has not even defected to the AA from the APC?
The governor is contesting for Imo West Senate District on the platform of the APC. The AA has no senatorial candidate in the zone (Imo West). We in the AA have resolved to support the governor to win the seat, the same way we are supporting Buhari to win in 2019.
People are saying that you are going to leave the AA should you become governor. How would you respond to that?
I am not an ungrateful person. I will not abandon the AA because it is a good political party. Ingratitude is the biggest problem of most of our politicians today. The AA is the platform that I am using to go into people’s houses, so why should I get the people’s mandate and dump the party that gave me the platform? That is not true. I am not going to do that; rather, I am going to bring all Imo people together. By the grace God, if I become the governor of Imo State, which I know I will be, the first thing I will do is to bring all Imo people together, whether they are rich, poor or in the middle class. I will be a governor for all. I must work with everybody; remember that everybody’s advice matters. If you are a governor, you should not choose who to work with or who not to work with, so I will carry everybody along. When I was the Commissioner of Lands and Chief of Staff, I was able to carry everybody along.
How true is the speculation that you plan to replace the AA party leadership in the state with your loyalists who defected with you from the APC?
There is no truth in that. People who are afraid of the massive popularity I am getting every day are the ones coming up with these lies that Imo people are not buying. They want a humble person like me. When you talk about political party, you are talking about human beings. No political party exists without human beings. The important things in a political party are the individuals. We are not dislodging anybody. We are working with all the members and supporters of the AA that we met there. They will remain in their positions because they have supported this party for years, so why would we dislodge them? The only thing we are doing is to give them support. Where we think they have not done well, we will tell them how to do it better. As far as I am concerned, they will remain the leaders of the party. I cannot hijack the party structure because I am a democrat.
Are you worried that APC leadership in Imo State has openly said that it will work for its governorship candidate and not for you, the governor’s son-in-law?
Hope Uzodinma is the governorship candidate of the APC in Imo State while I am the governorship candidate of the AA. The APC chairman needs to support his candidate while the AA chairman needs to support me. I am not scared.
Some concerned groups in Imo have raised concerns about INEC’s alleged partisanship. What do you think about it?
On the issue of 2019 elections, it is very clear that anybody who is thinking of rigging the elections is making a very big mistake because the youth will resist it. The mothers and the leaders of Imo State will resist it and INEC knows that it is not possible to rig election in Imo State and the chairman of INEC knows what is right and if by 2019 I am declared the governor of the state, nobody can change that. I am happy with what INEC has done so far.
Is it true that you are secretly working against President Muhammadu Buhari?
Whether they blackmail me or not, we have made up our minds to support Muhammadu Buhari. I cannot put my picture with Buhari’s picture on the streets and then be working against him. Who am I trying to deceive? Governor Okorocha and I have decided to vote for Buhari and no blackmail can stop it. The more they blackmail me, the more I get popular. In my ward and local government, President Buhari won in 2015. Between me and those blackmailing me in Abuja, we will know who is truly supporting Buhari. As far as we are concerned, nothing can change our support for the President. He has done well and deserves reelection.
Will it take you so long like it took Governor Okorocha to conduct local government elections?
I have respect for the constitution. We already have elected local government chairmen, and I must make sure they serve their three years’ tenure and once their tenure ends, we must conduct another election for both councillors and local government chairmen. There is no other option. I am an advocate of democracy; I believe in democracy and I do not believe in having transition committee chairmen. Okorocha is also an advocate of democracy. After the court cases, we conducted the election immediately. The main thing about democracy is giving the masses the freedom to look at things and take their own decisions. I agree with you that the local governments should be able to decide on their own on what they want. If local governments should have their funds, it will help them because as a governor, you cannot be at 27 local government areas at the same time. One thing that does not allow the local governments to function is mismanagement. But if the local governments can allow teachers and workers to get their salaries every month without delay, things will be fine.
Are you in support of President Buhari’s decision to decline assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill?
Yes, and it is because the reasons the President gave are clear. The general elections are less than three months away, what do you want INEC to do? When you look at it very well, you will agree with the President.