There must be a change of strategy to fight corruption properly —Okorocha
Senator Rochas Okorocha, immediate past governor of Imo State, in this interaction with journalists, speaks on the war on corruption in the country, the 2021 federal budget, quest for Igbo Presidency in 2023 and the Almajiris phenomenon in northern Nigeria. ISHOLA MICHAEL brings some excerpts:
How best can the Almajiri issue, with its prevalent socio-economic and cultural distortions in the society, be addressed?
The best way to address the Almajiri issue is first that government must accept the fact that these people are our children and once we accept that fact, we have done 50 per cent of the job. Then, we have to think about how to combine the Arabic school system with conventional schools and empower them. If they reach the age that they should go to farm, there must be something they can do because I don’t think that there is anybody created by God that is useless. It is only when there is no idea that people look useless; there is no useless person in the world.
Some Nigerians feel it is fair that the South-East, particularly the Igbo, should be given the chance to produce President of the country in 2023. Where is your view on the issue?
On the issue of Presidency that comes up every time, what is important to me is to first and foremost, have a Nigeria because it is our country; we have to see that we have a united Nigeria.
Secondly, talking about the Presidency of Igbo extraction is rather to give everyone a sense of belonging. If everyone gets a sense of belonging, things will be good. What I propose is a Nigerian president who will guarantee the unity of this nation irrespective of religion or tribe, a Nigerian President that will eliminate poverty; a Nigerian President who will make education available and affordable for everybody. This is what we should be talking about more importantly. The issue of a President of the Igbo extraction, for me, is more like a competition. The North has produced a president; the South-West has produced a president and the South-South has produced a president. When the South-East produces a president, let us see what Nigeria will look like. I think Chelsea versus Manchester United match, both clubs belong to the same country, that’s exactly the way I see it. But it’s about fairness; fairness calls for that but that is not the main issue. If you have a President and yet, people are still hungry, people are suffering, of what use is that? Presidency is not just in the title; it’s in doing the job.
The National Assembly has received the 2021 federal budget from President Muhammadui Buhari, with Nigerians expressing divergent views on the content, particularly on the issue of borrowing to finance the budget. What is your reaction?
We must understand that Nigeria is going through a very challenging moment as it relates to the economy; we have a lot of challenges, so the budget will be done to address the challenges that we have. There is nothing wrong with borrowing but there is something wrong with borrowing if it is not used for the purpose it is meant for. So, it is neither here nor there if you look at it very well. What is important is to be able to alleviate poverty in Nigeria and move the country forward, as well as make it a great nation. For me, I support the fact that 2021budget should be quite different from our usual budget: one, that we take into consideration the economic challenges that we have; two, that we take into consideration the coronavirus pandemic and three; that we take into consideration projects that have been budgeted which we have not been accomplished. So, we have to look at those projects because there may be no need talking about new ones when the old ones have not been completed and nothing has been done. Therefore, I will suggest that we really go back to the drawing board and look at the projects, which have not been executed and ensure that they are executed and carry them along in the new budget. I don’t intend to see much of a new thing in the 2021 budget because this year’s budget was affected by so many situations.
Is corruption being fought in Nigeria?
We must accept that Buhari fights corruption with all that is in him. He wants to see a corrupt-free Nigeria but what I think is that the system has to change to really get corruption properly fought. Anytime government fights corruption, we don’t get results as much as when the fighter of corruption becomes the people and I think that is why government has to come in just as we have democracy as the government of the people by the people. Fighting corruption should be a fight of the people by the people and for the people. We should educate people more to understand that rather than fighting corruption, we should prevent corruption because most people, who engage in corrupt practices, do not know the impact on the society. They just see it as a norm; a normal thing but if we are able to educate people to know that the moment you take something, you are taking the life of a child somewhere and stopping them from education, then that human nature will come out.
Your successor in office as the governor of Imo state, Senator Hope Uzodinma has alleged that you are trying to stop your probe by asking for the panel set up to investigate your tenure to be dissolved. What is your reaction to this?
Let me tell you, the issue of the probe is neither here nor there. It is a wild goose chase. It is a political witch-hunt or the government is seeking for relevance by saying that Rochas is being probed. Probe of what? I have told them to publish everything; let the whole world see and hear where Rochas has been found corrupt. What I do speak for me. How can corruption take place? Where would you have resources to build an international cargo airport, the best courts, and build the best police headquarters, the best prisons headquarters, six universities, four polytechnics, two colleges of education and yet free education, and over 2000 projects? And so if you do all this, where would corruption have taken place? Therefore, it is not true.
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