Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State is angry with the leadership of his party, All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). He is accusing the two of conspiring to deny him Certificate of Return for Imo West senatorial seat.
How far have you gone about your Certificate of Return seized by INEC?
Last week, I wrote a letter to INEC officials myself informing INEC about their wrong doings and illegal actions taken by the commission to withhold my certificate on mere allegation of duress, which was never founded, neither was there any committee set up to investigate the matter. INEC on their own believed the reports of its Returning Officer, without investigating the authenticity of such allegation. So, there was no issue of fair hearing at all on whether I committed the offence that their person alleged.
What is important here is that INEC doesn’t have the power to withhold Certificate of Return, having declared a result. Both the certificate of return and the declaration is just one subject matter, just that the other one is ceremonial because result has been declared. Looking at some of the activities that have taken place since this issue of my certificate, it became obvious that the INEC Chairman was up to a game with the Chairman of APC, who are being used as to frustrate my coming to the Senate and this is politically motivated. I’ve given enough time that INEC might correct itself and do the needful and issue a Certificate of Return, all to no avail.
To buttress the point more, even after issuance of this letter to INEC, many things had happened within the week. For instance, INEC that made a submission to the tribunal in Owerri has gone back requesting that they want to withdraw the submission they made. The submission they made was defending the declaration of election results. It is normal that INEC ought to defend its declaration. But because that submission was seen to be in my favour, INEC has gone back to say it will withdraw the submission, which is also out of time. Now, they went through an affidavit by the Head of Legal Department; one Mr. Elekwa who made the submission. He has now gone back to say he wants to withdraw. Reliably, I was informed that he was under threat by a senior official in INEC, who has threatened to sack him from INEC if he does not withdraw. So, there is a huge threat going on now in INEC to sack the gentleman for not doing the wrong thing or being part of the script and I’m sure, for some reason, they may have forgotten to inform him to do the wrong because if they had informed him to do the wrong thing, he would have done that. He went there believing that he was defending INEC the normal way they should.
Surprisingly again to also buttress a point, the APC National Chairman has gone to the tribunal again asking to withdraw the matter which APC had filed defending the victory of APC at the Senate. What INEC is doing is the same thing the APC is doing. So, this tells you that there is a game going on. But I wonder what they will do with the certificate. If they don’t give me the certificate, who will they give it to? Maybe they will give it to Festus Okoye because Festus Okoye is from my senatorial zone.
As it stands right now, the image of INEC is bastardised for this singular act and they are setting a bad precedent. What that means is that tomorrow, somebody can withdraw the result of anybody because you don’t like his face or because you feel he is going to politically challenge you in the future.
Why do you think the withholding of the certificate of return is political?
A similar thing is taking place in Okigwe, where a candidate took a result sheet of four years ago to declare himself and the person who declared the result ran away to Canada. As it stands now, Okigwe Senatorial zone, Imo North does not have a Senator. Imo West does not have a Senator. Only one Senator now represents the whole of Imo State because of this illegal and corruptive act that is coming from INEC and the party. If INEC were to have been very serious, the gentleman who used fake result sheet should have been arrested to face a criminal charge. How will INEC allow somebody to use a fake result sheet of four years ago to declare himself and the man has the audacity to go to court and INEC is leading him to go to court, all to fight Rochas? How will INEC allow a Professor of Mathematics, their Returning Officer, to announce the result of a governorship election that took place with a lot of abnormalities? Knowing too well that the person never met 25 percent of two-thirds of the number of Local Government Areas, they still went ahead and announced such result in this country, and a Professor of Mathematics cannot differentiate what is called two-thirds. If it is a civilised country, that man would have been in jail by now because you are touching on the fundamentals of the constitution, not the Electoral Act, and INEC is comfortable announcing such result and issuing Certificate of Return and my own that I have won, I’m not issued Certificate of Return. It’s very glaring that they are up to something. I call on INEC to as quickly as possible, make amends and get these things out there so that we can correct the battered image of INEC right now.
Has the INEC responded to your letter?
They have not responded to my letter. They have said nothing to me. I wrote that letter in my capacity as the governor of a state who contested for the Senate and INEC cannot ignore my letter. So, I demand explanation from INEC as to why they have withheld it.
But you went to court?
I took INEC to court in a matter between me and INEC, to give me my certificate, which is the normal thing. But INEC has also now connived with other parties, the PDP and also the APGA, to be a joiner. Even today, they also said somebody else wants to join. Every day, somebody keeps joining, just to delay the matter. There is complete high level conspiracy to fight Rochas. But I assure them, they will fail.
Why do you think they are conspiring against you?
It’s politically motivated definitely. If not, why do this? The story started when they imposed a candidate on Imo State; when they imposed Hope Uzodinma who came two weeks to our primaries and they want to give him the ticket at all cost, leaving the people who founded the party, who won the primaries. One Gulak came and ran away with the result sheets. They upheld it. But men who support evil will have evil on their way one day.
You said that the National Chairman of the party is part of your travails, why would he work against you?
Yes, he is part and parcel of the game plan.
You were one of those who supported him to emerge as the National Chairman of your party. What suddenly happened that he is now against you?
There is nothing personal between me and Adams Oshiomhole other than that he is part and parcel of this high level conspiracy to bring down Rochas politically. This is just aimed at making sure that Rochas doesn’t have a solid foundation politically. They say if I get to the Senate, I want to run for the president and all of that in 2023 elections. Who told them? Have I declared? You wait until I declare and when I do declare, we now fight politically. But what is painful is that the Adams Oshiomhole that I literally put into this position, I never asked him to do me any favour, but all I requested of him to do is what is right, could turn around to commit this evil of mankind. It’s totally unacceptable. That the party that I formed that brought out the APC we have today will treat me in this manner is also unfortunate because the evil I feared in the PDP has befallen me ten times in the APC. I hate injustice and that’s what I’m seeing on daily basis now playing out. What they are doing makes them to also appear to me as cowards. When you want to fight a man, you come out and take responsibility and say ‘I will fight Rochas. ‘But they are hiding. If they are man enough, let them come out and say Rochas, ‘I’m going to fight you,’ let me know how they want to fight. But they will go and start holding night meetings, conspiring here and there, withholding certificates and INEC will make themselves an instrument of illegality in this country, that’s unfortunate.
Part of the problems you have with your party is because of the alleged anti-party activities that you carried out in Imo State by asking one of your principal officers to move to another party to contest and you used your machinery to support him. ..
(Cuts in) This is just a later development. It has been on. You forgot there was a primary. You forgot there was even a congress where the then Organising Secretary, Izunaso ran away with the ballot boxes and the Police Commissioner was later transferred? It’s just a booklet that is opened page by page on a daily basis. You forgot that Gulak even came and ran away with the result sheets and said election is finished. The security were there and all of these people. That’s part of the conspiracy. It’s not about anti-party.
You met with the president on this matter on two occasions. How come the party has not resolved the problem?
What I took to the president was entirely a different matter because I believe that this matter shouldn’t be a matter that Mr. President should come in. If you know President Muhammadu Buhari as a person, he is not such a person who interferes. Once he gives you a job, you do your job. He doesn’t want to interfere. At the end of it all, you make yourself good or bad. I know his style and I know his person. So, I didn’t want to belabour him with talk to this or that person on what is clear and right.
You are very close to the president and there is this impression that the president may be behind this , do you subscribe to such assumption ?
I don’t think Mr. President is behind this. Buhari is definitely not behind this. If you know President Muhammadu Buhari in his own style, you will know that he will keep quiet and never say anything about this until they prove themselves right or wrong.
If those behind it are very close to the president, can’t he call them to order?
Remember this matter has to do with INEC and INEC is perceived to be independent and if Mr. President is going to talk to INEC, he’s interfering with the independence of INEC. Whether Mr. President speaks or not, what is right is right and what is wrong is wrong.