Many analysts will agree that winning the presidential election in Nigeria depends not only on past achievements or performances but on three to four other key factors. They include financial strength, influence peddling, geopolitical backing, and control of institutions of power.
Identifying serious contenders could be dicey as one needs to dig deep to unearth those capable of pulling their weight in a contest that is barely 18 months away. Any contender emerging from the Southeast geo-political zone will realise that he would be remarkably deficient in most of the areas highlighted. What has kept most contenders from the Southeast lying low till date is the cost that aspiring to be president can attract.
A former Senator from the Southeast was reported to have informed some close associates that he will wait till the last quarter of 2021 to unveil his aspiration as he does not have the financial capacity to respond to all kinds of invitations if he ventures to show any hint of what he is still keeping close to his chest.
Apart from the issue of finance, the Southeast has never been as divided as it is now. The region is massively fractured with many drumming songs of war and secession, while others are clinging to an imaginary right to the country’s presidency. Resistance by armed groups opposed to all constituted authorities is on the rise. These groups find expression in armed rebellion and the destruction of police stations and government buildings.
Even under this disturbing scenario, strong-hearted optimists like Owelle Rochas Anayo Okorocha have emerged to join the race of contenders who wants to take over from President Buhari.
Okorocha’s chances might look even slimmer as the current Imo Governor, who should normally galvanise party delegates and ultimate votes for “the son of the soil” is rabidly opposed to anything linked to Rochas Okorocha.
However, Okorocha has declared that he remains quite undaunted. He says all his successes in his political life have been achieved in the face of seemingly insurmountable oppositions. He believes this will not be an exception.
Indeed, Rochas Okorocha alleges that top politicians from the Southwest and North are ganging up against his 2023 presidential ambition. According to him, his political opponents called many politicians in Imo State including the current governor to team up to fight him:
“The whole thing is about my 2023 presidential ambition. They want to shut out any Igbo man who is strong politically from the 2023 presidential race. But despite the gang up, I must contest for President in 2023 and by God’s grace I will win.”
Okorocha, the former two-term governor of Imo State is presently the Senator representing Imo West Senatorial district at the present 9th Nigerian Senate. He is the founder of Rochas Foundation, a charity comprising a number of special schools that are spread all over Nigeria that gives scholarship to the less privileged children in Nigeria.
Rochas was born on 22 September 1962 in Ogboko, Ideato South, Imo State to an Imo father and an Anambra mother. He attended Juladaco High School, Jos (1976-1981). He studied at the University of Jos (1990-1991), obtaining a diploma in Public Administration. He returned to the University of Jos (1993-1994) to obtain an advanced diploma in Public Administration.
Positions Okorocha has occupied in the past include President, Nigeria Red Cross Society; President/Founder, Rochas Foundation Inc; President, Rochas Group of Companies Limited; Pro-Chancellor, African Business School; and Former Chairman, Board of Nigerian Airspace Management Agency.
In Public service, Okorocha was a Commissioner at the Federal Character Commission and a Member of the National Constitutional Conference. When democracy was restored in 1999, Rochas Okorocha contested in the primaries to be the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for governor of Imo State but lost to Achike Udenwa. He moved to the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) and ran for the party’s presidential nomination, but a disappointing result in the primary in 2003 ended his ambition. He returned to the PDP, and President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed him as Special Adviser on Inter-Party affairs.
Rochas Okorocha formed the Action Alliance (AA) party in 2005, planning to become a presidential candidate for the AA in the 2007 elections. He again returned to the PDP, and in September 2007, indicated that he was interested in becoming PDP National Chairman.
Okorocha later decamped from the PDP to the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), to run as its candidate for the Imo State gubernatorial ticket in the 2011 national elections and he eventually won. He later led a faction of APGA to join a new political alliance that became the All Progressive Congress. He was subsequently re-elected as governor under the ticket of APC in 2015.
Towards the end of his tenure as governor, Okorocha pushed strongly for his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, who was his Chief of Staff, to run for the office of the governor under APC, but Uche Nwosu lost the party’s governorship ticket to Senator Hope Uzodinma.
Okorocha himself contested the senatorial ticket for the 9th Senate. Just like all his previous elections, the results were controversial and INEC refused to ratify them claiming the electoral officer declared it under duress. Okorocha was later sworn in on 13 June 2019 by Senate President, Ahmed Lawan.
Former Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, has now informally stated that he would be contesting for Nigeria’s presidency by 2023. His words:
“If my presidency will address the issue of poverty and insecurity, then I want to be president. If my presidency will address the economy of this nation that we will begin to talk like other developed nations, then I want to be a president. And if my presidency will guarantee education for the poorest of the poor, then I want to be a president. Other than these, hold your president and presidency, I am fine.”
Having attempted four previous times to win the presidency, Okorocha should know that it will take more than rhetoric and deft manoeuvres in controversial elections to win.
His plan to form a new political movement in Nigeria ahead of the 2023 general elections might be one of his calculations in this area. He says the new group will not be like the APC which was hurriedly formed to take power from the PDP without much emphasis on the character of those championing the course.
Speaking during a visit to Rivers State to lure Governor Nyesom Wike into the new movement, Okorocha declared; “Political parties in Nigerian don’t have any ideology; it is just a vehicle to come to power. So what we have is not the ideal thing, we have so many people who are not interested in working for the nation. We have bad people in APC, just as we have them in PDP and that was why I made the call in Rivers State that the good ones should come together to lead the people”.
With less than two years to the general elections, can Okorocha and his cohorts use this limited time to form his new movement and mobilise Nigerians to support it? Will Okorocha be compelled to eat his words and remain in the APC to contest in 2023? Only time will tell. As 2023 beckons, a lot is bound to happen on the political terrain. However, one thing is certain. Only one man that wins the heart of the people will emerge as the successor to President Muhammadu Buhari.