Rochas Okorocha, the Nigerian lawmaker and founder of the Rochas Okorocha Foundation officially announced at a press conference in January that he will be running for the country’s top job. He wants to run on the promise of uniting Nigeria, a country widely divided on many fronts but will he succeed?
Mr. Okorocha is no political newcomer, he had previously contested the presidency three times. At the dawn of democracy in Nigeria when military rule collapsed in 1999, Okorocha contested in the primaries to be the People’s Democratic Party’s candidate for governor of his home state of Imo but was unsuccessful. He then crossed over to the All Nigeria’s People’s Party, where he ran for the party’s presidential nomination.
After changing political parties a few times, a mark of modern politics in Nigeria, Rochas Okorocha was elected as governor of his home state, Imo, defeating the incumbent governor, Ikedi Ohakim. He completed two terms as governor and then became a senator. For Mr. Okorocha, there is one more call of service, perhaps even of duty – as he implies in interviews – to become Nigeria’s next president, and his political career would come full circle.
Asked why he’s running for the nation’s highest office, he said he wants to unify his beloved country and bring it out of poverty, and beat the current president, Muhammadu Buhari’s record. Mr. Okorocha said while he thinks the president has done well for Nigeria and Nigerians, he intends to “beat his record” if elected president.
He has informed the Nigerian Senate of his intention to run under the platform of the All Progressives Congress, the party which he helped form.
“…Poverty is the cause of chaos and calls for separation. Buhari has done well but he would not wish that he becomes the best, I want to beat his record,” Mr. Okorocha said.
It’s not just Okorocha that has eyes on the top job. There are other heavyweights within his party, like Bola Ahmed Tinubu whom some regard as Nigeria’s modern kingmaker. There are also contestants from the ruling party’s chief opposition party, The People’s Democratic Party, like Atiku Abubakar, one-time former Vice President of Nigeria but Okorocha will play no second fiddle to colleagues or opponents, it seems.
“I appeal to my party – APC, to allow a level-playing ground.” He said at the press conference.
He also said Nigerians need a detribalized leader who can unite the country, a leader with a compassionate heart, who will care for the poor and downtrodden, and a visionary leader who can create wealth for the teeming populace – he’s that leader he said. Maybe he’s right, after all, more than 22,000 Nigerian youths have benefited from his work in philanthropy with the Rochas Okorocha Foundation.
At the conference, he further stressed that poverty is the major cause of the complaints and chaos in the country. He will address it squarely, he added, under his New Nigeria agenda.
“The Nigeria of 2023 requires me as president. Because I am going to approach governance in a different way. Buhari loves the unity of this country but there are drums of separation and drums of war.”
While Okorocha may be full of praise for President Buhari, the latter has faced sharp criticism for not living up to promises made on campaign grounds. A recent report in Financial Times, titled “What is Nigeria’s Government For,” by David Piling, the newspaper’s Africa Editor said Buhari has “overseen two terms of economic slump, rising debt and a calamitous increase in kidnapping and banditry — the one thing you might have thought a former general could control.”
Whoever becomes Nigeria’s next president, whether that’s Rochas Okorocha or others running for office, one thing is quite certain – they will inherit no small task of steering the country in the right course.