Hon. Justice James Okereke is a leading politician in Imo State. He began his sojourn in politics as a Supervisory Councillor in the then Owerri Urban and later worked closely with some past governors of Imo State such as Chief Achike Udenwa. He also at one time vied for the Chairmanship seat of Owerri Municipal. In this interview with innonews.com.ng at his palatial home in Owerri, Okereke popularly called “Igodo” by friends and political associates declared his intention to aspire as member of the House of Representative to represent Owerri Federal Constituency. He also spoke on the Okorocha administration and other issues of serious importance in the State. Excerpts.
May we know you briefly?
My name is High Chief Justice James Okereke, the Igodo 1 of Owerri Nchi Ise. I m from Umuonyeche autonomous community in Owerri Municipal. I m a philanthropist, a politician and I m a contractor which is I what I do for a living. I own a construction company called Baazar and Plaza Limited that has done several construction jobs in Imo State and beyond. We have built shopping malls in the State, in Lagos and other parts of the country.
May we know your political antecedents?
I became active in politics a long time ago. I ran for Councillorship when I was just 25 years old. I wanted to be a Councillor in Owerri Municipal. But it did not work out. I was later appointed supervisory Councillor in charge of Works. It was a good experience for me as we achieved a lot in Owerri Municipal at that time. We made sure that public utilities in the state capital functioned very well. After undergoing tutelage as a Councillor, I aspired to be Chairman of Owerri Municipal Council on the platform of the PDP. I nearly emerged as Chairmanship candidate of the party but a lot of things happened. I ran a good race and many people could attest to the fact that I almost emerged the party flag-bearer but I became a victim of a vicious power play that led to my non emergence as chairmanship candidate of the PDP for Owerri Municipal at that time. But I had the support of the women and the youths of our people who still have confidence in me.
After the chairmanship race, what next did you do?
I served the Udenwa administration. I was an SA and some of us contributed significantly to ensure the success of that government.I played a strategic role in the success story of that government. We achieved a lot and you can attest that government was not a failure.
How would you asses the present government of Rochas Okorocha?
Okorocha has done well in many areas. He may have his shortcomings because he is also human. You can see how he has transformed Owerri. We can all see the Road expansion programme. The new schools in some areas of Owerri municipality. Owerri wears a new look now. This is a government that has done a lot to improve on infrastructure in the State capital for the benefit of Owerri people. We may not see the gains now but surely we will see it later. We now have several access roads across the nooks and crannies of the municipality which no government did for us . People have been complaining that he has been damaging many things but we forget that big cities like Abuja became a model city after El Rufai had taken the bull by the horn to remove illegal shanties and structures. You cannot achieve real development, put in new structures and develop a place until you demolish the old ones. We will all see the benefit of this Urban Renewal Programme by the time he completes the programme. Just like in Lagos State when Fashola was demolishing shanties, he was said to be a wicked and mean governor but if you have been to Lagos State lately you will notice how the new structures he put up have changed the State. I know it is a painful process but I m confident that by the time he completes the process, Owerri will wear a new look. It will be a beautiful city which we all benefit from. Politics aside and if we will remove sentiments, so many projects have come up in the State since Okorocha became governor. And I think he deserves some commendation. Some people said the projects are substandard but I do not totally agree with them because there were some administrations in some States that did not bother to even tar a kilometer of road.
People say his policies are painful especially the Urban Renewal Programme.
We must look beyond now and think of the future. America has been a great country for many decades. Was it the same structures that made it great that is still in place till date? As a State or Country moves on or develop, they must upgrade their infrastructure. So we should understand this. Okorocha wants to change the face of Owerri. We should pray that he completes the process. That should be our prayer and concern.
How do you asses the gubernatorial ambition of Uche Nwosu, his son in law and Chief of Staff?
Nwosu has the right to contest. You cannot deny him that. The Constitution of the land does not forbid him from contesting from any elective position. And he is a youth. We should encourage youths taking over the affairs of governance of Imo State. I m also a youth and that is why I see nothing wrong with his governorship ambition.
Some say if Okorocha wants to hand over to a youth, why must be his son in law?
That he is a son in law to the Governor does not disqualify him from aspiring to be governor. Everybody is ambitious and if he says becoming governor is his ambition, he should not be condemned for it. Uche Nwosu should not be sent packing from the Governorship race simply because he is married to Rochas daughter. That is very unfair. The young man should be given a chance. Who knows if he becomes Governor, he could be the one to take Imo State to the next level. You do not shave a man’s head in his absence. So we give him a chance. Remember it is not a few people that will decide his political fate, it is the people of Imo State. So foreclosing his ambition now is not proper. We must give the youths the opportunity to govern. The hour has come and we must embrace it.
Are You contesting for any public office?
Yes I am.I m vying for Owerri Federal Constituency Seat. I m a staunch member of the All Progressive Congress, APC both in Imo State and at the national level. I m the best person to represent the people of Owerri Federal Constituency. I was born in Owerri municipal, I have lived for a long time in Owerri West. In fact I m part of them. I have done a lot for the people of Umuguma Community and other communities in Owerri West. The people can attest to that. So this has given me the opportunity to understand our people. In my businesses, I have given jobs to so many youths from Owerri North and other local governments that make up the constituency. This tells you that I m on ground and I really understand what the problems of the people of the Constituency are. I have lived all my adult life in Owerri so I can tell you what the place is all about. I have made a lot of research, consulted with a lot of people and stakeholders and I can conveniently tell you that I know what the problems of the federal constituency are.Through the act of legislation, I will salvage the constituency.
I have prepared myself for the job a long time ago. Owerri federal constituency deserve the best and I m the best for the job at the moment. I have empowered so many people through my foundation and they have been urging me to go into the contest. And I cannot say no to the clarion call of the people.
Thank you for your time?
You are welcome