IGBEAKU ORJI writes on the clamour for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction ahead of the next general election
Contrary to the opinion held by some that 2023, the next general election year, is still too far to occupy anyone, nothing can be farther from the truth. Given the dynamics of the political process of strategic planning, of evaluation and execution, of consultation, agreements and compromise, of building reliable structures that can deliver, then 2023 appear to be too close for anyone or group with a serious stake to a strategic political office like the presidency.
Many believe the issue of where the presidency should go to in 2023 has been incontrovertibly settled in favour of Igbo of South-East and that anyone opposed to such popular view must be an enemy of justice, equity, fairness, unity and peace of Nigeria.
To those who hold this view, what is left is to narrow the search to who the candidate should be among qualified members of the two major political parties – All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It is against this backdrop that members of a political school are of the view that of all the potential presidential materials from the South-East zone, the Senate Chief Whip and a former governor of Abia State, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, stands out. According to them, Kalu has distinguished himself as a servant whose heart is with the people.
They recall that from his days as governor of Abia State to the present where he is the senator representing Abia North senatorial District, Kalu has remained unshaken in his resolve to use political power to impact lives. It is on record that his track record as governor earned him the enviable epithet, Action Governor.
“He did not join politics for pecuniary advantage or personal enrichment, he was already super rich. When the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was formed Kalu provided the initial take off grant of N500 million. He has paid his dues in politics. Now as senator, Abia North has witnessed an unprecedented infrastructural transformation.
“Kalu was a pillar of strength and support to candidates from other sections of the country in their quest for the coveted office. He stood firmly by former president Olusegun Obasanjo providing moral and financial support. He supported incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari all through the election and remains a die-hard fan of the president.
Now that it is the turn of Ndigbo, Kalu would expect a reciprocal gesture from other sections of the country,” some members of the political school said about Kalu. They recalled that during the debate preceding the election or appointment of principal officers of the Senate, Kalu was vocal against the lopsided appointments. He stood up against the disparaging treatment meted to the South-East zone.
“He was not fighting a personal cause and he said so. He said if any other south easterner was considered for the position of Senate President or deputy he would withdraw and support the choice. But when it turned out that the zone got neither Kalu accepted the decision of the party as a loyal party man. He has demonstrated exemplary team player attitude.
“For someone who rose to the echelon of business and industry through sheer grit and candour, resilience and diligence, Kalu has garnered enough experience to lead the country to the enviable height of development and progress. How he navigated through the peculiar vagaries of Nigeria’s business environment to be among the country’s leading entrepreneurs has marked him out as a daring achiever. South East leaders and stakeholders should beam their search light in Kalu’s direction as they present credible candidates for the job,” they further advanced.
There is no doubt that Kalu, on his own, has used his positions at various times to reach out to other sections. He is well accepted as a detribalized Nigerian. In 2019 Senator Kalu fought one of his toughest political battles to unseat the incumbent PDP Abia North Senator, Mao Ohuabunwa.
That victory lifted the banner of APC high in the state. Before then no one had won any election on the party’s platform in Abia State. The best the party had were those who jumped over from other political platforms where they won the election.
Kalu not only proved his worth as an asset to the party, he also ensured that two other National Assembly members joined him from his Bende and Isuikwuato/Umunneochi federal constituencies. He also facilitated the victory of the member representing Bende North state constituency, Hon Chijioke Chukwu, who defeated the then deputy speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon Cosmos Ndukwe. APC never had it so good. The result of the presidential election in Abia State and South East in general is an eloquent testimony to the improvement in the party’s performance index.
Again, when other states were sending civil servants back to their states of origin Kalu as Abia State governor, was employing Nigerians, giving employment to the best performing NYSC members in the state. He made Abia a home for all. One of the virtues that set Kalu apart from his peers is his intrepidity. Kalu is known for his bluntness.
He speaks the truth no matter whose ox is gored. He is not afraid of challenges being fully aware that the acuity and presence of mind to navigate through complex situations make the difference between a man of courage and a coward. Kalu sprout from a peculiar environment where courage and exploit are celebrated, where cowards have no place in the gathering of true men. In all the battles he ever fought, either in politics, personal life or in business, he came back unscathed.
It is pertinent at this juncture to take a hind sight to the era of third term. The politics of that era was that of blood and vendetta. It was a period of ruthless bludgeon that tyrannised dissents. And it took a man of character, one who believes in sticking to the rules, who will not compromise fairness on the altar of personal gain, one who will not sacrifice justice and fairness to ingratiate anyone, to have fought the third term monster. That Kalu opposed the third term of then President Olusegun Obasanjo with passionate vehemence as a PDP governor then leaves no one in doubt as to his passion for justice and the rule of law. He fought that battle at the risk of personal injury and safety. He was hounded out of the party and the consequent animosity transferred to the State he governed.
The line dividing party politics and personal life became so tenuous that a lily livered fellow would have buckled. He fought that battle to preserve and defend democracy. e made the personal sacrifice for the good of Nigeria. Nigerians should not forget such sacrifices in a hurry and should see his ambition as not only legitimate but a payback time. Anyone who knows Kalu will attest to the fact that he can give his blood to defend what he believes to be right.
If he gives his word on any issue or in support of any cause he stands by it till the end. Kalu is not a scholar of the Machiavellian political philosophy but believes in the social contract theory of politics. Those who had nursed contrary views about Kalu are those who know him from a distance. Intimate interaction will let anyone into the inner workings of a large transparent and soft heart. Someone said former President Obasanjo became a military Head of State and civilian president by circumstances which were fortuitous.
But he became the president all the same, from the South- West. One wonders if the circumstances that made someone from South-West president diminished the power and appurtenances of the office. Yet the same fellow is touting and promoting another south westerner as better prepared and have learned from the mistakes of his elders to give Nigeria better leadership.
That only happens where people have no regard for equity, fairness and justice. It is a spite and an assault on the sensibilities of other components of the entity called Nigeria and the kind of proposition that amplifies the mantra of marginalisation or the national conspiracy theory against a particular section. The North, the South- West and the South-East are the original tripod on which Nigeria sits. Both the North and South-West have ruled Nigeria in the present political dispensation leaving the South-East. Fairness demands that other sections that are yet to taste the presidency be encouraged and supported to get it for whatever it is worth. That is the path to enduring unity, peace and progress. The question of party membership and paying ones dues does not arise at this point. No section has a monopoly of these.
Every section has equal stake in the commonwealth. Some have argued that political power is not thrust on someone, it is fought for and earned. This line of thought is merely a veil against the contextual propriety of our peculiar political environment. Other sections have taken their turn with the support of the rest, now that it should be the turn of Ndigbo some ideologues are pushing the incongruous logic of service and sacrifice for the party as the barometer for support and patronage. Nothing can be more disparaging.
If other sections have done their best yet Nigeria is still far from its destination. is it not fair to allow the remaining section to complete the cycle. Perhaps it may be the section that holds the key to salvage the country, who knows. Kalu was an ardent supporter of President Umaru Yar’Adua.
He proposed the government of national unity which the administration bought into and constituted a federal executive council that comprised members of other political parties including Kalu’s Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA). That singular gesture assuaged the pervading feeling of malcontent that attended the heavily flawed presidential election of 2011. With PPA Kalu won the two states of Abia and Imo in 2011, a record yet to be broken given that the party was formed a few months to the election. Senator Kalu may not be a saint in politics, if we are looking for a saint we may wait for all eternity, but he undoubtedly has enough experience to lead Nigeria, period.