WHY I WANT TO BE PRESIDENT
It is not disputable that almost everybody that had contested for the office of president in any of the democratic administrations we had had between 1979 and 2007 was either forcibly drafted into the race or contested against his will. We are yet to produce a president who voluntarily offered himself up to contest for the office. The reason is not hard to locate: Nigeria's political life is enmeshed in all kinds of intrigues, muscle-flexing and manipulation.
It is generally believed, though erroneously, that nobody can contest for president and win unless he is backed by a cabal or a powerful clique. This is why they are not usually able to deliver the dividends of democracy to the good people of Nigeria.
Now for the first time in the annals of our country, somebody is voluntarily offering himself to serve as Nigeria's president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. And that person is I, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu.
What I have done here is to marshal out my plans for rebuilding Nigeria if given the opportunity to serve as its president. I will also discuss my profile and accomplishments since I became an active player in Nigeria's uncertain social, political and economic terrains. This kind of approach will afford Nigerians the opportunity to objectively assess me and see if I have what it takes to be President of a nation of 140 million people.
Before I embark on this line of action, I wish to make it abundantly clear that Nigeria, as a nation, does not deserve the kind of shabby treatment it is receiving at present from the political class. Our political life has been characterised by unmitigated disasters that have retarded its advancement nearly 50 years since it gained independence. Our leaders have demonstrated a morbid penchant for amassing wealth to the detriment of the majority of Nigerians and against the oath of office they swore to. Sadly, this majority lacks the courage to condemn the highhandedness and excessiveness of the politicians to avoid being vilified or harangued.
It is painful that the masses have been consigned into obscurity on matters that affect them. They have mouths but afraid to speak out. Even their votes do not count at elections. All they do is sit down and watch as their nation is pillaged and raped. Even those that had summoned courage to condemn the evils in our society are either silenced or intimidated. For this reason, the evil-doers now seem to have a field day and walk the streets like colossuses. They choose often to preach in churches eulogising themselves, even when they lack the moral basis to do so, and casting aspersion on all of us for daring to unearth their sordid past.
How can a nation with this kind of deceitful and greedy people make progress? A few months from now we shall be marking the 50th anniversary of our independence. What have we got to show for it? Life is brutish and cumbersome. Poverty, unemployment, and insecurity have overrun the nation. A majority of the people live below one dollar a day while only a few can afford decent housing. Quality of education has fallen to a worrisome level such that our graduates are cajoled and mocked. They say these graduates are half-baked, not suitable for employment, yet we keep churning them out in thousands every year. Many of them have found sanctuary in crimes and other misdemeanours. Who baked these graduates and what and who should be blamed for their insufficiencies?
There is no reason education should be allowed to fall to this abysmal level. We shall unveil a special plan that will overhaul our educational system. This plan will make our educational institutions centres of learning and research, thereby eliminating the ills that plague them and discourage parents from sending their children abroad. We achieved the target we set for education in Abia State during my tenure as governor. We offered free and functional education at all levels and built and rehabilitated over 2,000 schools all across the state. We never owed teachers for a single day throughout our tenure. We shall repeat this all over Nigeria if given the chance.
The number of universities we have at present is too low compared to the large population of Nigerians seeking university education. Imagine this: Harvard University, Boston, USA, has 11,000 professors while all the universities in Nigeria cannot boast of more than 29,000 lecturers. That is not all: No Nigerian university ranks among the first 1000 in the world or the first 100 in Africa. Can somebody provide me an answer to this question: how can a nation as rich and populous as Nigeria have just 104 universities? If I choose to recount all the woes in our educational sector many hearts will bleed.
So, we shall do what is needful and urgently too to redress the situation before it becomes irredeemable.
Look at the state of infrastructure across the country. It shows the insensitivity of some of our past leaders and the bankruptcy into which the morality of the nation has degenerated. It may not be wrong to state that we are where we are today because we are yet to get the right leadership for our complex and heterogeneous nation. The kind of leadership a nation gets at any period of its existence determines the direction to which the future of that country is skewed. For 50 years, Nigeria has experienced all manner of leaders - ranging from the good to the ugly. One particular leader at a time in our national life brought so much pain and backwardness to Nigeria. His tenure was characterised by looting and pillaging of the economy, thereby dragging us several decades back.
The road network across the country is an eyesore, yet we are a rich and prosperous nation. We shall ensure that every federal road in Nigeria receives prompt attention before the end of our four-year-tenure to reduce the senseless carnage on our roads. To reduce the pressure on our existing roads we have fashioned a workable plan to create rail network and develop our waterways connecting the major cities across the country. The plan is achievable and we will do everything possible to deliver on this promise.
At every turn in our nation's history, people have speculated about the coming of the messiah. They have always hoped that someday God would be kind to intervene and send them the messiah who will restore our lost pride and glory. Unfortunately, each successive government has failed to meet their expectation. They are, therefore, left despondent and weak.
The anxiety in the land is heightening with the approach of the 2011 elections. The question on people's lips is: Who will take us to the Promised Land? Who will save us from the pit into which we have, figuratively speaking, fallen? Accept or leave it: Nigeria is mired in a deep crisis. The ongoing electoral reform project by the legislature is moving on very slowly, leaving little time for preparations towards the elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). In fact, the recent statement attributed to the acting chairman of the election umpire that his commission might not have enough time left to put logistics in place for the crucial elections is very disturbing. No matter how well-intended his position might be, the timing was wrong. As things stand now, nobody will tolerate a shift in date for the hand-over of government to the next administration in the country. INEC must do everything possible to conduct the elections freely and fairly no matter the temptation to do otherwise.
The conviction in my ability to deliver Nigeria from its present hopeless situation stems from the belief that next year's elections will be free and fair and the planned reforms will engender a robust atmosphere to achieve this. As I stated in a recent article in this column, President Goodluck Jonathan owes this nation a huge duty to ensure that next year's elections meet the expectations of all Nigerians, not excluding the international community.
Without sounding immodest, I wish to state that I have the mental and moral strength to win the presidential election fair and square on a level playing field. After all, I have traversed every nook and cranny of this country building bridges of friendship and establishing businesses that have had tremendous impact on the lives of many Nigerians irrespective of tribe, religion or status. Since my sojourn to the University of Maiduguri as a Political Science student in the early 80s, I have always had the orientation and mindset that Nigeria is one, united, indivisible and indissoluble nation with its peoples sharing a common vision to live in peace with one another and work concertedly to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity. It is this principle and belief that have shaped my attitude to every Nigerian that comes my way.
I put this principle in practice during my eight-year tenure as governor of Abia State. I remember very clearly how some highly-placed persons approached me to sack over 2000 teachers whom they claimed were non-indigenes. When I requested them to supply any other reasons their services should be terminated they all walked away murmuring. I refused to be cowed or intimidated by anybody throughout my tenure. Instead of pandering to their narrow, parochial interests I rather chose to engage Nigerians from all tribes to work with us to drive my vision. I thank God for giving us the courage and wisdom to do the little we did to lift our state given the scarcity of funds we faced. Today, many governments have toed our path by employing persons from other tribes to work for them.
I believe that Nigeria can never attain its vision of greatness without destroying ethnic cleavages that becloud the vision of our leaders. The founding fathers of Nigeria paid more attention in bonding Nigerians together, which was why it was possible for a Hausa man to contest election into the Eastern House of Assembly and won. Did Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe not win election in the West? Uniting Nigerians and banishing ethnocentricity will form the fulcrum of my agenda so that all Nigerians can live in peace anywhere in the country. This strategy will address the recurring ethnic and religious crises that threaten to polarise Nigeria.
Security of lives and properties has posed about one of the most taxing problems facing governments at all levels. I have designed a strategy to tackle this menace. Policing Nigeria is a very complex task that requires an extraordinary approach. The first thing to identify is the causes of the present security lapses – threatening the stability of our nation. I have already identified the causes through a study I commissioned 10 years ago. All it will take me is one year to make Nigeria relatively crime-free. The problem with the present approach by government is that it is not tackling the root causes. Every problem has its root, just as every standard building has a sub-structure. Unless we get to the root of the problem there is no way we can uproot it. We did it in Abia State and it worked. It is on record that throughout the eight years I was governor, there was no single political killing, no serious crime. We ensured that lives and properties were safe and this gave us the right ambience to deliver the dividends of democracy to the people. Anybody in doubt should go to the police and crosscheck the records. I will unveil this well designed package for security as soon as I come on stage as president.
There is no reason that a majority of Nigerians should live in abject poverty and penury when we have sufficient resources and arable land to provide food on the table of every Nigerian. Why should we neglect agriculture with such reckless abandon? Nations across the world that are not as blessed as Nigeria feed their people and provide comfort for them. Why is Nigeria lagging behind? We make billions of dollars from oil every year, yet the people are hungry, sick, ignorant and defenceless. I will change all that as soon as I step in by launching a special initiative that will make food abundant and affordable. This strategy will be built around the people, particularly the youth who form a very important segment of our society, with government providing the wherewithal in terms of logistics.
There is one fact successive administrations had inexorably neglected and that is the relationship between the youth and development. The inability to harness their enormous talents is largely responsible for the malaises that haunt our nation. I believe that once they are properly managed and their talents constructively deployed the nation will be better for it. In response to the expediency of the times, I have planned a very special scheme that will tap into their rich reservoir of talents to feed other critical sectors of the economy while at the same time symbiotically enriching the youth themselves. Identifying the nexus of this synergy and connecting it to the exigent realities of the time will produce the magic.
Related to this is the need to institutionalize a framework for the promotion of sports, especially at the schools level. Emphasis will focus on schools sports in order to create the right atmosphere to redirect the consciousness of our children. This is the whole idea behind catching them young. I have worked out a blueprint that will achieve this promptly. In fact, I will repeat the magic I did in Abia State with Enyimba during my tenure as governor. We are all witnesses to the modest accomplishments we recorded in Abia between 1999 and 2004 when Enyimba won the Nigerian league and the elusive CAF Championship. I vow to make Nigeria win the World Cup. I will resign as president if I fail to win the FIFA World Cup for Nigeria in the first four years of being in control of the machinery of government. I made the same vow when I sought the people's mandate to be their governor in 1999. I thank God that He did not fail us. All I will do to win the World Cup is to connect a missing link in the administration of sports in the country. Other sports will receive commensurate attention. It is painful that Nigeria hardly wins any significant laurels at major global sporting events, such as the Olympics. This trend will change as we will revolutionize sports and place Nigeria in a strategic position on the global map.
The civil service, as is constituted at present, is disoriented. Civil servants are generally disenchanted because the system in which they serve is not congenial for the promotion of efficiency. I plan to enforce a code of conduct in the service to stimulate productivity and entrench discipline and order. We shall restore professionalism and merit in the service as a way of spurring the personnel to deliver on their mandate. Through this strategy the high level of corruption and apathy in the service will be eliminated. No matter how much we try to downsize or right-size the civil service will remain bloated and non-productive until there is proper rationalization and reorientation.
I know many would be asking: what of irregularity in electricity supply? This is the most important task I will tackle with all the vigour I can muster. The first six months of our government will witness a dramatic improvement in electricity generation and distribution. Having studied this problem over the years, I have designed a package that will ensure steady power supply in every major city in Nigeria within four years. This will be followed with another plan that will systematically increase our capacity to generate electricity for our local consumption without running into undue hitches as we currently do. On the whole, we can solve the perennial electricity problem in this country in four years. I regret to observe that the present framework for the Independent Power Projects is defective. It was not designed originally to sustain the increasing demand for clean power. It was an emergency package quickly put together to promote one man's morbid craze to deceive and hold on to power. My position is informed by what we have all witnessed as the deceit that characterised the award of contracts in the sector in the past 12 years. Let us hope the present plan of President Goodluck Jonathan will work. But I will not fail to advise him to 'shine his eyes' properly to avoid falling into the same trap set for his predecessors.
Those who know me can attest to the fact that I am an achiever. I have never set my mind to attain a goal and fail to reach it.
It is particularly important to point out that my tenure as governor challenged me to evolve the best strategies to counter the numerous problems that faced us. The first six months was horrible for us as there wasn't sufficient funds to keep the state going since we inherited three months unpaid salaries and N8billion debt. I was not discouraged by this huge obstacle because I was ready, from the outset, to make any sacrifices necessary to drive our state's economy and give it a place of pride in the comity of states. How we were able to offset the three months arrears of workers' salaries, built some roads and provided other infrastructure less than one year in office was what earned me the title of ACTION GOVERNOR from no less a person than the then President Olusegun Obasanjo at a civic reception in his honour by traditional rulers from Abia South Zone at the Aba Township Stadium on February 25, 2000.
Despite the paucity of funds we were able to offer tuition-free education at all levels from 2000 till the end of our tenure on May 29, 2007. We embarked on the tuition-free educational programme because we were touched by the plight parents and guardians went through in training their children and wards in schools. Another reason was the need to take off the streets thousands of children of school age who took to hawking as a means of livelihood.
Our achievements in Abia State remain an important yardstick in judging my suitability and readiness to take on the gargantuan challenges at the federal level. Even the huge success I made of the SLOK Group in a little over 20 years of its existence is something to comment on. I started the company with less than N2, 000. It has today grown into a global brand with over 5,000 workers showcasing their talents in shipping, manufacturing, importation and exportation, agriculture, education, newspapering, real estate, industrial spare parts, aviation, etc., with branches in Nigeria, United Kingdom, United States, Togo, Malaysia, Benin Republic, Cameroun, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Ghana, Liberia, Gambia, etc. It is expected that by the end of this year, three additional branches in three countries will be added to the number.
I cannot fail to discuss some of the travails I had gone through in the fight against dictatorship, injustices and neo-imperialism. The most harrowing one was the struggle against third term in 2007. Because of my outspokenness and courage to face perilous situations I was marked for chastisement and intimidation. I was in the forefront of the opposition against the third bid of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. In conjunction with other like minds we fought until the agenda was thrown into the dustbin. The punishment I got for this seeming audacity was the cancelling of the licence of SLOK Air and slamming a corruption charge on me. We refused to be cowed and instead relocated to the Gambia, where we have done very well and grown our fleet impressively. Blessing in disguise one may say.
Let me reiterate the point I have always made that no amount of intimidation will make me drop my belief in justice, fair play and good governance. If the enemies of progress like, let them call me any name. This will not dissuade me from fighting for the poor and voiceless. They allege I stole Abia State money. Yet, they have not been able to adduce any verifiable evidence. Where was the money to steal? We kept the affairs of government moving by sheer creativity and divine guidance. What we did in Abia under the circumstances we worked was just miraculous. I have never in life taken what does not belong to me. I have worked assiduously for every kobo I have made. I built SLOK from my own sweat. I spent sleepless nights, travelling round the country and sacrificing personal comfort to built SLOK and serve Abia State as governor. Anybody accusing me of financial malfeasance does so out of sheer envy, malice and animosity. I do not deserve it at all. I hope that very soon God will, as usual, vindicate me.
Academically, I have done the much I could to lift myself cognitively. I attended Eziama High School, Aba; Government College, Umuahia; University of Maiduguri; Harvard University, School of Business, USA; Abia State University, Uturu. I have been honoured by several organisations inside and outside Nigeria with chieftaincy titles from virtually all over the country. For instance, I remain the only non-indigene ever appointed chairman of Borno Water Board. I am also the youngest bank chairman ever to emerge in Nigeria.
I was, at several times, a member of the National Sports Commission; a member of the Presidential Committee on the Re-grading of Traditional Rulers, and a member of the House of Representatives (1992-1993).
I am involved in humanitarian works, especially in community development, scholarships and support for many NGOs. I will use my massive local and international connections to attract investments to Nigeria and rebuild its battered image.
I am done. It is left for you to judge if I am qualified to run the affairs of our great country. But I wish to assure Nigerians that they will not regret it if they collectively give me their mandate to serve them as president next year. I promise: I will never disappoint you.