Kalu and the move to douse tension in PDP

By Rubby Obinna

The former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu is not known to shy away from battle. His supporters will always expect him to demonstrate the boldness in him at the political battle front.

When he was rejoining the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) some four years ago, one point agenda he had was to make the party stronger and formidable ahead of the 2011 elections and beyond.

This is why it did not come as news when media reports were awash that he visited the party's National Working Committee (NWC) with some aggrieved members of the party, where he had a meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan on 16th December 2014, to discuss the authoritarian features of some governors and the manner they have pocketed the party's structures in their various states to themselves, therefore witch-hunting dissenters.

Without sounding overbearingly, President Jonathan knew that Kalu meant well for his re-election and is a great asset to the party; a fact that the president attested to and must be earnestly working tirelessly in making sure that the party does not lose Kalu and his mammoth followership, because of one man in Abia State, who has vowed that he suffers from Kaluphobia.

It was something to cheer about that Kalu said that he was satis­fied with what the President said in the meeting. What that meant was that Kalu who has always said that PDP will come out stronger, was not just mouthing. The meeting has shown that the 'true re-branding of the party' of which on December 22, 2013, Kalu made the remark at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, before travelling to Dubai, has truly started.

Kalu had said: “We are rebranding the PDP now and we will come out stronger after it…We need the country more than the country needs us. The unity of this country cannot be compromised. We are going to be the trustees of the unity of the country.''

Kalu has always wanted peace to reign in the PDP and in the country, of which he regretted that he was not present on 22 September 2014, as the reconciliation committee set up by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to resolve the crisis between some personalities in the state was holding in Abia State.

Kalu who is so humble a man sent his regrets a day before, that he would not be in attendance, saying, “It has just been brought to my attention that a reconciliation committee set up by our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), would be visiting Abia State today, Monday, September 22, 2014.

“I regret that this laudable initiative is taking place at a time I am outside the country, in faraway China, on a business trip. It would have been my pleasure to welcome the reconciliation committee to our dear state as one of the founding members of the party.

“I will like to state emphatically that having such committee to reconcile various contending interests round the country is the way to go. For President Goodluck Jonathan to have a landslide victory back to office after general election next year, PDP must close ranks round the country.

“We need a cohesive front. As they say, the more the merrier. We do not need to antagonise any interest. In unity and cohesion, PDP will not only win the Presidency with ease, but as many gubernatorial and National Assembly seats as possible, round the country.”

Kalu, however, pledged his support for the reconciliation exercise, not only in Abia State, but in all parts of the country, where such is necessary and he saluted the party's leaders past and present, and urged them to count on his support and goodwill at all times.

For this 'support', in July 2010, Kalu in company with the then National Chairman of the PPA, Chief Larry Esin; the then Deputy Governor of Abia State, Chief Chris Akomas; a former Minister of State, Federal Capital Territory, Chief Chuka Odom and many national officers of the PPA were at the party's national headquarters where they declared their intention to return to the PDP.

Speaking at the event, Kalu principled his intention to return to the PDP on the assurance he got from the then new National Chairman, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, to restore internal democracy in the party and expressed confidence that Nwodo would keep to his words.

Kalu had said, while facing Nwodo, “I want to say that the promise I made to you I am keeping it today, because when you told me that you were going to be back as national chairman, I said the moment you are National Chairman, I would come back to be with you.

“Today, I am fulfilling my promise; I consider it reasonable and viable for us to come back in a hall which all of us started. Myself, Nwodo and other members of this party started this party in 1998 in Lagos.

“The aims and aspirations that were in our minds when we formed this party, we didn't see again and that's why all of us left. I left gallantly and I am coming back gallantly. I left like a General (in the army).”

According to a media report of 2012, titled, “Fresh onslaught against Kalu”, Kalu went further to prophesy that the “PDP is going to be another African National Congress”, but later added a condition that this would only be done “if Nwodo is going to implement what the founding fathers had visualised, when we were forming this party.”

He also counselled that the party must be disciplined before things could be done better: “There must be discipline in the party. There must be understanding. There must be ethos that made the founding fathers of this party to make it a great party. This party is capable of holding on to power, if we do the right thing.”

Kalu, who was the Chairman, Board of Trustees of his PPA as at that time, said he was not ashamed to leave his comfort zone and become a tenant in another house: “I have no reason to feel ashamed to come back to the family house. We built this party together. I have been living in my own house; I am back in the family house. Those we have offended, we plead that they pardon us. Those who offended us, we have forgiven them and that is why I am back.”

While Kalu said that he had forgiven all the people that offended him and wanted a true reconciliation, that was not the mindset of Governor Theodore Orji in that year or after Kalu wanted to rejoin the PDP. Governor Orji said: “We don't need external reconciliation. If we need, we can handle it. But for now, we are at peace with ourselves.”

This garrulousness of the governor moved the National Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Bamanga Tukur, when some PDP goons from Abia State were at the national headquarters of the party in Abuja to stop Kalu, where they met with the members of its National Working Committee, led by Tukur, to say: “Democracy is about choice. The people have spoken. They are allowed to speak their minds.”

Tukur has however advised Kalu to go and reconcile with members of the party in his state before he can be allowed to rejoin the party. He said that the ongoing national reconciliation within the party would be without bitterness and rancour, saying, “Our reconciliation as a party must be total in the sense that everyone must be carried along…”

Apart from Governor Orji, the three senators from the state – Senators Nkechi Nwogu, Uche Chukwumerije and Enyinnaya Abaribe — were also in the entourage of those who wanted Kalu dead, politically. Others included the former national chairman of the party, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, Vice-Chairman of the party in South-East, Col. Austin Akabundu (retd.), members of the House of Representatives and some other prominent members of the party in Abia State.

They forgot or were economical with the truth that Kalu has always been a man of peace and reconciliation. It could be recalled that in 2005, Buhari and Babangida was to meet each other again after many years of animosity against each other. The reconciliation move was facilitated by Kalu and, Buhari had to visit Babangida and was received by both the former military president and his beautiful wife, Maryam.

Observers noted that Kalu's reconciliation of the two Generals was coming barely a week after the same Kalu had also reconciled Biafran warlord Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu and for Vice President Dr. Alex Ekwueme. Analysts added then that it was another major step in the Kalu's newest move to bring together political leaders, statesmen and men of goodwill to help douse the tension in the polity, especially as the country marched towards the defining 2006/2007 period.

For the first time in recent memory, Kalu in Enugu, brought Ekwueme and Ojukwu together to shake hands, embrace and bury their differences to enable them concentrate more on the task of rescuing the country from the precipice than dissipating energy in egoistic battles that might not serve the country and its people any good.

According to Dr. Kalu, the man at the centre of the reconciliations, “the aim is to ensure that tension is doused in the land… We must do everything to ensure that the military have no excuse to stage a comeback into our politics again… I might be against some of the things the Obasanjo administration is doing, but I also know that even the worst form of Obasanjo is better than the best form of military regime… Anything that creates the environment for the military to come back must be resisted with all that we have, as such a come-back would take our country back by at least another 20 years.”

According to a source: Although Kalu was not a part to the Enugu summit of Southern governors and political leaders in that year, he was said to be gradually creating a political earthquake of sort in the polity, with his resolution of two of the most well known personality clashes in the country. That was against the backdrop of the fact that many people and groups have failed over the years to reconcile the men. We can remember when he said that he was looking for the day that Buhari would hug Jonathan. Kalu made this statement aftermath of the 2011 presidential election. Did that wish not come to pass?

In retrospect: There was a time, when Dr. K.O Mbadiwe and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe fell apart, following a disagreement, and at that time, Mbadiwe was the parliamentary leader of the NCNC ministers in the coalition government of the NCNC and the Northern People's Congress.

Following the dispute, Mbadiwe was dismissed from the party and dropped as a minister and, of course, as a leader of the NCNC ministers. The Prime Minister created a post in his office, which never existed before and appointed Mbadiwe as Liaison Officer for Africa.

The Prime Minister took the decision for two reasons: first, that such a highly-placed political officeholder should not be kept idle but respected, occupied and indeed he was very useful. Secondly, Balewa wanted to buy time to reconcile Mbadiwe and Azikiwe.

Shortly after the reconciliation, Mbadiwe was readmitted into the party and reappointed a minister, while his position as the leader of the NCNC was also restored. Abubakar was neither a member of the NCNC nor an Igbo man, and party divides did not prevent him from taking actions that would promote the greater interest of Nigeria.

One observer said: These were the leaders we had who respected one another irrespective of their political difference; disciplined leaders who wanted to see their followers disciplined. They were good disciplinarians, and leaders who ventured into politics to serve but not to be served, to give but not to take.

These were the leaders who had great dreams for Nigeria; all of them were praying, hoping and dreaming that Nigeria would become a great, united and prosperous country, whose citizens would be their brothers' keepers.

They dreamed of a country that would take its proper place in the comity of nations, a country that would offer leadership to the rest of the continent, a country that would inspire other developing nations. These were their dreams because they laid a solid foundation.

For now, there is no leadership; there is no comparison; what is happening in Nigeria today is not in our character. In the days gone by, we were a decent society; our leaders were responsible, reliable, dependable, conscientious, men of integrity, both financial and moral; our leaders loved the nation and placed its interest above their personal interest.

So, can the PDP have a true reconciliation and respect like was accorded Mbadiwe because of Kalu who has worked tirelessly for the peace and unity of the party? Politicians should stop seeing it as natural for them in power to get jittery and uneasy each time the opposition camps or dissenters begin to unite. Somebody said that it is usually a promise of a more co-ordinated opposition, but there should be a desire that the tension in the polity and PDP is doused.

Rubby Obinna writes from Ohaji, Imo State.

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