Orji Uzor Kalu: A Poor Beginning.
The attention of Igbo leaders has been drawn to a statement credited to Sen Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, representing Abia North in the 9th senate. Sen. Kalu was quoted as saying that the Igbo should not expect anything from the APC-led administration because they voted against the All Progressive Congress. In his own words, Kalu said, “our people did not support APC. We did not vote for the President and that is what we are paying for”. He emphasized that “we are not entitled to anything when we did not vote for APC; so we cannot ask for the Senate President or Deputy Senate President. Kalu was quoted to have made the above remarks last Saturday, June 22, during a ceremony he organized in his Camp Neya country home in Igbere, Bende Local Government Area of the state, to thank his people for electing him a senator.
The above remark is most embarrassing coming from a notable Igbo Senator like Orji Uzor Kalu. As a key player in Nigerian politics for over two decades, Kalu is aware that the South West states did not vote for Chief Olusegun Obasanjo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 1999. They voted for Chief Olu Falae of the Alliance for Democracy/All Peoples Party, (AD-APP). At the end of the elections, the South West was not victimized or persecuted on account of their support to the AD-APP alliance. In 2003, the major players were Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (PDP), Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (ANPP) and Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu (APGA), the states in the North West, namely Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara voted ANPP. Other states in the North such as Yobe, Bauchi, Borno, and Gombe exercised their democratic rights by voting the ANPP. Records are eloquent that when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was again sworn in as the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he displayed presidential magnanimity by ensuring that the North West and other Northern states that voted for Gen Muhammadu Buhari were not victimized. In 2007, the major contenders were Alh. Shehu Umaru Yar’Adua of the PDP and Gen.Mohammadu Buhari of the ANPP. Yar’Adua won overwhelmingly in most states with over 24 million votes. In 2011, the major contenders for the presidency were Dr. Goodluck Jonathan (PDP), Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (Congress for Progressive Change, CPC), Nuhu Ribadu (Action Congress of Nigeria-ACN) and Ibrahim Shekarau (All Nigeria Peoples Party-ANPP). The result shows that while Jonathan won in most of the sates in Nigeria, the CPC won in all the North West states, namely- Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara. Other states that went CPC include Bauchi, Yobe, Borno and Niger states. A review of the appointments and resource allocations to the geopolitical zones and states indicate that Jonathan was blind to voting pattern during the presidential election. On the other hand, all the Nigerian presidents that preceded Buhari, namely Obasanjo, Yar’Adua and Jonathan had shown statesmanship and magnanimity in victory. President Buhari’s repugnant practice of 97% allocations to states that voted him and 3% or none to states that did not vote for him is narrow thinking, puerile, primitive, vindictive, savage and unconstitutional.
In 1999, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu was elected and sworn in as the governor of Abia State with pomp and pageantry. Several reasons accounted for the jubilation. Among the reasons was that he was already an accomplished successful business man and was also very active in the restoration of Igbo values through the platform the Njiko Igbo Movement. It was generally believed that a support to Kalu would yield profound results. Firstly, because of his wealthy background, he would not be drawn to sleaze, thus would concentrate in developing Abia state. Second, to incorporate political acumen into his business and financial pedigree would enlarge his coast and propel him to higher heights for the overall interest of the Igbo in particular and Nigeria in general. Shortly after, some unknown facts began to emerge about the peoples’ governor.
The most curious about the Kalu myth is the rate of change in his beliefs and how his followers cope with his mercuriality and configurations. First, in the build up to the present cycle of democratic dispensation, Kalu championed the need for a president of Igbo extraction using the platform of Njiko Igbo Movement to the admiration of all Igbo. The same Kalu revealed that he gave huge financial support to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the major opponent to a fellow Igbo, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, in the 1998 primary election. Second, Kalu was a founding member of the PDP, before his followers across the country could consolidate in PDP, he (Kalu) had problems with the party and changed to the Progressive People’s Alliance (PPA). His admirers joined him to the PPA; again Kalu had problems with the PPA where he was the chairman, Board of Trustees. He was suspended in the PPA and he left back to where he started, the PDP. Shortly after his admirers welcomed him into the PDP, Kalu left the PDP back to the PPA. And today, Kalu is in the All Peoples Congress, APC.
Third, during the struggle for the leadership positions at the National Assembly, Kalu decried the Igbo marginalization to the admiration of all well-meaning Igbos. At the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Ikeja Lagos, Kalu stated: “I am a very loyal party man. The party has zoned the senate presidency position to the North-East and I want to respect the party’s position but the second position is what we are not going to allow to leave the South-East. He affirmed that “if justice must prevail, you have to bring the deputy president of the senate to the south East”. According to Kalu,“the chairman of the party is from the South-South, the President is from North-West, the Vice-President is from the South-West and also, the Senate President will come from North-East. Kalu reiterated the leitmotif that “the tripod of Nigeria is Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa and we are going to get the deputy senate president and I will fight at the floor of the House like no other person has fought”. Kalu assured his admirers: “I have the capacity for lobbying. I am well known in the East, West and North. If the party continues this way, I will run for the Senate President if justice is not done to say South-East bring the Deputy Senate President”
The Igbo hailed Kalu to high heavens on account of his courage, Igbo passion and convictions. The Kalu rhetoric attracted eminent Igbos such that the distinguished Senator Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, in a press interview, endorsed Kalu for the position of the Deputy President of the Senate. Before the cockcrow, Kalu abandoned the Igbo and his supporters midstream, stating that he will not disobey his party, the APC. An eminent scholar of leadership, Daniel Transon, appeared to be addressing the likes of Kalu when he offered an ageless remark, that “consistency is a key element, without which a leader is incapable of getting respect, success or even developing confidence in others. Many of us expected Kalu to question the absence of an Igbo in the leadership of the National Assembly but he chose to betray the Igbo expectations. To this end, we are very delighted that Sen. Prof Ike Ekweremadu made a statement on behalf of the Igbo by contesting for the position of the Deputy President of the Senate. All the Igbo that kept mute while the Igbo were sidelined in the National Assembly will soon realize their insensitivity, self-immolation and political hara-kiri. It is most reprehensible that the same Kalu who advocated for equity and fair-play to the Igbo has turned round to join the Buhari apologists that the Igbo must be persecuted for not voting Buhari. Quel Domage!
Let it be known that representation requires courage and character. Kalu and his co-travellers should not swim in self-pity and low self-esteem. I have made some illustrations of how the presidents before the incumbent had piloted the ship of state without amplifying the ethnic chauvinisms as it is today in Nigeria. Other presidents before now, had shown magnanimity in victory and put machineries in motion to carry all segments of the country along. From the 1959 general election to date, Nigerian elections have never been devoid of ethnic colorations but the winners had devised the most subtle method of managing the ethnic cleavages.
President Buhari’s animosity against the Igbo in particular and disdain to the entire South; lopsided appointments in favour of the Fulani North and the kid gloves treatment to the herdsmen and several others have at various times attracted the attention of good spirited patriots across the country. The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, led by Rev. Dr.Samson Ayokunle has accused President Muhammadu Buhari of unduly favouring Muslims from Northern Nigeria in federal appointments and pleaded with him for a change of heart. This view as expressed by the CAN is the irreducible minimum for any Igbo in the National Assembly. The Afenifere, the Middle Belt Forum and prominent northerners with conscience vehemently condemn the Igbo persecution. It is therefore very disheartening that a full blooded Igbo will succumb to the empty threat: Vote Buhari or perish.
Sen. Orji Uzor Kalu and his likes are reminded that the Igbo republicanism, individualism, self-esteem and dignity are the accessories for consultation, deliberation and consensus-seeking. This in part, is the Igbo character of which I am proud to be one. To ride roughshod over the Igbo inalienable right or recourse to persecution, threats and intimidation in order to secure compliance is allergic to the Igbo reflexes.
Like the oracles of old, Ndigbo spoke out loudly in the 2019 election without regrets. They showed that self-respect is the fruit of discipline; and that one’s sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to injustice and abuse. This was why in the last election, Ndigbo swore never to lose their dignity and self-respect trying to make people love and appreciate them, even when such people are most unwilling.
It has to be sounded with a trumpet to all corners of the world that sustained persecution and marginalization of Ndigbo is a Frankenstein monster that plagues Nigeria and until there is a sustainable mechanism for justice, equity and fairness to all, Nigeria will continue to grope in the dark. To Orji UzorKalu, this is a poor beginning as a senator. I urge you and those who reason like you to emulate the consistency in Chief Nnia Nwodo, Sen. Ike Ekweremadu, Professor George Obiozor, Chief Mbazulike Amechi, Chief Jim Nwobodo Prof. A B C Nwosu, Chief Achike Udenwa and a host of others that speak truth to power.
Chiedozie Alex Ogbonnia,
President, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Enugu State