OUK, THE GAME CHANGER?
The nation was jolted to its foundations when it was blared nationwide that the South East summit that held in Enugu last Monday had unanimously adopted President Goodluck Jonathan as the candidate around whom Ndigbo would rally during the January 2011 elections. It was even more curious to all that Ndigbo had chorused that act without getting or negotiating for one single condition. Since that event, I have received hundreds of calls and messages from all quarters expressing myriads of sentiments. When the full story of the so-called 'endorsement' is told, it would be found to be as fraudulent as it is preposterous.
Even if I would not wish to delve into the full sordid details, suffice it to say that the endorsement was a swindle on a grand scale by a set of political jobbers who have contributed nothing either to Nigeria or to Ndigbo to earn the fake shibboleth of 'Igbo leaders', with which they have continued to repeatedly enact their swindle acts for years. If I will not dwell on the show of shame in Enugu last Monday as it has been roundly repudiated and condemned by more credible Igbo leaders and groups, I will, however, comment on how that event might lead to some game-changing events in the political life of the nation and Ndigbo.
Actually, the organizers of the South East Political Summit had sought the input of a standing think-tank that is made up of some of the finest minds in Igboland, to produce a working paper that would form the basis of the debates and deliberations at the summit. For six days, the Committee of Intelligence and Strategies of the think-tank locked themselves in, debated, weighed options, consulted records, and sought contributions of knowledgeable people from all the walks of the society.
Having buried and collapsed their personal prejudices and preferences, the team which was chaired by the cerebral political scientist and economist, Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, and which had as members, Barristers Aloy Ejimakor and Oscar Onwudiwe as well as Dr. Uche Okafor and Uche Ezechukwu, produced a document that can stand its own anywhere in the world. The 16-page compact working document which was hailed by all those who saw it, and especially by the elated organizers, x-rayed the political situation in the country, made informed extrapolations and arrived at five options that Ndigbo should weigh for 2011 and beyond.
These options are either: to adopt President Jonathan, or to support a consensus Northern candidate, or to have a credible Igbo man or woman run for presidency in 2011 from PDP, or to have an Igbo candidate to run through another party, preferably APGA or PPA, or to dump PDP and support another party that is sponsoring a Northern candidate. These options were arrived at after consummate analyses and it was expected that an Igbo position would emerge after a dispassionate consideration and debate of those options. From this, it would be obvious to all that nobody had set out to endorse President Jonathan; a position which the working paper had recommended, would only be taken after certain ironclad guarantees from that ticket. In summary, because those options were neither debated nor discussed, it should be clear that any endorsement from the so-called summit was a supreme act of fraud.
Amidst of all these, an option that seemed to have been most attractive amongst most of the summiteers who were not allowed to utter a word was the possibility of an Igbo candidate who would exploit the fact that even if he were to be voted by Ndigbo alone, he would have the votes of Ndigbo scattered in every cranny of the country, which intelligence shows can easily account for more than 25 percent in most of the states of the federation. The only dissenting and non-rented voice at the Summit was that of Mr. Osita Okechukwu of CNPP, and was almost lynched.
There is, however, an indication that a refreshing game changer is in the offing, if the story that Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu (OUK), has made up his mind and is threatening to join the presidential race from inside the PDP, is anything to go by. He might also be plotting to launch his race from outside the PDP.
Inside information has it that OUK's sudden return to the PDP might not have been a mere flight of fancy after all, especially as he had failed to utter many words of explanation. Rather, the information emerging from sources close to him, is that he might be in cahoots with other important interests in Nigeria, the USA and EU, which are said to have listed IBB, Jonathan, OUK and Ribadu as candidates which would enjoy Western support in 2011. In the particular case of Kalu, who is said to be currently involved in serious consultations with top State Department and other officials in Washington, New York and Atlanta, it is said that his entry into the race would create fresh and unprecedented possibilities and scenarios.
In the first instance, it would provide an explanation as to why he would collapse the fortunes of PPA which he had built from the scratch and in which he has invested huge personal fortunes for a re-entry into the PDP leviathan. Next, the moves would wipe the shame and odium from the faces of Ndigbo who have been going about droop-winged following the asinine self-abnegation from their governors who had declared that the entire South East would not be running for any tangible position in 2011. If that stand was left unchallenged by a practical action, it would be the first time Ndigbo would be 'lost in action' since the national independence. Therefore, the expected OUK challenge would be a way of raising Ndigbo from their knees to an erect position of reckoning which they so amply deserve.
Without being aware of the plan which OUK had kept under the wraps, the Summit think tank had observed that in the midst of the ongoing confusion around the country with multiple Northern candidates and in face of uncertainties over block support for Jonathan, an Igbo candidate could easily snatch victory from the jaws of the confusion and oil his way to victory with the massive Igbo votes nationwide. After all, is it not for this possibility that the ongoing nationwide mobilization of the Igbo voters to register is being carried out.
The makers of the Summit working paper are not unrealistic and so had observed that the possibility of an Igbo candidate emerging this late from PDP has its shortcomings. That is why we had observed that, '…we are ill-prepared for it and we are probably the worst disadvantaged in terms of zonal PDP delegates to the presidential nomination. Recall Ekwueme in 1999 – the high hopes, the betrayals, the warts and all. Plus, the growing truism that, against Jonathan (and South-South), the North has made the next best case for producing President in 2011.'
We nevertheless observed that beyond the psychological re-armament which an Igbo person in the race would be for his people all over the world and act as a mobilizing force, as that of the Great Zik did in 1979, it would help more to have a man of Orji Uzor Kalu's wealth and appeal that cuts across the country to make such a bid even more meaningful. For the fact remains that apart from Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, OUK remains the next Igbo man with the widespread charm and appeal to attract votes from most Igbo people and other Nigerians. Whatever anyone can say about him, OUK has not inherited any debilitating baggage like most other candidates currently in the race.
Again, OUK is not a fool and should have also considered the enormous obstacles that lie ahead of him in the PDP, even from his own Abia State. He might have been one of the foundation members of the parties and might have been the biggest personal financial contributor, yet things have since evolved, almost in his disfavour. That is why it is not impossible that OUK might also be eyeing the other option which is running from a regional party like the APGA or PPA and from there, launch a national campaign. In politics, a lot of things can change in dramatic terms in a matter of weeks and it is not impossible that a dive for the presidential slot by Orji Uzor Kalu as from as early as the next fortnight, could become a dramatic game-changer.
After all, he has the necessary indices it takes - wealth, media support, big political base, strategic domestic and international links, proper religious - for the launch of a successful political onslaught. His entry in the race, no doubt, promises to introduce interesting dimensions into the politics of Nigeria.
Nigerians can hardly wait.