By Emmanuel Onwubiko
Campaigns by different groups from all over the country for political succession in 2023 of the presidency- The highest political position in the Africa, have intensified.
Multi sectoral and multi-dimensional campaigning platforms are springing up in their numbers just as Northern Nigeria seems to be the beautiful bride given that the incumbent president who would quit office after eight years in 2023 President Muhammedu Buhari is from katsina, North west of Nigeria.
The momentum and political pendulum swings towards the south east of Nigeria as the best suited geo political zone to produce the presidential candidate so equity, fairness and equality are guaranteed.
The south East of Nigeria since independence in 1960 has not produced the executive president of the federal republic of Nigeria.
Besides, one person who appear to have been widely adopted to run for the office of presidency of Nigeria in 2023 is the Igbo born billionaire businessman and the current chief whip of the Ninth senate of the federal republic of Nigeria and senator representing the good people of Abia North- Senator orji Uzor Kalu, also known as the pillar of sports in Nigeria.
A major stakeholder in the North-Arewa youths have since commenced advocacy to recruit Senator Orji Uzor Kalu to contest for the Presidency under his political platform- All progressive congress (APC).
As the Golden Hen of Nigerian politicians, Senator orji Uzor Kalu had already been visited by the National leadership of the opposition party -PEOPLES DEMOCRATIC PARTY (PDP) even as tongues are waging in many quarters that the PDP are urging him to dump APC and jump into PDP to run as the presidential candidate of the PDP. Senator Orji Uzor Kalu has however not denied nor affirmed the speculation. But given his high profile status in the National Ruling Party- APC, it is not likely that he would cross carpet from his political family.
Comrade Yakubu Arigu Muhammad, the National Coordinator of Arewa Youths for Orji Uzor Kalu, AYOUK, has already called on Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, the Chief Whip of the Senate, to declare his interest in the 2023 presidential election.
Muhammad made the call following series of endorsements by groups across the six geopolitical zones urging the former Abia Governor to join the presidential race.
In an interview with journalists in Abuja following the endorsement by a group of Nigerians in diaspora urging the Chief Whip of the Senate to contest the 2023 presidential election, Muhammad said Kalu is the appropriate person to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari, judging by his national appeal and managerial skill.
He said a campaign team will be launched in Kaduna by December to kick-start the activities of his participation as a candidate in the 2023 election.
“What we need is a result-oriented leader with a proven track record that can sustain and consolidate the gains recorded by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“If we say equity, then power should go to Southeast. It is not going to be easy; it is not going to be a dash. But then, Kalu is a true nationalist; a pan Nigerian who is loved by all.
“Kalu is someone who formed a new party in 2007 and won Abia and Imo. He was endorsed by Ohanaeze Ndigbo as far back as 2007. Definitely, he is loved by his people in the Southeast and we love him over here.
“All that I am doing is for the interest of Nigeria. Personally, I’ve never met Senator Kalu, but I’ve read and studied him and his antecedents. I’m convinced he is the best presidential material from the Southeast.
“Nobody should underrate the Igbos in 2023. Don’t forget no one gave the 25-year old newly elected National Youth Leader of PDP any chance. The youths are now wiser and we shall do our best to rescue Nigeria by having the right kind of person. We are ready to support Kalu who is an Igbo man to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari.”
Recall that Progressive Nigerians Initiative (PNI), a group of Nigerians based in South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong, India, China, and United Kingdom had endorsed the former governor of Abia State and Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu for President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The group in a statement signed by its Director General, Hon. Yuccee Uwah, emphasised that Kalu represents the most potent force for the advancement of Nigeria.
The group said, “In 2023, there’s no doubt that Nigeria needs a President who will consolidate on the infrastructural gains of the current Buhari administration but most importantly better manage the country’s diversity, rejig the economy and deal conclusively with insecurity.
“The next President of Nigeria should wield the capacity and unfettered commitment to heal the bruised and battered national umbilicus.
“Kalu understands Nigeria and knows what will be required to address the complex issues in the 21st century including addressing the challenges facing Nigerians in the Diaspora.
Coming from different backgrounds, ethnicity, language and training, the group explained that its decision is built on the yearning for Nigeria to fulfil her vast potentials and take her place among the advanced democracies and economies – a prospect which has been denied her for nearly 60 years by poor leadership.
“Senator Orji Uzor Kalu is an opportunity for Nigerians, as a people, to choose to get it right. Nigeria’s dismal story will change if we accept the obvious: that failure does not convert to success the more we repeat the errors leading to it”.
The group also highlighted the candidate’s thorough and clear thinking about Nigeria and his practical solutions which are available in his books, writings and interviews over the years.
“Senator Kalu is a result orientated leader, patriot, thinker, businessman, investor, whose deepest desire is to bring Nigeria into line with modern development thinking and growth. At home in Nigeria, North, South, East, West, and abroad, Kalu demonstrates his understanding of the challenge of advancing Nigeria through fearless economic thinking, robust political re-engineering, and strong administrative structures. We wholeheartedly endorse him for the presidency of Nigeria in 2023,” the group said.
The group also enjoined Nigerians to support a trained and experienced leader with a global view, one who will seek the most qualified and most prepared Nigerians to serve the country, and with the commitment to take the nation forward.
As aforementioned, gold fish has no hiding place and so it is with the most famous Igbo born politician of the 21st century Senator Orji Uzor Kalu. He has just been visited by the National hierarchy of the leading opposition party in Nigeria- Peoples Democratic Party.
The Chief Whip of the Senate and Senator Representing Abia North in a recent hot Abuja afternoon received newly elected officials of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)led by the National Secretary of the party, Senator Samuel Anyanwu alongside other newly elected officials of the party at his Aso-Villa Abuja home.
Senator Anyanwu, a former Senator and other newly elected officials of the PDP breezed into Kalu’s Abuja home at precisely 12:28pm.
Disembarking from his vehicle clad in navy blue native attire the visibly delighted National Secretary was welcomed by Kalu’s associates and then led straight with his executives to meet Orji Kalu.
On sighting one another both men engaged in pleasantries and embraced each other and then proceeded for an indoor meeting. As the meeting progressed other executives of the party arrived in turns to Kalu’s residence to join the meeting.
Political pundits say the visit comes amidst strong talks that the former Abia Governor is being positioned for the 2023 presidency to succeed the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari.
It would be recall that on October 30,2021 the PDP elected its new set of members from various parts of the country into its National Working Committee (NWC) to take over the leadership of the party.
Factually, in 2016 Senator Kalu formally joined the ruling All Progressives Congress, (APC), he contested and won the 2019 Senatorial elections and led the APC to landslide victories for other legislative positions in Abia North. The former Governor also led a strong campaign in his Abia North to become the only zone in the South East to have given Buhari 68% votes during the 2019 general elections.
Also recall that in 1998, Kalu alongside a few others founded the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Kalu solely made an initial donation of N100 million aside a loan of N500 million to the party at the formation stage. He won the governorship contest in Abia State in 1999 on the platform of the PDP. Kalu steered the affairs of the state from 1999 to 2007.
The opposition party (PDP) lost the presidential seat to the All Progressives Congress (APC) both in 2015 and 2019.
In the South-east, the PDP lost grip of a major stronghold, Ebonyi State, to the ruling APC due to the defection of Governor Dave Umahi. The party also lost in the South-South with the unexpected defection of Cross River State Governor Ben Ayade to the APC.
At the 2021 PDP convention, 3,600 delegates voted for new members of the NWC of the PDP at the convention, with only the office of the Deputy National Chairman (South) and the Youths Leader contested out of the 21 NWC positions.
Ironically, this cynosure of all eyes in the political firmament of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu has continued to carry out his mandate as a Senator and is not letting the cacophony of calls for him to declare for the office if President of Nigeria in the 2023 election to distract him from his basic duty to his constituents and Nigerians. He has continued to present richly researched bills to the Senate and busy making impactful statements and contributions qualitatively to debates. Something phenomenal has just happened because the Senate on Wednesday approved for second reading a bill proposing some amendments to the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) of 2015.
The bill entitled, ‘Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 (Amendment) bill, 2020′ was first introduced to the Senate in June, Wednesday 2020 after Nelson Ayewoh, senate clerk, read its short title.
According to a lead debate by the sponsor of the bill, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia North Senatorial District) during Wednesday’s plenary, pointed out that it is also worthy of note that this would be the first time an attempt is made to amend the law since it became an Act in 2015.
Kalu said the bill seeks to redress Sections of the Act, contradicting the principles of fair hearing and court jurisdiction as provided in the Constitution. He stressed that it is to further avert some loggerheads between the administration of criminal justice Act and the constitution. “The following Mr. President are some of the recommendations: 1. That Section 8 (4) of the Principal Act which provides “The arraignment and trial of a suspect for a crime shall be in accordance with the provision of this Act unless otherwise stated in this Act” be amended by deleting “unless otherwise stated in this Act” by inserting “and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
“The reason is that the Constitution, the Supreme law of the land provides in section 1(1) as follows; This Constitution is Supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria,”
“In view of the above provision of the constitution, all authorities in Nigeria shall conform to the constitutional provision, therefore the administration of criminal Justice Act shall also conform with the supreme provision of the constitution 1999 as amended” kalu said.
Speaking further, Kalu explained that the court has held that the 1999 Constitution as amended is the fundamental law on which every law in Nigeria rests. Moreso, the Supreme Court per Fabiyi JSC on the Supremacy of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states that “the Constitution of Nigeria is the grundnorm, otherwise known as the basic norm from which all the other laws in the society drive their validity.
He held that each legal norm of the society drives its validity from the basic norm stressing further that other law that is inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution must-give way or abate. The former Abia Governor held that the Court has also held that “The constitution of a nation is the ‘fons et origo’ not only of the Jurisprudence but also of the legal system.
In his words; section 253 of the constitution provides “The Federal High Court shall be duly constituted if it consists of at least one Judge of that Court”.
“Furthermore, section 273 provides “for the purpose of exercising any jurisdiction conferred upon it under this constitution or any law, a High Court of a State shall be duly constituted if it consists of at least one Judge of that Court,” Moreso, the Court of Appeal has held as follows that the provision of Section 273 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,1999, a simple judge sitting in the High Court is qualified and had the power to try criminal offenses.”
“Reading the provisions of Sections 253 and Section 273 together with Section 237 of the Constitution 1999 as amended, which clearly spelt out the composition of the judges of the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the powers to hear and determine matters before them equally provided for by the same constitution. The Constitution should be read together on provisions with establishment, composition and jurisdiction of courts”.
Shedding more light in his lead debate, Orji Kalu elucidated that the various High Court Rules and Court of Appeal Rules have provisions with regards to the position of pending cases, when judges are elevated.
Giving instances Kalu said more often the position is for the matter to start denovo. However, to allow a Judge who is elevated to a Court of Appeal to determine cases before him, while a High Court Judge will raise the issue of jurisdiction. Although the constitution says in Section 252(2) that the National Assembly will by law make provision conferring upon the Federal High Court additional powers to those conferred by the Constitution, yet there exists a lacuna in respect of the position of an elevated judge from the High Court to the Court of Appeal (that is there is a gap that need to be filled).
Explaining further to his colleagues Kalu said that it is advisable that the constitution be amended to expressly handle the gap created when judges are elevated to the next bench be given the right or powers to conclude part heard cases on elevation before moving to the next level. In view of the aforementioned, Kalu submitted that a Constitutional amendment is the best option to take care of such lacuna. He said that further general observation, our judicial system recognizes and applies the rule of stare decisis, meaning rules of precedent and hierarchy of courts.
Lending his support to the bill, Senator Gabriel Suswam opined that the entire sections of the Criminal justice act is defective, he however commended Senator Orji Uzor Kalu for the bill but added that it is imperative to amend the bill holistically.
In his words “it has become imperative to amend the Criminal justice act, it’s not just about amending some sections as proposed by the sponsor of the bill. There are a lot of mistakes in the Act and people have been unjustly convicted because of the mistakes that have been found in the Act but because they have not been challenged up to the supreme court. We now have the singular opportunity to as proposed here to correct those mistakes. I have interacted with a few judges who came to see me and most of their complaints bothered the Administration of the Criminal Justice Act.
Suswam also stressed that most states have refused to domesticate the ACJA due to the fact that it has failed to meet up with the aspirations of the state. He said it is important to amend the entire Act, not just it’s sections.
The Senate in voice vote presided over by the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan passed the bill for second reading and was referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human rights and legal matters to report back within four weeks.
However, with the increasing pressures and calls on him to declare, it is the expectation of most Nigerians from North, South, West and Middle Belt that Senator Orji Uzor Kalu will address Nigerians soon on these calls for him to run for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
*EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and formerly, a National Commissioner of the NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.