SENATE PRESIDENT: WHY MY VOTE IS FOR ORJI KALU
BY UMARU ISA MUHAMMAD
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have had anything to do with politics in our clime. The reason is simple: our politicians learn nothing and forget nothing.
Nevertheless, I was moved to join the debate on who best the cap fits for the Predident of the 10th Senate because of the need to do equity, choose the best candidate and ensure the stability of our dear nation.
Let me quickly state at this juncture that never in the history of our country has the issue of who becomes the Senate President generated so much attention as is the case this time round. The reason for this is because of some verifiable factors that included the Muslim-Muslim ticket, which has polarised the polity and pitched one religious interest against another, the inability to zone the presidency to the southeast and the need to keep Nigeria united.
The issue of not zoning the presidency to the east is, in my own opinion, one of the most unjust things done against the Igbo people. In the spirit of no Victor, no Vanguished one would have expected that at least one of the major political parties would have zoned its presidential slot to the southeast.
What was the import of the no Victor, no Vanguished brokered by General Yakubu Gowon after the Nigerian Civil War if after 53 years since the end of the war the Igbos are not fit to occupy the highest political office in the country? Is it not said that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander?
The PDP, for instance, had every opportunity in this world to zone the presidency to the South East geopolitical zone. But it unfortunately missed the chance to its own disadvantage. For the APC, it was a different ball game as the party had made up its mind long before the 2023 general election to zone the presidency to the South.
It was therefore preposterous that some persons hiding under the guise of promoting national cohesion chose to throw their hats into the ring.
It was a great feat that APC was able to navigate its ship to a safe berth by ensuring the emergence of a Southern president.
Contrary to the general belief, it wasn’t an easy fight to ward off the incursion of some hawks that planned to work for the retention of the presidency in the North. It would have been a huge slap on our collective psyche if this evil plot had succeeded.
That is why it has become imperative to complete the circle of justice as enunciated by the APC by ensuring that the presidency of the Senate goes to the southeast.
Already, it is a widely held view that zoning the presidency of the Senate to the Southeast will heal the wounds inflicted on our national political system by the Muslim-Muslim ticket. Anybody that pretends that a Muslim-Muslim ticket by the APC did not do any damage to our national life is deceiving himself. What we should seek now is how to heal the wounds and restore confidence in our national unity.
This is where choosing the right and proper person to occupy the seat comes into play. It would amount to a tragedy of epic proportion if, after zoning the Senate President to the southeast, we failed to choose a qualified person for the exalted office.
In my assessment, one man stands out among the aspirants for the job, and that person is Orji Uzor Kalu.
Orji Kalu is one man I have always doffed my hat for. I will give reasons shortly, but let me first of all inform us that the southeast geopolitical zone is a peculiar area. Apart from its strategic place in our sociopolitical life, the southeast can boast of eminent persons whose contributions to national development stand them mouth.
Have we forgotten the Great Zik of Africa, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Eni Njoku, Akanu Ibiam, Michael Okpara, Sam Mbakwe, K.O. Mbadiwe, Kenneth Dike, Pius Okigbo, Chinua Achebe, Chuba Okadigbo, etc. These men were colossuses in their own rights. They trod the political firmament of Nigeria with gait, poise, and sagacity.
Regrettably, since the death of Zik in 1996, Nigeria has yet to produce another Zik.
The closest we came to achieving this was through Chuba Okadigbo. Chuba Okadigbo – former Senate President too – was a man of immense capacity. His sagacity, urbanneses, zest, and candour came from another planet. Though his political career was cut short by death, he would be remembered for a long time.
To fill the shoes of Okadigbo requires a man who is a panNigerian, a martinet, a detribalized Nigerian with global prominence and connections. And that man is Orji Kalu.
There is no Senator from the southeast today who enjoys Orji Kalu’s reach, clout, and deep pocket. None.
Orji Kalu has many things going for him.
Let me draw attention to a feat he performed in 2006 when he formed a new political party – less than three months after the then President Olusegun Obasanjo de-listed him from PDP alongside Barnabas Gemade, Audu Ogbe and a few others. He formed the Progressives Peoples Alliance (PPA), which produced two governors in the 2007 general election. It was Orji Kalu’s sagacity that made Theodore Ahamefule Orji and Ikedi Ohakim governors of Abia and Imo States, respectively. Though they defected to PDP later, Orji Kalu, in his usual way, did not hold it against them. By this, it means that Nigeria needs a goal getter and kindhearted man as Senate President.
Nigeria needs a man of substantial means as Senate President. Looking at past Senate Presidents, none could boast of the kind of wealth Orji Kalu controls. Let us list some of them. How much were Chuba Okadigbo, Iyorchia Ayu, Enwerem, Adolphus Wabara, Anyim Pius Anyim, Ken Nnamani, David Mark, Bukola Saraki and Ahmed Lawan worth individually? Even among them, only one person was a governor before he assumed the office. And that was Enewerem.
Now, Orji Kalu, apart from being a former governor, was also a second-time senator.
During his tenure as governor, Orji Kalu recorded groundbreaking achievements. I was reading one of the books written in his honour a few months ago and discovered that he was the one that brokered peace between Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida, and Chukwuemeka Ojukwu. This happened at Igbere in Abia State in 2004. Nobody could believe that Orji Kalu would be able to bring these great Nigerians together under one roof. But he did it with effortless ease. What does this tell us? Simple: that Orji Kalu is a unifier, a nationalist, and a builder.
His ability to build bridges across religions, tribes and social strata is exemplary.
As a student at the University of Maiduguri, he sacrificed his academic career to stand in solidarity with some students rusticated by the school authorities for fighting for improved amenities on campus. He was also rusticated for this ‘sin’. Several years later, he enrolled (even while serving as governor of Abia State) to complete his degree program in Abia State University, Uturu. Before the Abia State University adventure, he had attended a programme at the prestigious Harvard University Business School, Boston, Massechusetts, U.S.
Space may not permit me to list all his traditional titles earned from first-class traditional rulers from almost all the geopolitical zones of the country. This shows his wide acceptance across the length and breadth of Nigeria.
His businesses have a global outlook. From manufacturing to shipping, real estate to banking, mining to education, publishing to public relations, and mechanized agriculture to aviation, he calls the shots.
His foundation has awarded scholarships and provided Medicare to thousands of indigent students and persons from across Nigeria. He has also attracted over 30 roads in his constituency in the past four years.
Similarly, he has raised hundreds of Nigerians from all over the country and made them millionaires without asking for any pay-back.
Anybody that comes close to Orji Kalu will notice how much he loves Nigeria’s unity.
Since his wife, Ifeoma, joined her ancestors, his homes in America and Nigeria have become beehives of activities. People from all walks of life have continued to besiege his homes to pay their condolences. This underscores the fact that his popularity and acceptance transcend political, religious, and social lines.
He also does not abandon his friends in times of difficulty. In one of the books on him entitled, Reaching for the Stars, Orji Kalu’s ceaseless eagerness to help people in need was well captured. No wonder he was able to make friends in high and low places.
As governor, he took a once comatose Enyimba Football Club to the zenith of national and international soccer.
During this period, the club won the elusive African Champions Cup for Nigeria back to back. It also won the Nigerian league back to back, not excluding the FA Cup, which the club won three times.
He also achieved almost the impossible when he recovered over 43 oil Wells belonging to Abia State but were wrongly ceded to Rivers State. The monthly allocation of the state before the recovery hovered between N250m and N400m monthly.
However, it hit the one billion mark for the first time in November 2005 when proceeds from derivation for the 43 oil Wells were credited to the state’s account.
I strongly believe that conceding the position of Senate President to Orji Kalu will be the fastest way to tackling the insecurity in the southeast and even in many parts of the country, restore the confidence of Igbo in Nigeria’s unity, and build a more cohesive and homogenous national assembly that will deliver the dividends of democracy to Nigerians and sustain the cordial relationship between the legislature and the executive.
I rest my case.