I was a tiny little boy at Government College Umuahia in 1999 when Orji Uzor Kalu began his first reign as the Governor of Abia state. It was after years of military bastardization of the country’s economy and an uninterrupted looting spree by its evil-minded officers, just after the ‘heavenly’ intervention that led to the death of Nigeria’s most notorious thief, Sani Abacha.
The atmosphere for a democratic system of government was at most cheering, expectant, and very accommodating with many Nigerians believing that the return to democracy would erase decades of satanic leadership from the men in boots. It is over 20 years ago, and here I am a sad grown man writing about someone who governed my state while I was still a little boy, now harbouring political desires to rule the nation. Sadly, since the exile of the military from the helms of our political and economic affairs, we have witnessed little or no change.
The faint memories I have of Orji Kalu are not that bad. I could remember coming out of the school gate in my pink shirt, brown short with brown sandals, brown belt, and school bag, seeing a long white bus conveying hundreds of students free of charge all the way from Umudike through, National Root Crops Research Institute, then Government College, Ofeke to Umuahia main town. It was a sight to behold as smiles on their faces could not hide the joy of such a gift. There were also road constructions in Abia state, and he was very popular at the time, young and desirous to work. Truth be told, his reign was not that spectacular.
Examining the political and moral credentials of Orji Uzor Kalu, putting into perspective the changing political dynamics, it is quite safe to say he is formidable but flawed. He has an obese wealth of political experience having served as a two-time governor and now senator. He has the financial muscle to blow our ears away with his campaigns across the 36 states of the federation, even Abuja. Such is his envious political resume that supporters recently besieged him asking him to declare for the presidency in 2023.
Honestly, I believe Kalu shouldn’t waste his money on campaigns trying to please sycophants urging him to run for president in 2023. Being a two-time governor and now senator is enough privilege in his exasperating political career. It will be a chase after the wind for him to heed the call of desperate people and waste his time, energy, and resources on a campaign that is dead on arrival.
Of course, he has political reach outside the south and can boast of few political allies; but there are myriads of problems confronting him should he dare declare for president in 2023.
Kalu has a serious corruption case hanging on his neck after serving as Abia state governor for 8 years. To be honest, many people still consider him guilty even after the Supreme Court ruling. He is alleged to have stolen N7.1billion from Abia state treasury for which he was found guilty and sentenced to 12 years in prison by a High Court before the Supreme Court nullified the prison sentence.
Interestingly, the Supreme Court based its judgment on the fact that Justice Mohammed Idris who sentenced Kalu to 12 years imprisonment had already become a Justice in the Court of Appeal, so should not have sat at the High Court to entertain Kalu’s case. The Supreme Court after nullifying the sentence, ordered a retrial. The curious part is that all the evidence used to nab Kalu by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission leading to his conviction by the High Court are still intact and incontrovertible. So, should the case come up again, it is likely to follow the same process that led to his earlier conviction. This baggage is too heavy for someone who wants to be the first Igbo President since the fourth republic. In saner climes, a sensible man would forego his political ambition to clear his name, especially on an allegation that is troubling.
Even if he brushes aside the corruption burden hanging on his neck, the next curious question is: which party is going to give him ticket to run for president in 2023? I will bet one of my balls that the All Progressives Congress will not give its presidential slot to Orji Kalu. The political weather in Nigeria today, considering what happened in Edo state is a pointer to the fact that the ruling party will not want to risk losing power come 2023, as such will not want to give its presidential slot to someone who has corruption case hanging over his head. However, if he decides to use another platform other than the APC or the Peoples Democratic Party, his presidential ambition will suffer instant acute paralysis.
Kalu is aware that in a time like this, numbers are more important than money. Any politician desirous of fulfilling his or her political ambition to become Nigeria’s president must declare under the two big parties in Nigeria or form an alliance with the big parties, anything less is just a mere dream. Kalu knows this and that is why the likes of Sowore, Mogalu and all these new breed of politicians who seem different from the old political hags have continued to fail because the Nigerian masses do not care about their resume or what they have to offer, but prefer to follow the big political parties sheepishly. Getting APC’s presidential slot is another herculean task that will hamper Kalu’s 2023 ambition.
Considering APC’s performance in the last 5 years, Nigerians are obviously tired of the party. The unending promises that never were fulfilled have brought Nigerians untold hardship with people complaining bitterly over their decision to vote President Muhammadu Buhari as president. The bloodshed by bandits, Boko Haram, and herdsmen all over the country is a turnoff even to his most hardcore supporters. His inability to end the spilling of the innocent blood of our people by Boko Haram terrorists/bandits, the massive corruption in his government, and the crippling cost of living have turned fans of the administration to foes. It is going to be a hard year for APC come 2023 to bring out someone of Buhari’s calibre, and for the life of it, Kalu is not that person.
I believe the reward for a political position should be measured by performance and not who has the biggest pocket. However, the awkward trend of putting people with big pockets ahead of our every political aspiration has always backfired leaving the masses in a cesspit of unending penury. That is why I believe should Kalu go-ahead to declare for the 2023 presidency, it will be a disaster for the chances of the Igbos to ascend the number one position in the land, at a time everyone knows it is there turn.
Ndigbo should open their eyes wide and search for the right man. Come as one and not allow the stupid idea of fronting 10 Igbo candidates in 2023 which breeds disunity. Let the old politicians go, bring in trailblazers who are capable of effecting real change for the benefit of all. Had Kalu come with no baggage, I am certain that he would have stood a very good chance of becoming President in 2023.
I love Kalu and harbour no ill-feeling towards him, but in 2023 he is not the man to lead the Igbos in Aso Rock.
Alexander Thandi Ubani writes from Lagos.
He’s a journalist.