To be defeated, not to surrender, is the ultimate victory–Hemingway
Momentarily, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani hesitated before offering a reply. With the flourish of a seasoned pugilist, the cerebral Enugu governor had yet deflected all the salvoes fired at him by The Sun team that afternoon in the ancient coal city of Enugu. Then, the poser: “How would you assess the politics of your counterpart in Abia State, Governor Orji Kalu?”
The team of interviewers included our Managing Director and his deputy, Messrs Mike Awoyinfa and Dimgba Igwe respectively, and yours sincerely inside the panel-walled chamber of Enugu State House that sunny day in 2005.
After a moment of meditative silence, Ebeano came up with his own definition: “Honestly, there’s something about Kalu’s ways that reminds you of the never-say-die spirit of the Igbo man, that indomitable spirit, courage in the face of adversity.”
No question could be pluckier. Considering the popular perception of Nnamani as “Obasanjo Boy”, the dilemma was understandable: to applaud or upbraid? Eventually, Ebeano’s candour would become manifest in the much he was still willing to admit on the man who, otherwise, already had the reputation of being a compulsive basher of his ally, the monarch of Aso Rock.
By that profiling, the Enugu governor, like most other keen watchers of the peculiar politics of Obasanjo’s Nigeria, was certainly awed by Kalu’s seemingly boundless absorbing capacity in the face of relentless official “persecution”.
Increasingly ostracized by PDP’s high command then for being too outspoken and emasculated economically by the establishment (through a subtle clampdown on all his business interests), the mercurial warrior from Igberre simply continued to hold out.
In fact, today, Kalu never tires to joke that all anyone needs to get any consumer item banned in the country is to allow word reach President Olusegun Obasanjo that SLOK (business group owned by Kalu) deals in that particular merchandise. SLOK Airline (which had provided jobs for thousands of Nigerians) was banned in 2005 for a flimsy reason.
His equally lucrative shipping business has also been grounded through official deliberate policy of poisoning…
Indeed, anyone familiar with Kalu’s odyssey in the past six years – with particular reference to his advocacy of a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction – can’t but agree with that characterization by Nnamani vis-à-vis the development of last week.
Today, there are clearly two presidential contenders Aso Rock loathes with a passion for obvious reasons: Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Kalu. But whereas its prayers seemed answered Thursday with Atiku’s disqualification by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ahead of the April 21 presidential election in what seems to open another chapter in a rather tortuous game of official intrigues, Kalu survived.
Simply, the Enyimba elephant is proving unstoppable.
That alone is surely a big moral victory for Kalu who has always maintained that the people, not the establishment, have the power to stop anyone from aspiring or indeed becoming the president of the country.
From the motley crowd that earlier swamped the field from the fabled land of the rising sun chanting “Igbo president in 2007 or nothing”, the Abia governor is evidently now the last warrior standing.
For many Igbo actors, the closure of the space by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the December National Convention in favour of a North/South-south ticket easily translated to the end of the prospects of an Igbo candidate in the April presidential polls.
Certainly, Kalu saw tomorrow. Whereas many of his peers would rather play along in PDP believing in the efficacy of diplomacy and tact, Kalu chose to confront all the gods and principalities head-on. He rarely pulled any punch. When the appointed hour came, he stormed out and pitched his tent with the Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA).
Indeed, with the acute hemorrhaging of the All Peoples Grand Alliance (APGA) on account of bitter factionalism, PPA now seems best positioned to help keep alive the Igbo hope in the coming presidential elections.
That the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) finally cleared him to vie for the highest office in the land on the platform of PPA after what seems years of official “intimidation and harassment” is certainly a fitting epitaph to a career of focus and courage.
Had Kalu easily buckled or allowed himself to be brow-beaten by those who have accused him of virtually every conceivable crime, PPA would certainly have been dead on arrival.
If the Kalu case attests to the “indomitability” of the Igbo mind as earlier defined by Nnamani, it nonetheless also dramatizes the penchant of the Igbo elite for intra-class treachery and back-stabbing. This writer saw this happen at the 2006 edition World Igbo Congress (WIC) in Boston, Massachusetts, United States which held between August and September.
The WIC is an annual event that brings some of the best and brightest of the Igbo race under one roof to discuss issues of common interest. Of course, the agenda this time centred on the feasibility of an Igbo becoming president in 2007.
The venue, the Marriot Copley Hotel, was charged throughout. My colleague, Dr. Amanze Obi, and I happened to have covered the sessions for The Sun. Speaker after speaker, paper after paper, the dominant feeling was palpable: how is the objective to be achieved?
Presidential contenders like Professor Pat Utomi made a presentation to the admiration of the assembly. Curiously, Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State was the only state chief executive from the South-east who physically attended, others (including the Abia governor) sent representatives.
Even at that, Kalu’s shadow loomed large for the four days the sessions lasted. There were two main reasons for this: one is the popular perception that the Abia governor had mounted the most robust campaign for the presidency, thus making the Igbo race proud.
Two, he had demonstrated courage by openly championing public resistance of the Third Term Agenda (TTA). In and around the convention venue for the four days, most delegates were full of praises for Kalu.
Obviously, the development did not please some Igbo leaders who came to Boston to push a different agenda. One of them was Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, a notable Obasanjo ally, whose sympathy lied with a non-Igbo for the highest office in the land. When he attempted to address the assembly, the Imo PDP chieftain was booed and jeered at relentlessly.
When he persisted, a few of the delegates, obviously now incensed, charged forward to rough-handle Iwuanyanwu but for the quick intervention of some elders. Later, the Iwuanyanwu camp was heard in the hotel lobby murmuring that their principal’s humiliation was Kalu’s handiwork. Such shadow-chasing.
In his campaign so far, Kalu’s prescriptions to some of the plagues afflicting the nation are worth reflecting on. On the police issue, he believes the force will do better if its leadership is made elective. In other words, the office of Inspector General and Commissioner of Police will be subjected to the ballot such that whoever wins will ultimately owe his/her allegiance to the people and not become subject to the whims and caprices of the president.
On the now vexed Niger Delta question, he postulates that real solution lies in engaging the restive youths in genuine dialogue right in the heart of the Niger Delta creeks and not the “ongoing circus in Abuja” in the name of “stake-holders meeting”.
Really, who is better qualified to talk about matching theory with practice than the Ogbuagu (Igbo warrior king) who, even before 30, had risen from the humblest of backgrounds to becoming the Czar of a flourishing business empire by name SLOK?
NGEX welcomes and encourages reader comments. Permission to post reader comments is assumed, and we reserve the right to excerpt or edit for clarity any comments that are posted. We won't be able to publish all comments. And we can't vouch for the accuracy of posts from readers. Nickname or Name will be used to identify your post.
emilyebere Lagos, Nigeria March 21, 2007
Gov. Kalu from day one, have no vision for Nigerian, this I can clearly state, having leave in Aba, for many years, and esp this last years that Gov kalu was the governor, nothing, I mean nothing new was done there.
In the first four years, he decieve the people, promising to do this and that for them, at the end, nothing was done, while in the second quater, he was busy fighting Obasanjo, for being corrupt, lettle or no attention had been paid to the state and the people living in it.
I see him as a man that have hidden plans, to enriched his pockets, yes he is rich man, but we are know that no man is ever tired of being rich, not even Abacha or obasanjo.
Gov. Uzor Kalu is not the candiate, Ibos are looking for, I believe is high time, Ibos should stop planning politics of I chop, you Chop, and choose a right candidate that have the interest of his people at hand and that of the Nigerian generally.
For how long Ibos should we continue to fool ourselves, is only in the eatern part of the country that you will see bad roads, travelling to east with bus is like living in hell, you will spend 10 to 15hrs on the road all becos of bad roads. You will stay in the east for one week and you will not see light for a day, sometimes you wonder if nepa do exits there. Is only in the east that you will buy fuel N100/per when the govt rate is 65/litre even when there is no fuel scarcity.
People living in the east are suffering, and we are not helping ourselves, becos we will sell our right and votes to the wrong people like the UBAS family and when the reach there, they will enriched their pocket first, living us with nothing and back to zero level.
And this have been from one generation to another, that is why, no place in the world where you will not see an Ibo man, becos we are tired of our place and we are all running away.
Is time we drive all those corrupt and evil politcians away like the Nzerible, who have not done any good for an ibo man since he had been in power.
I weep for the Ibos, God bless the Ibos and God bless Nigeria
Gee Cando worthing, UK March 20, 2007
Kalu - Ogbuagu is governor of Abia state for eight years. I recently went to Aba where Kalu grew up and was astonished at the state of the roads and other amenities.
I was also told that it is the same for other towns in Abia.
Meanwhile Mr Kalu business interest has flourished in the same period. If Mr Kalu could not accomplish much as a governor then why should we vote for him just because he is in Ibo.
We are all quite aware that he is rich and dubious and well talented in crowd renting so it will be wise assume that all that glitters is not gold.
Results » 1-2 of 2 Result Page » < 1 >
"The views and opinions expressed in these comment(s) or article(s) do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of NGEX, its partners or its affiliates."