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Kalu’s idea of reintegrating south east

By Kodilinye Obiagwu
20 May 2022   |   4:15 am
The number and caliber of presidential aspirants from the South East geopolitical zone is a strong indication that the zone isn’t about to stop agitating to take its turn and produce the president of Nigeria...

Sen. Orji Kalu. Photo/FACEBOOK/SENATORORJIKALU

The number and caliber of presidential aspirants from the South East geopolitical zone is a strong indication that the zone isn’t about to stop agitating to take its turn and produce the president of Nigeria and stick its head into the fabrics of national politics. Since 1999, the zone has always lined out to consult, lobby and build bridges to actualize that desire.  

The impending 2023 polls poses a credible opportunity that places the zone on the threshold of producing the next President and halt this perennial frenzy every election year of aligning with strange bed fellows or suffering for not supporting others. So far, it has been the faithful exhibition of a burning desire, upholding an unyielding dream as the most astute of its critics begin to run out of excuses to deny the South East a shot at the presidency.

Simple logic says that 2023 would yield the presidency to the South East. It is like this: After eight years of a Muhammadu Buhari presidency, power should return to the South, and berth in the South East. Why? The South South have had Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, albeit for four (or six) years, the South West have had Olusegun Obasanjo in Aso Rock for eight years. 

Why should any one then object if Buhari hands over the reins of power to the South East?
In spite of any sort of optimism, there are concerns and genuine fears that it might just be déjà vu in 2023 for the South East in the actualization of the presidential dream.

If the zone fails in its presidential dream in 2023, it won’t be for lack of trying. It will only confirm that the South East doesn’t have the right structures in place to translate its sentiments into concrete a pursuit.

Recently, elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clarke tore into former governor of Abia State, the Senate Chief Whip, Orji Kalu (APC, Abia North), for dumping his presidential dream to pitch his tent with the North East and the presidential aspiration of President of Senate, Ahmad Lawan. Clarke simply accused Kalu of betraying the political dream of his region, the South East. Kalu’s response laid bare questions on the desire of the zone to produce the president. 

The senator reportedly stated: “It is imperative I remind him that I didn’t betray my people, rather I am doing my best to reintegrate them into mainstream politics.” Is thrashing his own presidential ambition to support Lawan part of his efforts to reintegrate the South East into mainstream politics?

What is immediately evident here is that the South East is not in “mainstream” politics. And Kalu’s claim that, “I am doing my best to reintegrate them…” begs for a re-examination in the light of how the politics of the zone can one day produce the president of Nigeria. 

How is Kalu reintegrating the South East into mainstream politics? How can the zone find its way into mainstream politics? How hasn’t Kalu betrayed the zone at this particular point in time? We might not need to examine these questions now. 

It is instructive that the reason the zone is disintegrated (for there to be a need for a reintegration) and therefore not in mainstream politics, is because of people like Kalu. Betrayal might be the nearest description of the outcome of some of Kalu’s major political steps in the zone. How? He once stood on the pedestal of actually reintegrating the zone into mainstream politics and he fluffed his lines. At that time, he promised so much and gave a spittle.

Apart from his tenure as Governor, Kalu’s shiniest moment might be as the founder of the Progressives People’s Alliance (PPA), which by 2007 controlled two states – Imo and Abia – at par with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the zone. The party was very successful, even having a few seats in the National Assembly. Down the line, PPA lost the government houses in Imo and Abia; Kalu drifted in and out of the party he founded, oscillated at various times between expulsion and resignation, went in and out of PDP. Eventually, he berthed in All Progressives Congress, (APC).

In November 2016, the party leadership, piqued by his divisive tendencies welcomed his defection to APC. A question summed it: How can anyone dump his structured vision to find solace in another person’s vision. 

Today, the man, who once carried an elephant on his head and is using his toes to search for termites, is talking of reintegrating South East into national politics. What was Kalu thinking when he was toying with PPA.

At the time PPA had Imo and Abia, Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu was in Lagos midwifing the metamorphosis of today’s APC and consolidating the party’s hold in the South West. While Orji failed to win territories with PPA, Tinubu succeeded in shielding South West behind APC. While Tinubu came to the negotiating table with APC and placed the South West in mainstream politics, Orji today has a seat in the Senate on Tinubu’s APC. Where Tinubu persevered, Orji flickered out, couldn’t see ahead, and today APC is a national party.  

If Orji hasn’t realized today that the PPA could have been the chips for the South East at the negotiating table for a place in mainstream politics, then something isn’t right. PPA was positioned for that. It was at par with PDP and ahead of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) in the control of resources that would have reintegrated the zone. Kalu couldn’t manage that vision, and today, he fell from the heights of being a founder of a successful party to a member of APC. 

Orji simply failed to learn from Tinubu. If only Kalu had held out with PPA, like Tinubu held out with the defunct AC, his party, being the zone’s party would have perhaps been in alignment or merger with APGA and eventually ousted PDP. The failure of Orji with PPA is one huge betrayal and a reason the presidency is looking so far-fetched for the South East. 

Kalu’s political acumen hasn’t served his people well. If he couldn’t keep PPA going, would he consider himself in a better position to talk about taking the zone into mainstream politics?

It might be difficult but it is not impossible for the South East to produce the President in 2023 despite the contentious question of the lack of crucial numbers, and a platform. Will Kalu reintegrate the South East into mainstream politics with bare hands? Is it in the APC or PDP that the reintegration will be negotiated? 

The way to a reintegration is to realize that the zone needs to bring something to the negotiating table, that neither PDP nor APC will take the South East to mainstream politics in today’s politics, and that it needs it’s own party to galvanize its political agenda.