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Kalu and quest to sanction APC leaders in Southeast

By Lawrence Njoku, Southeast Bureau Chief
05 May 2019   |   4:13 am
The 2019 general elections may have come and gone, but it appears the wounds inflicted by the exercise are yet to heal. Some politicians...

Orji Uzor Kalu

He Is Seeking Relevance— Onuoha
The 2019 general elections may have come and gone, but it appears the wounds inflicted by the exercise are yet to heal. Some politicians still feel bitter over the outcome, and are insisting that those who allegedly contributed to the not-too-favourable outing should be fished out and punished. They believe this would at least serve as deterrent to others in the future, and underscore the need commitment on the part of party members.

One of such politicians is the former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzo Kalu. Although he won the Abia north senatorial seat, Kalu claims to be embittered over the outcome of the presidential election in the southeast zone.

At the conclusion of the election, the APC secured over 400, 000 votes for President Muhammadu Buhari. The President also secured over 25 percent votes in Abia, Imo and Ebonyi States.

However, while those that attended the party’s first leaders and stakeholders’ meeting in Enugu last weekend celebrated the fact that the last outing was an improvement on the 198, 000 votes the party gathered in 2015, Kalu insisted the party could have done better, if certain members in the zone had not sabotaged “genuine” efforts of people like him.

Appearing very blunt and refusing to be placated, Kalu said the party must set up a committee to fish out and sanction all those that contributed to the abysmal outing. He stated that the offenders included serving ministers and some party leaders from the zone.

He said: “A party leader outside this zone told me some of our chieftains, including serving ministers negotiated with PDP governors to allow our party 25 per cent of vote cast at the poll.

“We have to fish out the people that said our party couldn’t afford more than 25 per cent vote for President Muhammadu Buhari and punish them. They sabotaged us. We cannot be working for the party and look like fools. Some of us worked, but a few went to Abuja to say we couldn’t deliver.”

“There was no way APC could not have won in Abia and other states, but for what some of our leaders did. We have to reveal and suspend them to serve as deterrent to others.”

Kalu may not be alone in the allegation. Ebonyi State All Progressives Congress’ (APC) House of Assembly candidates in the elections had earlier called on the party’s national leadership to investigate the role of some of its leaders in the state during the polls.

They sought sanctions for state party officials and federal appointees, who did little or nothing to ensure that APC triumphed at the elections.

They alleged that although the elections were characterised by wide spread rigging, orchestrated by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led state government to retain power, most federal appointees from the state were compromised.

Jude Okpor (Ezza North East), Ngozichi Okorie (Ohaozara East), Jonathan Ebe (Ishielu North), Obinna Udenwe (Abakaliki South) and Emeka Nwoko (Ezza North West) constituencies claimed that internal sabotage by APC party leaders within and outside the state worked against their chances of victory.

They said: “It is public knowledge that APC National Leader, who is from the South West, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, together with cabinet members and other party leaders played major roles that led to APC’s success in their zone.

“In the South South, Rotimi Amaechi’s impact cannot be over-stretched. Similarly, Lai Mohammed led the liberation of Kwara State in the North Central. We are constrained to ask, where was our leader Ogbonnaya Onu throughout the struggle to liberate Ebonyi during the election?

“We also learnt that some fifth columnists within and outside our party are doing everything possible to smear the image of our gubernatorial candidate, Sonni Ogbuoji, with the intention of causing disaffection, disunity and crisis among party faithful and Ebonyi people to pave way for Dave Umahi’s defection to APC. We condemn this in the strongest terms.”

All this notwithstanding, issues are being raised regarding the seriousness of Orji Kalu’s claims. Are there facts in the allegation? Can the APC and Buhari actually win election in a Southeast that is PDP dominated? What capacity does the former governor possess that could influence Southeast electorate to vote Buhari, when majority of them are disenchanted with his style of administration? Is Kalu making the allegation to substantiate his bid to lead the party in the zone or to actualise his ambition to the seat of Deputy Senate President?

Formalising his APC membership on November 16, 2016, he assured the then party leadership under Chief John Oyegun that he would “deliver the entire Southeast to the party,” as a way of positioning the zone to play a bigger role in national politics.

He told the party leadership in Abuja that he would “want APC to be all inclusive,” stressing that between the time he registered in his Igbere Ward and the period he was accepted into the party, over 4, 000 new members had registered in Abia State.

He was quoted as saying: “Without making it open, two House of Representatives members are joining APC. Our upright war is that the Southeast will be delivered to APC.  The most potent thing is the ability to consult, discuss and move forward. Nobody is an embodiment of knowledge.

“If you look at my face, you will see the genuine face of an Igbo man and a genuine Nigerian. I understand the country very well and I hope that the party will continue to grow from strength to strength. I hope the good work President Muhammadu Buhari is doing will continue to enjoy the party’s support. It is a difficult time and many Nigerians are crying. But I believe we will get to a better destination…”

Later, during a visit to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi in Enugu, Kalu said: “I am currently working hard day and night to ensure that APC wins the governorship and National Assembly positions in all the states of the zone. My ambition is to ensure that I bring the Southeast to sit where other Nigerians are sitting and we must achieve it in 2019.”

He boasted that APC would have a landslide victory in the zone in 2019 and would score at least 75 percent votes in Abia and 51 percent votes in other states of the zone.

Although he was not specific on how the victory would be realised, many saw his assertion as that of a man, who probably woke up on the wrong side of his bed. They insisted he did not have the capacity to reposition APC in the Southeast.

Orji Kalu is not new to politics. He was Abia State Governor for eight years. He registered the Progressive People’s Alliance (PPA) and became its presidential candidate. Before now, he contested Abia north senatorial seat on three occasions and lost.

Despite his ‘huge’ political frame, he made several attempts to return to PDP, after abandoning PPA, but was stoutly rejected by the party. Indeed, the Abia chapter was united in its refusal to welcome him back into the fold.

A chieftain of APC, Sunday Onuoha said: “I think Orji Kalu should save us the energy, as the party has decided to move on. When people like him talk about genuine efforts, I begin to wonder what that means to members like us. At what point did he join the party and what did he contribute? Is it not possible that he appears to be crying more than the bereaved, because he is looking for principal position at the National Assembly? He wants to be seen as a good boy. That is sad. We know people who worked for APC. He is only interested in what could benefit him.”

Onuoha insisted that APC could not have done any magic in the election, going by the “plethora of feelings that were not in Buhari’s interest. The party did not recognise the Southeast. Our President carried on with his 97 percent and five percent formula and denied the Southeast in some areas. Yet, you think you can come to the same zone and win election. I don’t think it is possible. Let Kalu come out of his shelf and use his towering political height to advise the party properly. It is not about who and who sabotaged.

“I heard money was brought for the election. How did they share it and did anybody receive the money to endorse Buhari? The election is over and what we should do now is to come together and think of the way forward, not reeling off wounds or injuries”.

He said Buhari could not have secured the number of votes he got in the election, “but for the negotiations entered with the PDP, because Southeast is PDP and we in the APC will need to work harder to change that. But that must come with the support of the leadership at the centre.”

The Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu told The Guardian: “I have tremendous respect for His Excellency, Orji Uzo Kalu, and would therefore not want to take swipes at him on his call for sanctions on some of us who lobbied non-APC Southeast governors to support President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election bid, as it paid off.

“The lobby paid-off in the sense that not only did Buhari get 25 percent in three out of the five states, which he never got in the Southeast since his advent in partisan politics cum-presidential election in 2003, it seriously narrowed down the results of His Excellency Atiku Abubakar from the millions PDP got pre-2019.

“The truism is that Orji Kalu knows that if not for that strategic lobby, PDP could have millions of votes, which difference may have prevented the resort to the proverbial Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) server. Nigeria is running a multiparty democracy, where two major political parties are dominant, each with its zone-sphere of influence. And the Southeast has been PDP’s dominant zone of influence since 1999. This was the scenario, even when Kalu was PDP governor of Abia between 1999 and 2007.

“I’m one of those who is happy that APC’s presidential result increased in the Southeast from 198, 000 in 2015 to 403, 000 in 2019, and that PDP did not harvest the jumbo millions of votes, which was the case in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015…”