By Prof. B. Chima Onuoha
Nigeria is a nation of aberrations, inanities and paradoxes. Top politicians, many very deceitful, play on the intelligence of equally docile citizens of the nation. I have followed the politics of Orji Uzor Kalu since 1999. Half-baked by all standard material, he has always covered his inadequacies via grandstanding and pandering to the whims and caprices of the feudal power bloc in the country. He is self-centred, in fact, there is no iota of Igbo interest in him. His mantra has always been: me, myself and I. For too long, he has worked against the collective Igbo interests. He routinely betrayed their cause for personal gains or advancement.
What have been his views on serious national issues? As a lecturer, a major part of my duties and responsibilities is teaching and examining or evaluating students, people and national/societal events. This is in addition to research and community development services. I am also a student of the environment and development activist. With due respect to Senator Kalu and without sounding condescending, whenever I listen to him on national news, his views have always been banal – unintellectual or lacking mental rigor.
After Buhari’s eight years in power, the natural thing was for power to return to the South (Southern Nigeria), particularly, South-East. South-West has had 8 years in the person of Olusegun Obasanjo as President and 8 years Vice Presidency in the person of Prof. Osibanjo. The South-South had the Presidency for 6 years in the person of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, and South-East has had zero tenure. This is since 1999. I have had course to deliver lectures in public fora, particularly for a group known as South East for Presidency 2023(SEFORP) led by one Reverend Obioha (September 25, 2020, in Port Harcourt). The title of my lecture was and is, _“Equity and Justice as Panaceas to United Nigeria: Making a Case for South-East Presidency in 2023.”_ Further justifications for my thesis showcasing prime minister-ship, head of state and presidency of the various geo-political zones in Nigeria, right from independence include:
i. North-West – approximately 22 years in 2023.
ii. North-Central – 18 years approximately.
iii. South-West – 12 years plus a possible 4 or 8 years with Tinubu as the President.
iv. North-East – 5 years
v. South-South – 6 years
vi. South-East – 6months (the ill-fated regime of General Aguiyi Ironsi).
Is it not funny that with the above information that is in the public domain, Orji Uzor Kalu and some of his equally selfish politicians from the South-East, sprang up and started supporting the former Senate President – Ahmed Lawan, from the North (precisely North-East), to be President? Even when Bola Tinubu emerged as the Presidential candidate of APC (coming from the entire Southern Nigeria), he and his co-travelers remained adamant. How on earth did he expect Tinubu and APC’s hierarchy to support his Senate President candidacy? That is vain glory taken too far. Money cannot and will not be everything in life. One can’t eat his cake and have it back. So used to entitlement mentality, he thought that his equally selfish politicians will forget so soon, of his thoughtless, ignoble and betraying roles, before and during the electioneering campaigns, between 2022 and early 2023.
Of greatest and enduring importance and legacy (a bad one indeed) is his ever-readiness to sacrifice his people – the Igbos, for selfish goals. He did everything to cast aspersion on his race (a God blessed race). He made a number of careless and self-serving statements against South-East thus: “South-East is not ripe for the Presidency”; “South-East should spend more years building bridges across the nation,” “there is nothing wrong in Muslim-Muslim ticket,” etc. It turned out that as he was busy making senseless and unguided statements, he was assiduously working secretly to be the Senate President, to represent the same South-East he was routinely and faithfully disparaging. And I ask – with what intellectual or administrative pedigree? I am not a fan of Senator Godswill Akpabio (mind you, he is also a lackey from South-South, Nigeria), but there is no doubt that he is oratorically, intellectually and administratively far ahead of Orji Uzor Kalu. He is even a better politician than Orji Uzor Kalu. People are free to contest this assertion.
Nigerians, particularly politicians of Igbo descent, have refused to study history or apply the lessons of history. They have bluntly refused to study the antecedents of their feudal lords. It is important to point out here that “betrayers are cursed.” All betrayers will be used and dumped, today, tomorrow and forever.
Imagine Orji Uzor Kalu claiming to have built the country! How? With what qualifications or struggles? When? Where? And about his claim that he employs 13,000 workers in his businesses. Truth be told – if economic/intellectual contributions to the national economy/development are used as criteria for South-East’s share of national cake or positions in Nigeria, and it is thrown open, will Orji Uzor Kalu qualify to represent the Igbos? I strongly doubt.
At 63 years +, crying openly like a baby is the height of self-deceit and embarrassment. It smacks of fakeness, idiocy and grandstanding, all intended to achieve cheap sympathy or giving the impression that he is fighting the Igbo cause. Pathetic indeed! In fact, Senator Kalu has no shame or self-respect. The Yorubas have a proverb (let me paraphrase), to the effect that if you sell your people cheap today, you may not be able to rebuy them tomorrow. You can see that the Yoruba elders were/are natural economists. They had factored in: time value of money, inflation and profit motive in this eternal proverb. One needs to benefit from his investments today in the future. Wisdom per excellence! This is food for thought for all top politicians in Nigeria, especially those from South-East.
Was he and other political lackeys of Igbo descent not the ones that worked against the presidential aspiration of Dr Alex Ekwueme (an intellectual and complete gentleman) in 1999 and 2003? And still gloated about it? Were they not struggling to outwit each other in the prowess of speaking Hausa language at the PDP convention in Jos in 1999? Were they not the same political jobbers and insatiable nit-wits that worked against the presidential bid of South-East in the 2023 general elections in their various parties, especially the two leading parties – APC and PDP? Suffice it to say that majority of Igbo politicians are selfish, self-centred and morbidly acquisitive. They undermine the collective interests of their ethnic group. They are ready lackeys in the hand of the oppressors of their people for pecuniary benefits.
As born-agains will always say, let me use Senator Kalu as a point of contact to also address the other Igbo political leaders that are suffering from short-termism, materialistic opium, and vain-glorious grandeur.
What exactly do South-East governors discuss in their forum? Why have they not revived the moribund industrial estates built by Nnamdi Azikiwe and Michael Okpara or built new ones? Do they have any economic blue-print for the zone, knowing fully well that Igbos are business people or industrialists? They are simply visionless. In fact, they are suffering from the chronic form of “Sambo Personality” (see my article on: “Poor Public Sector Management and Underdevelopment in Nigeria”). South-East governors even go about killing businesses in their states for selfish reasons. For example, did Rochas Okorocha not close down completely a very busy road – Douglas road (in Owerri), housing many businesses including banks, for 3 years, in the name of constructing gutters? He also woke up one morning and closed Ekeonunwa market (popularly known as Ekeukwu Owerre) and Timber market, without first providing alternatives. In all cases, thousands of businesses were dislodged and people’s investments lost. Many business people did not recover from this abuse of power by an acquisitive emperor.
Are South-East governors not supposed to be championing the noble causes of their zone? Do they go to governors’ forum meetings for mere jamborees or to compare notes on who has embezzled more funds from their respective states? Why can’t South-East have numerous industrial clusters and technological centres? I gave a public lecture to members of Aba Chambers of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture with the title – “Economic and Technological Emancipation of South-East: Key to National and Global Relevance” on November 24, 2021. Why are they not engaging the various Igbo trade associations across the nation to start thinking home – the _*Aku – rue – ulo*_ philosophy (another article of mine)?
At this juncture, I need to ask Senator Kalu further questions.
1. As a “bridge builder,” Senator and longtime politician, that have friends in high places, why has he not proposed a bill and seen to it that it is passed into law for the reparation/compensation for the Igbos, for the complete destruction of their region during the civil war and the seizure of their assets in some major cities? Say a N50 trillion plan over a five-year period. We can call it “Orji Uzor Kalu Development Plan.” This will be similar to the Marshall Plan – named after Secretary of State, George Marshall, 1948 ($15 billion; a four-year plan to reconstruct cities, industries and infrastructures heavily damaged in Western Europe during the Second World War and to remove trade barriers between Europeans neigbours).
2. What has he said about the perennial and choking infrastructural decay in the entire South-East like roads? Is Orji Uzor Kalu not aware that the entire Port-Harcourt road in Aba (a.k.a Eyimba City) and the commercial nerve centre of Abia State (a federal government road), with hundreds and thousands of businesses, is completely un-usable, unpassable and overgrown with grasses for over 15years now? What is the state of Ariaria international market and other markets in Aba? What is the state of the industrial wing of Ariaria market known as Bakassi, where all types of shoes, bags and other related leather products are manufactured? How many businesses have closed shop because of the terrible state of infrastructures, particularly inaccessible roads in Aba and Abia State? What did he do about the Obigbo – Aba highway (starting from Imo River bridge) that has been a death trap for over 8 years?
3. Was Senator Kalu not the first governor that introduced _*familiocracy*_ and _*clique syndrome or mentality*_ in governance in Nigeria, that held the entire Abians hostage and traumatized for 24 years until rescued recently by Dr. Alex Otti? Throughout his tenure, his mother had a funny title of _*“Maa-her excellency,”*_ or _*“mother – excellency.”*_ Thereafter, Rochas Okorocha took _*familiocracy*_ to a higher level. Imo and Abia States have been mis-administered by non-altruistic and self-centred governors since 1999.
4. What has he said about the entire South-East being under siege? What is his opinion about his region, where there is no crisis, having more security agents like Soldiers than regions that have more security challenges such as banditry and terrorism? I returned from Enugu two days ago, where I went for post-graduate external examinations, shockingly, there are more than 45 military/police/road safety road blocks from Enugu to Aba. This scenario is virtually the same from Port Harcourt to Owerri, from Owerri to Onitsha, from Umuahia to Owerri, from Aba to Owerri, from Onitsha to Enugu, and all other major federal roads in the region. Around Ihiala, passengers are forced to come down from their vehicles and trek for more than 2 kilometres. And around Imo River, on the Aba – Owerri road, after Owerrenta, passengers are also forced to trek more than 1 kilometre. All these mean both extortions and inconveniences of motorists and passengers. In other words, travelling in South-East is hellish.
5. Why does he compensate herdsmen whose cows were killed in their numerous attacks in the South-East without giving a dime to families who lost family members in such barbaric attacks? Is it not to please his feudal masters?
6. Did he oppose the aborted RUGA Project like many politicians from Southern Nigeria? Was he not the first governor that started his own version of RUGA at Lokpa, in Isikwuato LGA, Abia State, as governor of Abia State? How have the surrounding communities fared with his thoughtless Lokpa project?
7. What did he say when Igbo voters in Lagos were suppressed, intimidated and brutalized in the 2023 elections?
8. What is his view about the proposed anti-Igbo legislations (though unconstitutional) by the new Lagos House of Assembly?
9. As a politician and national law maker, why has he not, for once, condemned the skewed and high tariff walls for those goods mostly imported by Igbo business men, regular seizure and auctioning of their goods, etc.? This is in addition to most of them being forced to source their foreign exchange requirements from the black market at exorbitant exchange rates, while their counterparts from other regions are given favourable/official exchange rates. Even those who are not in business, just for racketeering purposes access foreign currencies much easier and cheaper. Yet, we talk about one Nigeria, while Igbo leaders are just picking crumbs knowing fully well that their people and region are suffering endlessly.
10. What is his opinion about the sufferings and extortion of importers, majority of whom are his brethren having to travel hundreds of kilometres to Lagos to clear their goods? Why has he not sponsored a bill, making it imperative for federal government to develop seaports, railways and major bridges in South-East and South-South geo-political zones?
11. What has he said about the orchestrated, persistent and sponsored hate speeches against his race?
12. It is only in a backward nation like Nigeria, with visionless leaders and helpless citizenry that landmass as against population density and contribution to national cake and productivity, is used for revenue sharing and appointments. South-East has the least number of states and local government councils in Nigeria. It has 5 states and 95 LGAs. Every other geo-political zone has 6 states except North-West that has 7 states for obvious reasons. Check out this hard facts! The old Kano State was split into two, the present Kano and Jigawa States, all in North-West. The current numbers of LGAs in the two states are: Kano – 44 and Jigawa – 31, totaling 75 LGAs. In other words, only 3 or 4 states in North-West have more LGAs than the entire South-East, an enclave of a major tribe in the country, in fact, the third biggest tribe in the country. Check out the other annoying records:
a. North-West = 186 LGAs
b. North-East = 112 LGAs
c. North-Central = 115 LGAs
d. South-West = 137 LGAs
e. South-South = 123 LGAs
f. South-East = 95 LGAs
g. FCT = 6 LGAs
My question to the “bridge builder” is, what has he done as a “notable” politician and Senator including South-East governors and other political bigwigs from the zone and the leadership of Ohaneze, to redress these anomaly, inequity and injustice?
13. What has Senator Kalu done as a “messiah,” to ensure that members of the National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives) actually executed all the constituency projects like their colleagues from the other geo-political zones? What is his view about the mismanagement of the 13 percentage derivation fund by the two oil producing states in South-East (Abia and Imo) and indeed all other revenue and intervention funds all these years, by the governors in the South-East? Is it not obvious that majority of development projects in South-East are individually and community driven, while politicians feed on our collective resources?
I can go on and on to ask my dear “bridge builder” these existential and strategic questions. The evil men in the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), in the contraption called Nigeria will continue their anti-Igbo policies and schemes, but God’s will and plans for His people will surely prevail, to His glory.
Honestly, writing on the myopic and non-strategic mindset/activities of the political leaders from South-East and the dire consequences on the masses, will be a book.
Finally, Orji Uzor Kalu should be told in unmistakable terms that the South-East geo-political zone and Igbos are building enduring and solid bridges. Definitely, not his self-centred, unethical and greedy type that lack structural and engineering integrity, with very short-term life span. I do not have any doubt that betrayers will remain cursed. In addition, it is high time the Igbos started loathing Orji Uzo Kalu and other Igbo leaders of his ilk, and their nuclear families. This will serve as a deterrence to those lurking in the corners.
In conclusion, giving the avalanche of anti-Igbo policies and schemes in Nigeria, particularly after the Civil War (in 1970), till date, it is the federal government and her hateful agencies/agents (in their own interest) that should commence the building of genuine bridges across the South-East and to the Igbos, the oppressed race. That will be the starting point for peaceful coexistence, sincere reconciliation and full integration. It is after this full reconciliation and integration that Nigeria will start seeing development in real terms. If not, the country will continue wobbling and remain in self-denial, darkness and gross underdevelopment. For you cannot persistently oppress a blessed race and want to develop. Take this to the bank. As usual, I come in peace.
*Professor Onuoha wrote from University of Port Harcourt (June 17, 2023).*