Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, publisher of the Sun Newspapers, was in Conakry, capital of Republic of Guinea to meet with President Alpha Conde at the Presidential Palace on December 4, 2012. While on the visit, he granted newsmen an interview. Excerpts…
Can you please, give us an insight into your long hours of discussion with President Alpha Conde of Guinea?
I am here with my team on business mission. I am sure you are aware that I am a big player in the banking and insurance sectors of the Guinean economy, having established First International Bank and International Insurance company 12 years ago in Guinea. We held discussions on our new investment in the hospitality industry, which is the setting up of a five star hotel in Conakry. We have received funding from international banks and are concluding arrangements on the land acquisition. It is a very big project and that is why I am here with my technical and financial partners to brief and seek the support of the President and Guineans on this project. We also informed the President on the status of tomato puree factory we just acquired in Guinea as well.
With bulk investments in Guinea, will it be fair to address you as a Nigerian or Guinean businessman?
I am an African businessman with investments in many parts of Africa. Our bank and insurance companies identified earlier are in Guinea, The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Congo. So, you are free to call me an African businessman. Or is Guinea not part of Africa?
We heard from unconfirmed sources that you intend to contest Nigeria’s presidency in 2015. How true is this?
No, no, and capital No. I am not playing partisan politics and thus do not have presidential ambition for now. I do not belong to any political party. Name it: PDP, PPA, APGA, UPP or what have you. My focus is on the unity of Ndigbo, which we are championing through a non-partisan political movement christened Njiko Igbo. It is a platform for the repositioning of Ndigbo, most especially on a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction in 2015, having been marginalized over the years. All we are doing is to collectively mend fences and drive the process of repositioning the South East region and working with other regions towards the corporate Nigeria project.
How do you assess President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration?
President Jonathan has promised to surprise Nigerians with dividends of democracy by next year. So, please let us give him the benefit of time as promised.
But as a Nigerian, you have the right to discuss your President.
He is our President and I know we, as citizens of Nigeria, have the right to freedom of expression. I will not like to discuss him here at the Presidential Palace of his friend and colleague. I have said it overtime, that I will not discuss President Jonathan till next year. At the appropriate time, I will personally write him on the state of affairs in Nigeria.
Do you think President Jonathan is happy with Njiko Igbo?
Well, President Jonathan is not an Igbo man. I believe he should be happy with any move aimed at unity. He is the president of all the regions, including the South East, so he should support all legitimate associations or groups. Njiko Igbo has been working hard to reposition Ndigbo with the support of all Igbo sons and daughters at home and in the Diaspora and other Igbo unions and associations toward the actualization of a Nigerian president of South East extraction in 2015.
Don’t you think President Jonathan would see Njiko Igbo as an opposing platform for his re-election in 2015?
Did President Jonathan tell you he would seek re-election in 2015? The President has not declared his intention either privately or publicly. When we get to that river, we shall cross it.
It is all over the news that you offered to dialogue with Boko Haram on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria. What inspired you on such offer?
Yes, I offered to dialogue with Boko Haram when General Muhammadu Buhari rejected the offer as demanded by Boko Haram. I agree with General Buhari for refusing, because he was a co-contender with President Jonathan in the 2011 election and his stand might be misinterpreted. I schooled at the University of Maiduguri, I have properties in the North, I hold many chieftaincy titles in the North and I have friends, allies and associates from the North. I believe with all these, I am well-positioned to carry out this assignment.
Have you considered the risk involved?
Yes, I am aware.