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By Dickson Okafor
As reaction continues to trail the crossover from the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) by the former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, Chief Tobby Anumaka has said the South-East will regain the grounds it lost during the last general elections. The APC stalwart and patron of Okpoko Igbo faulted those peddling rumours that Kalu joined the ruling party to escape probe. He made the remarks and more in this interview.
Many believe that Ndigbo have been further ridiculed when the former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu dumped PPA, the party he formed for the APC, do you share the same view?
It is not true rather; I regard it as mere imagination of few Igbo people who chose to play politics of sentiment instead of to work toward collective interest of the Igbo. If you remember Kalu in one of his recent statements, he lamented that Igbo is its own problem. If joining APC amounts to ridiculing Ndigbo, what would you say about the Yoruba who were led into a merger with the North by Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu? For crying out loud, what is wrong with the Igbo? Why must we be at the receiving end whenever there is a change in the nation’s political arithmetic? Former President Olusegun Obasanjo did all he could to install Goodluck Jonathan as President after the death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and immediately Jonathan derailed, Obasanjo and the entire Yoruba nation for the sake of collective interest joined hands with the North and dethroned Jonathan. Yes, Igbo followed and believed in Jonathan until he lost power. What would you point at that Ndigbo benefited from the six years reign of Jonathan? How many Yoruba people blamed Tinubu all the years he tried to align with the North to grab power at the centre? Rather, his people joined him and today after Obasanjo’s eight years as President, Yemi Osibanjo is now the Vice President. I’m one of those who prevailed on Kalu to join the moving train.
Why now that Kalu is under probe by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)? Don’t you think it is a ploy to escape probe?
The ongoing anti-graft war by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration is without border. As far as this administration is concerned, everybody is suspect. So, I don’t think Kalu is trying to escape from being tried for corruption allegation leveled against him. Mind you, he is innocent until a court of competent jurisdiction prove otherwise. We beckon on Kalu to be part of the present generation of Igbo who want to put South-East in a vantage position as 2019 approaches. Before the 2015 general elections, we had been pleading with him to join other progressives that cause merger to happen which gave birth to APC. During the last election, to Ndigbo, anybody who supported APC was a saboteur. This politics of sentiment cost Igbo the position of the President of the Senate. The Minister of Labour, Sen. Chris Ngige would have become the Senate President as a ranking member but the people of Anambra Central decided to vote Sen. Uche Ekwunife who was removed by the court. Now it is clear that Igbo committed political blunder by not joining the likes of Governor Rochas Okorocha, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu and Sen. Chris Ngige to pursue collective interest of the region instead of personal gains. So, bear it in mind that Kalu is not afraid of probe.
Many say Kalu is politically unstable, what is your take?
Kalu is a man of the people and he listens to his followers. I told you earlier that Ndigbo during the last election adopted Jonathan as their brother and son and any Igbo person who spoke against the People Democratic Party (PDP) or Jonathan was ostracised. Kalu was punished by former President Olusegun Obasanjo because Kalu demanded to know what happened to the N300 billion meant for road construction across the country. Kalu wanted to know and that made Obasanjo unleash terror on him until he left PDP and formed PPA. Fortunately, in 2007, PPA won Abia and Imo states governorship seat. Before you could say Jack Robison, Obasanjo and Anenih frustrated Kalu further and turned the two governors, Theodore Orji and Ikedi Ohakim against their master and they eventually defected to PPA for PDP. Some of us once again persuaded him to join PDP so that he could help Jonathan actualise his presidential ambition in 2011 which he did. After Jonathan won, Kalu realized that after four years Jonathan did nothing in Igbo land, he went back to PPA and contested the Abia North Senatorial seat and his people voted for him but the then governor, Theodore Orji with the federal might stole his mandate. So, with this brief history, you can see why it looks as if Kalu left his party.
What happened to his Senatorial ambition since the case is still in court?
His Senatorial ambition is alive, it’s not dead. Time shall tell what the future holds for Kalu politically. Don’t forget that before now, Kalu was close to Buhari and their relationship is cordial. That is why we his friends and political associates wooed him to help Buhari deliver good governance to Nigerians.
Governor Okorocha of Imo State has been described as the most hated governor in the South-East for being among those who dethroned Jonathan, won’t such fate befall Kalu?
That is not true; it is the few elite who relied on federal allocation for their survival that speaks evil of the governor. Okorocha’s sin is the stoppage of few individuals from feeding on the state revenue. Therefore, I stand here to inform you that Okorocha is the best governor in the South-East. Ordinary people love him. Watch out from now that Kalu have opened the door, other prominent politicians from the region will start to join the ruling party soon and together we will restore Igbo to where it ought to be politically in the country.
It is like Theodore Orji is responsible for Kalu’s political ordeal, how do you react to this assertion?
That Kalu is advancing his political cause within the ambit of the law is not a sign of weakness. Theodore Orji will forever remain grateful to Kalu for picking him from the slum and making him sit with kings. Don’t forget that Theodore Orji was in prison and Kalu made him governor of Abia State. Kalu has respect for human life; that is why he is following legal process toward achieving his political goal. Abia was better under Kalu but now in sorry state under Theodore Orji’s eight years reign. Aba, the commercial nerve of the state is in shambles. I have always challenged Theodore Orji to a popularity walk between him and Kalu in the major cities of the state and we will see who the people will cheer and boo. Let them walk through the streets of Aba and Umuahia; believe me, the people will stone Theodore Orji. Of course, the people will stone him because he milked them dry. Abia is the most backward state in Nigeria. So, there is no comparison between Kalu and Theodore Orji. Kalu is to Orji what elephant is to an ant in terms of performance and popularity.