By Louis Ibah
Former Abia State governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, has said that the continuous killings and wanton destruction of properties in parts of the country was largely due to failure of the governors in the affected states to effectively discharge their duties.
Speaking at the arrival hall of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, on his arrival from London yesterday, Kalu described governors who continuously place all the blame for the collapse of security and attendant killings of persons in their states on the Federal
Government as weak leaders.
He noted that they all enjoyed the benefit of security votes, insisting that all that was required from the governors was the political will, courage and the initiative to deploy the security votes to coordinate the Police, Army and intelligence establishments in their states to halt the killings.
Kalu, who is also a stalwart of the All Progressives Congress (APC), spoke on the crisis arising from the ward congresses of the party as well as the benefits Nigeria stands to gain from the recent state visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to United States of America (USA).
What’s your take on the crisis arising from APC’s Ward Congresses?
Let me start by saying that the state of our party, the APC is good. What is happening today is even smaller when compared to what happened both in the congresses of 1999 and 2003. So it is a very little thing. You journalists know history and you know the truth. What is happening to APC today is a minor issue compared to what happened in 1999. In Abia State for instance, we held party congresses for 23 times.
Even the then National Chairmen of the PDP, Chief Solomon Lar, came to conduct the congress in Abia, and in the same way Senator Barnabas Gemade came to conduct congress and nobody talked about that. Waziri Mohammed came to Abia, also to conduct congress. And three people died in Abia in the 1999 congress. Human beings must disagree; it is politics. Everybody cannot say yes! People must disagree to agree. So, what is happening in the APC is democratic. We will come out of it, including the Ekiti State own.
Some Nigerians believe the Buhari’s visit to the USA did not come with any benefit to Nigeria. What is your take?
Let me tell you, it is difficult to find any President in the world that two major countries in space of four weeks will invite to be their guest. It is only showing the position and confidence the world powers reposed in President Buhari and that shows you that the door has been opened globally for Nigeria.
Some other Presidents needed state visit to the US but they didn’t get it. But in less than three years, Buhari is given red carpet in the White House. I know some other Presidents that spent more than six years and never paid state visit to the US. So we are very proud that our image is changing and everybody is respecting Nigeria and maybe very soon, Buhari will be in China to sign more beneficial deals for Nigeria. The world powers have confidence in what he is doing for us.
What is your take on the Killings in some states in Nigeria?
The solution to the killings is for the state governors to stand up and do what is right. I have been a governor before so I am familiar with the challenges. The state governors should use the security votes they have to fight insecurity and the killings. It is not enough to say ‘I am not in control of security apparatus’. I have been a governor, and I know that as a state governor I have powers over the Commissioner of Police, so the governors in these states are not telling the truth.
As a state governor for instance, if there is crisis, I summon the Commissioner of Police, I summon the Brigade Commander at any time of the day and they must come for us to discuss security issues. I get angry when people keep blaming Buhari for everything. Look at Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State. He is not calling anybody to assist him for anything. He is not complaining. He is a good governor. So those state governors who are complaining should do their jobs. They should put their security funds where it is supposed to be and stop the blame game.
When I was a governor in Abia State, the Police had insurance and there was a time one Police Sergeant was killed and his family got N10 million from the insurance company instead of N50, 000. When I was governor, every policeman on check point gets N2, 000 everyday. That is why they can put their lives on the line to ensure the security of the state and citizens because they are being paid from Government House. This is a federating unit and it is not controlled alone by President Buhari or Vice President Osinbajo. The states are independent and the governors should do their jobs because only few governors are doing very well. Governors should take charge of their states and exert their authority.
What is your take on Obasanjo and T. Y. Danjuma’s recent outburst?
Let me start with T.Y. Danjuma. Danjuma has not openly opposed the bid by President Buhari to seek re- election. Danjuma has not joined forces with others against Buhari. It is not true; those saying so are not saying the truth. General Danjuma is a gentleman; he is my boss and friend, a man with a broad mind. He has not joined Obasanjo in his mission to stop Buhari. When Obasanjo was pursuing his third term bid, Danjuma spoke against it. I took a journalist to interview him. Danjuma spoke against tenure elongation.
But as for Obasanjo, no President can do anything that will satisfy him. Nothing done by any other President is good; nobody can do anything that is good in his eyes, except that which is done by him, which is the nature of Obasanjo.
But I can assure you that the international community has rejected him, nobody recognises Obasanjo anymore because of the damage he has done to the country. The problem we are going through in this country is caused by Obasanjo. Obasanjo is no more relevant in the United Nations, in the United Kingdom , in the United States, they have all rejected him, he is only a superstar in the African Union.
Many Nigerians know this truth about Obasanjo, but they are afraid to say it because they are afraid of being punished by somebody. That is not right, that is why he continues to write those letters. But In APC we do not consider his letters seriously, and that explains why nobody is taking his letters seriously.
I personally wrote Obasanjo a letter on the alleged corruption during his eight years rule and he has not replied me. I am going to publish that letter very soon for young Nigerians to read. He is busy labelling everybody as corrupt; let him tell Nigerians how he suddenly transformed from a farmer in 1998 to a billionaire in the years that followed. How did he come by the mansions in Abeokuta? When I visited him in 1998 in his Ota Farm with President Babangida to convince him to run for president in 1999, Ota Farm was dead. So, where did he get the billions of naira he put in Ota Farm from? Nigeria is a country where people don’t ask questions; otherwise people like Obasanjo should be resting in jail.
How will you describe Catholic Bishops Conference’s reactions to the killings in the country?
I am a Christian and I am also a Catholic. So I cannot go against the Bishops and the church. I cannot speak for the Catholic bishops either, but I am also convinced that the church has a huge role to play in the polity. The church reconciles man with society and God. For instance in Imo State, where Governor Rochas Okorocha and the Catholic Church are quarrelling, there is need for reconciliation. If the Catholic bishops say something, they are educated, and they are not a people you will say are seeking material gains for themselves.
I assure you that President Buhari has got no problem with the church; he even hosted the catholic bishops recently. Even when the church takes an extreme position on an issue, there is need to harmonise those issues and relationship. One person should not quarrel with the crowd. There is a need for the church and government to always have a good relationship.
I hope that Okorocha will try to reach an accord with the Catholic Church. Like I said, even if the church takes an extreme position the governor should try to normalise things with the church. It is not just about Christianity but also in Islam, we must respect our religious leaders. Politicians should mind what they say about clergymen because they and the government have a role to play in the society. Religious leaders should also be watchful about what they say.
We need the blessings of our religious leaders. We need their prayers. If you fear God, you will do well and do many other things very well.
Your last word on the country’s economy?
I have told you before that the economic recession is gradually disappearing against what the government told you that it had exited the recession. I have told you that we will exit recession by January 2019. But I must acknowledge that the government is doing everything, including borrowing money and pumping money into the system to resuscitate the economy.
The government is doing the right things to make sure that we exit recession and we are on the right tract. There is no doubt about that. These things cannot come and go overnight. I know things are very difficult and our youths are working very hard these days. Some of them are farmers, some of them are entrepreneurs, and I can see a lot of them making more efforts than they were making before. That is a benefit that we cannot overlook and that is what a country should be because we need to be self dependent.