In this encounter with some editors including LOUIS ACHI, business mogul and former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu opens up on the controversy of his return to the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). He also affirms that the vintage Kalu remains unchanged as he would speak up on key national issues as well as hold firm to the convictions of his political trajectory.
When you started canvassing a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction on Njikp Igbo platform, you insisted it was not meant for individual or political party. How do you reconcile that claim with the fact that you have joined the PDP?
The Njiko Igbo is not affiliated to any political party but defines the unity of our people wherever they live. Today, we have Njiko Igbo everywhere in the Diaspora. It has nothing to do with me or my person, but has everything to do with the Igbo. I went back to a political party because I want to listen to my friends, relations, and associates. I am a founding member of the PDP. So being in PDP has nothing to do with Njiko Igbo.
You founded the PPA but you left it for the PDP why?
I did that because one of the people that have helped me in life gave me a marching order to do so. He invited me to his house and he’s a man I listen to very well and he told me that I have no alternative than to go back to the party. Before, it was an option; but he now made it to be a requirement and this is one of the people who was so instrumental to my being somebody.
You almost joined the PDP in 2011…what happened?
What happened then was that I had an agreement with Okwesilieze Nwodo who was running for the national chairmanship of the PDP. He asked me to come back to the PDP if he becomes national chairman of the party so that we can make the party stronger again for the unity of the party. Nwodo was secretary when I was an ordinary member and he knows I supported him very well from 1998.
So, I made that promise to him and that was the reason why I went to the national headquarters to fulfill my promise. If I’d wanted to return to PDP then, I would have done what I’m doing now. I knew that the constitution of the PDP is very clear, ‘if you want to join you go to your ward’ and nobody can stop you from doing that because a party is something you can go in freely and come out when you choose to.
What do you make of your rejection by the Abia State chapter of the PDP?
Nobody is rejecting me. How can you look at me and say that somebody is rejecting me? I’m only being rejected by elements that Governor T. Orji is giving money, that’s the truth. There’s no contest; I can never speak ill of the governor, but there’s no rejection. But the guy is not wise. The PDP is not owned by him so he can not reject me, I am already a member of the PDP.
If he continues in that manner, he will face disciplinary action including impeachment. The governor must respect what the laws of the land say. What he is doing now by presuming to reject me is anti-party activity. People are free to join and leave parties. You can be my enemy but we both can belong to the same party, it doesn’t matter.
Why can’t you make up with the Abia Governor given the circumstance you have worked together in the past?
I have nothing against this man and I’m still waiting for him to come and apologize to me, because I have not offended him. I made him governor through the PPA. He left the PPA that both of us were in together and on which platform I contested the presidency and that was why we were able to win two states. T
he people followed me because they believed and still believe in me. We won Enugu and most of the states in Igboland when I ran for the presidency in 2007. So, I see a man without conscience. The day I was handing over to him, I can play the handover tape for you to see; I told him, “I leave you with your conscience.” But the man did what he is doing now two weeks after he was sworn-in.
I was the one pretending that everything was okay. It was what he planned. The man is looking for vice president now, which is not what the Igbo are looking for. The Igbos are looking for president and the man is busy going to the northern parts of the country. You think because you are governor and all of a sudden you can become a superstar? Well, power is in the hands of God not in my hands.
But even if I had done the worst thing to this man, he should have conscience and remember that he was in federal prison while election was conducted and he won landslide without putting a dime in the election. The people were voting for me because I told them to vote for me. If I had not done them well, they wouldn’t have done that.
But the governor said you made it impossible for him to work during his first tenure because you were controlling every appointment and contract in the state…
It’s not true. He knows it’s not true and Abia people know it’s not true. I’ve asked the governor in this room you are interviewing me now in the presence of the Abia State chairman of the PDP, “Have I ever begged you anything personal or to give anybody contract?’ and he said “no.” When the man said I stopped him, does that mean the allocation to the state is spent in Abuja? Because I wasn’t going to Abia since I left in 2007, I virtually lived abroad. He knows. In the year 2012 I spent only 28 days in Nigeria. So I don’t know how.
One man came to me at one time saying he came to plead with me that they gave him a job of N3 billion about three years ago and that they have not paid him and somebody told him to come and beg me so I can beg the governor to pay him. I asked him, “Was I there when this contract was given, he said “no.” Have you met me before?” He said “no” then I said why are you coming to me for payment then?” I said, “Who gave you the contract?” He said “the Governor.” So I said the governor who gave him the contract must have the confidence to pay him.
There are many other examples like that. My wife is from Anambra State, so he told people that I was the one sending people from Anambra to come to Abia and collect jobs. He sent away non indigenes because when I was governor, I didn’t discriminate on the basis of state of origin, every Igbo to me, was Igbo, I employed them in the civil service and Abia was home to every Igbo.
He came back and said all Igbo must go. He also said I made a shed for Igbo from Anambra and he went and scattered it. He said they were my in-laws. So you can see a petty man. My mother is being owed by him for minor contracts which I was not aware of. My brother is also being owed by him. If we were controlling the government, they would have paid themselves. So this man is not saying the truth.
Since we left, he has not done a single project. He went and showed Labaran Maku the Commissioner’s Quarters in Umuahia which I built and was commissioned by then Governor Abdullahi Kure. He went and showed them the Garden City in Osioma Ngwa claiming he built it. All the roads I built around the commissioner’s quarters and house of Assembly he claimed he did it. People know I tarred almost 80 streets in Umuahia, you can ask the people.
Governors in Nigeria are said to be very powerful, how you intend to function effectively as PDP member without the cooperation of your governor?
Not every governor. We have governors that are civil. When these governors see successful business men like us back and supporting the party they will know the party has roots and it’s not everything they can do. Because the money some of these governors collect as security votes in one month, we can make that money in one week. So, when there’s a balance of terror, these governors would be quite.
What is happening is that some of these governors have a lot of cash in their hands while the party people don’t. But when there are successful business men who have come back to PDP genuinely, they will keep quite because there is a balance of force.
You can have powerful governors but not the extent of disobeying the party because the party is supreme. The governors must not disobey the party.
You were a fearless voice then, now that you are back are you going to be a different Orji Uzor Kalu or the same person?
I assure you I’m still going to be the conscience of the party and the conscience of the Nigerian people. I will speak whenever there’s a reason to without any contradiction. At a time when this party did not have money in 1998, I ordered for N500 million and that was the formation of this party. And that was the money one of the chairmen gave me back that started causing trouble between him and the former President.
In 1998 I had money to bring for the formation of this party, when nobody had one kobo and today they allege I’m a thief while those that have no money to give then are now millionaires. Can’t you see an irony in this?
The Igbo interest you have may clash with the interest of others like that of the president and the North so what’s the way out?
I’m an Igbo man, I support the Igbo agenda. Whoever has an agenda that he believes is superior to that of the Igbo, should come and discuss with the Igbo. But so far, there’s no agenda superior to this agenda, so I still support the campaign for an Igbo to be president after 42 years of civil war.
Now that the northerners are interested in the presidency and Jonathan too may be interested, and we Igbos are also looking for it, we’ll all present our arguments. My argument is that Igbo will give qualitative leadership that will satisfy the needs and yearnings of the Nigerian populace.
We are going to provide leadership that will create a conducive atmosphere for all irrespective of ethnic groups to do their businesses freely and Igbos are negotiators; we know how to negotiate with people. We’ll negotiate with Boko Haram, with kidnappers, militants and make sure that Nigeria is recast into one country.
The current situation affects me because I am a trader, we can no longer move goods from Lagos to the northern part of the country, and people that come from Chad and Niger to purchase goods in Nigeria are no longer coming.
Now that you have left the opposition, are you worried by this talk of merger?
The opposition can threaten the PDP to be the darling of Nigerian people. I cannot join any political party other than the one I helped in founding. I left the PDP because I and Atiku Abubakar were almost driven away. We were deregistered but it’s no longer an issue as we’re making up with all the people involved.
We the founding members of the PDP want to come back to build a party with roots and conscience for the Nigerian people. We don’t have anything to do with the opposition, they can plan whatever they are doing and if they win, to God be the glory, like wise if they lose, but let it be a free and fair election. I stand for free and fair election to be conducted in one day, so that even the opposition can spend only one money in one day and nobody will rig the election. Because what is going on now is that immediately after one election every other person becomes weak.
So you do the whole election in one day, let the better candidate win, until people start winning election on their own strength, democracy will not stand in Nigeria because people are feeling they joined parties for people to write the results for them but this must stop. People must win election through the will of the people that is what democracy is all about.
But given that the PDP has always preferred to give its ticket to the incumbent…
It’s not true. The incumbents used to work very hard to take the ticket so, I disagree with that.
But wouldn’t it have been better for the Igbo to come through another party since the president might be interested?
If the incumbent is interested, the only reason why he may be voted is if he had done well. But the incumbency factor does not affect our clamour for a president of Igbo extraction. Anybody could be beaten in the primaries. I assure you that the Igbo will work very hard. The NjikoIgbo is doing everything possible to make sure that an Igbo man runs for the presidency and wins.
Do you intend to run?
It’s not in my card for now. It’s not part of my agenda for today. Tomorrow is deeper than what you have seen. I don’t know what tomorrow might be.