Much ado over Kalu’s return to PDP

The return of former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has generated a lot of heat in the politics of the state. In this report, Associate Editor, Sam Egburonu, traces the genesis of the controversy and reveals a deepening power game in the state


In Abia State today, the political theatre seems wired with live electric cables. Hooked to a towering pole of unending controversy with the naked wires left unattended to, there is fear that except something is done fast, the long suppressed political fire in the state may soon be lighted.

The controversy

Since the former governor of the state, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, announced his return to the Peoples Democratic Party, last week, red hot tension has gripped the political atmosphere. This is because the news has sparked off  verbal exchanges, as Abia State Government and the state chapter of the party have officially rejected the alleged return.

Kalu, whose return to the party has remained an issue for years, had explained that he concluded his return process on January 16, 2013, when he was issued a membership card, bearing number 9787945 in his Igbere Ward.

Before observers could react to the development, the state chairman of the party, Chief Emma Nwaka, came out and rejected Kalu’s claims, insisting that the former governor had not been readmitted into the PDP in the state.

Nwaka also alleged that the card issued to  Kalu was  fake, since, according to him, “Igbere cards bear numbers which begin in the series of 95…, not 97…” He added that the entire executive of the party’s Ward A and B in Igbere, who allegedly issued the card to Kalu, had resigned on January 10.

This pronouncement was followed by published statements from some leaders of PDP in Igbere, Kalu’s home community, Item, Alayi and other neighbouring towns in Bende Local Government Area, in which they stated that the elders of the party and leaders in the local government area had not changed their earlier position on Kalu, asserting that he has, therefore, not been readmitted into the party.

But Kalu was not impressed or moved by all these. He said his return conformed to the constitution of the party, adding, “ I am back to PDP and there is no going back. I said that I will not come back to the party if Chief Obasanjo is the BOT chairman. Now he is out, I am back and other founding members of the party are coming back. We founded the party in 1998. And all the founding members have met and decided to come back and take over the party, and there is nothing holding us back.”

On the claim that he got the said membership card from executive members who had left office, Kalu asked: “ How can the whole executive of two wards resign? What was the reason they gave for resigning. They are deceiving the people and that deceit must stop. You cannot dissolve the ward executives and say they resigned. Emma Nwaka should take time. He is not the owner of PDP. We have come back to take over our party.”

But the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Theodore Orji, Mr. Ugochukwu Emezuo, speaking for his boss told The Nation in a telephone chat during the week that the former governor, Kalu, can’t come back to PDP.

Asked to state the position of the state government over the controversy surrounding Kalu’s return to PDP and why the governor, the state government and state leadership of PDP are against his return, Emezuo said: “The fact remains that Kalu is not a member of PDP and he can’t return to the party. You will recall that the last time he tried to return to the party, even before Governor Theodore Orji’s return to the party, he (Kalu) was rejected by the elders of PDP. He has again been rejected because everybody knows him well enough to see that he would not add value to the fortunes of the party. Instead, he will, in his usual style, continue to cause distractions. That is not what PDP and Abians need today.”

Emezuo added that “the elders of PDP in Abia, led by Governor Orji, openly demonstrated their stand when they went to Abuja, two weeks ago, and explained to the national leadership of PDP that Kalu is not a member of PDP in Abia State and that he would not be readmitted because all he wants to do is to cause confusion in the state and in the nation at large. This is a man who still runs his PPA, alleging that he has returned to PDP.

“As the state chairman of PDP has said already,  Kalu’s name is not in the party register. He is not a member of the ruling party here and nobody is impressed by the fact that he is now brandishing a fake PDP membership card. He cannot return to the party through the back door. That is not acceptable to PDP leadership and elders in the state,” he said.

But Prince Emeka Obasi, Kalu’s media adviser, told The Nation in a telephone chat that Kalu’s return went through the due process. “So, after that process, a few selfish individuals cannot nullify the process. No!”

According to Obasi, Kalu was required to go through his ward, and this is what he did. Obasi, therefore, said, ‘Can’t you see that somebody is trying to be smart?  PDP is the people’s party, as the name indicates, and not an organisation  for a few rich but misguided elements, who call themselves leaders.”

As he puts it, “the real people, the masses in Abia State, are not complaining. In fact, the people are happy and have been celebrating the return of their leader. It is only a few misguided elements that are erecting roadblocks here and there to defend their selfish interests. It is disheartening because these elements were not there in 1998 when Dr. Kalu and other patriots founded PDP. It is, therefore, difficult to understand why these people are so desperate today to pursue a man from a house he built. They will not succeed because the former governor has returned home. The lion has returned home and there is nothing they can do to stop him,” he said.

Reminded that the state chairman of the party has openly faulted the alleged return to the party and has described the membership card given to Kalu as fake, and that leaders of the wards in Igbere and neighbouring towns, like Item and Alayi in Bende Local Government Area, in a paid newspaper advertorial during the week corroborated the state chairman’s position, Obasi said, “They are playing politics the Nigerian way. The way desperate politicians operate in this country, anybody could have signed those advertorials. Don’t forget that the ward executive members who perfected Dr. Kalu’s return and issued him his membership card have been living under threat since then. In fact, as we speak, they have been hiding and could not sleep in their homes. So, we know what is happening. Even if those people actually signed that advertorial, we know that in their heart of hearts, they do not believe what they were made to sign. They have been pressured to say what they said and sign what they signed,” he said.

Asked who was issuing the alleged threat and piling up the said pressure on the ward executives,  Obasi said, “They know themselves but the point really is that the former governor is back to his party and the people currently troubled by the return cannot stop him.”

Kalu’s return and politics of Abia PDP

Given the current disposition of Governor Theodore Orji- led Abia State Government, which is outrightly against Kalu’s return to the PDP, there is the fear that if Kalu’s return is finally approved by the national leadership, the party would ultimately be factionalised in the state between Orji’s loyalists and Kalu’s and the opposition parties may take advantage of the development to win future elections in the state.

This calculation is anchored on the belief that Kalu, who said his return was informed by an agreement he had with other founding fathers of the party, enjoys the support of Alhaji Bamanga Tukur-led National leadership of PDP and some other very powerful  members of the party outside the state, who contend that his return will boost the fortunes of the party not only in the state but also in the South-East zone, ahead 2015.

A source close to the Umuahia Government House, however, told The Nation that Kalu’s alleged return to PDP is a ploy to destroy the party in the state. “Abia State Government is not oblivious of the plot to use the ludicrous return to PDP as a tool to destroy the party here. We know the game and that is why we cannot allow them to succeed,” the source, who pleaded anonymity, said, adding, “the game plan is to split the party.’

Reacting, however, Obasi said Kalu and his supporters do not believe his return will lead to the alleged split. “There will be no split in Abia PDP as a result of Dr. Kalu’s return. Instead, his return will only help to strengthen the party and take it to a higher level. This development will help the party because all the sycophants, who have been unable to guide the leadership in the state, will no longer thrive when the real leader is back,” he said.

The larger picture

As the exchange of verbal arsenal between the opposing camps in Abia State continues, insiders have explained that the problem may not be easily resolved because of what some of them described as the “larger picture,” or the “2015 power game.” A source close to the National Secretariat of the party in Abuja told The Nation that the “national leadership had hoped that the return of founding members like Kalu will help the party ahead 2015 instead of creating divisions. So, the leaders consider this development as unfortunate and in my personal opinion, I think there would be need to carefully study the situation before coming out with a position.”

Another source, an aide to a leader of PDP, said, most of the leaders of the party in Abuja are worried ‘since they know that Orji can no longer contest in 2015. They would prefer full reconciliation than the current scenario. But the situation is dicey and everybody is being careful because the real issue is 2015 and nobody wants to misread the power game,” he said.

Explaining the dilemma of the national leadership of the party, the source said, “For PDP, it seems equally risky to antagonise either Kalu or Orji ahead 2015. That is why Abuja must tread with caution,” he said.

For now, the naked live wires that litter the bare floor of Abia State’s political theatre remains visible. So, both the field actors and behind-the-scene directors and stakeholders in PDP, besides verbal attacks, are still treading with caution. But as the game lingers on, the opposition groups are watching with keen interest.