Posted by The Roundtable, With Tiko Okoye,firstname.lastname@example.org on
Governor Orji Uzor Kalu (OUK) was born on April 21 – fortuitously the same day as the 2007 presidential poll! – 1957 at Eziama Aba, Abia State. A businessman of international repute, grassroots’ politician and astute administrator, OUK is a two-term governor of Abia State in the Southeast geopolitical zone.
The scores of Orji Uzor Kalu in the Presidential Straw Polls Series (with the category ranking in parenthesis) are as follows: Character: 19.25 (#5); Desire: 13.0 (#3); Leadership Style: 7.0 (#2, 2-way tie); Godfather Influence: 16.0 (#3); Passion and Commitment: 17.075 (#2); Charisma: 12.0 (#3); Quality of Inner Circle: 12.0 (#3); Frugality and Discipline: 6.5 (#4, 2-way tie); Track Record: 7.33 (#1; 2-way tie); Vision/Agenda: 11.34 (#3, 3-way tie); Party Reach/Likely Voter Catchment Area: 5.5 (#4); Personae: 9.0 (#1, 3-way tie). Grand Total: 135.995; Overall Ranking: 3rd
Governor Orji Uzor Kalu (OUK) was born on April 21 – fortuitously the same day as the 2007 presidential poll! – 1957 at Eziama Aba, Abia State. A businessman of international repute, grassroots’ politician and astute administrator, OUK is a two-term governor of Abia State in the Southeast geopolitical zone. The Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) adopted Governor Kalu as its consensus candidate at its national convention held at Abuja in December 2006.
If foreign approval and support were the sole criteria for selecting Nigeria’s president, OUK would have beaten everybody hands down. He was once short listed by the U.S. State Department as one of five credible candidates for the presidential crown. In fact, the report went as far as endorsing him as the most qualified and "connected" of the lot. This unsolicited effort by the U.S. came on the heels of invidious attempts by PDP aficionados and Obasanjo-chorus organisations to justify the president’s yearning for tenure elongation on the basis that there was nobody qualified to succeed him. A similar French Intelligence Agency assessment in 2003 reportedly described OUK as a "household name" which the agency cited as "an inestimable leadership asset."
Among respondents OUK scored highly in the Leadership Style, Track Record, Charisma, and Passion & Commitment categories. He is viewed as a democrat who has made a catechism out of due process and the rule of law. He has filed more lawsuits against the federal government than any other governor in a bid to enthrone true federalism. He scored top marks in the track record category as many respondents perceive him as a performer quite contrary to strident voices from opposition politicians in Abia state who view his tenure as "locust years" with nothing to show development-wise. Perhaps, many respondents were impressed with the fact that OUK remains one of the very few governors with gumption to regularly display the state’s audited financial accounts in national newspapers for public consumption. Moreover, track record, in this column’s reckoning, includes the existence of a commendable mentoring regime/ability to create new leadership. The wide circle of brilliant, young men and women that have passed through the governor’s tutelage in his two terms as executive governor bears eloquent testimony of his mentoring and leadership development abilities.
Charismatic and very outspoken, OUK has passionately and single-mindedly pursued his ambition to be president. In the process he has often manifested a death-wish propensity to ride roughshod where even angels have shied away from treading! He is not known to shy away from any challenge or battle that offends his sense of decency and fair play. At a time the president was waxing lyrical on fighting corruption, OUK openly upbraided him for being the most corrupt Nigerian! Kalu was only one of four governors courageous enough to vigorously oppose the third term bid of the president. Apart from being the lone voice in the PDP wilderness that consistently opposed the autocratic tendencies of the federal government, he was the only governor in the PDP fold to openly condemn the strong-arm tactics and reign of terror unleashed by Chief Chris Uba, at the Presidency’s behest, against Governor Chris Ngige of Anambra State.
Kalu is also the only Southeast governor known to oppose the ridiculous 2006 census figures, which effectively "depopulated" the zone. He was to suffer tremendous intimidation from the federal government for his "deviant" stance: his vast business interests have been under siege; his fast rising airline outfit, Slok Air, lost its operating license under very bizarre circumstances; and both he and his mother have been the subject of incessant, humiliating investigative raids by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). He was listed as one of the 135 persons unfit to seek elective office by the EFCC, which many accuse of playing out the president’s hidden agenda.
The Southeast, comprising the enterprising and republican Igbo tribe, has consistently complained of marginalisation since the end of the civil war – despite General Gowon’s conciliatory 3-R programme of Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction. Ndigbo view the emergence of one of their sons as president as the only assurance they need that they have a key role to play in the continued existence of the Nigerian Project. OUK has increasingly come to be seen as the new face of an assertive, confident and ambitious Igbo political class. Little wonder he received very important endorsements from mainstream Igbo organisations from within and without the country (even over revered, old war horses like Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu-Ojukwu). First, the Igbo World Congress (IWC), a summit of the apex Igbo intelligentsia in the Diaspora, unanimously endorsed Kalu’s presidential candidature. Similarly, the apex Igbo cultural organisation in Nigeria, the Ohaneze Ndigbo, also unanimously endorsed him as the consensus candidate of the Southeast zone for the April polls.
A few opposition voices, as should be expected, have been raised against these endorsements but the latter’s import can be seen from the fact that it had been absolutely impossible for mainstream Igbo organisations in the past to line up behind a single candidate seeking the presidential marble given contending political tendencies, ease of maneuverability by other tribes and their famed republican character. That these mainstream Igbo organisations overcame their competing internal proclivities to make such a watershed endorsement can be likened to the 11th wonder of the world – nothing can be gained by trying to belittle its groundbreaking significance.
Despite the energy the governor continues to expend crisscrossing the nation, networking and attempting to build bridges of cooperation with other geopolitical zones, there are many who still see him as only aiming for nothing higher than the VP slot – this must be very frustrating for the irrepressible young governor who has been making a pitch for a generational shift in the nation’s political leadership. But if the Igbo are truly serious about producing a president from their fold, they should put their votes where their mouths are by voting for OUK because his candidature represents their best chance of having a credible shot at the presidency in the foreseeable future.
As for strategy, TR recommends that Governor Kalu should take cognizance of the 20/80 Pareto Principle in business – 20% of prioritized efforts account for 80% of returns. As in business so it is in politics. He must avoid spreading himself too thin on the ground. Our elders say that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. If the April 21 polls are truly free and fair, most analysts and astute observers predict that there will be no clear-cut winner in the first ballot. With the Southeast votes strongly locked in his kitty, OUK could engage in the ensuing horse-trading from a position of solid strength.
It gladdens a columnist’s heart whenever his views are rapidly implemented by those in a position to do so. Readers would recall that we had recommended a four-plank strategy to the Yar’Adua team. Late last week (and as we canvassed), adverts started appearing in the print and electronic media depicting the PDP presidential ticket as the ‘third way’ to an ‘autocratic dictator’ (tautology) and ‘corrupt politician’ – no prizes for guessing who are the targets of the poisoned arrows. His has also embarked on an intensive national meet-the-people electioneering campaign tour. We were also the first to warn that the way President Obasanjo is carrying on like a village bully, he would only end up creating very serious credibility problems for Yar’Adua should he win the April 21 polls. Last week, the United States Government officially canvassed the same view. A stitch in time, they say, saves nine but count on our "deaf," know-it-all president persisting with actualizing his private agenda, no matter what, and end up like the fly that refused all counsel just to follow the corpse into the grave.
Candidate Yar’Adua has recently been trying very hard to be his own man vis-‡-vis the President as we also recommended. But with a larger than life Obasanjo who also wears the hats of campaign manager, PDP life leader, and BOT chairman-to-be, seeking an amicable divorce would be no mean feat because while you can take Yar’Adua out of Obasanjo, nobody can take Obasanjo out of Yar’Adua and live to tell the ‘do-or-die’ story!