BY IHEUKWMERE ECHEWODO
Two asymmetrical incidents happened almost spontaneously in the past 10 days. The first was the special waiver granted by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to former Governor Orji Kalu to contest for the Abia North Senatorial seat, which was greeted with thunderous applause by his supporters all over the country. The second was the withdrawal by the former governor from the same Senate race for which the special waiver was granted, less than four days after. Both incidents have continued to generate mixed feelings from a wide spectrum of Nigerians. Even those without any political inclinations have had something to say about the incidents.
While reading the one-page advertorial the former governor placed in The Sun newspaper announcing his withdrawal from the race, my mind was in deep pain. Up till the time of writing this piece, I was still in a quandary on why the former governor withdrew from the race in such a manner as to leave his numerous supporters in the lurch. I wonder if he consulted widely before taking such a monumental decision. If he did, then why did he come out in the first place? Was he hoodwinked into going for the bait?
In any case, the focus of this piece is to express my feeling of despondency over the sad incident and to ponder the possible repercussions for all the dramatis personae involved in the show of naked power and hatred in Abia.
There are three characters involved in the struggle for control of Abia politics. The first is Orji Uzor Kalu, who, to me, is the Godfather of Abia Politics. The second is Governor Theodore Orji – the major beneficiary of Orji Kalu’s political prowess and mastership. And, the third are the good people of Abia State whose support led to what Governor Orji is today politically.
Somebody may wonder why I did not mention the national leadership of PDP – the referee in the imbroglio between Orji Kalu and his ambitious successor. I chose not to mention the leadership of the party for the simple reason that it acted in accordance with the dictates of a higher authority. Why should the party reverse itself so dramatically by refusing to clear him to contest for Senate when it had already given the former helmsman a special waiver?
The fact is that PDP leadership lacked the courage to hold the bull by the horns by seeing through something it started when it knew ab initio that it was not going to be an easy fight. Who actually stood as a wedge between the decision of the NWC and its implementation? Fingers should naturally point in the direction of President Goodluck Jonathan. Why should the President, if it is true that he was the obstacle between Orji Kalu and his ambition to represent his people in the Senate, be a stumbling block when he knows the electoral worth of Orji Kalu?
I have asked these salient questions to enable me to burrow into the real reasons the former governor called off his journey to the Senate. Nothing else in the realm of proper reasoning could have warranted the former governor to withdraw in the manner he did if not frustration. From the stories we have been reading, the former governor rejoined PDP in his Igbere Ward in 2012 and was just granted a special waiver in November 2014. Why did it take the party this long to grant the former governor a waiver when it had done the same to other applicants?
Reading through the one-page advertorial Orji Kalu placed in The Sun adducing reasons for his decision to withdraw from the Senate race, my mind wandered to Governor Theodore Orji. How does he feel about the withdrawal? Does he beat his chest that he has won a pyrrhic victory? Does he have any remorse at all for working to stop a man who made him governor, singlehanded? What does he think will happen in future when he must have left office as governor, when the financial resources available to him now are no longer there? Does it bother him what would happen between their children in future when their paths cross?
I am sorry, I cannot stop asking questions, because what is happening between Orji Kalu and Theodore Orji has got out of hands. It is tilting very dangerously such that something needs to be done to contain it before it degenerates to ethnic conflict of epic conflagration.
We should not forget that both men have their supporters, relations, friends and associates. What will happen when these interests clash?
It is painful that PDP has sunk into a political level where intrigues characterize every decision it makes. Why should the party not stand by its decision to grant the special waiver to Kalu when it knew from the outset that it was the proper thing to do? Does any political party have the right to stop any Nigerian from joining its fold, let alone a founding member of the party?
Delving into records, it is clear that Orji Kalu has not been fairly treated. This is a man who gave the PDP the financial lifeline it needed when it mattered most. He was reported to have given the party N500 million to enable it fund its take-off programmes. He was also reported to have donated one million US dollars to former President Olusegun Obasanjo to fund his presidential campaign in 1998. He also gave out money to some state chapters of the party in 1998 to help them consolidate. A great percentage of the victory of PDP nationally should be ascribed to this young man.
Now, how did Olusegun Obasanjo, as President, treat Orji Kalu? Obasanjo’s volteface in his relationship with Orji Kalu jolted many Nigerians. Obasanjo did everything possible to destroy the regime of Orji Kalu, using federal might. Fortunately for Kalu, God did not sanction the evil machinations of his enemies.
I had expected the leadership of PDP to use the Senate seat to compensate Orji Kalu for the many injustices done against him. But, it blew the chance. Why should the party defer to Governor Orji instead of Kalu? Both men are not on the same pedestal. Even if Governor Orji becomes President tomorrow, he can never match Kalu’s political sagacity. He may make all the noise in this world and junket ten million times between Umuahia and Abuja, Governor Orji can never be a match to Orji Kalu. Then, why has the party not seen this remarkable difference? Is the party just comfortable with having a serving governor as the leader of the party in Abia State without factoring in his political assets or liabilities?
It is not wise on the part of PDP leadership to throw away the baby with the bath water. For me, this does not show that PDP is serious about its intention to retain Abia State as one of the states it controls. Otherwise, it would have read between the lines to see the difference between Orji Kalu and Theodore Orji.
Could Governor Orji have survived politically up to this day without Orji Kalu? The answer is a capital NO. From 2007 till date, Governor Orji has worked with the structures put in place by Orji Kalu. There is no single person in Governor Orji’s government today that does not have something to do with Orji Kalu. Governor Orji does not have any structure to call his. He depends on Orji Kalu’s men to survive.
I have continued to wonder why Governor Orji should fight Orji Kalu with such fierceness and brutality even to the point of wanting to destroy him politically. That Orji Kalu made him governor against all odds should have made him soft-pedal. What this recalcitrance means is that Governor Orji does not have a forgiving heart. Even if Orji Kalu committed the most heinous sin against him, he should have recalled all the good things he did for him and forgiven him.
How much money has Abia State wasted in the fight against Kalu, which is still raging? For me, Abia State Government is the loser, because the battle it is waging against Kalu is not worth the cash. Kalu has made it in life and there is nothing anybody can do about it.
His life does not hang on his going to the Senate. But for Governor Orji, he is a big loser, because his conscience will never cease tormenting him. He knows deep in his heart that he has not been fair to the man who made him what he is today, even when he was faced with stiff opposition. Governor Orji owes Orji Kalu a huge debt of gratitude.
The problem with the governor is ego. He does not know how to face the reality before him. In his quiet moments, let him ruminate on all that has happened between him and Orji Kalu and he will see that he has not been fair to him.