It is about time former Abia State Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu gave up on his senatorial ambition, writes Mike Nwachukwu
In an article I wrote late last year under the title “The Needless Quagmire in Abia North”, I pointed out that the bid by a former governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, to represent the people of Abia North puts the latter in a quandary. That article was informed by my worry over Kalu’s case at the Supreme Court in which he asked the apex court to free him of corruption charges by the nation’s anti-graft agencies.
At the time I did the article, the people of Abia North were preparing for a re-run for its senatorial seat following an Appeal Court ruling, which upturned an earlier one by the lower tribunal upholding the election of Senator Mao Ohuabunwa in March, 2015. But since after the re-run, the Supreme Court has ruled on Kalu’s case, refusing to let him off the hook. The case is now back in full throttle.
Before the Supreme Court ruling, Kalu and another contender, Bourdex Onuoha, of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, had filed a petition at the National Assembly and Governorship Election Tribunal, challenging the election of Senator Ohuabunwa at the re-run. In a ruling that lasted between eight and nine hours, the tribunal upheld the election of Ohuabunwa for a second time.
The high point in the ruling was the subtraction of over 4,000 votes from the total number of votes earlier recorded in favour of Kalu by the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Interestingly, Ohuabunwa’s other opponent, Onuoha, had conceded defeat in the spirit of the general decision of the Abia North electorate to rally round Senator Ohuabunwa.
Now, Chief Kalu has again challenged the ruling of the tribunal at the Court of Appeal. That is where the people of Abia North are now, a re-enactment of an earlier scenario. Put differently, the Abia North electorate in back to the same dilemma as they were before: what to do with a fellow who seeks desperately to be their representative but who still has a case to answer with the authorities.
The question that readily comes to mind is: should Kalu continue to subject his people to such an ordeal? Differently put still, should Kalu not respect the verdict of his people for now and seek an opportunity next time, after hopefully clearing himself of the charges against him in court?
My answer to the first question is “No” and to the second “yes”. My fear on Kalu’s legal recalcitrance is that he is repudiating the goodwill he has among the people of Abia North. Yes, Kalu is held in high esteem by his people but for reasons that are not farfetched, they have simply decided that as far as the senatorial seat is concerned for this season, they prefer Senator Ohuabunwa.
That is where the people are now and there is almost a certainty that they will continue to express their preference in favour of Ohuabunwa even if the election is conducted ten times over. Kalu should therefore respect the verdict of his people and save both the people and the Senator the distraction from his legal abracadabra.
From his posturing, Kalu seems to suffer a mindset, namely that since he got a favourable ruling last time, the Appeal Court will give it to him again. This is most unfortunate because it shows that he does not understand that no two elections are the same and that the Judges look at the merit of each case.
Apart from what looks most certainly like chasing a mirage, Chief Kalu is fast making himself vulnerable through his utterances and posturing while pursuing this case. For example, during a recent television interview, he had posited that he would not stop playing politics because if he does, “fools” will rule him.
As expected, that statement has been seriously frowned at by every well-meaning citizen of Abia State. By that statement, Chief Kalu went off guard to insinuate that only fools have been elected or appointed into offices in Abia State since he left as governor since 2007.
That is most unfair and unfortunate. Such unguarded utterances is an assault on the collective psyche of the people of the entire Abia State who, as far as I know, take full responsibility over every mandate they have given out to all Abians currently holding elective offices. To insinuate that outside him, only fools can emerge as political leaders of the good people of Abia State is to totally repudiate every modicum of brotherly love that could have existed between him and the people who once gave him their mandate to preside over their affairs for eight years.
In my view, the current trend could lead him to a tragic end of a once vibrant political career. Personally, I am an admirer of Chief Kalu and even as things are, I believe there could still be a lifting up for him. But that is dependent on how he handles the current situation. If he continues to sound desperate and in disdain to the verdict of his people in Abia North, he will certainly sink into further political abyss.
After all, it is not for noting that the Abia North electorate not only elected Senator Ohuabunwa first in 2005 and went ahead to re-elect him at the re-run.
Before the Appeal Court ruling that led to the re-run, Mao, as he is more fondly known among the people, had represented Abia North for more than six months. That was enough time for the highly discerning Abia North electorate to determine whether or not he merits to be sent back to the senate. That they did renew his mandate is a clear testimony that they saw that he still deserved the mandate they earlier gave him.
Of course, Mao’s election into the senate in 2005 was merely graduating him into the next class, given that he had earlier been elected twice by his people in the House of Representatives between 1999 and 2007. During the same period, he served as speaker of the ECOWAS parliament.
In the Red Chambers, Mao has leveraged on his experience as a two time legislator to become one of the most vibrant senators in the entire country. Earlier this year, even as he was grappling with his re-run challenges, he bagged the prestigious BV Nigeria Democracy Man of The Year Award, an internet live screaming media awards in Africa styled after the CNN Heroes awards. Apart from being a vibrant legislator, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa confers an advantage to the people of Abia North more than the other top contenders to the seat.
For example, Kalu is contesting on the ticket of the Progressive People’s Alliance (PPA), a rather moribund political party. There is not a single PPA member in the entire National Assembly. There is not even a PPA member in the Abia House of Assembly. So, with whom will Kalu associate politically in today’s Nigerian political space, where competition among the various people has become very keen.
Kalu has proved that he is by nature a lone ranger. That might have worked for him in the past but certainly not this time around. Needless to say the good people of Abia North are not unmindful of the type of baggage a fellow like Kalu would carry to the political setup of Nigeria of today.
If Chief Kalu should tell himself the truth, he would agree that his only saving grace today is his involvement in newspaper publishing. To be sure, he has done quite well there and we commend him for that. But he has also seen that newspapers do not elect people into offices, or sustain them in office. Kalu is no doubt a successful man but in my view, the best way to sustain his success is to learn to respect the verdict of his own people especially on this matter of Abia North senatorial seat.
From his posturing, Kalu seems to suffer a mindset, namely that since he got a favourable ruling last time, the Appeal Court will give it to him again. This is most unfortunate because it shows that he does not understand that no two elections are the same and that the Judges look at the merit of each case…Apart from what looks most certainly like chasing a mirage, Chief Kalu is fast making himself vulnerable through his utterances and posturing while pursuing this case