Following his recent decision to defect to the ruling All Progressives Congress, former Abia State governor, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, has kicked off the process that will ultimately lead to his exit in politics, writes Mike Nwachukwu
In the count down to the last re-run election for the Abia North senatorial seat, many observers expressed the fear that one of the most likely consequences of the re-run will be the final retirement of Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, one of the major contenders for the seat, from active politics.
That prognosis may have begun to gradually unfold given the trend of events around the former governor of Abia State. To buttress this line of reasoning, analysts point at the recent defection of Chief Kalu to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opinion of many, Kalu’s move to APC is the beginning of his ultimate routing from politics.
But the question has been is his current misadventure as result of the devastating defeat he suffered in the hands of Senator Mao Ohuabunwa in the last re-run? Indeed, many observers even wonder if Kalu was so dazed by the defeat handed to him by Ohuabunwa that he has lost all sense of judgment.
Even when room is given to the belief that his defection is an attempt to cling to a life line in a desperate battle for political survival, many still believe that he should have been more circumspect.
Already, so much has been said and written by commentators who see the move as no more than an attempt to get the protection of the federal government in his on-going trial for corrupt practices while he was governor of Abia State between 1999 and 2007.
Even so, not a few believe that he had no option, politically speaking, given that he has completely alienated himself from the Abia political establishment through the way and manner he went about his senatorial bid.
Kalu has been so berated in both the conventional and social media that his handlers have been spending much of their time and energy trying to respond to the barrage of criticisms and shore up his image. Even Kalu himself has been laboring to personally give reasons why he defected. But his narrative has, rather than help his case, further complicated it, indeed even alienating him further from the people of the South-east who see his recent moves as another ploy to deceive them.
For example, Chief Kalu’s claim that he joined the APC because President Muhammadu Buhari has begun to fulfill the promises he personally made to him, Kalu, that he, Buhari, will improve infrastructural facilities in the zone if elected, has been highly criticised and faulted by the generality of the people of the zone.
The question that is being posed to Kalu is, where are the infrastructural facilities you are talking about? This question arises mainly because, the infrastructural facilities, especially roads, in the South-east have remained the way Buhari met them more than eighteen months ago, with no sign that the situation will improve soon.
While being formally received by the leadership of the APC following his defection, Kalu had told the gathering that with him now in the APC, the entire South-east, plus indeed the South-south, will vote overwhelmingly for the party in 2019.
But that statement fetched him so much scorn. His Kinsmen not only see that statement as a sellout, they also berate Kalu for making a promise he knows he is incapable of fulfilling. Here is a fellow, they say, who was unable to win a senatorial seat, after several attempts and in spite of the fact that he once governed an entire state, promising to capture an entire zone for a party from which the people have remained alienated despite the attraction to the so called federal might. The view, generally, is that Chief Kalu should speak for himself and pursue his self-serving motives for going to the APC.
But to play the devil’s advocate, it is also the view of many analysts that Kalu showed crass lack of strategy and tact by making his recent move shortly after losing a senatorial election he boasted so much about and following a court ruling that threw away his petition challenging the election of Senator Mao Ohuabunwa.
The thinking in several quarters is that he should have allowed the pangs of defeat and the loss of face associated with it to die down before making such a move. Given the profile of the two candidates (Ohuabunwa and Kalu) involved, coupled with the circumstances that surrounded it, the Abia North senatorial re-run election became a national issue. With a noisy posturing made easier by his involvement in newspaper publishing, Kalu raised the ante beyond the ordinary tenets of political campaigns.
What caught the attention of most Nigerians was the fact that, apart from that Senator Ohuabunwa trounced him at each of the elections; Kalu shunned all entreaties by his Abia North kinsmen to save Mao, as the senator is more fondly referred to, from distractions that arose from the protracted litigations. Interestingly, another top contender for the seat, Chief Bourdex Onuoha, heeded the call by his people by refusing to challenge the result of the re-run election.
The overall implication of Kalu’s recalcitrance is that aside loss of electoral value, Kalu has lost tremendous goodwill from his people who ordinarily respected him because of the position he held before.
In the view of many, the fact that Kalu pledged to deliver the same people to his new political allies without first seeking for ways of warming himself back to their heart means that he takes them for granted, something that is seen as quite reprehensible and dangerous for his political survival. It is even said in some quarters that contrary to the claim he made on the pages of newspapers, Kalu never congratulated Senator Ohuabunwa.
And talking about survival, it is the position of several observers, that His Excellency, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, has fired his last shot in his battle for political survival. They point out that the Igbere Chief has arrived at his last “political bus stop”. They further insist that apart from not being a team player, Kalu lacks the discipline and orientation to submit himself to the leadership of others. It is the thinking of many that it will not be long before he falls out with the leadership of the APC, which will, in any case, soon discover that he lacks the capacity to deliver the South-east to the party as he boasted.
The reason many argue along this line is because it is believed that Chief Kalu has squandered his good will by the type of politics he plays. Here, particularly worrisome to many is his penchant to see himself as the only cock that crows. This is coupled with his tendency to be unrestrained in his utterance. Generally, the attitude of key politicians in both Abia and South-east as a whole is that of caution.
In the course of seeking the senatorial mandate, Kalu made utterances that completely discomfited not just his people in Abia North but the entire Abia State. For example, in a television interview shortly after the re-run, he had said that the reason he cannot quit politics is because if he leaves, “fools” will emerge to rule him.
That statement drew to him a lot of flaks as Abians, generally, took that to mean that he was insinuating that all those whom the people have given their mandates since after his tenure as governor are fools, a thing Abians, from North to South, did not take lightly, given their affinity and respect for their current leaders, especially the three senators.
Many observers believe that Kalu may not get the sympathy of Abians again unless he purges himself of his excesses. Before his desperate bid for the senate, Chief Kalu was seen by many as politically wise, despite that he had running battles with some of his former political associates.
The question has been what happened? Did Senator Ohuabunwa use a charm on him? It is an ordinary joke but it shows the extent to which many observers believe that Kalu is headed for further political misadventure, a situation made worse by his defection to the APC. Not a few wonder why Kalu left the very party he formed to join another initiated and now led by a former colleague of his.
When recently he said on national television that the “Igbo do not understand politics”, many commentators of Igbo extraction reminded him that abandoning the party he formed stands him out as one of the most ill-informed politicians to ever happen on this clan.
The truth is that Kalu is alone in his APC project in Abia State. He is there as an only tree which, as the aphorism goes, cannot make a forest. The three senators, who are all PDP, call the shots in their different constituencies.
Even if the much talked about mega party project sees the light of the day, the three senators, together with the governor, who is also of the PDP fold, will seize the center stage, being incumbent holders of the people’s mandate. This leaves Orji Uzor Kalu, who has lost the confidence of his people in Abia State, completely alone. If he fails to deliver Abia as he boasted and as is wont to happen, that will be the end of his political career.
Still, not a few believe that the matter of what happens to Kalu’s political career is now academic. Kalu, they say, knew the consequences of his recent political choices. So, something must give since nobody can eat his cake and still have it.
While he remains innocent until proven guilty by the court in his ongoing trial, this is also wishing him the best of luck in the attempt to get the sympathy of his new political friends and masters to let him off the hook.
Mike Nwachukwu wrote in from Umuhahi, Abia State