Kalu’s Quest To Promote Regional Agenda As House Deputy Speaker

Adedayo Akinwale writes that the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Ben Kalu, has penchant for promoting  regional agenda since his emergence over a year ago.

On June 13, 2023, the 10th National Assembly was inaugurated after the zoning arrangement which saw the emergence of Senator Godswill Akpabio as the President of the Senate, Senator Jibrin Barau as Deputy Senate President; while Hon. Tajudeen Abass emerged as Speaker and Hon. Benjamin Kalu as Deputy Speaker.

But for divine providence, if the votes garnered by the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the six geo-political zones was anything to go by, the South east would not have been considered for the position of the Presiding officer in the 10th House.

However, by virtue of zoning and against all odds, Kalu, who was elected for the second time in the legislative arm emerged as the Deputy Speaker.

By its rule, the Deputy Speaker is the Chairman of the Committee of the Whole. The Deputy Speaker replaces the Speaker in his or her absence. Every action of the Deputy Speaker when acting in the Speaker’s place has the same effect and validity as if the Speaker had acted. 

No one ever doubts the  competence and capacity of the Deputy Speaker,  even his political adversaries doff hat for him. Despite being a second term legislator in the House, he is well grounded in the legislative processes. The Bende-born lawmaker is also a delight to watch whenever he presides over the plenary. He’s a beauty to watch.

Nevertheless, since his assumption of office and without pretence, Kalu has practically turned his office into a tool to promote a regional agenda. While no one can deny him his inalienable rights to represent his people,  one wonders if Kalu is the Deputy Speaker of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or the  South-east.

At every opportunity, it’s either Kalu is canvassing for the release of the leader of the outlawed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu or pushing another agenda exclusively in favour of his region.

THISDAY Checks revealed that following the release of President Bola Tinubu’s list of ministerial nominees with 48 names in August 2023,  the North-West got 10 slots; the North-East got eight, North-Central, eight; the South-West nine; the South-South, nine; while the South-East got five.

Expectedly, the Deputy Speaker immediately called on President Tinubu and the leadership of All Progressives Congress (APC) to consider increasing the ministerial slots for South-East for the sake of equity and federal character.

Subsequently, Kalu paid a visit to the National Chairman of the APC, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje, where he said the South-east deserved more ministerial slots. 

“We are lobbying for more (ministerial slots) for the South-East. You know, we are like Oliver Twist. While thanking Mr President for remembering us — despite all odds and despite our contributions to the last election, he remembered us by ensuring that I also emerged as the Deputy Speaker of the House, for which the region is very grateful to Mr president. But we are also asking him, because he is a man that we know is magnanimous, to look into increasing the number of ministerial positions for the region,” he had said.

Following the inauguration of Peace In South East Project (PISE-P) in the South-east last December, Kalu said the aim was to foster peace, unity and development in the region. 

He was of the opinion that the initiative ultimately canvasses the adoption of a non kinetic approach to resolving the problem of insecurity in the South east. 

“In response to the challenges of the South East, a different kind of song is rising – the song of the Peace in South East Project (PISE-P). PISE-P is not about guns and boots; for the sounds of guns and the barrels of guns have not helped us in solving the problem in the South east. Militarization has not helped us. Kinetic approach to resolving the problem has not been the best solution. If it is not, then there must be something out there that is better than the guns. It is about education, entrepreneurship, infrastructure, and cultural revival. It is about restoring the fertile ground where your talents can take root and soar,” Deputy Speaker noted.

Beyond that, in January, 2024, Kalu commended the authorities at the Supreme Court of Nigeria for releasing the Certified True Copy (CTC) of its December 15, 2023 judgement on the detention of  Kanu. 

Last Monday, about 50 members of the House of Representatives wrote to President Bola Tinubu demanding the release of Kalu from prison.

The lawmakers under the aegis of Concerned Federal Lawmakers for Peace and Security in the South East called on the  President to invoke section 174 of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria, 1999(as amended) and section 107(1) of administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 for the release of Kanu from detention to aid the restoration of peace in the South East.

The signatories to the letter dated June 19, 2024, a copy of which was made available to journalists on Sunday were: Hon. Obi Aguocha (Abia), Hon. Ikenga Ugochinyere (Imo), Hon. Afam Ogene (Anambra), Hon. Abiante Awaji-Inombek (Rivers),  Hon. Aliyu Mustapha (Kaduna), among others.

The lawmakers recalled that the President extended this gesture through the office of the Attorney General in the charge involving Omoyele Sowore wherein, he was charged with treasonable felony in Charge No FHC/ABJ CR/235/2019, Sunday Igboho and so on.

The lawmakers believed that it was long overdue and would be instrumental in opening the door for much-needed conversations surrounding peace restoration and inclusivity as well as addressing the issues that led to the agitations.

Nevertheless, If calls by Kalu for the release of Kanu were anything to go by, it was clear to the discerning minds that it was the case of ‘Hand of Esau and Voice of Jacob’.

Barely 24 hours after the demand made by the lawmakers, the Deputy Speaker wasted no time in clearing people’s doubts when he commended the lawmakers for demanding for Kanu’s release from prison.

Kalu in a statement issued on Tuesday, June 25 by his Chief Press Secretary, Levinus Nwabughiogu said there were expectations that the south east caucus will also arise in unison soon to support the effort.

Though the Deputy Speaker claimed that the lawmakers who demanded Kanu’s release spread across the six geo-political zones of the country, about 94 per cent of the lawmakers that were signatories to the letter to the President demanding Kanu’s release are from the South-east.

The statement reads: “The deputy speaker who also revealed that he had met with Kanu a couple of times in the Department of State Service (DSS) detention facility said that hopes are high that the IPoB leader will soon regain his freedom.

“In last visit two weeks before the court appearance, Kalu had discussed and obtained a firm assurance on the side of the IPoB leader on the need for sustainable peace in the region. Notedly, that agreement has since been communicated to the delight of the authorities and Kanu’s younger brother as his family representative.”

While it’s within the rights of Kalu to represent his people, promote the agenda of the region, the way he’s going about it appears to be an overkill as he has undoubtedly reduce the office of the Deputy Speaker to a tool to promote regional agenda and further boost his political career.

A number of politicians from the South-east have been made presiding officers in the legislative arm at one time or the other. 

Some of them are former Senate Presidents, Adolphus Wabara, Ken Nnamani; former Speaker of the House, Emeka Ihedioha and former Deputy Speaker, Chibudom Nwuche. Their acts then while in office was nothing compared to what is being witnessed now with Kalu as Deputy House Speaker.

Related Articles