Udora Orizu writes that with less than three months in office, Deputy Speaker of the 10th House of Representatives, Hon. Benjamin Okezie Kalu, has proven to be a leader beyond party affiliations.
Author of the book, Leadership is an Art, Max De Pree, once wrote, “the first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.”
The above quote resonates with the Deputy Speaker of the 10th House of Representatives, Hon. Benjamin Okezie Kalu, who has proven that to be an effective leader, you must capture the essence of truth, display sincerity, reliability, integrity and candour.
On June 13, 2023, a month after the National Working Committee of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) endorsed him and Hon. Tajudeen Abbas as Deputy Speaker, Speaker respectively, the duo emerged victorious.
Since then, the second term lawmaker, representing Bende federal constituency in Abia State assumed office, with the determination to deliver quality service and common good to the Nigerian people.
With recent interventions in the area of security and peace negotiations, the Deputy Speaker has shown true leadership by attempting to move the nation away from disputes, and pushing them towards peace path for the growth and prosperity of the society.
An instance was seen at the “All Markets Conference 2023 in Lagos,” themed: Catalysing Partnership with Traders through Innovation, Technology, Analytics& Sustainability.
Delivering a keynote address, the Deputy Speaker lamented that about N4 trillion has been lost to the stay-at-home problem in the south east region within the last two years.
Kalu said the situation observed every Monday in the region with the five States of Abia, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi and Imo has crippled businesses and also stifled opportunities for economic growth.
He noted that violence was alien to the region and therefore called for a collective efforts by all Igbo sons and daughters to end the menace.
According to him: “The existential threat to Igbo entrepreneurship and businesses now is the insecurity and sit-at-home problem in the Southeast. The mutation of this problem is largely unfathomable. It is becoming a cankerworm that is eating deep into our collective fortune as a people. We have to rise up to nip the problem in the bud. The first wave of the migration of Igbo businesses post-civil war was in the late 1980s and the 1990s, when, due to incessant kidnappings, thievery and a rise in occultism, Igbo businesses domiciled in Igbo land moved en masse to other parts of Nigeria and the west & central African region to thrive.
“We are currently witnessing the second wave of such migration of the Igbo businesses, this time around, due to the insecurity and the sit-at-home problem in our beloved region. Umunnem, this is not us. We are not known for these. If I do not tell you these truths as your son, then it will be difficult for anyone in governance from Ala-Igbo to tell you. I am pained by what our dear land has become. We have to be honest and sincere with ourselves.
“I make a heartfelt plea to each and every one of you. We cannot afford to retreat from our business endeavors. The stay-at-home order on Mondays has resulted in staggering losses of N4 trillion in the last two years in the Southeast alone according to statistical data by analysts. This is also affecting the businesses of our brothers across Nigeria especially in the supply-chain. We must find lasting solutions to the security challenges in Igbo land, addressing them collectively with innovative strategies. My brothers and my sisters. We must think and think again!
“In this spirit, let us remember the longstanding harmonious relationship between the Yoruba and the Igbo, especially in Lagos and other parts of the Southwest. We have come a long way together, both economically and politically. We can draw inspiration from past collaborations, such as Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu’s role as the founding president of The Nigerian Stock Exchange in Lagos, and the partnership between Nnamdi Azikiwe and Sir Herbert Badmus Macaulay during the glory days of the then National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC). Umunem na Umunnam, Igbo bu Igbo, let me assure you that my colleagues and I from the South East are committed to this task in the next four years of the current administration. With me as the Deputy Speaker, we will work together towards an inclusive and prosperous Nigeria.”
Again, on August 2, the Deputy Speaker urged members of the APC and Igbo leaders in the South-east to unite as one and pursue their common destiny against all odds.
Kalu who made the appeal when the leaders of the ruling party in Abia State paid him a courtesy call, also underscored the need to defeat insecurity in the South-east region.
He said, “I’m most delighted to have you here. The realization that we are all in this together, whether it’s in success or failure. There’s an igbo adage which says “Onye ahala nwanne ya”. We can’t achieve any major milestone as a people without being together. Our nemesis has always come when we believe we could be lone rangers. It doesn’t work, you will agree with me that it has never worked. The difference between our leadership and that of people from other jurisdictions, we find it difficult to stick together for a longtime.
“That’s what differentiates us from others who are playing politics in other jurisdictions. I’m sure you’re not in doubt, if you are in doubt, check President Tinubu’s team yesterday and today and tell me who has changed. Is it Femi Gbajabiamila, Fashola, I can go on and on, they know what it means to stay together for a long period. Does it mean that all of them are scents in politics? Does it mean that nobody is offended in the course of politicking? The answer is no. The wisdom that has guided them to achieve what they are achieving today is the same wisdom that made them understand that a house that’s divided itself cannot stand and that progress is found in unity.
“We must therefore continue to push and together we shall overcome. Please push for more unity. I like the way you spoke, go into reconciliation, open the windows and doors, let’s embrace people, that’s the spirit of togetherness, spirit of democracy. With this mindset, I guarantee you, we will achieve a lot soon.”
The Deputy Speaker has also intervened in the areas of perceived marginalisation of the Igbos, appealing to President Bola Tinubu to give more slots to the zone. He pressed further his appeal, when he visited the National Chairman of the ruling party, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje.
The events of the past two months, have proven that the House Deputy Speaker is a born leader. It’s no surprise when former Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Nwogu recently said God has prepared Hon Kalu for leadership.
His words, “You didn’t ask for leadership but we are bestowing leadership upon you. Take the first. Today marks a political watershed in the history of APC in Abia. You came at the right time when we have difficulties. You are a unifier. In a state where you do not have a serving governor, the highest political office holder becomes the leader. You have traits of leadership. You are a man born to be a leader. God prepared you.”
Just last Saturday, the House Deputy Speaker was amongs guests at the wedding of the son of the former Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Lloyd and his wife, Tiffany, without minding that it was more or less, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) dominated event.
Kalu was joined other dignitaries including three former Senate Presidents – Anyim Pius Anyim, David Mark and Bukola Saraki,
Governor Francis Nwifuru of Ebonyi State, and Minister-designate, Senator David Umahi. Such interactions provided launch pad for national cohesion and connection for the stability and progress of the country.
-Orizu is Media Assistant to the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.