Udora Orizu writes that the good people of Bende Federal Constituency, and indeed the entire Abia State are set to hold a grand homecoming and reception for their illustrious son, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Okezie Kalu who emerged Deputy Speaker of the 10th House of Representatives
An Igbo proverb says..’Turu Ugo Lota,’ which translates in English to ‘Bring Home the Glory’. This adage resonates with the aspirations of the Igbo to cross borders, and return home successful. It captures the illustrious spirit and determination of the Igbo to rise above all odds in achieving progress.
This ethnic group in the Southeastern region of the country, is arguably the most elite and industrious of all ethnic groups. However for decades, they have been somewhat divided over various national issues, including perceived political marginalisation.
The zone, did very well under Nigeria’s federal system of government from 1954 to 1966. By 1963 its economy was one of the fastest growing in the world. It’s also worthy of note that the region’s politicians played a major leadership role in the country quest for independence and as well an in post-independence Nigeria.
But the Igbo were adversely affected by the Civil war of 1967-1970 which was partly caused by a secession attempt. Though the region recovered from the economic devastation of the war, few years after it ended, they couldn’t recover from it politically.
So there was wide spread jubilation in the South-east when the APC National Working Committee on May 8, striking regional balance in the National Assembly leadership zoning list, declared that the Deputy Speakership slot is zoned to the South-east, with Hon. Benjamin Okezie Kalu as the consensus candidate.
Kalu who at the time just won his second term re-election bid, had paid his dues as a first time legislator in the last four years. He knew his onions and strived to make a difference. It’s no surprise when he was awarded top performer in value and impact bills and top performer in House newbies by a Parliamentary Monitoring Organisation, order paper.
His emergence as Deputy Speaker has breathed fresh air in Southeast politics, birthing a new dawn in the Igbo sociopolitical space. And on 29th December, south-easterners and well-wishers from across the nation will assemble in Bende, Local Government Area of Abia State to honour him with a grand civic reception.
On the sidelines of this highly anticipated reception, is the official unveiling of Peace in South East Project (PISE-P), a laudable initiative by the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Okezie Kalu to end violence and heightened insecurity, witnessed in the region, partly as a result of the secessionist agitations by some groups.
Intrinsically, the project is aimed at changing the perceived marginalisation in the region and uniting the Igbo as one to pursue their common destiny against all odds.
Unveiling the PISE-P mechanism on October 13, when he played host to the national leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, led by its President General, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, the Deputy Speaker bemoaned the insecurity in the south east.
He lamented that the observance of sit-at-home, unknown gunmen and other social vices are alien and abhorrent to Igboland socially, economically and culturally.
He said that his office in agreement with all the lawmakers from the region irrespective of the political parties will reach out the state governors and other critical stakeholders for the launch and implementation of the PISE-P.
He also said that the project will feature a regional security integration and political leadership that will streamline an agenda for the promotion of Igbo cause and growth in terms of infrastructure.
The Deputy Speaker also commended President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for his benevolence to Ndigbo by ensuring that the people of the south east were accorded a place in the political hierarchy of the country.
Kalu said: “Let me also state that, in our pursuit for these noble objectives, it is imperative that we draw a clear distinction between a legitimate call for justice, equity and fairness against criminal activities. There is a difference between the two of them. Criminal activities cannot be taken to mean legitimate call. Secession is not a legitimate call. We want to remain as one Nigeria!
“It is a distinction that our people must be able to make. And together we must ensure that the line is firmly drawn. Igbo Community has always been in the forefront of nation building and positive change. Go to any part of Nigeria, if you don’t see an Igbo man there, it means that place is not progressing, it means that place is not prosperous. We are everywhere, nobody is as patriotic as the Igbo man. I’m here today, not just as the representative of the people of Bende, but as a representative of all Nigerians. The House of Representatives is actually named the House of the People for a reason.
“We are not known for self destruction that is evident in the idea of sit-at-home or unknown gun men. It is not our thing. It is alien to us. We don’t kill one another. We love our trade, we love our farms. We don’t sit at home. Sitting at home is for lazy people. Igbo people are not lazy people.
“Those in support of sit-at-home are not Igbos. There is no true son of the soil of Igbo land that would support laziness and call it a strategy for secession. If you sit at home, you are a lazy man. Igbos are not known to be lazy. We are industrious, we are entrepreneurs, we work hard to succeed. In addressing our present challenges, we have the opportunity to draw on the things that pull us together. We may have different political platforms, but we must realize that the commonwealth and common good are ultimately the same. Onye aghana nwanne ya”.
Same day, playing host to the Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Enterprises led by its President, Dr. Abdulrashid Yerima, the Deputy Speaker lamented the economic losses of the sit-at-home order.
According to him, the enforcement of the order which cripples both economic and social activities in the region every Monday, costs the south east trillions of Naira.
He said, ”As legislators, we are aware of security problems facing our nation. In recent years, the security situation has posed hurdles. The sit -at-home in the South East has affected the movement of goods between the north and the south. It ought not to be so. Why this issue affects the entire nation. We can examine specific examples. Our businesses are going down and most of our businesses are SME businesses and the security challenges are suffocating the SMEs businesses in their numbers.
“Also billions and trillions of Naira are being lost to the sit at home order. There are other parts of the country where insecurity has suffocated SMEs and something must be done about this. It’s disheartening to note that the ongoing insecurity in the region will have a profound impact to trade and socioeconomic outcomes. Statistics from SBM Intelligence revealed that the south East looses an estimated ten billion naira to 13 billion in the transportation sector alone, every sit at home day.
“Traders on the other hand face looses ranging from N5.4 billion to N31 billion daily. These figures are alarming and underscore the urgency of addressing the security challenges in the region. So if there’s no reason for these non state actors to stop this, let this be their reason.
“That they are killing their own region with insecurities created by themselves. When you sit at home other regions are not sitting at home. When the SMEs in the south east suffer due to insecurity, the country suffers. It impacts the whole country.”
Benjamin Okezie Kalu has lend credence to the proverbial phrase ‘Turu Ugo Lota’. He brought home the glory and on 29th December the good people of Bende and entire Abians will welcome their son home to celebrate his outstanding performance during his four years sojourn in the House of Representatives and his emergence as the number 6 man of the federal republic of Nigeria.
*Orizu, is the SA Press Affairs to the Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives
His emergence as Deputy Speaker has breathed fresh air in Southeast politics, birthing a new dawn in the Igbo sociopolitical space. And on 29th December, south-easterners and well-wishers from across the nation will assemble in Bende, Local Government Area of Abia State to honour him with a grand civic reception