Orji Kalu and task of wooing Southeast For APC

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Orji Uzo Kalu (right) with President Buhari

When former Abia State governor, Dr. Orji Uzo Kalu visited Enugu State governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, recently, many conjured the visit to mean an attempt by him (Kalu) to probably woo the Enugu helmsman into joining the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Since joining the APC in 2016, the former governor has taken upon the role of reconciling and wooing support for President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and especially in his second term bid.

The campaign had taken him to various parts of the country with little or no results. Therefore, it was construed that his mission to Enugu may have a bearing on this.

This suspicion was accentuated by the fact that, stories had trended few weeks earlier that the Enugu governor had perfected plans to defect to the APC.

Although the story later became a hoax, those who orchestrated it knew quite well that it would take a person of Ugwuanyi to move Enugu state from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which they have adorned since 1999 to another political party.

Enugu is synonymous with the PDP. The party has controlled elections in the state since the return of democracy.

The incursions, which other political parties made in the past to amass some control in the state had been unsuccessful.

Ugwuanyi’s coming on board with his style of politics and governance has deepened the foothold of the PDP in the state and making the state almost a no-go area for other political parties.

It was perhaps this realization that provoked the story of defection and the visit of Kalu.

But when the former governor emerged from the meeting, he told Journalists that Ugwuanyi “is a good man and a personal friend and brother,” adding that they have related well and “attend the same church.”

He disclosed that the relationship had been there even when the governor was in the House of Representatives and said that he would not be “passing through Enugu without calling on him.”

Kalu is not a political neophyte. He has been in politics for a long time and has garnered experience. He served as governor of Abia State for eight years.

He became a presidential candidate at a time and finished third for the party he formed, the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA).

He contested Abia north senatorial seat on three occasions and lost. But he knows when to play relevance and also balance his game.

That same week, he had taken former Senator Ayogu Eze to Katsina to pledge loyalty to President Buhari.

Ayogu Eze is stranded politically, more or less, but he urgently needs to anchor somewhere. Kalu took him to Katsina for presidential blessing.

But Kalu needed to show Enugu he did not mean any harm in taking Ayogu Eze to Katsina, hence the surprised visit to Ugwuanyi. That’s politics.

After serving as governor, which he won on the platform of the PDP, he formed the PPA. He later abandoned the PPA and returned to the PDP and from there, moved to the APC in 2016.

On November 16, 2016, where he formalized his membership of the APC, he assured the then leadership of the party under Chief John Oyegun that he would “deliver the entire southeast to the party” as a way of positioning the zone to play in the national politics.

He told the National Working Committee of the party: “Today is a happy day and I want APC to be all inclusive.

I want to thank the national Chairman for having this opportunity to personally welcome us.

Between Sunday, when I registered at Igbere and now, there are 4,000 new members already registered with APC in Abia.

“Without making it open, there are two members of the House of Representatives who are joining APC.

Our upright war is that the Southeast will be delivered to APC.

The most potent thing is the ability to consult, discuss and move forward. Nobody is an embodiment of knowledge.

“When you look at my face, you will see the genuine face of an Igbo man and the genuine face of a Nigerian.

I understand the country very well and I hope that the party will continue to grow from strength to strength

“I hope that the good work that President Muhammadu Buhari is doing will continue to enjoy the support of the party. It is a difficult time and many Nigerians are crying. But I believe we will get to a better destination.

“I know we are going through hard times and there is recession everywhere in the world, but we have to help the President to formulate policies that will reduce the suffering of the people so that the party can become stronger.”

He reaffirmed the statement in a recent interview where he said he was determined to bring the southeast geo-political zone into the mainstream of the nation’s politics.

“I am currently working hard day and night to ensure that APC wins the governorship and National Assembly positions in all the states of the zone.

My ambition is to make sure that I bring the southeast to sit where other Nigerians are sitting and we must achieve it in 2019,” he said.

He boasted that APC would have a landslide victory in the zone in 2019 and would score at least 75 percent votes in Abia and 51 percent votes in other states of the zone. How this would be realised is still a subject of conjecture.

This is because, so far, it cannot be said that the former governor has kept to the promise of turning the “political bigwigs” in the Southeast to the APC and making the zone play in the national politics even as the 2019 elections approach?

Can he comfortably say that he has won the hearts of the people into voting President Muhammadu Buhari and his party in the next election?

TheAPC has indeed witnessed influx of persons of Igbo origin into it.

But did these members join because of Kalu? Majority of these politicians were said to have joined the APC way ahead of Kalu and apart from his desire to contest the senatorial seat of Abia north, as well as his ongoing trial in court on mismanagement of funds while serving as governor, his argument to bring Southeast into national politics seems dubious, when since 1999 the zone has been fully into national politics with the PDP.

Although the politician has assumed the flamboyant posture of an Igbo leader and statesman, he needs to justify his claim that 7000 persons contributed to buy the APC senatorial nomination form for him with a resounding win come February 2019.

What is closer to reality in the Southeast is that, except in Imo state, where Governor Rochas Okorocha has managed to keep APC afloat, other states in the zone appear not to be interested in popularizing the party.

Former Secretary General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr Joe Nworgu captured this when he said: “Southeast is PDP and PDP is Southeast,” stressing that, despite the inability of the party (PDP) to translate Igbo support for it into practical terms, the people still love the party.

He attributed this to the opportunities PDP provided for people of the zone to serve in various high capacities in the country and blaming the style of governance and politics of the APC as responsible for the people’s disdain for it.

A Political analyst, Paul Chukwudum said: “There is no doubt that former governor Orji Uzo has become a great politician. He has carried on well since he left office.

But his rejection at the polls in some of the elections he had ventured into indicates he may not matter much to his people.

So having him in the vanguard of those who could woo our big politicians into the APC is misplaced.

He may have the resources to fund his trips, but there is no deep conviction in him that should make anybody wants to join him.

Chukwudum cited last year’s governorship election in Anambra State where his party participated and lost, explaining that “if the people did not listen to his likes to vote for the APC during the campaigns, I do not know or see what has happened that could convince anybody into accepting that his party is the best alternative for the people of the zone.

“What I believe the party should leverage on is the campaign to return power to the Southeast by 2023.

If there is anything to talk about, it is this and if they are serious, they could swing victory to their side because Ndigbo will want to be given opportunity to govern the country.

“APC has not impressed Ndigbo; the stigma of abandonment still lives with them.

It does not matter to them the number of projects the Federal Government has decided to fund or is already funding in the zone.

The point has been made that Igbos have not got their fair share in the present scheme of things and they are looking at big wigs like Orji Kalu to drum this clearly to the government.

They will fail in the process if they continue to concentrate only in praising Buhari.

They are not looking at the big picture, which is the general wellbeing of the zone and that is the missing link.”

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