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Presidential Contenders Who May Succeed Buhari (11): Orji Uzor Kalu

Orji Uzor Kalu
Orji Uzor Kalu

The plots, conspiracies and manoeuvres for the upcoming 2023 Presidential elections can no longer continue behind the curtain. As the period approaches, prospective aspirants from each geo-political are compelled to “warm-up” extensively in the open if they want to make quality impact in the presidential primaries coming up in a matter of months.

Although there is the perception that prospective aspirants from the southeast have been dragging their feet as there is a general air of reluctance in the zone, Orji Uzor Kalu’s name has repeatedly emerged in various political circles among prospective contestants with strong followership from the southeast.

Sometimes Last month, the former governor of Abia State, was on Channels Television’s “Politics Today”. Orji Kalu answered a lot of questions on the challenges of lawmaking as the Senate Chief Whip. He also spoke on the issue of persistent insecurity in the country and his rumoured plan to contest the 2023 presidency.

The programme anchor, Seun Okinbaloye had asked Orji Kalu if he would run for the presidency against the backdrop of some prophetic declarations that he would be Nigeria’s president in 2023.

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Orji Kalu responded: “I am a Catholic. I don’t believe in visioners or prophets. But I support a Nigerian President of Southeast extraction in 2023. It must not be me but if I am asked to lead, I am mentally and physically fit to lead Nigeria and I will unite the country.

“I am an investor. I have massive investments in the 36 states of Nigeria; hence I want the country to be at peace. We do not have any other country to call our own. We must rise to stop the killings. We must dialogue.”

For the discerning mind, Orji Uzor Kalu was clearly validating his interest in the plum job while ensuring that no sense of entitlement is projected.

Kalu’s latest mindset, probably moderated by time and experience, accentuates the importance of not insisting on the presidency with any sense of entitlement. It must have equally been guided by historical antecedents.

The late Alhaji Shehu Shagari, for instance never contemplated being Nigeria’s president. Reports had it that he was looking to represent his people in the Senate, but the power brokers from the north in the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN), decided that he should be backed for the presidency on the party’s platform.

That consensus effectively ended the presidential interests of more vibrant candidates like Maitama Sule, Adamu Ciroma, Olusola Saraki, and others in the NPN in 1979.

Looking at the Fourth Republic that has, so far, produced Olusegun Obasanjo, the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari, their choices were largely never derived from their individual sense of entitlement.

The point that Kalu wanted to project as he made his comment is that the emergence of Nigeria’s President has always been defined by vested interests and influential political forces.

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Born 21 April 1960, Orji Uzor Kalu is a successful politician and businessperson. He is the chairman of SLOK Holding and the Daily Sun and New Telegraph newspapers in Nigeria. He served as the Governor of Abia State, Nigeria from 29 May 1999 to 29 May 2007.

Prior to his election, he served as the chairman of the Borno Water Board and the chairman of the Cooperative and Commerce Bank Limited. Kalu was also a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Progressive People’s Alliance (PPA) and the chairman of the PPA Board of Trustees. He was the party’s presidential candidate in the April 2007 general election.

Orji Uzor Kalu contested in 2019 to represent the people of Abia North in the senate, running under the banner of All Progressives Congress. He defeated the incumbent senator Mao Ohuabunwa with over 10,000 votes. He now serves as the chief whip in the Senate.

It is clear that Kalu’s eyes are set for higher places in 2023. The disposition of his party, the ruling APC towards picking a southern presidential candidate and the views of many Nigerians that the country should go for a president of Igbo extraction makes his chances quite bright. However, he still has a lot of work to do if he wants to be Nigeria’s president.

It is commendable that Kalu’s political philosophy is congruent with the north’s philosophical imperativeness of consensus building. This means he can seek the support and push of the critical north while not discountenancing the embrace of the essential south.

Kalu lived in the north; he had done business a lot with northerners, and still collaborating with them. He is conversant with the dynamics of presidential power politics of the north, which he can creatively pursue to his advantage He has a special bond with northerners and enjoys mutual trust that has yet to be diminished by time. He also knows that the north and its power brokers believe in building consensus in the promotion of processes that will lead to the emergence of Nigeria’s president. If there is an aspirant from the southeast that can galvanise quality support from northern Nigeria, he is  Orji Uzor Kalu.

Senator Kalu is a dynamic, focused, and results-oriented leader  with a cross-cultural outlook and exposure, His participation in politics and governance were propelled by an abiding passion to see changes in the way citizens’ welfare are prioritized by the government, policies formulation and implementation.

He believes that Nigeria’s democracy is work in progress that places demand on stakeholders to contribute towards realising the goal of political stability, economic growth, social harmony and well-being of citizens.  He is playing a key  role towards shaping a new future for Nigeria with a huge sense of commitment.

He is a gifted grassroots’ politician with a national reach and support base; loved and admired by citizens across varied backgrounds including women, youth, civic leaders, religious groups, social-cultural groups and indeed lots of ordinary people.  With over three decades of active participation in politics, Kalu seems determined to keep the momentum for a long time given his latest profile in the Senate and the entire country as a whole.

One issue that may work against Kalu’s presidential push is the court case he has with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).  Kalu was convicted by the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court on Thursday, 5 December 2019 and sentenced to 12 years in prison for N7.65 billion fraud. He was convicted for defrauding the government of Abia State where he was a governor for 8 years using his company, Slok Nigeria Limited. Days after the court ordered the forfeiture of the company, Nigeria anti-graft agency EFCC commenced the process of winding down Slok Nigeria Limited

However, reprieve came On Friday,8 May 2020, when the Supreme Court of Nigeria ruled that his trial was wrongly conducted and released him from prison while ordering a retrial. How long with relief last? Will Kalu get a different verdict this time around? Will his party agree to sponsor a candidate with a court case that is pending? These are issues that will gradually unravel themselves as 2023 beckons.

Categories: Features