By Chinelo Obogo
Senate Chief Whip, Orji Kalu, has said he and others are discussing with stakeholders in the All Progressives Congress (APC), from other zones to zone the party’s presidential ticket to South East.
Speaking on Silverbird TV on Friday, the former Abia State governor said a president of Igbo extraction will change the fortunes of Nigeria.
Kalu said only the North East and South East have not produced a President and that he is having conversations with other zones in the country to see this fact and explain to them why the South East should be supported. He said at the end of the day, he would abide with whatever the party decides.
“I have been consistent in saying that there are only two zones that have never been president in Nigeria and it is the North East and the South East and if we are to sit, I would say that you should zone it to my village because that is what I would like to see. But what is the feeling of the other generality of Nigerians? The party is supreme and I believe in whatever the party says. When we get to our caucuses, we can discuss there, but if you want my personal opinion, it should be zoned to my village so that I can become the president and give Nigerians what they would like to see.
“We are talking to other zones in the country to see that the South East has never produced a president and this conversation is going on very well. We need other stakeholders from across the country to agree that the presidency should be zoned to the South East and at the end of the day, it is left for the party and the Nigerian people to decide.”
On what the country will benefit from a president from South East, Kalu said: “A president of Igbo extraction means that Nigeria is ready for a miracle. I am not going to play politics, we will centre our policies on the growth of the economy. If we have a President from the South East, you can be assured that everyone will win. I am ready for the job but I can tell you that when I met with Bola Tinubu, Governor Dave Umahi and Pius Anyim, I told them that I was not running. But a couple of days after my discussion with them, I had conversations with elders from the North, West and Niger Delta from January 5 and on January 8, I came back to Igbere and met members of my community and they said it is a possibility. It is for that reason that I went back to those I told that I would not run but I would still have a meeting with them to tell them formally that I would run for election. I have always said that there is nothing like Igbo presidency, what we have is a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction because Igbo is not a nation and when you are not a nation, you can’t produce a president.
“Tinubu is not a threat to my ambition and I am not a threat to his ambition. We are very close friends and politics cannot separate us. When I newly became the governor of Abia, my children were attending school in Lagos and they were living with Mrs Remi Tinubu. In 2003, when as governor, he was lagging behind, I came to Lagos and took him round to meet with Igbo and made sure he won re-election and that is what caused my problem with former President Olusegun Obasanjo. He has his idea on how he does things and I have my idea on how I do things and if we meet at the Eagles Square, I would give a good account of myself,” Kalu said.
He warned those who claim that the South East does not speak with one voice when it comes to politics to stop blackmailing the zone, insisting that in a democracy, everyone is allowed to have an ambition and express an opinion.
“Which zone in the country have ever spoken with one voice? This is blackmail that people use against the Igbo by saying we don’t speak with one voice. When Buhari ran for election, did Atiku Abubakar not contest? Is Atiku from my village? He’s a Fulani man like Buhari and they contested against each other. When Obasanjo ran for election, Olu Falae ran against him. Democracy is not a one-man show. People should stop blackmailing Igbo by saying we are not together. The beauty of democracy is the more the merrier, which is why after telling some people that I would not run, other people persuaded me because they know that I can get the job done.
“Going to tell the president that you want to contest for election makes it look unserious. When it gets zoned, you can then formally go and tell the president that you want to contest. The President cannot win elections for anyone; he cannot put anyone there. He is going to allow Nigerians to choose who they want to lead them. I have a way of doing things and Tinubu has his own way. His style is to go and inform the president that he wants to contest but that is not my style,” he said.
On Abia APC, Kalu maintained that he is the leader of the party in the state and does not belong to any faction and that he told the national chairman that if the list of local government and state executives are given to him, he will work with them if the majority of the people are satisfied with the list.
“In a large party like APC, there must be issues. But on February 26, we would surprise Nigerians and show that we are united. In Abia State, I am the leader of the APC and my relationship with the party is very cordial. I don’t belong to any faction and I have told the national chairman that any day he gives me the list of local government and state executives he wants me to work with, I will work with them if the majority of the people are satisfied with the list. We have a father figure in Buhari and we have people who can calm things down, so all the issues would be resolved before the convention.
“I have no plans to join the PDP if I fail to pick the ticket. If I don’t have my way, I will go back and sit in the Senate where I would be useful to the people of my constituency. I am not desperate to be President but now that I still look very young, I am anxious to contribute my quota to the development of Nigeria. I would be a President that would address the issue of insecurity and the economy. When I was governor of Abia, there were security and I tackled it effectively and I can repeat the feat. Wherever President Buhari stops on fighting corruption, I will take it over from there and I will be very ruthless because corruption is the root of every evil. I fought corruption in Abia and I can do it again,” Kalu said.