…Says he should be good student of history
From Chidi Nnadi, Enugu
Human rights lawyer and former counsel to the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mr Vincent Egechukwu Obetta has faulted the demand of the President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council, Mr Okechukwu Isiguzoro who asked Dr Orji Uzor Kalu to tender an apology to Ndigbo or be made irrelevant in Igbo land over an interview the former Abia State governor granted The Interview, where he was quoted to have said that the Igbo are better traders than politicians.
Obetta in this interview with Saturday Sun said that what Dr Kalu said in the interview about the Igbo was correct, urging Isiguzoro to go back to cross-check the former governor’s claims and henceforth be a good student of history. Excerpts:
Recently, former governor of Abia State, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu granted an interview to The Interview where he was quoted to have noted that the Igbo are better traders than politicians, particularly as it concerns political loyalty and respect for their leaders. But the Ohanaeze Youth Council came up to criticize his statement, calling on him to apologize to the Igbo or be reprimand. What is your take on this?
Let me start by saying that we now live in an age where truth has become the casualty; people’s genuine opinion is often politicized and read out of context. What used to be a vice has suddenly become virtue. Repeated orchestrated propaganda and fallacious refrain have supplanted candid truism. The Dr Orji Uzor Kalu that I know does not play to the gallery, he does not massage the ego of men, and he bares his mind on any issue that catches his fancy without recourse to whose ox is gored. He is among the few resolute Nigerians that I have met. I read a piece in the Punch newspapers where the President of the Ohaneze Youth Council (OYC), Okechukwu Isiguzoro called for an apology from him; he concluded his statement with an overt threat. We should be good students of history; if we do, the OYC President should have known the chemistry of the man, Orji Uzor. Does it make any sense to threaten a resolute man on issue he believes in? I believe Chief Kalu’s statement is borne out of several years of unconventional comparative research and experience. He has watched the nuances and style of the Igbo politicians vis-a-vis their Yoruba counterparts. As for me, I adopt Chief Kalu’s findings hook, line, and sinker. We (Igbo) ‘trade in politics’. It may sound painful, but that is the simple truth.
In the last 20 years, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu has been a vocal defender of Ndigbo. He has contributed immensely towards the emancipation of the Ndigbo from the shackles of the psychology of the civil war. He has promoted the Igbo cause than any other politician of his age. The recent was the deportation saga by the former governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola. Dr Kalu was very livid over his action that he went to the extent of declaring that Lagos is no man’s land. But today, here is a man who had crossed part with Fashola, praising his loyalty and political maturity. Chief Kalu for the love of the Igbo wanted to build a regional political party, the PPA, which won two states in the South-East; he lost his bank, airline and other businesses to his avowed stand against former President Olusegun Obasanjo on the Igbo question. So, the Orji Kalu that I know had become relevant at the age 26 years when he made his debut into the business world several years before his incursion into politics. He is also a cosmopolitan and detribalized Nigerian.
So, you mean he doesn’t owe the Igbo any apology over his statement?
Honestly speaking, Dr Kalu’s assertion was a statement of fact. All over the world, the Igbo have been acknowledged to be highly skilled in the art of commerce/trading. In fact, it is popular sayings that ‘if you visit any city or town and do not find an Igbo man trading in the town, that you should hastily leave the town’. The stock of an Igbo man is in his trade. The art of trading is quite different from the art of politics. This I think Dr Kalu was trying to distinguish against the backdrop of his people’s political behaviour. It is a known fact that during electioneering candidates are nominated to run for positions on the basis of the highest bidder and once the ticket is bought, the latter becomes the ‘king without a kingmaker’. This is the premise upon which he made that assertion. Until we begin to think outside the box and appreciate the complex horse-trading involved in Nigerian complex politics, we will continue to shed the endless tears of marginalization without any succour. We need to change gear and spread our tentacles beyond the confines of political party since the core element of politics is embedded in interest protection. So, I do not think he should render an apology; to who if I may ask? We all know the truth. He merely reiterated the obvious. He has plethora of cases to justify his assertion. We should accept this truth and strive to re-engage our political tactics for an inclusive participation in the greater Nigeria polity irrespective of party leanings.
But are there instances of the Igbo actually ‘trading in politics’ in the past?
Yes; between 1999 and 2000 the position of the President of the Senate was zoned to the South-East. Interestingly, within a short span of four years, three presidents of Igbo extraction held sway through impeachments and counter-impeachments; they were Chief Chuba Okadigbo, Evans Enwerem and Chief Anyim Pius Anyim. It was later concluded by Chief Ken Nnamani in 2007. Also, during the run-off to the PDP Presidential primaries in Jos, there was also a reported case of ‘trading in politics,’ when one of the sons of soil of Igbo switched to an unfamiliar mother tongue in support of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to the detriment of Dr. Alex Ekwueme who was one of the biggest contenders in that race. The list of this our people trade in politics is endless. What is the ado about Dr Orji Kalu’s assertion? A similar statement was made by Dr. Alex Ekwueme last month (October 17) during an award ceremony in Awka. The consensus in the two leaders’ concern is that the Igbo should unite and trust themselves if they must attain the desired political height in Nigeria.
The OYC President, Isiguzoro also threatened to make Dr Kalu irrelevant in Igbo land should he refuse to tender apology, how do you look at that?
You see, our problem is that we do not conduct proper research before we dabble into a discourse. Chief Orji Kalu had become relevant long before the advent of this civilian transition that started in 1999. He became relevant at his early 30s. He made an incursion into politics in 1992 long after he had broken the hard jinx to become one of the foremost entrepreneurs in Africa. I enjoin Mazi Isiguzoro to join hands in asking for the release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and others held by the Nigerian state for upholding their belief. That is one big task that every well-meaning Igbo sons and daughters should be saddled with at the moment. He should use his good office to drum support for the full implementation of the 2014 National Political Reform Conference or in the alternative, call for the restructuring of the Nigeria federation. These are the core issues that need urgent attention in the interest of the Igbo and Nigeria at large. He should try to make more Igbo relevant than attempting pulling relevant ones down. He should also understand that the Igbo are proud traders and have no reason to be ashamed. The enterprising zeal of the Igbo makes them the richest tribe in Africa. However, the rules of the business of trading and commerce are not the same rules that apply in politics. To this extent Chief Orji Uzor Kalu owes no one apology. And I know that Isiguzoro as an Igbo youth must have come across Dr Kalu and benefitted from his magnanimity in one form or the other because Kalu loves the Igbo youths; so I’m still wondering why he should attack him unfairly.
How do you see the incessant attacks by Fulani herdsmen in the East, particularly Enugu State with reference to Ekiti State’s response?
First and foremost, we should understand that ‘uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.’ Governance is a complex and tedious job to undertake. Take for example, Prof Ayade of Cross River State recently out of frustration said that he regretted being a governor; that he preferred to be a Senator to the governor that he is today. This is less than two years into his administration. But that is the truth. In Enugu State, the burden placed upon Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi with specific reference to the spate of the killing in Enugu by Fulani herdsmen is a heavy one. The Ekiti strategy cannot work in Enugu State for obvious reasons. Enugu State shares common boundary with the Northern gateway; prior to this menace there has been a great deal of business and social relationship that exist between them. Strong ties still exist today between Enugu and the North; the majority of the Enugu people live and do their businesses in the North.
Some persons wanted reprisal against the Fulani herdsmen in the wake of the Nimbo massacre, but they also lose sight of the fact that the Igbo are disadvantaged in this instance since they are scattered in their millions across the length and breadth of the Northern region. That will tantamount to repeating ugly history, it was the reprisal and counter-reprisal that plunged Nigeria into a civil war that claimed over three million lives of Nigerians mostly the Igbo.