I want to congratulate President Muhammadu Buhari on his victory in the 2019 presidential election. It is my sincere wish and prayer that God will keep him strong and healthy to continue in his good works for the country.
It is obvious that the issue of the region that produces the Deputy Senate President of the 9th Senate has become a major point of discussion in Nigeria. The position of Senate President seems to have been settled, with the All Progressives Congress (APC) having made it abundantly clear that the position has been zoned to the North East. However, that of the Deputy Senate President seems not to have been settled. I am afraid of the rumour we are hearing around here that the APC is being reluctant to zone the position to the South East. My fear is borne out of the possibility of the apathy and/or unrest that may ensue should this rumour turn out to be true. It is said that the leadership of the party is not inclined to zone the Deputy Senate President to the South East on the basis of the fact the South East region did not produce any substantial vote for the APC in the last elections.
I feel it would be totally unjust to think along this line as an excuse to deny the people of the South East what is rightly due them. Those of us from the South East who are strongly in APC know the extent of the ridicule we face from our counterparts in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Despite this unfriendly disposition, it is obvious that we have thrived here in the South East, as every practical evidence shows that APC has made appreciable inroads here, compared to what it was in 2015. Please, do not look at the number of votes we were told APC got in the last election. It is clear to all that APC got far more than that. Whatever was behind releasing such figures is a matter for another day.
Of note, the party recorded serious improvement in the 2019 elections, compared to that of 2015. In Abia State, for instance, APC got a paltry 13,384 (3 per cent) of the votes cast in 2015, while in 2019 the votes increased to 85,058, representing 29 per cent of votes cast, and nine times increase on the 2015 performance. This is against a background of dominance by the PDP in the region, with three sitting governors, more than 10 senators and the Deputy Senate President. Thus South East APC needs to be encouraged, not otherwise, and it is obvious that, if South East APC gets the Deputy Senate President this time, it will lead to increased performance in subsequent elections.
It is not hidden that most people around here wrongly accuse President Buhari of hating the Igbo. We know that such accusations are not true because available facts prove them wrong. In the face of this rumour of denying the South East the Deputy Senate President opportunity, our counterparts feel they are about to be proved right. President Buhari cannot let them have the last laugh. They have argued that their party PDP has always accommodated the South East handsomely, having given the region the opportunity to produce the Senate President from 1999 to 2007, and, among other ones, the Deputy Senate President from 2015 till date. Should APC make the mistake of denying the South East this rightful position of the Deputy Senate President, then our counterparts will have a field day in making us the subject of ridicule. Zoning the Deputy Senate President to the South East will go a long way in strengthening the APC within the region.
Luckily, the South East has a capable senator-elect in the person of Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu. His emergence is simply an indication of God’s divine intervention for the South East APC, the South East region and the country as a whole. With Kalu as the Deputy Senate President, the party is assured of the South East’s full integration into the centre because Kalu is a great mobiliser and a bridge that connects people of various divides. Of note, he worked credibly for the party in the last elections, having campaigned vigoursly for APC in his state, Abia, and beyond, taking the Next Level crusade to every part of the country, even across party lines. You would hardly find any single person in Nigeria who campaigned for the party in an individual capacity more than Kalu.
It is equally on record that Kalu is a true advocate of democracy as he, as a governor, fought gallantly against the imposition of the third term agenda on Nigerians. He did this against all odds, not minding the consequences. Despite the seeming threats such advocacy posed against his personal interests, he remained resolute in the interest of true democracy and, by extension, in the interest of Nigerians in general. In his person, Igbo are presenting a candidate we are sure will deliver, and with him the people of the South East will be awakened and hope restored to the region. He is a candidate of peace and unity, a personality who can traverse all ethno-regional sentiments and rise above petty considerations.
In terms of qualifications for the job, Kalu cannot be found wanting, having gathered invaluable experience during his time as a member of the National Assembly (House of Representatives) in 1992/1993, and having occupied the position of vice chairman, Committees on Banking, and Internal Affairs. Above all, he was, within such that duration, the brain behind the famous dual citizenship rights bill. His highly commendable stewardship in Abia State as a governor for eight years (1999 to 2007) is also an added advantage as his sound leadership qualities rubbed off positively on the state.
President Buhari and the APC leadership should not listen to anybody who may want to tell them that the South East is not qualified for the Deputy Senate President position because of APC’s alleged poor performance in the region during the last elections. If anything, the right thing should be to encourage the South East to do better in subsequent elections and there is no better way than to have their popular son become the Deputy Senate President. If APC truly wants to get larger followership and support from the South East, going forward, it should support the allocation of this position of Deputy Senate Presidency to the region and to Kalu. It is the right thing to do in all ramifications. If anyone tells you otherwise, it means such a person is an enemy of our party, APC, and, most remarkably, an enemy of our country, Nigeria.
The APC is lucky to have President Buhari as a rallying point, as everybody in the party holds him in a high esteem. I am sure that everybody, from the party leadership to the senators-elect, will be happy to follow his directive on this, basically because of the respect and compliance he commands from all, and because it is simply a just cause.
I trust that, as the father of all, President Buhari will bring his influence to bear on this very matter to make sure that justice is upheld against all other trivial considerations. Everybody is keenly watching and waiting and the naysayers are salivating at the prospect of ridiculing the party should the South East be overlooked for this position. We have confidently told them they will be disappointed because we believe that, as a man of integrity, you will never allow this potential injustice against the South East.
I am hopeful President Buhari and the APC leadership will vindicate us in this by making sure a South East senator in the person of Orji Uzor Kalu gets this position of Deputy Senate President of the 9th Senate. It is the just thing to do.
•Hon. Okezie writes from Abia State