Former governor of Abia State and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu in an interview monitored on AIT Thursday, bared his mind on his conversation with the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, when he visited him in Kuje Prisons, the chances of APC in the forthcoming Anambra elections as well as other leadership issues in Nigeria.
Let me start this way, you said Biafra is not possible. Why did you say so?
Let me correct you I said there is no need for it now. Because dividing the country would be a mistake. What matters is that people should live under the rule of law, social justice, and under true federalism. I don’t think the clamour to separate from the country is anything that would help anybody. What majority of Nigerians not only the Igbo, need is to obey the law. If a court in Abia gives an order, that order must be obeyed. If another court in Benin gives an order, that order must be obeyed.
If I Orji Kalu drives against traffic light and I am caught, I should be punished. What the country needs is one rule for everybody.
There is the federal government and IPOB face off, you are a member of the ruling party and you are an Igbo leader, do you see yourself brokering truce between them?
To correct you, I am an Igbo man from Igbo land, not an Igbo leader.
(Cuts in ) Really ?
Yes. We have been doing a lot to broker truce between them; we have done a lot underground. We have been talking to both parties. That is why you can see some level of peace now in Abia and the Onitsha axis where the IPOB has a stronghold. I believe all parties are interested in finding a common ground. The people that said that they want to separate are not very strong. My only concern is that they are endangering the lives of a lot of Igbo because when they go to confront the military or when they are confronted by the military the goods damaged are owned by Igbo and the people killed are Igbo. I am a trader and I trade in cash crops and all the rest, so I know what I have suffered in the last nine months or thereabouts from this issue
You were the first Igbo leader or Igbo man as you like to put it, if you get where I am going, to visit Nnamdi Kanu in prison?
(Cuts in ) Yes I was the first Nigerian to visit him because it was the right thing to do. Nobody wanted to see him because everybody was afraid. They were scared to identify with him. As for me I am not afraid of death, I am not afraid of anybody. He was remanded in prison by a court of competent jurisdiction and a court of record. Even the UN Charter recognises that anyone remanded in prison by the court can be visited by anybody. So I applied that wisdom to myself.
I want to guess that part of the things you would have told Kanu while in prison was to drop the idea of IPOB. Maybe you did not sound convincing enough?
No! I spent two hours 10 minutes with Nnamdi Kanu and I sounded very convincing. At some point he was here and there and then later on he said ‘we can’t drop this fight we have gone very far,’ and I reminded him that a good general is the one that fights and goes back to fight another day, while the unwise one dies in the battle.
I not only visited him, I went out of my way and as far as visiting his parents. I talked to them. I gave them reasons why they should not encourage him to continue in this manner but he (Kanu) refused. When he came out of prison he didn’t make any attempt to visit those who wished him well. He instead went for those who wanted to play politics with him and that is where we are. They have been shouting Biafra nobody and touched them, but because the issue went beyond where it was supposed to be, government had to respond.
People who wanted to use them to play politics told them that everything is possible and they got him into trouble. I have nothing against those clamouring that they want Biafra; in fact it is their constitutional right. I can never tell anybody not to agitate. But the question is; is it possible? Is it within the norms of our constitution? The constitution is very clear, there is nowhere in the constitution where we have provisions on how to divide the country. The constitution has chapters on how to unite the country, but nowhere can you find referendum or restructuring.
To me all these calls and the people making the calls could go back to the 2014 conference report . Since that conference was bipartisan and headed by a very good jurist, Justice Idris Kutugi , we should find a way of getting the recommendations implemented as a starting point and give the South East one more state, as was recommended.
There is this story that Kanu’s whereabouts is unknown can I quote you that he is in London, since you said so?
I didn’t say categorically that he was in London, go and read what I told The Punch Newspaper. When I returned from the United States of America on the 14th of September and on the 15th I went straight to Abia because the thing was escalating then. I consulted some of them (IPOB) I consulted the security agencies, the army, the police, SSS and the rest of them and I tried to douse the tension.
I started looking for Kanu himself to talk to him. So somebody told me he went to a hotel and I sent people to the hotel and I called one of his relations who came to my house and I asked him where Kanu was, that I really want to talk to him. He said that I should not bother myself and I told The Punch all that transpired including the fact that I was not sure whether the fellow was telling me lies or truth. I said it and it’s in the paper. I didn’t say I discussed with Kanu and he told me he had left for London. His relation told me I should not bother about his safety because I told him that what matters to me is the safety of the man. I wanted to bring the man to my house in Igbere and make arrangements with the federal authorities and persuade them for us to find a common ground.
I never wanted the security agents to bundle him and rough handle him. I only wanted to bring him to my house and wade into the matter, which was what I did when he was in prison. I am suprised at the attitude of Kanu because he knew all the things we discussed; he neglected them because he wanted to play politics. Let me ask you; is it fair on the court that gave him bail? Is it fair on the federal government of Nigeria that the orders of court were disobeyed? That order was not that of Justice Nyako at all, it was the law of Nigeria. These are things I reminded him that he must obey our laws.
In 2007 the same court gave me a condition to gain my freedom, it’s not a criminal case but I accepted those conditions and if I wanted to challenge those conditions I would move to an appellate court where justices of the court of appeal will look at and review the conditions.
So I will continue to blame our elders, our friends and my people who are saying his human rights have been tampered with, I disagree because the court is of competent jurisdiction. That order was not that of Buhari, it was not that of chief of army staff, neither was it of the director of the SSS or anybody. It was the order of a court of competent jurisdiction. So he could have mellowed down and obeyed that order and allow his members to continue carrying their flag rather than disobeying that order.
But when you set off to molest people on the road, people are afraid to say the truth I’m not afraid of death or a anybody you know me from my university days. I’m still the same person, I don’t care what anybody says. What matters most to me is justice being applied where it is supposed to be applied. If Kanu had gone ahead to obey that court order directing him not to appear in a public of more than10 persons and the 2nd in command would be the one carrying their Biafra flag nobody would touch him because he was not given any order by the court. If Kanu wanted to see people then they should come to his house and see him but what he did which you saw all over social media was mounting a Guard of Honour, insulting everybody, he insulted The Sun Newspapers, he insulted the owner of The Sun Newspapers, he insulted me personally that some were writing against him and that they were bought over by Hausa/Fulani people and Yoruba people. How can you run a republic when you are not in good terms with the Yoruba? You’re not in good terms with Hausa, the Ijaws and other tribes, so who will you be in good terms with? The issue is that he should purge himself of those needless biases and come to terms with the realities of today.
Is the South East truly marginalised?
Yes! The South East is marginalised. I can tell you this. I am trained by Hausa/Fulani people, but I am not afraid of speaking the truth. Since the end of the civil war, the treatment meted to the South East is different. The amenities given to people from the South East are different. If anyone says anything contrary bring him on to this your programme and I will tell him why we are marginalised.
What can the present government do about this?
The present government should look at appointments; they should look at who gets what and balance it. It doesn’t sound good that you have service chiefs with none from the South East. No matter who is the president, vice president or senate president and you should have at least one Igbo among the service chiefs. Whatever is worth doing is worth doing well.
As a member of the APC, have you been making some moves to achieve what you just said?
Yes, of course I’ve been making various moves.
A school of thought suggests that you are already selling Igbo because you are in APC now?
What do you mean. I don’t understand.
Any issue that comes up regarding the Igbo, your opinion usually aligns with that of the federal government.
It’s not true, I have never agreed with anybody. I speak what I know is the truth. Would any Igbo man with integrity like a court order to be disobeyed? Would you like the orders of a court to be flouted? Would you like that?
No I would not.
When you refuse to listen to a court of justice the only thing you should expect is chaos. I can never be bought by anybody, money cannot buy me. I was governor for eight years with Obasanjo as president; if I wanted to be bought over I could have been bought over to support the third term agenda. So my loyalty and everything lies solely to the Nigerian people. It’s not ethnic. Remember I was a students’ union president. I was voted by over 99 and half percent of Muslim students, they were not Igbo. They saw the truth in me and that truth is what I am still holding on to till date. The cross I am carrying is the truth. I mean, sell who for what? What are they going to give me? Truth is, most of the Igbo leaders are afraid of speaking the truth. They cannot continue to keep quiet. Yes I believe we are marginalised I don’t hide it, but I also believe that we can build a better country.
To be continued on Monday