LAST Thursday, a three-decade-plus-old friend of mine, Kenneth Chioma Ugbechie, called me to find out why my principal and former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, was fond of attacking anyone that upbraids President Muhammadu Buhari.
Let me state from the outset that Kalu’s friendship with virtually all topmost military officers—serving and retired—dates back to his university days when, as a zestful young man, he established various levels of cordiality with these officers long before a few of them came to national prominence. One thing that is inimitable about Kalu is that he cherishes personal relationships and nurtures them with profound passion and robustness. He does not discriminate on grounds of his Forbes’ opulence: irrespective of his friends’ social ratings, equality is his resolution. This applies to not just the military, but all classes of humanity and spheres of engagement be it religion, politics, entrepreneurship et al. An extrovert of extremity, the superfluity of his borderless philanthropy is only punctured by his unequal, almost indifferent, attitudinal disposition towards his multitudinous personal staff in major cities of the world, particularly Abuja and Lagos. For those outside this class, it is boundless compassion.
I have underscored this relationship inclination of Kalu as a way of buttressing the long-standing amity between him and President Buhari. It did not begin the moment the number one citizen mounted the saddle as most people erroneously think. They have known from time immemorial and also shared close moments together.
Issuing from the above, therefore, I do not comprehend why the flourishing friendship between President Buhari and Kalu and the latter’s stout defence of his “main man” should be a subject of public debate and pub gossip!
Kalu has never pussy-footed or prevaricated in his absolute support for President Buhari shortly after his election till date. He is resolute and unapologetic about it. The former governor does not sit on the fence on any matter—he declares his position no matter whose ox is gored, which is the hallmark of his reputational courage and fearlessness, a pedigree that has put him in good stead. He can pursue the foregoing laudable ideals because, for him, politics is not occupational, but a civic demonstrativeness. In contradistinction, for most of his peers and others, it is the obverse hence their surrogacy and other deviancies. A few days ago, former president Chief Olusegun Obasanjo wrote a letter to President Buhari over fluky shortcomings of his administration.
Expectedly, Kalu went to town and, as usual, took up the gauntlet and fired back during interview sessions in defence of his pal of copious years and now the country’s leader. For the hypercritics of Kalu, anytime he takes up such secondary—self-assigned—battles, he brutally overreaches himself. Considering the implied scurrility of Obasanjo’s misplaced advice to President Buhari, Kalu’s multimedia reactions were even dispassionately mild. Most other people in Kalu’s privileged position would have been acerbic, if not uncouth, in their media interventions. For testamentary indulgence, I bring to you some unpublished nuggets of Kalu’s overwhelming, illuminative and unprecedented support for President Buhari.
“It is an understatement if I declare that I am so delighted to be among those driving the epochal march towards the inevitable re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo in next year’s general election.
“We must appreciate the fact that democracy is the only catalyst for national transformation. Therefore, we must all be committed to its growth in our country by ignoring bitter politicking and inflammatory statements. God forbid, if we set Nigeria on fire, the conflagration will consume all of us—not just President Buhari. “There is no doubt that President Buhari has rescued Nigeria from the brink of collapse and disintegration through his various patriotic policies. This administration’s activities have restored our battered image before the emergence of President Muhammadu. Nigeria is now treated with respect among the comity of nations, thanks to President Buhari’s diplomacy.
“Before President Buhari mounted the saddle, the civil service was virtually dead. Today, the story is visibly different. It is no longer business as usual. Corruption generally and particularly in ministries, departments and agencies has drastically reduced as the anti-corruption battle still continues. “With time, the greatest insurgency ever in the country, the Boko Haram, would be defeated. Gradually, peace is returning to the country due to the initiatives of President Buhari. We must all be involved through credible information to security agencies. The battle against insecurity is not for the President alone—it is for every Nigerian. “Overall, we must all resolve to support President Buhari as he re-engineers our country for a better tomorrow. We must all pool our resources at all levels to ensure that our President completes this first leg of his two-pronged tenure successfully so that his re-election would be mere ratification by the appreciative electorate.
I will not go into the etiquette of Obasanjo’s kamikaze salvos because that is another subject of its own. I do not know, however, the morality of a vindictive, tribal, amnesic, vacuous and vicious chief calling a diligent visionary black! This is the tragedy of leadership on the continent—not just Nigeria.
Systemic corruption is an integral aspect of governance in Africa. Most of its leaders are associated with one scam or another. Any past or present leader with unclean hands should not pontificate on corruption at all. It is better to keep mum and be considered “clean” than to pour tantrums and open festering wounds.
Corruption takes multifarious shapes. When a sitting President uses his vantage position to raise funds by compelling wealthy individuals and blue-chip corporate citizens for a private library euphemistically called other names, what else can be more corrupt than such a public graft? How do you describe a situation where a former president employs his naked power to grab people’s invaluable plots of land in a part of Lagos and subsequently militarizes the area till tomorrow? Corruption is not only cash—it is all-encompassing. We could go on and on listing the foibles of this self-righteous man.
What of human rights abuses in parts of the country, especially in Odi, during the tenure of this newest saint in town? Are we to talk of the third-term fiasco for which an oppositional force like Kalu and a legion others suffered beyond measure? If not that Kalu is a strategist, all his businesses would have been wiped off by now by the widely-acclaimed Igbo hater—forget the currency of pretensions!
If it were the late foremost elder statesman, Dr. Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme (GCON), that wrote to President Buhari when he was alive, the contents and process of communication—not this public spectacle—would have been dignifying and respected, coming from a man of impeccable character, a rare species and one of the very few highly revered Nigerians, living or dead. It is on the basis of the foregoing and much more that Kalu is unstoppably committed to the success of President Buhari, irrespective of what the tribe of detractors allude to in their asininity. The Kalu that I know cannot be dissuaded by the clan of public letter writers on matters involving the Buhari presidency. The more they indulge in such theatricals, the more combative the former governor becomes!
President Buhari’s style may not be proactive or optimal in outlook, but, overall, he is doing far better than his vainglorious critics, who should be self-respecting and know better. Clownishness informed by senility is antithetical to democracy. For the avoidance of doubt, Kalu unreservedly stands on President Buhari’s re-election unflinchingly and at all costs.