To those making the argument that the South East must be overlooked in the distribution of the booties by the All Progressives Congress (APC), for posting a dismal performance in the last presidential election, a counter has come from former Governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu – Olusegun Obasanjo became President of Nigeria in 1999, without winning significant votes from the South West, where he comes from.
Kalu, who is eyeing the position of the Senate President, maintained that he should not be denied the position based on the performance of the APC in the South East, but on his ability and the fact that Nigeria as a country needed to be welded together in unity, where no part is seen to be undoing the other.
His admonition came on Thursday, when he joined other aspirants of the party on a visit to the National Chairman of APC, Abdullahi Adamu, where a protest was lodged against the decision of the National Working Committee (NWC) to allot offices at NASS, which excluded Kalu and his camp.
Admitting errors in the decision of the NWC, Adamu had told Kalu, Senate Chief Whip and former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, who led former governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari and Senator Sani Musa, to submit a petition to his office: “We’re happy to receive you and hear you express your displeasure for what we have done. As chairman of the APC and members of the NWC, we take responsibility. As chairman, I take responsibility for what has gone on air. I take absolute responsibility for that. And in that spirit, I welcome you to this office on behalf of my colleagues.
“On Wednesday, we received members of the lower chamber who are also contesting for the Speakership in the lower chamber and we had similar pronouncements – words of disagreement from them. What we will not do today from what we have received from you is to start to open any discussion with you at this sitting as to how what you heard got to be what you heard.
“Yes, there was no sufficient or adequate consultations with you that are contesting and it is a simple principle of democracy that you get views and opinions. But, the circumstances that we found ourselves in after the elections frustrated our desire. We will go back to the drawing board. We owe our party that duty to take a look whether what was done cannot be changed; what was done needs some changes or reviews. We will take a look at what necessary compelled us to do by the grace of God.
“Hold the fire until the last word is heard from us. We are the custodians of the party as NWC but we are not acting alone. The voice of the President-elect is an essential voice. We must accommodate him, the best we can. I will not compromise on that.”
Kalu, denouncing the zoning arrangement of the party for the NASS offices as undemocratic, warning that that it was setting a stage for members to revolt at the floor of the chambers on June 13 when it would be inaugurated and voting to elect officers conducted, told his host: “What I want to say is that the country needs to live in peace. We need to live as people that have worked together for many years. And in doing this, vote should not count on what you get most times. Enmity should not also count in what one gets most times.
“The current vice president of America, Lady Kamala Harris, used to abuse President Biden. They were opponents, but today, they have found themselves in the same boat, they are living peacefully, they are showing maturity. President Obasanjo became President with votes from other Nigerians other than his constituency. So, what I am saying is vote should not be the right measurement because what you did not do today, you can do tomorrow.
“We had a hurricane in our zone that nobody could have stopped it. President Buhari had 29.9 per cent in Abia in 2019. He had 68.7 per cent in Abia North senatorial district. We are still very proud of what we did to him. I insist that vote must not count because we need one another. The binding of one another is more important than vote cast.
“Yes, vote cast is important to help the party win. But the party has won and we need peace and everybody on board…We cannot only count our success by vote, after all, in our zone, we used to be only two or three senators but today we are about six or seven APC senators from the zone.
“We all know that there was a presidential candidate from the South East and the entire people from the area took a decision. But it is not only in the South East that this happened, every part of the country had problem of voting.
“I want to appeal to the NWC that giving every part of the country a piece of the cake makes the country safe and the people to feel that they are Nigerians. I have been at the vanguard of calling for Nigeria’s unity for over 40 years…We piloted unity of the country, which is more important. We have had elections were presidents of Nigeria lost all his zone but he was still made president. Nobody discriminated against him even when he lost where he voted. Winning is not rocket science. Winning is not the issue but being your brother’s keeper is more important than winning.
“I appeal to you people to cede something reasonable and valuable to the South East. We are going to rebuild the party and the most important thing is starting earlier. Four years is like four days and it is like going back for election in the next few years. Give us opportunity to rebuild this great party.
“I am not saying that what you people have done does not look very nice but it is wrong micro-zoning to individuals, pencilling people’s name. It is undemocratic and against the constitutional right of all the aspirants. Section 51 of the Constitution did not approve that for the National Assembly. So, we are going to challenge it. We are going to say no to it. I am a party man, I am a believer in the party and I have never disobeyed this party. This is first time we are going to say no to directive of the party. We are going to say that we are not going to do this in the floor of the Senate.
“It is still early enough, about 18 to 19 days to resolve it. It will be better that the party returns to the drawing board, deliberate and call a consultative meeting. You have to review the zoning arrangement and correct micro-zoning the positions to individuals. It must be done by zone not name because it contradicts all the relevant sections of the (APC) Constitution.
“It will not be right for a big national party like ours to perpetrate what is unconstitutional. We want you people to do what will be in agreement with the Constitution. Mr. Chairman, don’t forget that all the 109 senators are capable of becoming a Senate President. There is no one elected there that is not competent enough to be a Senate President.
“I urge you people to go for further consultations and know the direction this party will go so that we can have peace in the country built on tripods like Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo. You should ignore the excuses about number of votes.”
In his reaction, Yari, said that the decision was capable of empowering the opposition party to upset the ruling party, warning the party not to underrate the capacity of the North in turning around whatever decision it had taken, insisting that the incoming government was still the government of the North.
On his part, said: “Whenever we see anything that is not right, it is only fair if we are good followers to bring it to the table and when they said the national chairman is inviting us for this, I agreed. I am standing here in my own corner as a distinguished senator, who is also aspiring and also, I am here to speak in respect of my distinguished colleagues, Senators-elect from the north central geopolitical zone of this country.
“When I made my declaration, I said, looking at the secularity of this country and looking at the permutations when we took risk (same faith ticket) and we were successful. There are certain times we should not push our luck. I said, we have competent distinguished Senators-elect from anywhere. That is because we have a Muslim president. We have a Muslim vice president and we thought that at least the third person should be a Christian.
“As we are going, I had expected that the party will look at those who are very few. I think four or five of us declared interest. And I thought in the wisdom of the party, they will invite just those five of us which they can manage. If you can manage us like this after a decision has been proposed, decision have been reached, it would have been easier if you sat with us before that proposed decision was issued and said there can only be one leader and we are first among equals. But the party didn’t do that.
“The NWC had a meeting with Mr. President-elect. I respect Mr. President-elect, he is a tactical politician. He knows it. He knows every inch of it. He will be able to listen to whatever an organ like APC will bring to him. Whatever anyone will tell him, he will want to aggregate his own views.”