Kalu Orji and his controversial gospel of peace in South West
Former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu must have been taken aback by the disposition of his erstwhile political friend, Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, who prevented him from preaching his “peace” message to Ekiti monarchs and prominent indigenes of the state.
Kalu is acting as the Chairman, Advisory Board for the National Movement for Re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari. He is embarking on a tour of the South West, purportedly to advocate peace, fairness and unity of the country, with a view to rallying support for the President’s second term bid in 2019.
Although his initiative was not seen as novel, as Nigerians have been taken through such political route since 1993, when the late Chief Arthur Nzeribe began his Association For Better Nigeria (ABN). Ever since, various political advocacy groups have sprung up to market an incumbent, such as “Youth Earnestly Ask For Abacha” led by Daniel Kanu.
And though Kalu’s initiative is commonly referred to as Peace Advocacy Team, the message from the team goes beyond how to achieve peace in a country, where ethnic crisis, religious fanaticism and uneven allocation of the national cake are breeding anger and unpatriotic attitude among citizens. His is a subtle campaign for Buhari’s re-election.
Until recently, he was a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and had governed Abia State for two terms between 1999 and 2007.
The businessman, who later lost the state election to go into the Senate, has been having a running battle with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), for allegedly diverting over N2.9bn from Abia State government coffers to one of his private companies.
Kalu is a typical Nigerian politician. Analysts are of the opinion that his decampment to the All Progressives Congress (APC) was a strategy to escape from the anti-graft agency’s grip.
His gospel of peace began with a visit to the palace of Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwanu Akinolu, where he met other traditional rulers and prominent indigenes of Lagos State. He called on Nigerians to develop the spirit of brotherhood, as well as learn how to live together in peace.
Kalu pointed out that the country would not make any significant progress, if the citizens were not united, saying the country is an asset that should be harnessed.
The businessman-turned politician was very tactical at the Lagos palace, as he did not dwell much on the main thrust of his visit, which was to sell Buhari’s candidacy to Lagosians. But his visit to the Deji of Akure, Oba Aladetoyinbo Aladelusi was seen as a fertile ground to launch the campaign.
The APC chieftain told the traditional rulers that his mission to the palace was to solicit their continued support for Buhari’s re-election bid.
He said: “I have come to solicit your support for President Buhari’s re-election bid because he is going to run, except the Lord says no. He will run the forthcoming election, because there is no alternative and I believe he will bring a lot of stimulus into the economy to make sure that Nigerians enjoy.”
He applauded the president’s giant stride to tackle insecurity in the country, saying the president had done well.
“I score President Buhari 89 per cent on security, because Boko Haram almost took Abuja before he came to power and some of the equipment meant to tackle insecurity is being purchased now. Gradually, we are getting there,” he said.
He cautioned Nigerians, especially those at the helm of affairs, against hate speeches that could endanger the country’s peace.
He said: “It is unfortunate that some utterances emanating from some leaders are not well guarded. If we know what happened to Rwanda, people will not be making such mistake, but preach peace. There is no good Miyehtti Allah that will kill his fellow Nigerians. We have been living with Northerners for long without any problem.”
He added that pockets of problems experienced in the country are being perpetrated by infiltrators from neighbouring countries.
He then charged the monarchs: “Please preach peace advocacy within your areas because I know traditional rulers are closer to the people. The President may have made mistakes, but we are on ground to correct him and I know he has delivered in terms of service delivery the way no past president has done. It is right for people that want democracy to thrive to support the president because no man is perfect. I felt I should go round and tell traditional rulers to continue to support him.”
Responding, the Deji said though people’s expectations of President Buhari were cut short, he, however, urged that the president should be given another chance.
While Kanu was in Akure, Fayose sent words to him that Ekiti State and its monarchs were not available to receive him. He told the former governor to take his advocacy to other parts of the country, where security of lives and properties is under threat.
The governor noted that Ekiti State has been adjudged the most peaceful in the country, even by the Police.
Fayose, who spoke through his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, said: “There is no threat to peace and unity of Nigeria from Ekiti State for anyone, including Orji Kalu to address. Therefore, he should not expect to be welcomed to any palace in Ekiti State.”
The governor urged traditional rulers in Ekiti to ignore the former Abia State governor, saying; “it is an insult on the collective sensibilities of Ekiti people, whose only benefit from President Buhari’s government is hardship, occasioned by the administration’s cluelessness for anyone to hide under peace advocacy to canvass support for the President.”
The government said it was unspeakable that because of his EFCC case, Orji Kalu has saddled himself with the task of doing image laundering for a President, whose government is inflicting sufferings on Nigerians.
Fayose said: “If he has sold his own conscience to the agenda of selling an already rejected product to Nigerians, we in Ekiti State have not, and we are telling him categorically that such advocacy is not welcome in our state.
“He should rather take his peace and unity advocacy to his own state, where he is already rejected and other states, where Nigerians are being killed on daily basis by armed bandits. It is also ridiculous that, instead of joining Nigerians to tell the President the truth about the state of affairs in the country, Kalu is castigating Nigerians that have summoned courage to speak out against the President through letters and public comments.”
But the APC in the state quickly responded that Fayose has no right to stop a free citizen of Nigeria from visiting.
The APC Publicity Secretary in the state, Mr. Taiwo Olatunbosun said as a free citizen, whose freedom of movement and association is guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution, no government can prevent him from coming to Ekiti State.
He said: “Can Ekiti State government prevent Orji Kalu from coming here? He is a free citizen, who is protected by the 1999 Constitution, which guarantees his freedom of movement and association. The former governor is for peace. Whoever does not want peace, wants disorderliness.
“By their words, we shall know them. Everything can’t be politicised. We should not read political meaning into everything. Peace is good in every society. Kalu is for peace and he is welcome in Ekiti.”
Though Kalu could not meet Ekiti monarchs as planned, but Fayose’s threat did not stop him from addressing APC members in the house of Hon. Femi Bamishile, a governorship aspirant in the state.
He pleaded with party members to ignore Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s criticism of President Buhari, saying the former president lack moral right to criticise anybody because of his poor record, when he was the country’s number one citizen.
Kalu, who expressed resentment at Obasanjo’s comment that Buhari should not seek second term, said the former number one citizen lacks the moral standing to stop a President that has been the most selfless in Nigeria’s history from contesting for second term.
Kalu said: “I brought you good tiding from President Buhari, that the President will run for second term. Don’t listen to letter writers. Tell Obasanjo to keep his letters at Otta and mind his farm. He is not in a position to tell us who will be our president.
“If anyone will caution President Buhari, it should not be Obasanjo. If you check your records very well, he remains the most corrupt president ever. He came into office with less than N25, 000 and later built a multi-billion Naira Otta Farm, Library Project and the
“That is why somebody like me is in Ekiti to tell our people not to listen to Obasanjo. Buhari met the economy in comatose. Today, he has raised the Foreign Reserve from $23bn to as much as $47bn, while the menace of Boko Haram has been defeated.
“So, some people are out to destabilise his government. We want Nigerians to embrace love, peace and show understanding.
“Governor Fayose said I should not come to Ekiti, Fayose is my boy, and he can’t stop me from coming. He knows he can’t stop me on anything.
“Governor Fayose was in my house for 90 days after he was impeached. He is my friend, but he has gone beyond his limit by saying a bonafide elder statesman like me should not come to Ekiti.
“Fayose was in my state, Abia last week, and nobody said he should not come. So, I have declared war on him. Even if I sleep on the floor, I will still defeat Fayose on any issue.”
Though Kalu has not completed his tour of the geopolitical zone, signals emerging from Oyo, Osun and Ogun States did not show any enthusiasm in rolling out the Red Carpet to receive him.
An APC chieftain in Oyo State, who pleaded anonymity told The Guardian during the week that, “We did not see Kalu in 2015, when we voted for President Buhari and we don’t know any impact his coming will make on our political calculation. Though we can’t stop him from meeting the monarchs, but he has more job to do in Southeast for his kinsmen to accept APC.”
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