Former Abia State Governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu recently on arrival from Abuja at the Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal Two ( MMA2) , Ikeja, Lagos, in an interview with reporters spoke on some burning issues in the country. Here is an excerpt:
1.How do you see Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu handling reconciliation job for feuding parties in APC?
I think when I came from London this morning and when I landed in Abuja, I initially mentioned this to the authorities in Abuja about the problem in Ibadan. I reported it to the highest levels of our party and our government. This was three weeks ago, immediately I left Ibadan, I felt it wasn’t the right atmosphere to continue the party where a governor and a minister will be going on two parallel ways. It is not for the benefit of the President, it is neither for the benefit of the party nor for the benefit of the Nigerian people. The synergy will not be there.
I want to thank Mr. President for his wisdom to have given the national leader of APC the opportunity to reconcile them. I am very excited for what is happening because that is what democracy is all about. I felt that it will be a good beginning and I hope my brother and friend, Alhaji Bola Tinubu will be able to do this job very well. He is capable of doing it. We should be able to be blunt to all parties and be able to settle them.
2. The issue of support for the presidency in 2019. What is conviction, vis-a-vis the public perception?
I don’t know what you mean about that. All I know is that Buhari is prepared to run, unless he is not feeling well but Buhari will run. He is an honest man. I am sure you know Buhari very well. He is not a man that pretends; he is not a man that shows the other side of his behavior. He is man, such that if he is not going to run, he will tell Nigerians. If he will run, he will tell Nigerians that he will run. He is an honest man. We pray that his health gets better. We also pray that his doctors give him a clear health bill. And you know Buhari is a man with a lot of conscience. If he feels that his health will not allow him to run for this election, he is not going to run. But if he feels he is capable of running, he will run for the election.
Whether Nigerians are talking about him coming out at early stage, it is not a problem, it is his decision; it is also his right. He is entitled for a second term. Even people that fail class also repeat class in elementary school and secondary. Buhari has done very well. Look at, have you gone to see the Niger bridge? It is reconstructed; so you can see and I know things are very difficult. As Ibo, I know also we have been cheated in many ways but this is a new beginning. They have been cheating us since 1960 up till today, so the issue is that we must build a national cohesion. What is lacking in Nigeria is inability to build national cohesion by all stakeholders. We are still building a tribal cohesion where people remember where they come from. Where people think where they are from; where people think about their religion. We must be able to embrace a situation where all stakeholders know that they are Nigerians. Like I know, I feel am a Nigerian and I feel at home anywhere I go. If am in Lagos, I feel at home; in Sokoto, I feel at home; in Enugu, I also feel at home. If I go to Ibadan, it is home for me. So I believe the earlier we know we are Nigerians, the better for us.
3. What is your reaction on the suggestion that Igbo Presidency is right by 2023 so that Buhari will finish his second term
It is the right thing to do. The country is built on a tripod. When you have everybody saying that you should allow us to rule, you know it is the end of the civil war. We have heard a Chief of Army Staff, Inspector General of Police. No one man is capable of dividing this country. The other country will fight the battle; it is not possible. So the fear that is in the minds of the people that Igbos are calling for secession. In Lagos State, Igbos own 40 to 50 percent of the investments here; In Abuja, almost 67 to 70 per cent of investments are owned by Igbos. All these things are just blackmail. Let us stop blackmailing ourselves and work. An Igbo presidency will bring prosperity to Nigeria because Igbos are the closest people who can go to Ogbomosho and start building houses, Igbos are the closest people who go to Birnin Kebbi and establish their shops and the next thing, they will build houses there. It is a thing that the country should do with joy. It is also a thing that we should do with pride. The country should be proud to showcase an Igbo man.
4. Junaid Mohammed said that they Northern elites will not support Buhari because he did not meet their expectation. What are your views?
Junaid Mohammed is a close friend of mine and I cannot disprove what he said but if the elites refuse to support Buhari, the masses will support Buhari and the masses are more in number. The people that are going to support Buhari are people who actually and sincerely believe in Buhari. They are people who don’t even know any other thing than Buhari. Let’s assume that we have 12.5 million supporters before. I am sure 10 million are still in the bank; we call it bazaar reserve. That reserve is still there. We will bring it out at the appropriate time.
5. What is your take on anti-grazing Bill?
The thing they have not done well is encouraging people to go and farm and palm oil is imported into Nigeria. It is criminal because you see big companies importing palm oil and now there is a slump of palm oil in Nigeria. The Minister of Finance and Minister of Agriculture should have immediate conference to sort this out and all palm oil in Nigeria should be banned, whether it is the WTO enforcement or not, we will tell them this is our economy. Palm oil and cocoa and cashew nuts are our mainstay. Nobody should be able to import those items into Nigeria. It is capital no whether you are violating the law of WTO or anybody. It is not allowed. Look at the simple farmers that are farming in palm oil, they cannot sell the palm oil they have produced because all the big companies are importing palm oil from Malaysia. How can we continue developing people’s economy? Look at what Buhari has done; rice is almost zero importation. So why should we import palm oil. Minister of Finance and Federal Government altogether should immediately as a matter of urgency and they should not wait for Senate to give this order. They should be able to ban palm oil importation immediately and allow the farmers to enjoy.
6. State policing, what is your view?
State policing is what I called since 1999. That was after three months I was elected as governor. I said there was a need for state policing and I was the first governor in Nigeria who supported state policing. Having been governor for three months, that was precisely September, 1999. I said there was need for state policing and that was the only way to stop armed robbery. When we were in Abia, we were able to stop armed robbery operations because we have collaboration with the Bakassi and police. We have the federal police like the FBI and all the rest of them, so that they can handle all the serious issues while the state police will handle local issues.
7. Allegation of governors’ intentions to use state police for intimidation of opponents.
No, you make it difficult for anybody to use it. The police commissioner should not be appointed by the state government. The commissioner of the state police will be directly elected by the people. And remember when I said the Attorney General should be elected by the people so that they would not be anybody’s stooge. They are not going to stand by anybody. I believe sincerely that state police is part of the essential ingredients that would complement the democracy or the unity of our country, so it is important. Let me sound warning to governors who would like to use it for themselves because the laws are not so strong. The laws of Nigeria should become strong and we should not be above the law. The beauty of any country is her loyalty to the judiciary and the judiciary should also stand up to it. Any country without a strong judiciary will not live. It is aberration and it is like a dead thing, because when the legislature and executive are in trouble or recklessness of the executive or rascality of the National Assembly, the check of all those things will be done by the judiciary. Our judges should stand up to defend democracy and defend people’s right; it is important. Whether they obey the order or not, it is not important. Issue the order, so that it will be in record that an order was given.
8. Court order which restored your certificate that was withdrawn four years ago. What is your reaction?
Well, I don’t discuss all those issues. I went to court on the 2013 and that is the confidence judiciary should give to us. I was maltreated, and I didn’t go to fight them. I have knives, I have machetes, I could have gone to fight but I went to court. And this is what I want all Nigerians to learn. The sanctity of judiciary is very important to our democracy.