Former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview with ANTHONY AWUNOR, he speaks on June 12 and the efforts being put in place by President Muhammadu Buhari to move the country to the next level.
For the first time since the late Chief MKO Abiola won the June 12, 1993 presidential election, he was given the highest title in the land by President Muhammadu Buhari. What are your views on June 12?
Well, we have always said it. I was the first state governor that declared June 12; not even Bola Tinubu. That led to a public holiday in Abia State when I was a governor. And that was in June 12 1999. Obasanjo wrote me a letter which I can show you a copy, condemning it and querying why Abia should be exceptional and I told them that this is what the state believes and that we know when to fix our public holidays and when not to fix them. So, as far I am concerned, President Buhari has done it now. June 12 is a reality but the president has to go further than that; what about the man who conducted the free and fair election? He should also give him award. And since we are addressing the issues that Obasanjo did wrongly, what of the Enyimba that won the African Cup of Champions back to back and no National Award was given to them. These are the issues.
It was a time of not giving National Awards or money; they just got a handshake. The cup that Nigeria has never won in 40 years, we carried it back. Don’t you see something is wrong? We were not well treated but we took it and went back home in Abia where I told the boys that they are heroes of Nigeria and not heroes of Abia. Up till today, no other club side has gone to that level.
Check when the Eagles won Nations Cup only once, Shagari gave them a national award and gave them houses and gave them cash but the boys and officers who went back to back to get the cup, nothing was given to them. It is not an easy job but now that Mr. President is re-addressing these issues, he should also consider Humphrey Nwosu and also put Enyimba Football Club of Aba so that those issues are treated as fast as possible. Even other countries laugh at us. Even when Egypt carried African Cup of Nations, players and officers were given national honours. So, I still call on President Buhari to address that issue. So, it remains for them to address the issues of the civil war, those that lost their lives and those that lost their money; so that we can move forward.
When you talk about addressing the issue of civil war, can you be specific on what the government should do to address it?
He should declare the south east a special area because the civil war affected them very well. And a lot of ill treatments were put against people from the south east because of the civil war. Buhari has already addressed it by paying the police of Biafra which everybody commended. Also, President Buhari has made the judges who were not receiving their salaries in the states, by signing to that law, they are now taking their money directly. It also includes the Houses of Assembly.
With that, the Houses of Assembly will become powerful now and they can say no to the governor. So, we are starting to have democracy which is what I have been saying since I was governor that the Judiciary and House of Assembly should be truly independent. If you are in the office, you don’t need to fear anything so far you are doing the right thing.
So, you don’t need to fear that people in the House of Assembly will impeach you, if you are doing the right thing, unless if you are not doing the right thing and that is when you will be afraid. We might be crying because some people are used to depending on public funds. They sit waiting for government money to come. This is what Buhari is saying that those money belong to the people and not to an individual. And they are crying. I am not saying Buhari is an angel and I am not saying he is perfect but you know I speak the truth, and for him to return Abiola’s name on the map of Nigeria, it is a right step in the right direction.
What about the power probe issue which you were spearheading in the past? Is it that the government is just waking up and is it justifying what you have been saying on the N16 billion?
Let me be honest with you, many ex-presidents especially from 1999 need to be probed because they are not above the law. If one of the presidents should send me to EFCC, he should also be sent to EFCC because he is a Nigerian. He has one vote like me. I voted for him and he didn’t vote for me. For all the good things we did for him, all he could do is to take me to EFCC.
Some people say you joined the APC because you want to run away from justice. Is it true?
No. God forbid. My case is being prosecuted robustly and we are giving them a robust defense because I have one of the best defense teams you can think about. For me, my face does not look like a thief. My mind tells me that I am not a thief. But I am not a judge. The judge is the only one that can say you are right or wrong. For me, I solely believe that I didn’t join APC to circumvent justice. I am a scholar of justice and I have even said it that if the judge finds me wrong, he should jail me. So that it will be a reasonable thing for others to learn. My conscience tells me that what they are doing is purely political.
It does appear as if your efforts to bring President Buhari and General Babangida together is not working. Do you think their relationship is still cordial and how do we improve on their relationships?
These are two heavyweights and military men. You know I am a bloody civilian. So, I have tried when I was a governor and that was when I had immunity. That was when I brought them together. Whether I can do it again now, I don’t think because I no longer have immunity. It is a big challenge to manage two people of that capacity because supporters of Buhari will always be against me because I am Babangida’s boy, and supporters of Babangida will always be against me because I am Buhari’s boy too. So, that puts me in a very difficult position but I have been managing things like that.
I managed Atiku and Jubril Aminu and I will continue managing people like that. What is important is good conscience and ability to tell each of them the truth. I have known both presidents for over 30 years. I have never had any reason to doubt any of them and they have also never had any reason to doubt me either. I have nothing to quarrel with any of them about. If I go to IBB, I don’t discuss Buhari and I don’t discuss IBB with Buhari.
What message do you have for democrats as Buhari honours Abiola with a posthumous award?
My advice to democrats is that every Nigerian should go and register and have their Permanent Voter Card (PVC). You cannot be standing at Murtala Mohammed International Airport and you say you are a democrat and you don’t have a PVC.
You cannot be standing in the market and be saying you are a democrat without having a PVC. Once one voting period finishes, it takes another four years to do another voting. So, whoever you are, it is important you go and register because the vote is very important. And when you vote, don’t go; wait there and ensure your vote is counted.
You can never have a good democratic process without respecting the law. That takes me back to the judiciary which is the bedrock of all these things we are doing and that is why Buhari should reform them the more. He has given the states judiciary their money, he should also consider the federal to get their money directly.
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