By Emmanuel Onwubiko
“You see, idealism detached from action is just a dream. But idealism allied with pragmatism, with rolling up your sleeves and making the world bend a bit, is very exciting. It’s very real. It’s very strong.”– Bono
“Action requires focus and priorities and these inherently require compromises and pragmatism.”– Dominic Cummings
I’m a Philosopher who incidentally became a journalist by scholarship and by longstanding practice in many top rated national dailies including of course the Prince and flagship of the Nigerian Press- The Guardian Newspaper of Nigeria.
But I have been privileged to have been involved in political party administration at some point at the grassroots level when I was a stakeholder at the United Nigeria Peoples Party of the Sani Abacha five fingers’ leprosy era of political transmission experimentation.
So I’m very conversant with practical Politics. Since abandoning Politics, I have had a straight journalistic cum civil Rights career spanning over two decades.
So I can tell and interprete the ideological leaning of any politician I have had the privilege to study the trajectories that characterise such a person. Forget it that political party formation mostly do not follow any clearly defined ideology. But the members show and manifest their individually inclined ideological platforms and leanings.
I have known Orji Uzor Kalu who is a Senator now back then when he was a Governor of Abia State and I had just arrived Abuja to report for The Guardian when General Alhaji Abdulsalami Abubakar was nursing the transition to civil rule programme in 1998.
I was a top player in the Catholic Journalists’ forum and we had a reason to interact with the then very young Governor of Abia State which is also called God’s own State. Orji Uzor Kalu is a Roman Catholic by religious persuasion but he is tolerant of all religious affiliations and believes that freedom of religious worship should be accorded the top most priority.
I wrote a letter to him and he almost immediately responded and the rest is history. That was the beginning of my nearness to him up until now that he is the Chief Whip of the Senate. In just over two years, he has sponsored top quality bills and he has brought development to his constituents and importantly, he has a foundation that has helped many underprivileged Nigerians. He is a thoroughbred politician and has travelled and lived in almost every part of Nigeria so he is a Pan-Nigerian. He is not a tribal bigot and this his nationalistic disposition has brought him a lot of misperceptions.
Last year, when preparations commenced for the elections that will herald the exit of the incumbent President Major General Muhammadu Buhari as he then was, I got closer to him when he started extrapolating and theorising on the potentiality of Nigeria producing a President in 2023 that is of South East orientation.
I got fascinated about his prognosis for wanting South East to produce the President particularly because as an Igbo patriot who believes that Nigeria needs to be governed better, I have craved all my life to witness the emergence of a Nigerian President of Igbo origin. I’m almost 49 today and for 60 years plus that Nigeria became a Republic, no Igbo man or Woman has either been appointed or elected as executive President even when Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa/Fulani are the three most populated tribes in Nigeria and the other two legs of the so-called tripod had produced the president of Nigeria many times over.
So I started becoming so close to him to help project the interest of the South East. But few weeks to the Convention of his political party the All Progressives Congress to nominate the Presidential Candidate for the 2023 election, Orji Uzor Kalu who bought the nomination form for the contest to run for the office of President under his party, stepped down and backed the Senate President Ahmed Lawan who hitherto had not shown interest to run for that office. This decision was painful to some of us who had dreamt about the possibility of witnessing the emergence of a Nigerian President of Igbo origin which will mark the real end of the civil war of the 1960’s that has denied the South East of many fundamental political rights and infrastructural projects that other Ethnic blocs have continued to enjoy from the national cake. This national cake baked with crude oil is essentially built from the resources that God had endowed Southern Nigeria with many Igbo states having a chunk of these gifts of nature.
The Senate President apparently was nursing ambition to be returned to the Senate for the straight sixth term but suddenly the idea of running for that lofty position of President dawned on him with the massive lobby of people like Senator Orji Uzor Kalu. So to us who thought Orji Uzor Kalu stand a chance of becoming one of the most considered Presidential candidate to represent the South East interest got shocked by his position supporting the Senate President Ahmed Lawan to be made the candidate in APC.
As someone who has sworn to maintain my stand in support of Nigeria producing the President of South East extraction, I was devastated that someone I had hoped will stand as one of our brightest chances to be made a Presidential Candidate of APC suddenly abandoned ship and jumped ship to back someone from the North East of Nigeria.
I accused him of IGBOPHOBIA but after a while, I changed my mind and concluded that Orji Uzor Kalu may have seen what some of us unconnected with the highest political games, are aware of.
He Orji Uzor Kalu has maintained his support for Ahmed Lawan but with a proviso that if his party zones the office to South East he will back down and canvass support for South East.
Unfortunately, his party failed to zone the Presidency to the South East thus antagonising the chances of Igbos in his party that is in charge of affairs of Nigeria at the centre.
I then understood that Senator Orji Uzor Kalu is simply a PRAGMATIC POLITICIAN who did not want to be left behind. He believes that his position is altruistic and not selfish.
He saw that his South East may not be favoured so he took what he believes is the fastest pathway for the South East to get to the office of the President of Nigeria.
He said if North East gets it then the South East which has never had that privilege will stand better opportunity of getting that position after another 8 years.
For Mr I don’t agree with him. But I concede to him his fundamental human right of making his informed choice.
But one thing is clear- Orji Uzor Kalu is not suffering from IGBOPHOBIA but he is afraid of failing if at the end of the day his zone does not get it since the Igbos who were delegates to the Peoples Democratic Party opted to collect bribes to vote for Northern candidate than vote for Igbos.
So you see that if PDP that is mistaken before as Igbo party refuses to give their presidency slot to the South East that has contributed significantly to the vibrancy of PDP for many years, is it APC that is just permeating South East that will concede the slot? So it’s all about PRAGMATISM.
Research shows that pragmatism is a philosophical tradition that – very broadly – understands knowing the world as inseparable from agency within it. This general idea has attracted a remarkably rich and at times contrary range of interpretations, including: that all philosophical concepts should be tested via scientific experimentation, that a claim is true if and only if it is useful (relatedly: if a philosophical theory does not contribute directly to social progress then it is not worth much), that experience consists in transacting with rather than representing nature, that articulate language rests on a deep bed of shared human practices that can never be fully ‘made explicit’.
So in this etymological sense of what Pragmatism is, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu seems to have the foresight never to be left in the losing side provided he will work out a way to make his Zone to land the job of the president of Nigeria in few years time.
His challenge now is to get a binding agreement that the South East should have a shot at the presidency after whoever will succeed. That is if Peter Obi who is making tremendous inroads to all parts of Nigeria doesn’t sweep into power next year given the momentum that is now behind him with majority of the youthful voters behind him.
So far, Orji Uzor Kalu has had emphatic supportive positions canvassed in the media in support of the candidacy of Senator Ahmed Lawan. Orji Uzor Kalu has made over 6 dozen statements in defence of Senator Ahmed Lawan. He had debunked the statement by Senator Shettima that Ahmed Lawan is an unknown quantity to an extent that he said if someone in Ohafia mentions Ahmed Lawan, the audience would think he is a TOMATO DEALER. Orji Uzor Kalu has travelled all across Nigeria meeting delegates to APC national convention to canvass votes for Ahmed Lawan. He has energised a media office dedicated to churning out qualitative articles in favour of Ahmed Lawan.
The latest is the attack against the leading supporter of Ahmed Bola Tinubu. The following is a statement from the media desk of Senator Orji Uzor Kalu on Akeredolu.
The statement states thus: “Another attempt by Gov Akeredolu of Ondo State to make a case for Southern Presidency whilst evading the SouthEast region has been vehemently condemned by concerned Nigerians.
Taking to their social media platforms the online users described the Governor as being insincere and hypocritical in his statements, according to them Akeredolu deliberately avoided mentioning the South East while making a case for power shift to the Southern region of the country with regards to the 2023 Presidential race.
Baring their minds on a statement credited to the Governor where he asked the All Progressive’s Congress party to retain power by rotating the presidency to the South, the online users accused Akeredolu of being biased saying if he is genuine he should have specifically advocated for power shift to the South East since the region has never been given the opportunity to produce since the advent of the fourth republic.
Governor Akeredolu, who doubles as the Chairman of the Southwest Governors’ Forum, was on Wednesday evening announced as the Chairman of Security and Compliance for the party’s special convention for the Presidential Primary.
In a short message via his personal Facebook page on Thursday, the Governor re-echoed the position of his colleagues in the Southern Nigeria Governors’ Forum, that power should be rotated to the South.
Leaving behind the Southeast, Akeredolu added that it is the turn of the South to produce the next President and the APC leadership should have no difficulty in making pronouncements on such an important issue.
The statement has since been trailed with a magnitude of condemnation, reacting to the statement, the vast majority of Nigerians claimed that the Governor is cunningly advocating for Presidential aspirants from the South-West zone, a region which had produced Presidency for 16 years.
Accusing the Governor of “dishonesty” his statement they however, maintained if the South South and South West regions were not willing to back the Presidency to be zoned to the South-east region, the North should continue in power beyond 2023.
In a Facebook thread on Channels TV page , Oyetakin Patrick urged the Governor to be specific in his claim for power shift to the Southern region by mentioning the South-East.
He wrote; ” Be specific sir ! Rotate to South East”.
Ezeorji Nnaemeka on his part queried ;”Why people are dishonest like this? Rotate power to which part of the South? Whoever is agitating for power rotation to south without being specific to the area of the south is simply treacherous & perfidious. We have said it many times here, if the rotation is not about coming to southeast which is the only region in the south that has not produced the president, then let it be in the north”.
Hyginus Chinedu in his comment identified the greediness and selfishness of South Western politicians as the reason power will elude the South in 2023 he wrote; ” North is not our problem , they only benefited from the greedy and selfish politicians from the southwest and it’s now almost clear that presidency will remain in the north for now. I am surprised that equity, fairness and justice are no longer a slogan for our brothers from the southwest. From 1999, southwest had almost 16 years as president and vice president, south south 8 years as president and vice president with the support of the people from the south east. They don’t want equity in the south but shouts equity in Nigeria. Let the north rule as long as they can”.
Ayobami simply wrote ;”Better to south East, not south west anymore”
Ezeorji Nnaemeka described Akeredolu’s statement as being dishonest for avoiding the South-East, he however supported the retention of power in the North if the South-East does not produce the President.
He wrote; “Why people are dishonest like this? Rotate power to which part of South? Anyone who is agitating for power rotation to south without being specific to the area of the south is simply treacherous & perfidious. We have said it many times here, if the rotation is not about coming to southeast which is the only region in the south that had not produced a president, then let it be in the north”.
Some other comments as captured read ;
Innocent Ucheji ; “Where in the South? If it’s not South East, let the North have it”.
Raphael Ikeokwu Uche ; “To South Were? If not southeast let it be open to all regions.”
Henry Chigozie; “When you say South be specific cos I know your bias mind is telling you it’s South East”.
Temple Johnwyte; “Hypocrisy, when asked about Igbo presidency, you said is not the constitution, but, you want the north to allow the power to come to the south, greedy…”
Chilagorom Mercy ; “When it is time for presidential election, Yorubas and igbos will turn into Southerners .After election, it will become south east and south west , Yoruba people are chameleons”.
For now, the facts that have emerged is that Senate’s Chief Whip Senator Orji Uzor Kalu loves Igboland but he is convinced that if Igbos lose out in 2023, it shouldn’t be an outsider in the government that will be formed in 2023.
We await what happens in the national convention of the APC tonight and going forward.
*EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA and was NATIONAL COMMISSIONER of the NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.