By Jude Atupulazi
Last Thursday, the unthinkable happened in Nigeria. It was the jailing of a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Orji Uzor Kalu, former Abia State governor and a serving senator. He is to spend the next 12 years behind bars for defrauding the people of Abia State a whopping sum of 7.6 billion Naira while serving as their governor.
Abia is a state imbued with a rich human resource base. Abians are an industrious people renowned for their cleverness and skill. Abia is where you can get the best local shoes and best local wear. Those industries are thriving excellently and yielding enormous revenue to the Abia State Government. Perhaps, the only other Southeast state to compare to Abia in terms of internally generated revenue is Anambra. But while Anambra has developed significantly in roads and infrastructure, Abia remains the least developed in the entire Southeast.
Yet, while the people of Abia suffered and are still suffering, with many civil servants yet to receive their gratuities for over a decade after retiring, somebody like Kalu was able to pocket N7B of the state’s commonwealth from which he played Father Christmas to those fortunate enough to get close to him.
Probably aware of the fate that awaited him, Kalu had quickly crossed over to the ruling APC under whose platform he contested and ”won” the senatorial election last time out. He was certain that membership of APC would give him automatic cover like it did to many others before him. But, alas, it was not to be. Last Thursday, the nation was shocked to the bone marrow when the news of his conviction broke. A report in one of the national dailies had it that while leaving the court, he had pleaded with the police not to hand cuff him in public.
Now, the issue is no longer that Kalu was jailed. What has remained baffling is how his membership of the ruling APC, known for its penchant to protect their own, could not save him. Ditto with his closeness to the power brokers in the Federal Government, including the president himself.
Indeed, for years, Kalu had been surviving like the proverbial cat with nine lives, but then, a time comes when the end must come. It came last Thursday for Kalu, despite being a member of the APC.
Many are still wondering why Kalu suffered that fate. Was it that he was seen by the cabal in Abuja as an opportunist? Was it that he was seen as an expendable material to be used to hoodwink Nigerians into believing that the FG is impartial and genuine in its corruption fight?
For a long time, the FG had been carpeted for its penchant to cover those belonging to its party and giving them soft landing. That attitude made many Nigerians to take the FG’s corruption fight with a pinch of salt.
But the Kalu development seems to be changing all that, or is it? Perhaps, Nigerians will start believing that the FG has turned a new leaf when other ”corrupt” Nigerians, especially those from the core North, are also jailed. I say this because Kalu may have been used as a fall guy to make an impression.
But get me right; I’m not defending Kalu. He should be ready to reap what he sowed. He couldn’t be sitting pretty on a pile of dough like N7b while the people he served suffered and died and expect us to clap for him. The point however is that we will start believing that Buhari has really turned a new leaf when we see other untouchables going the way of Kalu.
As Kalu goes to jail, this should serve as a warning signal to other politicians who think they are safe just because they belong to APC or friendly with the party and the president.
Before now, Buhari, while a military head of state, was known as a no-nonsense man; a man who believed in discipline and a man who did what was necessary without minding whose ox was gored.
But we started seeing a different personality when he returned as a civilian president. He started turning a blind eye to impunity when such was committed by his party men or brothers. He seemed incapable of asserting himself and many began to suspect that he was remote-controlled by a cabal in Aso Rock.
But with the conviction of Kalu, perhaps, we are about to witness the real change that APC told us to expect before they came aboard. If this is the case, then current governors should watch out. They should see that there is now no hiding place and that Nigerians will shed no tears when they come under the hammer.
Nigerians are angry with the leadership and they clearly demonstrated that with the attack on former senate president, Ike Ekweremadu, in Germany. Thus, today’s leaders should watch out, not just against being picked up by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, but against being waylaid by the masses after they leave office.
Who knows, Nigeria may yet succeed in changing the attitude of her leaders.
Oraifite Killings and IPOB’s non-violence mantra
Last Monday, all hell was let loose in Oraifite, Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State, when two policemen were said to have been killed and burnt by suspected members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB. IPOB had in turn denied it and accused the police of killing their members. The police responded by asking IPOB to show proof of their members killed as they, the police, showed theirs. As at press time, IPOB was yet to do that.
While not jumping into quick conclusions as to which side was lying or telling the truth, I want to quickly appeal to IPOB to take it easy and control their members. Their activities and utterances often leave much to be desired. Not long ago, they threatened to kill the president general of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, as well as other Igbo leaders. It was a threat that cast doubts on their claim to non-violence.
It is also known that a lot of people tend to key into the confusion created by IPOB during their activities; people like cultists and other miscreants. These people contribute in giving them a bad name. Now, IPOB is in the middle of a major controversy which borders on the killing of policemen. For their sake, I hope they are not found responsible because if it happens to be so, their claim of not being violent will go up in smoke and the FG will have justified their tag on IPOB as a terrorist outfit.
IPOB should learn to take it easy and desist from being confrontational to Igbo leaders, governors and Ohaneze Ndigbo. They should learn to work in concert with them so that those people will also not hesitate to work with them and help out wherever and whenever they can.
What Ndigbo need is not a violent agitation but a well-articulated way of rebuilding ourselves from within and making our zone work without recourse to the federal government. This is a kind of Biafra of the mind; not the noisy and sometimes irresponsible way it is generally being done now.
I once again do hope that those behind the killing of the policemen are the rival cult groups initially fingered in the crisis. Anything different from that won’t just augur well for IPOB whom the FG does not like to hear about.
Anambra can certainly do without violence as we are a people who place a high premium on human life. While I condole with the police and the families of those killed, it is my hope and prayer that the perpetrators of that dastardly act would be brought to book.
Human life is sacred. Once we begin to treat such as happened in Oraifite with kid gloves, only God knows how quickly it will become the norm. May God help us.