10th NASS: Why Orji Kalu is most qualified to be Senate President – Okeke, Anambra APC stalwart

The jostle for the seat of the Senate President in the upcoming 10th National Assembly is taking the centre stage with the Southeast positioned on top of the contest.

Therefore, peaking to newsmen in an interview, the Anambra South Chairman of the APC, Chief Izuchukwu Okeke, tipped the Chief Whip of the State and former governor of Abia State, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu, as the best option. Excerpt:

How do you see the performance of APC in the last eight years?

As they say in law, facts are sacred and it cannot be tampered with. The government of APC has done very well in the Southeast given the level of infrastructural development in the entire five states that make up the geo-political zone. Most projects abandoned by the then People’s Democratic Party (PDP) administration came alive and you know that those projects were used as a campaign slogan to woo the voters in that geo-political zone and they were never completed and some remained on paper till the end of the PDP regime. When you look at those roads that were constructed under the then government of the NPN, you will discover that they have become recluses of themselves even under the PDP-led administration. But at the advent of the APC government they all came alive such as the Enugu-Okigwe – Aba- Port Harcourt expressway. Also the Onitsha-Awka-Enugu Expressway has been reconstructed and at least 75 per cent of the project. The era of COVID-19, however, affected the project because for almost a year all projects in the country stopped and if not for that the project would have been completed. The country also had another route to interface with other citizens, which I call a handshake across the Niger. Last Christmas season people used the Second Niger Bridge, which has been completed. During the elections the then government of PDP had promised to execute the project and later we heard that the project had no design and was not captured in that year’s budget. When APC came on board, the project was continued and today it is the toast of the Southeast and South-south. We had the Akanu Ibiam Airport which was upgraded to international status and great thanks to the APC government led by President Muhammadu Buhari. There are a whole lot of them, including the Federal Government appointments to the Southeast by the APC government in the country. So, by and large, the Southeast has benefited bountifully.

How about insecurity in the Southeast?
The issue of insecurity is nationwide and not only in the Southeast alone and the APC government have been working hand in gloves with the respective state governors to put it on check. The much it has done made it possible for people to come out and vote in this election, but you know that there cannot be a perfect society even abroad.

How do you see the outcome of the last presidential election in the country?
Here in the Southeast there was calm as people came out to vote even though there were challenges in certain areas, which has to do with the role of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security operatives. At the moment the matter is now at the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal at the Appeal Court and the Supreme Court and it may amount to subjudice to talk more about that election. Meanwhile the Electoral Act made explicit that after INEC has made its declaration, the next stage is the court and whatever grievances anyone may have is at the court and talking more would make it preemptive.

Today, the issue of power rotation has come up given the emergence of Southwest and the Northeast as President and Vice President?

It has always been a reoccurring decimal at every stage of the country’s politics and in the past it is done with recourse to the major geopolitical zones in the country. In 1979 and 1999 we had Shehu Shagari as President from the North and Alex Ekwueme from the South or Southeast and Joseph Wayas from South-south with Edwin Umezoke from Southeast. Then we had in 1999 to 2003 Obasanjo from Southwest, Atiku Abubakar from Northeast, as Vice President with Evans Enwerem as Senate President. In fact, throughout the eight years of Obasanjo government the Southeast had the slot for Senate President and when Yar’Adua and Jonathan came into the saddle the dynamics changed, but the country moved on. Today, we have Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu as President-elect with Kashim Shettima as Vice President-elect and it is fair and just to for the Southeast to occupy the post of the Senate President. Last time we had the opportunity of producing the Senate President in the persons of Senators Christ Ngige and Ostia Izunaso, but our people in their nature saw APC as anti-Igbo and didn’t vote for him and Bukola Saraki became Senate President. But today, we have Southeast people in the Senate and the Senator that deserves to be there is the former governor of Abia State and currently the Senate Chief Whip, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu.

\What informed your opinion about your choice of Senate President?

It is glaring that he is a ranking Senator and a principal officer of the current Senate. What more, he has been a pan-Nigerian and has the interest of the Southeast at heart. He is better experienced when compared with other members from our geo-political zone and he has built bridges across the country. His position as Senate President would also go a long way to douse the pockets of misgivings over the emergence of the Southwest and the Northeast as President and Vice President of the country. Other members who may be called ranking senators are not members of APC and their parties do not command the majority in the Senate while those in the APC are not principal officers of the Red Chambers. For the leadership of the party, which includes the President-elect, Bola Tinubu, they are better disposed to have him as the head of the National Assembly and he has been a loyal partyman. When it comes to the internal politics of the Senate, Orji Uzor Kalu understands the chemistry of the Red Chambers and would ensure that projects meant for the Southeast and South-south geopolitical zones are protected and well captured in the Appropriation Bill of the executive arm of government. Even in the South-south they cannot lay claim to the post of Senate President when the zone had earlier produced the President of Nigeria, which we in the Southeast supported them so it is reciprocal that they back a Southeast Senate President in this coming dispensation.

What do we expect from the coming APC government?

Well, my take is that the government of Ahmed Bola Tinubu and Alhaji Kashim Shettima should run an all-inclusive government devoid of ethnicity, religion and party affiliation. Even those who didn’t vote for them are Nigerians and they are subjects to the government and should have equal opportunity as those that voted for them.