Emmanuel Ugwu writes on the return of former Abia State Governor, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, which has unsettled many party chieftains in the state.
For a man who is no stranger to controversy, former Abia State governor, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, did not disappoint many when he declared that he had been readmitted into the fold of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at his Igbere Ward A area of the state. He claimed that he rejoined the party on January 17, 2013 and was issued a registration number 9,787,945 at a reception he had organised for party members in his ward.
Kalu was a PDP member from inception but left with his followers, including his successor, Chief Theodore Orji, in 2006 to form the Progressives Peoples Alliance (PPA), which won in Abia and Imo States in the 2007 governorship election. The party’s fortunes soon began to slide shortly after the 2007 elections as some of the bigwigs of the party defect to the PDP. It was then that Kalu, who was the presidential flag candidate of PPA in 2007 and senatorial candidate for Abia North in 2011 as well as the chairman of party’s board of trustees (BoT), started pondering a return to PDP.
Given that the former governor has been facing a huge opposition in his bid to return to the PDP on whose platform he served as governor for eight years, the news of his purported readmission had stirred controversy, especially in the Abia State chapter of party.
Barely 24 hours after he declared his intention to return to the PDP, chairman of the party in the state, Senator Emma Nwaka, addressed a joint press conference with PDP chairman in Bende Local Government Area, Chief Ihendu Boniface Eke, in attendance during which he refuted Kalu’s readmission story. They brought the party registers of the two wards in Igbere- wards A and B- and a stack of unissued PDP membership cards said to belong to the two wards.
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Nwaka flipped through the pages of the registers and affirmed that Kalu’s name was not in the either of them and as such, could not have been readmitted into the party.
Although, there were indications that all was not well with the PDP in the two Igbere wards, Eke said the entire members of the executive in both wards had resigned on January 10, 2013 for inexplicable reasons. He said the chairmen and secretaries had handed over to him the documents in their possessions, including the membership registers and the unused membership cards.
He therefore said there was no way Kalu could have been registered a week after the ward executives had resigned and submitted party documents in their possession. “If they gave him (Kalu) any card, it is fake,” he said, adding that the serial number of the cards issued to members in Igbere Ward A starts with “95” whereas the card purportedly issued to Kalu has “97” as the first two digits.
Besides, Eke said merely brandishing a membership card was not enough to qualify anyone as a PDP member. “Your name must be in the register,” he insisted.
The suspended Igbere Ward A chairman, Chika Emeri, was said to be holding office in acting capacity following the death of Ogbonnaya Chukwu in September 2012 while Amechi Gideon Uko was the substantive PDP chairman in Ward B before the turn of events that swept them away. Both men are yet to show up and explain how Kalu got his card.
But Kalu’s account of the story was different. He claimed to have been registered and readmitted in his ward but that when it got to the notice of the state party leadership, the ward executives were sacked. He said the ward chairmen went into hiding as security agents were being used to hound them.
Kalu accused the party leadership of speaking from both sides of the mouth, saying that they had initially announced that the ward executives had been suspended only to turn round and declare that they had resigned.
The former governor explained that there was a combined meeting of the two Igbere wards during which he was readmitted. “I am back and have been registered, there is nothing anybody can do about it, and if you don’t like it you better resign,” he boasted to the state party leadership. He warned Nwaka that he might become the first casualty in the power play. But his claim of having returned to PDP is yet to be substantiated as the register containing his name has not been displayed publicly.
Even at that, the mere claim of readmission has generated reactions from all levels of the PDP in the state. On January 21, the leadership/stakeholders of PDP in Bende Local Government Area held an emergency meeting and refuted Kalu’s claims.
The meeting convened “to put the records straight” on Kalu’s purported return was attended by those who are in charge in Bende PDP. They include the two state legislators from Bende, Hon Princewill Onyegbu, Bende South and Hon Ndukwe Ojukwu, Bende North as well as the chairman and secretary of PDP in Bende, Eke and Oji H. Idika, respectively.
In the three-point communiqué signed by 47 persons, the leaders/stakeholders declared that the PDP in Bende “has not changed its position nor lifted the embargo on the readmission of Chief Orji Uzor Kalu into PDP in Bende.”
This was sequel to a similar meeting held on November 14, 2012 where they resolved that Kalu and other “viruses” would not be allowed into the party. They said no member of PDP in Bende has been given the mandate to either lobby Kalu to rejoin the party or receive the membership card of PDP “as is currently being claimed by the former governor.”
“We find it insulting, though laughable, the claim by Chief Orji Uzor Kalu that he obtained the membership card of our great party the same day he also obtained the membership card of Progressive Peoples Alliance,” the leaders said in the communiqué.
They acknowledged that the former governor has been involved in “subterranean manoeuvres” at the national and ward levels to return to PDP. As a result, they said it was “necessary to put the records straight” on the issue of Kalu’s purported registration and readmission at Igbere Ward A in order to properly guide the state and the national leadership of PDP, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the general public.”
Unfortunately, Kalu’s readmission drama did not end at the ward and state levels of Abia PDP. The leadership of the South-east zone of PDP has also come out to disown him. National Vice Chairman of PDP, South-east, Col Austin Akobundu (rtd), issued a statement where it said the zone had no record to show that Kalu was a PDP member.
He noted that following the controversy over the alleged readmission of Kalu at Igbere ward A, the zonal leadership has conducted its investigations and has already sent its report to the national leadership of the party. Akobundu reaffirmed the position of the party in Abia that not only has the former governor not been readmitted, the PDP in the South-east zone has no plans to welcome him back.
Akobundu explained that the party has enough reason to believe that the founder of PPA “is a paid agent of a presidential aspirant whose mandate is to destabilise the party in the South-east zone,” adding that Kalu’s attempt to rejoin PDP has been roundly rejected by his ward, local government and state chapters of the party.
The zonal boss offered an explanation to the effect that Kalu, in his futile attempt to rejoin PDP, was deceived by some ex-officers of the party to believe they could bring him back. He, therefore, pointed out that the purported readmission of Kalu was in contravention of Article 8, section 8 of the constitution of the PDP (as amended) hence it was void ab initio.
According to his opponents, Kalu should not be allowed to return to the PDP because he bequeathed crisis to the party before he left and having achieved peace and unity, his return would further plunge Abia PDP into another era of internal crisis.
Their explanation was acceptable to National Chairman of PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, who, when he received a delegation of party bigwigs from the state who came to protest against Kalu’s planned return, advised the former governor to make peace with the stakeholders.
Kalu’s approach to return to PDP since then has met with stiff opposition from nearly all stakeholders, including members of the state House of Assembly who adopted a resolution during their plenary session of January 22, refuting Kalu’s allegation that they told him that they were not getting anything from the government of Orji. They described the allegations as “blackmail and blatant lies” aimed at causing disaffection between the state legislature and the state governor.
The Assembly further described the allegations as “fallacious and malicious,” stating “categorically and unequivocally that there is a robust relationship between the legislative and executive arms of government in Abia state.”
Similar allegation was also made against the members of the state executive council. But in a communiqué at the end of its meeting on January 28, 2013, members of the state executive council said Kalu’s allegations were “mischief-inspired insinuations”.
In the communiqué signed by the council chairman and Commissioner for Justice, Umeh Kalu, and secretary and Commissioner for Information, Don Ubani, they claimed to enjoy “unprecedented job satisfaction” because the prevailing conditions of service under Orji “are superlatively incomparable to what obtained during the eight dark years of Kalu’s coercive discriminatory and exploitative rule in the state.”
Yet, Orji and the Deputy Chief of Staff, Chief Charles Ogbonna, were not spared either as Kalu alleged that the duo had hatched plans to print and paste presidential campaign posters in his name in order to discredit him. But Ogbonna said nothing could be farther from the truth as it was inconceivable for him to waste his time and resources on a man who has lost political relevance.
“I have and will never be bothered with Orji Uzor Kalu’s past and present gimmicks at contesting the presidency of this country as his self-acclaimed aspiration lies in the reality of self-delusion,” he said.
As Kalu is entangled in the readmission debacle, observers of Abia politics are itching to see how the whole scenario would eventually play out. Indeed, if Kalu has returned to PDP, it is believed that it would be very difficult for him to operate effectively with the kind of opposition arrayed against him from all strata of the party in the state.