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NIGERIA: Our leaders must show conscience – Orji Kalu

Chief Orji Uzor KaluImmediate past governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu in an interview in Lagos speaks on contemporary issues facing the country including his return to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, corruption and the state of insecurity in the country among other issues. Excerpts:

You were quoted recently as saying that security agencies were responsible for throwing of bombs in the northern part of the country. Why?

The government knows so much about it. In fact what I am saying is not new. Nobody should say I did not say so. I said so. Even President Jonathan has indicted the security agencies by saying there is Boko Haram in his cabinet. So, if there is Boko Haram in his cabinet, they should work on it. It is beyond carrying guns and standing on the road. This is intelligence.

I want the president to take the issue of insecurity very seriously because it is paining me as an Igbo man; it’s paining me as a southerner; it’s paining me as a Christian. It is painful to me because whenever you have a problem in Pakistan, they will go to the north and kill the Igbo, kill the southerner and kill the Christian for doing nothing.

Apart from the issue of insecurity, what other problem do you see as major in Nigeria?
Well, the major thing is the massive corruption in the system; it is massive. People are not looking at anybody at all levels of government from the local government level to the federal level; nothing is talking about budgets again. Nobody regulates budget.

I am only telling those who claim to be leaders to lead with conscience. They should give the middle class and the poor justice. In any system that there is not fairness and justice, that system will collapse. In Nigeria, there is no justice and fairness.

You are coordinating an anti-corruption campaign in Africa. How far have you gone?
We are still working out the programme. We are supposed to be in South Africa this May. We are working out that programme with stakeholders from the European Union, the United Nations, some diplomats from the United States and other Western countries.

We are working out the process because since government agencies in Africa have failed to fight corruption, we are trying to use Non-Governmental Agencies to fight corruption. You can see people who became ministers, governors and president who never owned anything. They had never been in business. You see retired army generals, who own billions of naira; their salaries couldn’t have been that. So, it is everywhere.

In 14 years of democracy, what have politicians done to restore hope for the future?
They have done nothing. They are even worse today. That’s the truth.

What are the qualities of the president you are looking for in 2015?
Well, most of you continue to think of civil servants and all these people but the president I am looking for is one that can make a decision; a president that can stand and say I have made this decision, whether it is right or wrong.

Are you back to PDP?
Yes, I am back to the PDP.

So, what about the opposition against you from your state against your return?
They are not democrats. If they are democrats, they will not oppose my return.

Do you agree that the Governors have constituted a very powerful cabal?
I do not agree that they are very powerful. The constitution has given them very powerful roles to play. The seat of the governors is very, very powerful and that of the President of Nigeria is the most powerful in the world, where the president can wake up and do anything he likes. I have called for a review of the powers since I became a governor in 1999.

How do we remedy that?
The National Assembly are not making laws that will benefit the people. They are making laws that benefit themselves. Until the National Assembly will make laws to put themselves in part time, abolish one chamber of the Assembly and have only one chamber, we cannot make progress. We cannot be spending 25 per cent of our income on only 469 people.  Even the US congress is not earning the kind of money we are spending here. Our lawmakers should be able to sit on part-time basis.

Do you support removal of the immunity clause?
They should remove immunity. Even as a sitting governor, I called for the removal. If a governor has committed an offence, he should go to court. They said they will have many lawsuits. Why not? The minister, does he have immunity? Has he had so many lawsuits? People must respect the laws of the land.

The constitution must specify how anybody does anything. I don’t believe there should be immunity for anybody. You should be prosecuted if you do anything. When Bill Clinton was president, he was prosecuted. That immunity did not stop them.  I believe we should start being an open society. We are too closed; we are not a communist country. We should be open, not claim to be open.

The government is saying that the economy is growing at seven per cent etc….
No, I am not contradicting them. What I am saying is that the basic things have not been done to bring this economic growth they are shouting about. On which electricity are they producing the growth? On which communication are they producing the growth? Telecommunication companies are not investing their money and you even see security agencies in part of Abuja jamming the lines without knowing the economic consequences.

That is not how security is done. The companies that own these businesses are losing money. The companies that signed agreements with these companies are also losing money. You must find another way of protecting the people. Even when presidents are landing, they keep commercial airlines in the air for 40 minutes to one hour. Do you know it is also killing the economy of the airlines? Do you know the amount of money lost by hanging in the air?

Presidential movement
The airport can just be closed for five minutes with priority to his airplane, which I support because he is the president of Nigeria. There’s nowhere in the world you close the airport for presidential movement. The airlines are losing money on delays and time.

What I am saying is that Nigerian people only see the economy from the dress they are wearing. I want them to see the reality. Because, if we don’t see the reality, what is happening now will consume all of us. It is true; it will consume all of us.

The revolution that will come might not look at faces. It might not see face of religion, it might not see face of tribe. It will only see the face of have you been there before? This is the truth. It is not a laughing matter. It is something people should take seriously.

Are you happy with what is happening in your state Abia?
I am not very happy at all. I don’t believe that anybody created by God will be this petty. But I leave it to his conscience, I leave it to the hands of God.

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