By Prof. Nnaemeka Chinedu
The March 27, 2021 by-election into Aba North and Aba South Federal Constituency seat may have come and gone, but its behind clearly exposes the fact that the people of the South-East are not as opposed to the All Progressives Congress (APC) as is being peddled in some quarters. This is in view of strong showing of the APC but for the strong arm tactics adopted by those who think they control the levers of power in the state.
All machinery of government in Abia State and beyond practically relocated to the Enyimba City for the federal constituency election. From the other two Senators of the state to all the Commissioners, members of the State House of Assembly, local government chairmen and even councilors. They were all in Aba for one purpose: to swing the election in their favour. They saw the resolve of the people to connect with the centre; they saw the Mascot Kalu ship coasting home to victory and the flung the floodgate of violence. Indeed, much become known of the gravitas of a politician when all the power blocs in a state and their over 10,000-strong army of thugs are arrayed against him.
As a close watcher of South-East politics, I dare say that no other politician in the entire country is working as hard for the APC like the Senator representing Abia North is doing for them in Igboland. The phrase “in the entire country” is no slip. It is what it is. While other bigwigs are promoting APC in its natural habitat, Dr. Orji Kalu, former two-term governor of Abia, has taken upon himself the onerous task of evangelizing APC in a region where a mere mention of the party or its totem is considered a taboo. And he is making a mince of this, bringing into the fold eminent personalities like a former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika (retd).
In the run up to the bye-election, the gospel and campaign of the APC preached by the inimitable Kalu, Chief Whip of the Senate, were well received by the people such that the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) became panicky and mobilised thugs to avoid the humiliation of defeat. Dr. Kalu spent 10 days and nights campaigning in 30 wards of the federal constituency and all his whistle-stops witnessed wild jubilations from the people. There is pictorial and video evidence which showed the legendary Kalu freely mingling with the people without being heckled or assaulted in a city whose people are quick to punish failed politicians at the slightest opportunity. Kalu’s train was even at the popular Ariaria International Market where traders left their shops and wares to cheer their hero who gave them Enyimba Football Club.
If truly Kalu was not popular and widely accepted by the Igbo, then the street credibility on full display in Aba would not have been. And he wasn’t just making appearances, the APC stalwart said what no other South-East politician, except perhaps governors who are heavily protected, would have got away with. Everywhere he went during the campaign, Kalu sought to build acceptability for President Muhammadu Buhari. He never failed to tell the people that the President means well for the Igbo, citing appreciable works being done on the East-West Road, Second Niger Bridge, fixing the erosion menace in Ngwa land and several other major projects which he was able to get President Buhari to sign off on. The amazing thing is that as he said all of these, he was cheered on by the people instead of being jeered or thrown sachet waters as would have happened to most who dared to promote Buhari in Igboland.
At the Christ the King Cathedral in Aba, Kalu also spoke to douse the ill feelings and misconceptions people of his ethnic stock have of Buhari and congregants listened with rapt attention and heartily received his speech. This is because they can see in Dr. Orji Kalu, a man who means well for his people and would always defends their interests. It is also because they see the Abia North Senator as a compassionate leader who readily connects with the common man. They give him audience even in Churches because of his love for God and the mind of Christ that is in him.
Against the foregoing backcloth, APC must be appreciative of the massive goodwill Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu is building for her in the South-East, starting from his native Abia State. That his preferred candidate was not declared winner of last weekend’s election does not in any way diminish Kalu’s popularity. Conversely, it confirms and solidifies it. This is seen in the fact that the ruling party in Abia pulled all the stops just to stop Hon. Mascot Kalu’s victory.
Time was in Abia State when the PDP primary was the actual election. Whoever wins the primaries merely awaits coronation at the general election because there was no major opposition. But all these have changed, thanks to the political capital and dexterity of Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu. PDP’s victory in the election is at best pyrrhic. Orji Kalu actually carried the day by virtue of the people’s apparent acceptance of his APC gospel.
Prof. Chinedu, who lectures in a private university, writes from Aba
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