Posted by By STEVE NWOSU on
Contrary to the position by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that the immediate past governor of Abia State and presidential candidate of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) in last presidential election, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, is being held because he did not report to the commission’s office for questioning before the expiration of the deadline set for him and other past governors to do so, Daily Sun has gathered the main reason behind the arrest.
Information garnered from highly placed sources within the Presidency and the former governor’s camp indicates that Kalu’s arrest may not be unconnected with the government of national unity, which President Umar Yar’Adua is setting up.
The arrest, it was gathered, is in furtherance of the desperation of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to ensure that Kalu, unarguably his most vocal critic among public officers in the last eight years, does not suddenly become an irresistible bride, as the Yar’Adua government shops for prominent opposition figures to join the proposed unity government and give his administration the much needed credibility.
Ministerial appointment at the centre of it all Kalu is believed to be in touch with President Yar’Adua over the unity government project and the president is said to have not only offered him a specific cabinet position, considered by many as "very very strategic," but has also given him assurance that he would hold the portfolio for a minimum four years.
Kalu, on his part, was said to have agreed to co-operate with Yar’Adua, but emphatically refused to take up any cabinet position, preferring instead, to nominate someone for the job.
The former governor’s reluctance to join Yar’Adua’s government was said to be informed by a morbid fear that a government job at this point in time may offer his opponents opportunity to "mess him up" and thereby effectively ruining his political future or appreciably setting it back.
He was also believed to be worried that the government did not look too stable and had too many powerful entrenched interests pulling at diverse ways outside the vision of the president.
Furthermore, the former governor, whose numerous businesses suffered deliberate economic strangulation targeted at him by the Obasanjo administration, was said to have argued that he needed to be away from public office in order to refocus on his various business interests to recoup the various financial setbacks he suffered as a result of holding political office.
However, pressures had continued to be mounted on him, both locally and internationally, to accept the ministerial job offer. Many of those in support argue that he would need to be in government in order to remain relevant in the political equation on the ground, dismissing Kalu’s feelings that many of his erstwhile political opponents would begin to say it was ministerial appointment that he actually wanted while he was spearheading the push for Igbo Presidency.
Besides, there were also those who argued that with what Kalu had achieved in Nigerian politics and the profile he had built for himself a ministerial job would amount to his belittling himself.
PPA and Government of National Unity
However, when the PPA agreed to work with Yar’Adua in the proposed GNU, many members favoured Kalu to be nominated for a cabinet job. The party eventually agreed to put forward Kalu’s name.
Although the president was said to be favourably disposed to Kalu, he still insisted that the PPA should give him options by sending two names. The party had insisted that if Yar’Adua just wanted to appoint a PPA member into his government, he was free to pick anybody, but that if it was to be an alliance, as the president had tended to suggest with the proposed GNU, then the PPA would nominate whoever it thinks can best represent its interest in the GNU. These positions had stalled negotiations for a long while until the party eventually agreed to meet in Abuja on Wednesday to iron out the issues.
The PPA governors, governorship candidates and all the party bigwigs were already in Abuja for the Wednesday meeting. Kalu was supposed to fly in direct from his trip overseas to join them. On arrival at Abuja, operatives of the EFCC despite a subsisting court order stopping the anti-graft commission from doing so until a subsisting case has been disposed of.
Voice of Obasanjo, hand of Yar’Adua
Given that the EFCC is supposed to take its clearance from the president before it could arrest a person of Kalu’s calibre, the temptation is to conclude that Yar’Adua probably set up the PPA presidential candidate. Daily Sun, however, gathered that the president may in fact, not have been in the picture of what happened.
It was gathered that the idea of bringing Kalu into Yar’Adua’s government has never gone down well with Obasanjo and all the PDP hardliners. With speculations that the EFCC no longer reports directly to the president but to the National Security Adviser (NSA), a man given to Yar’Adua by Gen. Obasanjo, the intrigues begin to take a clearer picture
Oftentimes, the president is left in the dark as to what happens at the EFCC, relying solely on what the NSA briefs him. EFCC Chairman, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, on the other hand, would have no cause to doubt that the orders he is receiving might not be the exact words of President Yar’Adua. It was gathered that the EFCC boss had complained to many of those who matter that Yar’Adua has not shown the same enthusiasm towards the EFCC job as Obasanjo did.
Incidentally, Ribadu was said to have visited Ota last week, where he is believed to have complained about the president’s lack of enthusiasm to Gen. Obasanjo.
"So, our belief now", said PPA stalwart, "is that rather than Yar’Adua, it is Obasanjo we are fighting…Yar’Adua was working in the innocence of Government of National Unity and wanting to bring PPA into it – to at least have another opposition party apart from ANPP (the AC having backed out) to work with, but the same pro-Obasanjo PDP hardliners, who are even kicking against the idea of reconciling with estranged former party members, like Awoniyi, Rimi etc appear to be pursuing a different agenda."
According to the source, this goes to confirm that the Obasanjo tendencies in the PDP have remained largely in control and the former president continues to manipulate state institutions to realize his personal goals.
The PPA chieftain insisted that "the Jigawa man (Saminu Turaki) was only added in order to divert attention, but the real target is Kalu."
Asked why the Obasanjo group would be moving in on Kalu now that his party is holding talks with the Yar’Adua government over the GNU project, the source said that it was a last ditch effort to ensure that Kalu does not make the ministerial list.
The T.A. Orji treatment
It is the same treatment they meted out to Chief T.A Orji, the present governor of Abia State who was locked up in the Kirikiri Prison and prevented from campaigning very well for the last governorship election in which he was candidate of the PPA.
It is worthy of note, however, that of all the candidates who were accused of one financial crime or the other, the Abia PPA candidate was the only one clamped into detention by the EFCC. The others were simply indicted and stopped from contesting using the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Now, Kalu has again been singled out from a motely crowd of ex-governors, including those from whom EFCC sources told Daily Sun sometime ago, had returned as much as N15 billion, as well as those who have actually been convicted.
"What they do not know is that the man is not eager to join the government. That he has agreed to co-operate with the government and give it a chance to stabilize does not mean he wants a job. I guess what they want to do is to hurriedly charge him to court and then if and whenever his name is sent in for clearance at the Senate, the lawmakers would ask him to go and finish with the court matter first. That would have killed off any chance of his ever becoming a minister.
"What the Obasanjo tendencies do not know, however, is that they have now dealt a death blow to the GNU project. With Kalu out, the PPA would not be too excited discussing with Yar’Adua. And if the PPA joins the AC and pulls out, that leaves Yar’Adua with only a faction of ANPP."
This development, another source in the Presidency further added, is also good news to Obasanjo and the hardliners, who do not really want any unity government, in the first place and who, when pushed to the wall, conceded that the opposition should be given only one ministerial slot, as against the three initially proposed by Yar’Adua.
Bail on the horizon
Although the game plan of the PDP hardliners is to keep Kalu in custody and take him to court, in chains from there, reports late Thursday had it that a bail option had come into the picture, especially as the underlying politicking has become clear to many people.
‘Initially, the authorities wanted to keep him in custody, claiming that if they grant him bail, he would run away and not show up for trial, but when it dawned on them that the reason Kalu did not report to the EFCC, in the first instance, was because of the existing court order, they began exploring avenues for a political solution.
The reasoning is that if Kalu could, for reason of obeying court order, decline reporting to the EFCC, where he had nothing to lose (especially as other former governors had done likewise), it would be unlikely that he would fail to attend a court session that could only serve as an avenue for him to clear his name.
HOME | ABOUT THE SUN | SPORTS | POLITICS | NEWS | COLUMNISTS | CONTACT US | ADVERT RATE
To inquire about a licence to reproduce material and other inquiries, Contact Us.
These terms and conditions contain rules about posting comments. By submitting a comment, you are declaring that you agree with these rules:
Failure to comply with these rules may result in being banned from further commenting.
These terms and conditions are subject to change at any time and without notice.