Membership Of A Big Party No Longer An Advantage –Mascot Kalu

Mascot Kalu

Chief Mascot Orji Kalu is the governorship candidate of Action Peoples Party (APP) in Abia State. In this interview with CALEB ONWE, he speaks on his vision for the state, chances in the election and why he resigned his membership of the All Progressives Congress (APC), among other issues

Was your exit from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as a result of dissatisfaction with the congress that ushered in the new leadership of the party in Abia State?

My leaving the APC was not because of the leadership. I am a party man and a grassroots person and I can work with any chairman. My decision to leave was because APC failed to compensate me for the work I have done. Just because I have a brother, who is also a leader of the party, I was shortchanged in everything they do.

So, when there is opportunity for me to appear as somebody who is contributing in my own capacity, they will remind me that my brother is the Chief Whip in the Senate and that others should be given opportunity.

But I told them that is not the way it is done. APC is a political party and people should be compensated based on the weight of their contribution. If we are 10 brothers and all members of the party and are also biggest contributors in the party, the 10 of us should be compensated. So, my decision to leave was because the party was not adequately recognizing me and my followers.

Despite the fact that your brother is the leader of the party in the state, you have alleged marginalisation, leading to denying you what was due to you. What do you think could have played underground?

It is bad blood and spirit, which is also why the party is in disarray today, a situation where high ranking officers are not respected. Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, by virtue of the constitution of the APC, is the leader of the party.

He is also the highest political office holder in the South-East and a former governor. The party men don’t seem to recognize that. Instead, they rather run to the governor of Imo State, when there is a problem. The party’s constitution must be respected for you to grow the party.

Two years ago, we had a party that was strong enough to unseat any gov-ernor in the state. That is all gone just because of selfishness. People are not sanctioned when they make comments against the party’s procedures. I cannot belong to such a political party. And tomorrow if I win, I will not return to APC. Politics has discipline and procedures, but today we resort to money and praise singing.

Don’t you think that your exit from APC will affect the chances of your brother in coming elections?

It will not affect him because he has worked for the people. He deserves to be returned to represent his people. He stands to be returned as a top political leader in the Senate from the South-East.

He was in the House of Representatives in 1992. There is no South-East National Assembly member today, who was there in 1992. So, he is the oldest legislator from South- East. Any opportunity that will come to the zone in the Senate, he can get it whether on party level or not.

What are the ideologies that attracted you to APP and do think that aligning with the party can give you an edge needed to provide good governance for the people of Abia State?

The new Electoral Act has made it easy for anybody that has followership to actually rise and win election. It has made big political parties less important, especially when that political party is not doing well. Belonging to a big political party is no longer an advantage, unless you are in a ruling party and it is doing very well. So, that was the consoling prize that made me realize that it is not about the political party, but the person.

One of the things that also attracted me to APP was that we found the relationship we were looking for. The worst thing that could have happened was to leave APC and come into a political party and start going on litigation.

So we found peace in APP. Secondly, we found that the symbol of the party, which is the elephant, represents the people of Abia State. We believe it is a symbol that will work well as our people will recognize it and identify with the party.

What is the calibre of APC loyalists that followed you to APP?

I am not talking about people who joined me, there are many of them and there is no need of mentioning names. APC is in disarray in the state. Today, Uche Ogah and Ikechi Emenike are in battle over who is the authentic governorship candidate of the party.

Alex Oti has pulled out and I have pulled out, just as many others also did. So, that unity that was in APC is no longer there. It is difficult for any political party in the state to claim that it can win the governorship of the state. So, the governorship would be won on the field based on the message and trust the people have on the messenger.

What message do you have for Abia people?

Our message is simple. We are not coming to liberate anybody, we are coming to unify. I am interested in having Abians, who will be able to have common goals and dreams regardless of whether they are APC, PDP, APGA or any other party. We are talking about returning power to the people. We want salaries paid on the 26th of every month. We want gratuity and pensions to be paid.

We want to return the dignity of education. We want to go back to when we were giving primary and secondary education for free. We have a plan that every local government will have good roads. Those are examples of what we are trying to bring to our people. Our universities have lost their accreditations. I have assured our people that within my first 90 to 120 days in office, I will restore those things.

With your quest to become governor in Abia State, after your brother governed it, people are already thinking that the Osun scenario, where the Adeleke dynasty holds sway will replay. How do you react to that?

I am a man of my own. That my brother has been a governor should not mean that I should be shortchanged. I am able to lead the state out of both political and economic mess it is in now. Let us be honest, nothing is working, schools are closed down.

When our universities don’t have accreditations, what is the need of going to the university because your certificate is as good as a tissue paper? It is not valid and you can’t use it to get a job.

So, Abia State is in comatose and in a mess. So, if someone like me can bring the state out, why will people not vote for me? Let me say this; as I have said several times and nobody has been able to prove me wrong. I am the most experienced among all the candidates.

I am the only one with governance experience. I have been Chief of Staff before. The rest don’t have such experience. They may be strong in their respective fields, but talking about governance, none of them can match my experience.

If you eventually win, what are the pitfalls in the previous and present governments of Abia State that you have identified and would want to avoid by all means?

I do know that experience has a lot to do with governance. I don’t know why Abia government is not paying salaries because I do know that every month, it is getting three to four billion naira.

So why they are not paying salaries is open for discussion. I think things are like this because they did not do the right thing from day one. Now, the problems have piled up and they lack the ability to handle them.

We will look at how loans were gotten and will also ensure that loans are paid before a new administration takes over. So, we want to know what they did to get themselves in this mess.

As an acclaimed grassroots person, how do you think that people are assessing your ambition to become governor?

For those who know me one-on-one, I don’t think I have a problem. The issue is that you can’t be a leader without stepping on toes. Some of the problems I may face are the people my brother stepped on their toes when he was the governor of the state. It won’t be difficult for me to survive such enmity

. I have labelled myself a unifier. Having a brother who was a governor and working with a former governor, Theodore Orji, there may be some baggage that comes with that. But as a unifier, if there are things my brother did wrongly to individuals or communities, I want to correct them. It there are things the former Governor Theodore Orji did wrongly, I also want to correct them.

As a member of the APP now and your brother as a leader in the APC, how is your relationship with him and other members of your family, who are still in APC?

Are there clashes of interests at the family level? I don’t have any quarrel with any member of our family.

Senator Orji Uzor Kalu and myself don’t live in the same compound, both in Abuja and in the village, and we never had a quarrel. Before I left the APC, I went to him and gave him the reason why I want to leave the party. He also agreed that APC has not been fair to me as well.

In his own way, he reached out to the national chairman of APC and the two national deputy chairmen. He also tried to bring me together with the state party chairman, but I refused.

My refusal to accept the reconciliation efforts he made has never brought quarrel between us. He understands that as a man, at a point in life, you have to take a bold decision about your life. He respects that decision. On that note, I want to thank him.

How strong are APP structures in Abia State?

We are about 90 to 120 days old and I can tell you that we have great followership. All House of Assembly, House of Representatives and Senate positions have all been filled.

Our expectations are that we get at least one Senate seat, five House of Representatives seats, and in House of Assembly, we will get 20. Our expectations are based on the quality and calibre of people who are running for the elections. I did not buy forms for these people neither did I persuade them to follow me. We only have the same political ideology and all these happened within the last 90 days.

The confidence I have is because the days of sitting down somewhere to write results are gone with the new Electoral Act. Now, everything is in the field. So, as long as we have strong people in the field, we will get what we deserve. Also, naturally the governorship is supposed to go to Abia North and I am from Abia North.

Abia people may not be interested in any political party as much as they get good governance. What are the development agenda you are set to pursue within your first few months in office?

Abia State is in comatose, so there are many things to be done. But first of all, we will restore free education up to secondary school level. We will focus on flooding in Aba. Today, once it rains, people can’t do business in Aba, everywhere is shut down and Aba is the commercial nerve centre of Abia State.

So, if Aba is not taking care of, we can’t raise revenue to take care of the state.

This is because the state cannot be taken care of only with the money that comes from Abuja. How do you take care of the state with about N4 billion? Salaries are already over N1 billion. We will look at the projects that will help us raise revenue and that will be controlling of flooding and road construction, which we will do to gain our peoples confidence.

We will also simplify our revenue collection system and not what it is now, having touts on the roads abusing people. We will also restore the health sector and partner with donor agencies to equip our hospitals.

By Amos Kalu

A Media Consultant/ICT Expert. Website Developer and CEO/Chief Editor OHAFIA TV News.

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