By Dayo Benson, Political Editor
As governor of Abia State between 1999 to 2007, Dr Orji Kalu was an engaging personality. He distinguished himself as a fearless and outspoken governor. He exposed the principles and tenets of democracy. He was a loyal member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, but he never fagged in telling the then president Olusegun Obasanjo, that his actions or utterances were wrong whenever he perceived it so.
It is on record that the former Abia State took the federa government to court over revenue allocation. When Obasanjo began to exhibit anti-democratic tendencies. KALU stood up to him. The ex-Abian governor long drawn battle with Obasanjo is legendary. At a point Kaluâ€™s mother had to intervene in what became mutual animosity between her son and Obasanjo.
The trio of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Lagos State governor Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Kalu became Obasanjoâ€™s political nemesis in the latter part of the former presidentâ€™s administration. For his courage, especially for daring Obasanjo Kalu earned his fellow governorsâ€™ respect and indeed Nigeriansâ€™ admiration. For his hard stance against Obasanjo it was obvious the two could not remain in the same party , given the former Presidentâ€™s imperial presence and influence in PDP.
Thus in 2006 Kalu with politicians of like minds formed the Progressive Peoples Alliance PPA. Some of the partyâ€™s founding members included former governor of old Cross River State Chief Clement Ebri and Mr Olu Akerele. While Kalu emerged as the chairman of partyâ€™s Board of Trustees, both Ebri and Akerele became national chairman and deputy national chairman respectively. In 2007 Kalu flew the partyâ€™s banner as its presidential material.
He was actually adopted as the partyâ€™s presidential candidate in the absence of any challenger. PPA failed to make any meaningful impact in the presidential poll as its spread was limited virtually to the South East as at then. It however, stunned bookmakers when it clinched the governor seats of Imo and Abia States.
In Imo, PPA was the beneficiary of crisis ridden PDP in the build up to the 2007 governorship election. It was an easy ride for Governor Ikedi Ohakim to win in the state.
However Abia State own was perculiar. The partyâ€™s candidate Dr Theodore Orji was in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission when he won the election courtesy of Kalu. That period was the height of PPA glory. Between then and now a lot of water has passed under the bridge, The party may well be said to be in disarray or so it seems.
Certainly things are no longer at ease with PPA. For Governor Ohakim chicken has since gone to roost. He has returned to his former party, PDP after winning his governorship ticket on PPA platform.On the day he was received formally into the PDP by President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™ Adua, Ohakim did not give any reason why he was leaving PPA.
Already the party has dragged him and his deputy before a federal high court, urging it to declare the Imo State governorship seat vacant. There are also speculations that Governor Orji may follow Ohakimâ€™s footstep. This has however been vehemently denied by the governorâ€™s aides. But in the two states, all may not be well with the party.
Similarly PPA is not faring better at the national level. Last week, both its national chairman and his deputy resigned their appointments. The partyâ€™s treasurer has also left . So, what exactly is the problem with the party Kalu formed. Several allegations ranging from undue interferences and high handedness are being levelled against Kalu. The former Abia governor is currently out of the country when Vanguard sought to hear his own side of the story.
However, his media assistant, Emeka Obasi told Vanguard on telephone that there is nothing wrong with the party. â€œPPA is intact as you can see. There is no problem at all. All the things you have been reading in the newspapers are the handiwork of mischief makersâ€ he said. Asked to comment on the sudden resignation of three top national officers of the party, he said, â€œthere is nothing wrong about their resignation. Chairman come and go. Did Gemade complete his tenure as PDP chairman? Did Audu Ogbeh also complete his tenure? So, there is nothing wrong with the resignationsâ€
Also speaking on the gale of recent resignations that hit the party a member, Board of Trustees (BOT) of PPA, Dr.Sam Nkire in a statement issued in Abuja Wednesday assured members of the party and admirers throughout the country that the recent defection and resignations by some officials of the party will have little or no effect on the growth of the party.
Dr. Nkire said PPA suffered little or no loss at all, as those who left went with less than ten members accompanying them.
Nkire added that the leadership of the PPA believed in â€œpolitics without bitternessâ€ and advised all those who have left the party to go in peace and stop telling fairy tales which might be held against them in future, adding that â€œin politics people part to meet againâ€.
He said that the truth was that those who resigned their positions were asked to do so by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party which sited loss of confidence as its reason.
Dr. Nkire said PPA did not sack any of these people from the party, adding that they either left on their own or were asked to step aside from their positions in order to have the party grow.
He further assured the departing officials that PPA may still consider them for future appointments, depending on their utterances and how much loyalty they will continue to demonstrate towards the party.
However, in a newspaper advertorial Concerned Members of PPA, while reacting to recent development in the party said â€œWe were yet to get over the shock of losing a founding member , Governor Ikedi Ohakim , when last Thursday the National Chairman of our party, Mr. Clement Ebri tendered his resignation abruptly . This was followed by the resignation of the Deputy National Chairman , Chief Olu Akerele , and the national treasurer of the party , Mr. Emma Omokwe.
Akerele has chosen to be diplomatic in explaining his exit to media inquiries. His wordsâ€œ I cannot remain in the PPA after Ebri to glorify the on going charade being perpetuated by so called democrats who see the dirts in the kitchen of others but neglect the mountain of garbage in theirs.
I know that my presence here after the exit of Clement Ebri will not help matters. It is sure time to leave.â€ Of course , we know who Akerele was referring to. All this while , we had developed a reputation for either issuing or granting press interview attacking the ex- president Olusegun Obasanjo for being a â€˜hypocriteâ€™, â€˜ despoticâ€™ and â€˜undemocraticâ€™. How do we describe the antics of our own little dictator now?â€ the group said.
Some of the allegation the group levelled against Kalu are:
* Usurpation of the powers of the National Officers : Being very introverted , Ebri seems reluctant to share his bitter experience . But it is common knowledge in PPA circles that tones of statements were being issued by the National Executive of the party without authorization of the National Chairman.
The unwholesome practice came to a head after Governor Ohakim left the party, with the tendency for some elements to take things rather too personal, Grave accusations were then made that our BOT chairman was in the habit of causing the release of statements in the name of the party chairman without the courtesy of even clearing with him or seeking his input as is the norm . Even though the office of the BOT chairman is supposed to be the â€˜conscience of the partyâ€™, that does not entitle it to usurping the function of the national chairman.
* the second vexed question is that of creeping dictatorship, nepotism and lack of internal democracy . Tension had been brewing in the national exco following the decision of the BOT chairman ( Kalu) to unilaterally sack the chairman of our party in Abia (who hails from the Umuahia axis) and replaced him with his own kinsman from Igbere.
Where is the sense of balance in a situation whereby both BOT chairman and state chairman hails from Igbere ? We recall the same thing had happened in Imo state where the BOT chairman unilaterally caused the removal of the state chairman without referring to the governor who then was the state leader of the party . Where is Onyechere â€˜s internal democracy â€˜now?
* Personalisation of party affairs. We also note with deep .Concern the tendency of BOT chairman to act in a manner which suggests that the PPA is his personal property . He behaves as though national officers are members of his workers at SLOK .Let us just cite one example of last week . Having been informed by Ebri on his decision to quit , our BOT chairman shouted at the former chairman to hand over to him that partyâ€™s vehicles in his possessions . Ebri had to tell him politely that they would be duly handed over to the party secretariat, not to Kalu..
The concerned members, however, demanded that PPA leadership should pull out from the PDP led government of national unity, restoration of the duly elected officers in Abia State sacked by our BOT chairman and threatened to pull out of the party with their teaming supporters if these conditions are not met. The question that begs answer is will PPA ever remain a united party? The answer resides in the womb of time.