Orji Uzor Kalu: Audacity of Citizenship
By Emmanuel Onwubiko
Democracy is such a very intriguing enterprise in the sense that it is not just a system of government in which the collective interest of the people becomes the centerpiece. But importantly, democracy is a way of life in which the constituents are expected to be eternally alert and engage constructively in national conversations that are basically focused towards advancing the goals of sustainable development, capacity building and human resource development and wealth creation. One of the fathers of modern democracy was quoted as stating that ‘Democracy is the government of the people, for the people and by the people’.
A central theme that has become strategic in the area of nation building is the essence of deepening understanding about the contributions to the nation building process by the citizens.
This is where the personality whose political lifestyle is the pulling force for this reflection comes in and that person is the current holder of the high office of the Chief Whip of the Ninth Session of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Senator representing Abia North Senator Orji Uzor Kalu.
The area of interest about his consistent political life style, modus operandi and modus vivendi is the abiding faith he has in deepening inter-ethnic harmony as the prerequisite for evolving active citizenship for effective, efficient and result oriented nation-building process.
A freshly minted political science book published this year and authored by Jaideep Prabhu titled: “How Should A Government Be?” has something to say about citizenship.
I will deal briefly with a few citations from this scholar on what he considered as the basics of citizens.
He wrote as follows: “What, then, is the role of citizens in making their governments better? Clearly, good citizens must be politically engaged and informed. Even more importantly, when they can, they must choose their political leaders wisely and hold those leaders to account.”
“Accordingly, this chapter will look at how voters can choose good leaders. Setting aside, as far as possible, questions of substantive politics, it will ask the question: what do leaders who know how to run a twenty-first-century government look like? It will also look at how citizens can create a virtuous circle whereby government becomes more responsive to pressures to change in real time. Of course, when all else fails, citizens must be prepared to make change themselves. If informed, engaged citizens can’t ‘beat’em’, how can they ‘join’em’ to make change happen? This chapter will end with an analysis of the role of citizens in driving protest movements and political activism around the world.”
The author then dissected the theme of Citizens vis-à-vis the basics.
His words: “Even in an autocratic society, citizens must be vigilant. They must consistently assess and re-assess the terms of the social contract. As John Locke advised, they must push for getting as much from the state as they can without giving up more of their freedom than is necessary.”
The erudite author argued that in the worst circumstances, they (citizens) must even be prepared to overthrow their governments to achieve their ends ( By overthrow he meant through democratic change process of electioneering).
Other ways include also that citizens as well as being engaged, citizens must be informed. Civic education he said has always been essential to systems of government: Plato, Cicero, Machiavelli and Rousseau all emphasized the important of instilling political virtue in the young. As James Madison put it: ‘A people who mean to be their own Governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives … A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both.’”
He posed the question- How should citizens be? And responds as follows:
“Thus, the proper functioning of states depends on citizens faithfully performing their civic duties. Above all, they must regularly participate in elections. ‘Boil it down,’ says Barak Obama. If we don’t vote, then this democracy doesn’t work.”
“It is easy enough to exhort citizens to be informed and engaged and to vote. Indeed, it almost goes without saying that citizens should be and do all these things. Providing such advice is akin to saying to a student: ‘Study hard, get good grades, be intelligent.’ But how can citizens go beyond such pieties and learn how to choose their leaders better? How can they learn to spot good politicians from bad ones?”, he concludes.
Flowing from the above monumental body of knowledge on citizenship, there is no gainsaying that Senator Orji Uzor Kalu has successfully demonstrated the empirical fact that the best form of active citizenship in Nigeria is the capacity of the person to make himself, herself available as a tool for the promotion of national integration. He has had the opportunities of making use of his extensive networks amongst ethnicities to advance the lessons of national integration. His many Chieftaincy taking ceremonies in both the South West and the North is one clear pointer to the above fact.
In the book titled “NYSC and National Development” edited by Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim the Director General of the National Youth Service Corps scheme (NYSC) and the foreword written by former Head of State General Yakubu Gowon (rtd) GCFR, we were afforded the classical academic privilege to know what national integration is in theoretically in which this writer thinks Senator Orji Uzor Kalu has had to practically demonstrate over the years.
“National integration is the process of unifying a multi-ethnic country, not necessarily into a single-ethnic one but a united, indivisible entity where primordial affiliations are exempted or made secondary for the greater good of the united country”.
“It can also be seen as the building of a nation state of different social, economic, religious, ethnic and geographical elements which entails the conversion of diverse and unorganized sentiments on nationalism into a spirit of citizenship through the creation of state institutions that can translate into policies, programmes and aspirations of the citizenry.”
Citing the work of Fatile and Adejuwon, the author says the two academic authorities aforementioned opined that national integration as the process whereby several disparate groups within a given territorial entity are united together or co-operate under conditions which do not appear to permit satisfaction of the system needs in any other way.
They concluded by stating that the goal of national integration is an arrangement in a plural society where component parts are reasonably contended in the polity vis-à-vis equity and justice in resource allocation and access to equal opportunities.
The author affirms further that it could also be stated that it is the reduction of cultural and regional tension and discontinuities in the process of creating a prosperous homogenous political community.
Morrison and Stephenson define it as the degree of cohesion that binds members of society systems together, and is generally thought of in terms of the values, institutions and communications which facilitate escalating sequences of social contact, cooperation and consensus.
Richard Timplar in his book “The Rules of People” said, “if you expect your kids to do it, why on earth are you not doing it yourself?”
In the same vein, the Senator we are talking about, Orji Uzor Kalu believes in the consistent pursuit of national integration and the promotion of inter-ethnic harmony across Nigeria which is one of the fundamental point in him accepting traditional honors from all over.
In one of such occasions, the Chief Whip of the Senate and Senator representing Abia North Senatorial district, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu had reportedly pleaded with Igbos to work with President Muhammadu Buhari and appreciate him for the infrastructures he built in the South East. This is even as the former governor hailed his constituents, Abia North for being the only zone in the South East to have given Buhari 68% votes during the 2019 general elections.
Kalu spoke to Journalists in Kebbi state on Friday, after he was turbaned with the revered traditional title of Kibiyan Kabi of Argungu Emirate alongside President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan (Ganuwan Kabi of Argungu Emirate).
According to the Abia North Senator, “My Constituency has no regret in voting for Buhari. Given an opportunity we will vote him again. The reality is that no leader is perfect and no reasonable person would say that Buhari is perfect. He may not have gotten it 100% but in the history of the country, he is the only President that have implemented the federal budget 100%. Every leader needs support and I am glad my constituency supported him. “It is on record that Abia North Senatorial zone is the only zone in the entire South East that gave Buhari 68% votes, we were the highest. So people should not be surprised that I am building a lot of infrastructure in my constituency. The people are reaping the fruits of their labor.”
Responding to claims that Igbos hate Buhari, Kalu debunked the claim, stating that people seem to underestimate the word ‘hate’. He explained that, “Nigerians underestimate certain words”, adding that some elements who are envious of the Igbos sold the propaganda that Igbos hate Buhari. “The word hate is too harsh. The Igbos do not hate President Buhari. The zone was only expressing their dissatisfaction with the way Igbos were sidelined in the affairs of the nation. But as I always said, the South East zone needed more infrastructure in this government than the appointment.
In the last government, what did the South East appointees in that government do for us? But Buhari has given us infrastructures, he is almost completing the second Niger bridge. In Abia North Senatorial zone, I have been able to complete 32 roads across the zone with many others soon to be completed.
We need infrastructures and not just appointment. The Northerners and the South Easterners are great brothers. You could see how the Igbo community who came to witness this event were given royal treatment. “I am pleading with my brothers not to buy the lies, propaganda and blackmails sold to discredit and destroy the brotherhood between the North and South East. President Buhari is a man I have known since the past 32 years. You may say he is not a very sociable person but people are different. Him not been sociable and not communicating the way others may want may have led to a few misunderstandings about him.
Nevertheless, he is a good man and haven’t changed. Just like every other leader, Buhari needs the support of the entire nation to work well and Igbos are known to be very supportive people.” He said.
On the Secession agenda of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and detainment of Nnamdi Kanu, The Chief Whip reiterated his belief on unity and explained that he was the one who got the detained IPOB’s leader released during his first incarceration, he added that it is not impossible to do it again . He said he would discuss with some stakeholders and the federal government to consider an amiable solution on Kanu. The former Governor who also holds several titles in other Emirates praised the Emir of Argungu Emirates and the people of Kebbi state for extending so much love to him. He said he would continue to uphold his strong belief and conviction that a United Nigeria is more favorable to all Nigerians.
A group, the Transparency Centre Network has called on all political parties in Nigeria to cede the presidential slot to the South East for the sake of fairness and justice.
In a release made available in Abuja penultimately and signed by Comrade Segun Jones, it’s publicity secretary, it said that, it is time to act as one and do the needful.
The group noted that, one major clog in the wheel of the region’s political integration is lack of unity. It appeals to the region’s political bigwigs to close rank to enable them have a say in the presidency in 2023.
The issue of agitation for self indepence, banditry, kidnapping and all sorts of criminality will be a thing of the past if justice is done to allow political inclusivity, Comrade Jones stated.
According to him, our group has traversed the South East seeking information and collecting data for the way forward. During this mission our findings reveal that, His Excellency, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, has continued to be the bridge builder, and a detribalised Nigeria whose business interests cut across the country.
The group stated that, it will be unwise to be chasing shadows rather than support one of their own to fly the kite for equity at this period of national rebirth.
*EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and email@example.com, www.huriwanigeria.com.