No Going Back On My Ambition To Become Deputy Senate President – Kalu
Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu is the Senator-elect for Abia North Senatorial District and ex-governor of Abia State.
In this interview with correspondents at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, he spoke on his ambition to become Deputy Senate President in the Ninth National Assembly and the state of the economy, among other issues.
OLUSEGUN KOIKI brings an excerpt:
The All Progressives Congress (APC) has zoned the Senate Presidency to the North East and the Deputy Senate President to the North West. How would you react to this?
Well, I am a very loyal party member. The party has zoned the Senate Presidency to the North East. I am bound to respect the party’s wish. The second position is what we will not allow the party. As far as I am concerned, in the South East, I am going to run openly on the floor for the Deputy Senate President. I will not listen to the party or anybody. There is no other person vying for the position of Deputy Senate President that is more loyal to the party than me. I have suffered for the party. I want the party to respect the wish of everyone. I am committed to democracy.
Section 50 of the Constitution made it very clear that members of the National Assembly will elect their leaders. I will rely on that section of the constitution to vie for the position. I learnt they ceded the Deputy Senate President position to the North West. But, it is not right to do that. We shall contest this vehemently on the floor of the Senate. I have the backing of my colleagues. I will withdraw from the Senate Presidency and run for the Deputy Senate President position because the party is supreme. Whether they gave it to an individual, it is left for the party at the National Assembly to decide. But, I will contest with any candidate for the position of the Deputy Senate President.
Have you made your intention known to the party leadership?
I just told you that the patty is supreme. I know our Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, is a listening person and President Muhammadu Buhari is a man of justice. So, if justice must prevail, you bring the Senate President from the North East and Deputy to the South East. The chairman is from the South South, the President is from the North West, the Vice President is from South West, the President of Senate will come from the North East. Whether it is Lawal or Ndume, these people will decide that on the floor of the Senate.
For me, Nigeria is a tripod; Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa. We are going to get the deputy position and I will fight on the floor of the Senate like no other person. This is no challenging the party. Rather, it is seeking justice. Buhari said he will be addressing issues of injustice. This is part of the issues. You cannot tell us to be Chief Whip. I don’t have a whip to whip anybody.
We will be very willing to add values to the nation. I am loyal to the people. I am loyal to Nigeria, which is important. I will be loyal to individuals. You don’t build loyalty to a section of people or individuals. I am a Catholic and I believe there is a co-existence between religious people. So, I will not be deputy for anybody. Otherwise, if they don’t listen, I will contest for the Senate President. I will join the race because it will be a shopping matter. I can shop than any other person they are putting there. I have the capacity and capability to shop because the whole thing will be shopping on the floor of the Senate. If the party continues this way, I will run for the Senate Presidency.
Rather than struggle for positions in the National Assembly, why don’t you face the issue of lawmaking, which is paramount?
Positions are part of representations. I am saying if we have Deputy Senate President, it gives a sense of belonging to everybody. I am not saying I am representing a section. If they go to a meeting, where you have the President, Vice President, Senate President and Deputy Senate President, but you don’t have anybody to represent the South East, that is unfair and that is what I am saying.
I am not tribal. I seek fairness. I want justice. If the party doesn’t want a crack, they should zone positions properly according to the geo-political zones. A man who has taken the presidency is not supposed to take the deputy position.
We are not going to quarrel, but we will sort it out. We are not going to vote for Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), you should be rest assured of that. We are going to vote for APC members for Senate President and Deputy Senate President. I have friends everywhere. It will be a shopping matter. I have over 56 Senators on my radar who have already signed for me for either Senate President or Deputy Senate President. They believe in equity.
Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, another APC member, who is making a return to the House of Representatives and from the South East wants to vie for the Speakership. What is your take on that?
It is her constitutional right to vie for that position. Nobody should stop her. It’s her constitutional right.
Adams Oshiomhole said that the party will not share any major position with PDP in the National Assembly. Is this right?
This is the chairman’s opinion and the inner party caucus. It is when we go to the floor of the House that we know who is who in the system, because in a presidential system of government, there is room for lobbying and I am going to lobby. I am not contradicting Adams. He is my very close friend. I am only saying we must be able to do give and take.
Many Nigerians are complaining of the deplorable economic condition of the country. How would you use your position to address the situation?
I am a private sector man. You can say I have succeeded in politics and business. I will bring stakeholders onboard and they will talk on how to promulgate new laws favourable to the system. I will lobby the president to sign. The downturn in the economy is not only affecting Nigeria, but everyone. I am going to put everything in place to ensure the economy grows. I have the capacity of lobbying and capacity of moving around.
You once had a stake in the country’s aviation industry. What is your assessment of the sector?
The industry is a very difficult one to do business in Nigeria. We need to promulgate new laws that will help the system. That is why you don’t see Slok Air in the industry anymore. Our licence was cancelled by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. I pity Air Peace, Dana, Med-View and other airlines doing business in the industry because of the challenges they are going through. The pricing is not right. There is no incentives for anybody.
What is your say on the impending national carrier?
It depends on what the government wants. If the government will do five per cent, there is no need to have a national carrier. If the government will own 80 per cent and allow individuals to own 20 per cent and after five years, they will offload the five per cent on the floor of the Stock Exchange so that all Nigerians will own the 80 per cent. If government will do that, I am in line with them. But, if it is anything contrary to this, I won’t support it.
I told Obasanjo to build refinery since 1999, which would be managed by Mobil or Total. Mobil or Total would own 80 per cent and offload it after 10 years on the floor of the Stock Exchange. But they didn’t do that so that we can buy shares. As a journalist, you don’t have to open a new business to make money. You grow your shares and make money.
What is the way forward for aviation industry in the country?
The way forward is for government to support the aviation industry. The industry is not being supported. The government too needs to support the media houses. Government has not supported our media industry, which is essential for the common man. The government can reduce the cost of newsprint, give intervention funds and waivers as they give to some sectors of the economy. That is the way to go.