Kalu Back in Trenches, Says Obasanjo Govt Irresponsible|
From Chuka Odittah in Owerri
In what looks like a renewal of hostility, Governor Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia State at the weekend attacked the Obasanjo administration, saying its irresponsibility caused the absence of development in the South-eastern states.
Kalu made the declaration Saturday in Owerri, Imo State at a civic reception held in his honour at the Grasshopper Stadium. The reception was organised by Abia citizens resident in the state.
Kalu, who is believed to have been schemed out in the just-concluded national convention of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said that the perceived lack of federal presence in most South-eastern states would have been a thing of the past but for the non-challant attitude of the Federal Government. This, he said, was regrettable since, according to him, 80 per cent of the votes that made Chief Olusegun Obasanjo president in 1999 came from the South-east.
He addressed Abia sons and daughters who turned out in large number to welcome him.
In a veiled reference to the opposition vanguard led by top Federal Government functionaries including Transport Minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, against his administration in Abia, Kalu alleged a plot to unseat him.
"Today, some people are plotting against me in secret houses in far away Abuja. Some of them are our own people. What is my sin? I will tell you.
"We (Igbo) returned over 80 per cent to the PDP in the last election. How many states in the South-west voted for PDP? How many states in the North voted for PDP? Soon it will be 2003. All we have received for our votes are empty promises; a dry dock port in Aba, non-construction of Port Harcourt-Enugu Expressway, non-repair of Onitsha-Owerri Road, no improved power supply etc. What is on ground so far are billion contracts for road construction. Where are the roads for which contracts were awarded?"
According to Kalu, the Igbo have continued to be the most marginalised section of the country in spite of their contribution to the economic and social development of the country.
He argued that for the Igbo to have the least number of federal appointments, senior military and police officers, the least number of local governments and federal industries was a clear evidence of marginalisation.
Kalu also described as regrettable the fact that the number of local governments in the South-east is fewer compared to the North. According to him, even more disturbing is the absence of any petro-chemical or gas plant in the South-east which, he said, is rich in oil deposit.
"My sin is that I spoke out for you the voiceless Igbo people in Igboland. My sin is that I refuse to share the meagre resources of our state with Abuja politicians and contractors. My sin is that I decided to work for our people. So that is why they are plotting against me."
He therefore called on all Igbo to rise against acts, that would make them inferior to other ethnic groups who he said often tried to impose leaders on them. "Never again shall anyone or group impose leader on Igbo people. Have you ever imposed leaders on Yoruba and Hausa? Yet some people believe that they can dictate to us, that can't happen."
Observers see Kalu's declaration in Owerri at the weekend as yet another sharp u-turn from his posturing only three months ago on the Obasanjo administration which he had said was already addressing the problems of the South-east.
In an interview he granted THISDAY in August, Kalu said the Obasanjo regime had begun to look into the problems confronting the South-east one of which was the issue of bad roads.
His apparent softening of position on Obasanjo then was seen as a somersault in some quarters as he had before then mounted a fierce campaign against the president who, early this year, he had written off as unfit for second term in 2003 because of what he described as non-performance.
To those who criticised him in August for singing Obasanjo's praise, Kalu had this to say: "I'm not a warlord," insisting that his criticism of the president was not personal. He said that honour demanded that he should acknowledge what he described as the change of attitude of the president.
The latest parting of ways would appear to have been signaled by the bad blood generated by the PDP national convention in Abia. Kalu had fought against the candidature of Prince Vincent Ogbulafor as National Secretary of the party. He had also jostled against Maduekwe and his loyalists for the control of Abia PDP in the prelude to the national convention which held two weeks ago in Abuja.
Later, Kalu came out and accused the Maduekwe camp of imposing candidates to represent the state at the national convention. On the eve of the convention, the Abia government issued a statement demanding that the convention be put on hold. The call was disregarded.
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