Former governor of Abia State and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, has said the rancour in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) was essential part of every democracy that would make the party stronger.
He called for a probe of the $16 billion power project funds under the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, just as he dismissed Obasanjo’s Nigerian Coalition Movement, saying that Obasanjo does things for himself, not for Nigeria.
The former governor also declared that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) cannot return to power in 2019, insisting that the APC has done well to deserve another term.
You met with President Muhammadu Buhari recently to discuss the state of your party. Can you tell us exactly what the state of the APC is?
The APC is in a very good state. The party is doing well. In every democratic process there must be agreement and disagreement. I am sure Nigerians are watching. The APC is only three years old. The PDP was in power for 16 years. I don’t see anything that is happening in the APC that does not happen in civilised democracies. Since all of us are not from the same father and mother, we are bound to disagree to agree. We are on course. There is no problem.
It seems you are the only one that thinks the APC is doing well. There were parallel congresses in many states and members of the National Assembly and the state governors are in disagreement. The members of nPDP are currently threatening to leave APC. Are you really saying that all is well with all these?
I think there will be a lot of dialogue because, in a democracy, people must dialogue to agree and disagree. That is why we are in a democracy. If you are in a democracy and there are no challenges, you would not move forward. I was a member of the PDP. I know what we went through. There were disagreements here and there. In a democracy, no one man or woman can say, ‘I’m totally right.’
When such disagreements happened in the PDP, there were breakaways and some people joined other parties. Do you see an implosion in the APC?
I read about that in the papers, but I don’t think anybody is going to leave the APC because of any problem. There will always be problems anywhere there are different people. Even the Democratic Party and the Republican Party in the United States have problems. But the members always come together and settle, and that is part of what our party hierarchy is talking about today, because it is right to settle the problem in order to have adjustments in our party.
You were governor for eight years during the time of former President Obasanjo. Do you think it is fair now to probe what was done during that administration regarding funding of electricity?
It is not only electricity that should be probed, there are many things that should be probed in terms of what people in government did. There were many things that government did. Import licences were issued to people that didn’t deserve them and a lot of money was given to different businessmen, which was not accounted for by that government.
Do you think it would be easy for the Buhari government to probe Obasanjo’s administration?
If anybody is probing, he should know that other people would probe him. If Obasanjo’s government deserves to be probed, then he should be probed. I don’t see anything wrong in probing any government when money is involved. The money does not belong to Buhari; the money belongs to the Nigerian people.
Critics say the anti-corruption crusade of this administration is simply a witch-hunt and that when some people like you cross over to the APC, they are no longer ‘sinners,’ they become ‘saints’ overnight. Is that correct?
I’ve never been one; I went to Abia and served my people with all sincerity of purpose. Even in the PDP, when Obasanjo ran as President, I gave them the first N500 million in 1998 and I also gave him N500 million to stand as a candidate. Some people came into office with N20,000 and today they are billionaires and have all kinds of mansions. It is not acceptable. Some of them may look like witch-hunt but some are not. The government that left power a few years back is a PDP government. They cannot come and probe me as a private businessman. It is the class of people leaving office at a particular time that will be able to answer questions about governance and things that have to do with governance at the time.
Do you think there was corruption during the Obasanjo administration, in terms of power generation?
There was huge corruption, not only under the Obasanjo administration. I remember I wrote him a letter, when he said all the governors were corrupt. I wrote him a letter and said, ‘I am an exception.’ I can re-publish that letter, which was carried in the national newspapers at the time. Nigerians remember how our national assets were sold, they were not properly done; they were ‘dashed’ to people loyal to Obasanjo.
What exactly is the problem with electricity in Nigeria, is it an impossible task to attain stable power?
It is not an impossible task. If anybody was careful about electricity, he would remember that, when Obasanjo was there, we had only about 3,000 megawatts but today we have gone up to 7,000 megawatts and nobody is talking about it. It is unfortunate that we are still talking about electricity; electricity should be a thing of the past. South Africa generates approximately 58,000 megawatts. At 7,000 megawatts, which is far above what Obasanjo generated, we are still far behind.
The Nigerian Coalition Movement (NCM) formed by former President Obasanjo has fused into a political party, African Democratic Congress (ADC). Are you afraid that they could take power from APC?
No, I’m not afraid because Obasanjo always serves himself and not the people. Nigerians don’t know this. Obasanjo is only thinking about himself and not the masses of Nigeria. I know him better than most Nigerians. He knows I know him. Anything Obasanjo is not good for Nigeria. I saw a clip where my friend and in-law, Femi Fani-Kayode, was talking about former President Umaru Yar’Adua and the electricity projects of Obasanjo. Those are not true; Fani-Kayode is not a student of history, because I know for a fact that $16 billion was earmarked for electricity by Obasanjo. There was no project done with that money, the money was shared among people loyal to Obasanjo.
Are you confident that Nigerians will not vote out APC in 2019?
The answer is totally, no! I say so because the party has done well. Mind you, APC came to power only three years ago, when there was major drop in the price of crude oil and when the party leaving power looted the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Even foreign countries knew that the CBN was looted. There was no money to start the government and nobody has asked questions as to what happened.
Does the APC deserve to be returned in 2019?
Absolutely! APC has done well. Look at the security issues; when Boko Haram was bombing churches, I told people that they would extend to mosques; if not for the way Buhari confronted Boko Haram and provided weapons for the military, Nigeria would have long ceased to exist.
The PDP is getting itself together once again. Do you think the party can return to power in 2019?
PDP cannot return to power in 2019. It is going to be very difficult. The PDP has not shown the right reason it should return to power because going back to power means returning to power to open our Central Bank and continue the looting.