Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Boko Haram: Orji Kalu as unsung hero By Emmanuel Onwubiko

Published:

Orji Uzor Kalu

The writer commends Orji Kalu for volunteering to mediate with Boko Haram insurgents

Orji Uzor Kalu also known as OUK was the former governor of Abia State from 1999 to 2007 before he reportedly installed his successor who later cross carpeted from the Peoples Progressives Alliance that produced him to the Peoples Democratic Party.

Chief Orji Uzor Kalu is the founder of the Peoples Progressives Alliance which incidentally also in 2007 produced the governor of Imo State in the person of Chief Ikedi Ohakim who also left for ‘greener pastures’ in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but lost at the 2011 election to the candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance -Chief Rochas Anayochukwu Okorocha.

Although the Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA) later suffered monumental political setbacks in the South East, the fact that the party that was barely one-year-old could achieve such a political milestone of winning two states in the 2007 governorship elections, is a testimony of the political sagacity, acumen and the energetic approach to politics that was brought to bear by the founder and his team.

For some inexplicable reasons, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu who vied to represent his people in the senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria during the 2011 election, was manipulated and rigged out by the political machinery of the ruling People’s Democratic Party which was bent on producing the winners of all the elective positions to score cheap political victory in Abia State.

Unperturbed by this profanity that was carefully couched as high wired conspiracy, this gentle man, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, has proceeded with his legitimate chain of business activities which he left to contest the governorship position he won by landslide in the 1999 election.

But unlike other political aspirants who would either lose at the poll or rigged out and completely go into their cocoon or disappear to do their private business without working to promote peace, democracy and growth of the nation’s economy, OUK is not one of those who will turn his back on his country especially during these trying times.

Since losing out to the rigging machinery of the ruling party at the center and made to face Kangaroo anti-graft trial, OUK has remained a consistent patriot who is unhappy that his country has slid into anarchy, lawlessness, terror-related violence and is now in a state of anomie.

He has severally proffered workable intellectual and pragmatic panaceas to the challenges of insecurity, poverty and corruption which confront Nigeria.

His latest intervention is his acceptance to mediate in the ongoing terror-related killings in the North on the delegation of the Federal Government to dialogue with the dreaded armed Islamic terrorists – Boko Haram.

A self acclaimed commander of the dreaded insurgents had two weeks ago listed some terms of possible truce with the government of Nigeria which included the appointment of the former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari, as the head of the team from the Islamic rebels to engage in peace talk with the Nigerian government.

In what is seen by many experts as a wise decision, General Buhari has turned down the offer in the proposed dialogue. He (Buhari) stated that he does not know any member of the group and that he completely dissociates himself from the murderous terrorism of the group which has claimed several thousands of innocent lives in the last few years.

But in a surprise move, the former Abia State governor who grew up in Maiduguri, Borno State, the hot-bed of the ongoing religious insurgency has offered to be part of the federal government delegation to dialogue with the insurgents should the Nigerian government accept to enter into dialogue.

Most Nigerians who opposed the peace talk proposal from the dreaded insurgents, doubted the credibility of the person who offered the truce talk because in the thinking of these analysts, the man is not one of the channels that that the real Boko Haram insurgents interfaces with the public.

The Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, on the other hand believes that there are no bases, legally or morally, for the Nigerian government to dialogue with these same persons responsible for the killings of thousands of innocent Nigerians.

Professor Soyinka, like most people, believes it is preposterous for anyone to seek to impose his brand of religious beliefs or ideology on the other members of the society.

Soyinka said negotiating with mass murders would not end the cycle of violence tearing at the country. He also suspects that crooked politicians had a role in Boko Haram’s early rise.

“Politicians who wanted to rig elections activated this brainwashed horde of religious militants. That’s how it started”, Soyinka stated. Soyinka called the prospect of the government engaging in peace talks with the armed Islamic rebels as abysmal appeasement”

But the former Abia State governor said his decision to offer his services to bring about lasting peace was because the majority of Nigerians who have lost their lives and livelihood are from the South Eastern part of Nigeria.

He also applauded Buhari’s rejection of his “appointment” by Boko Haram on the ground that most Nigerians would misconstrue Buhari’s acceptance to mean that he was the arrow head of the violent insurgency.

It could be recalled that the terrorist attacks increased with the release of the 2011 Presidential elections in which General Buhari lost to the incumbent.

In making his offer to mediate, OUK said he is in a position to marry the feelings of both the victims and the perpetrators to bring about lasting peace.

In my humble opinion, there is the need for peace to return to the volatile Northern region. I believe that the Federal Government has failed to carry out the primary constitutional duty of protecting lives and property by abysmally failing to put to an end to the growing armed violent insurgency in Northern Nigeria.

I also believe that no genuine dialogue can happen in an atmosphere of lack of social justice for the thousands of innocent lives that have been wasted in this terror-related violence. I believe that any peace regime institutionalized without first and foremost delivering justice to the thousands of persons whose bread winners have been killed by the terrorists will not be sustainable and is inherently unfair, unjust and unconstitutional.

But I do also view the offer of mediation by the former governor of Abia State as historic, salutary and heroic. The Federal government is hereby advised to weigh this option comprehensively in the best interest of Nigeria. Government must put an end to all forms of support for terrorism.

In his beautiful book “There was a country”, Professor Achebe stated rightly that the Federal government is guilty of tolerating terrorism.

His words: “Nigeria’s federal government has always tolerated terrorism. For over half a century the federal government has turned a blind eye to waves of ferocious and savage massacres of its citizens-mainly Christian Southerners; mostly Igbos or indigenes of the middle Belt; and others-with impunity”.

Achebe stated further; “Even in cases where their hands were found dripping in blood, the perpetrators have many a time evaded capture and punishment. Nigeria has been doomed to witness endless cycles of inter-ethnic inter-religious violence because the Nigerian government has failed woefully to enforce laws protecting its citizens from wanton violence, particularly attacks against non-indigenes living in disparate parts of the country.”

This vicious cycle of terrorism and government’s conspiratorial incapacity to resolve them must stop.

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria

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