2023: IBB, ORJI UZOR KALU & THE CLUB OF THREE, By Professor Patrick Okeke


Earlier this month, former military Head of State, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, was interviewed by Arise TV for his birthday Special. While indeed we felicitate with him for marking yet another year, key aspects of the interview has however, captured the attention of Nigerians and provoked a number of responses in the following weeks and this comment had to do with ‘who has the capacity to rule Nigeria at the moment.’ While this enquiry may appear simplistic, it is not entirely so especially when the current economic, security, and politico-social temperature of the country is weighed against this scale.

As per Babangida, the profile of individuals who should be contemplated for the mantle is succinctly described thus:

I have started visualizing a good Nigerian leader… a person who travels across the country and has a friend virtually everywhere he travels to and knows at least one person he can communicate with… a person who is well versed in economics and is also a good politician who should be able to talk to Nigerians… I have seen one, two or three of such persons already in their sixties.

Who are these individuals? To what extent do they comprehend the present situation? And have they proven themselves to be persons of capacity before Nigerians?

Following the anticipation that the next polls has been zoned to the south, Babangida, in a later interview with the same TV station, was lucid enough to mention one out of the three solution-candidates. His man – Senator Orji Uzor Kalu (OUK), former governor of Abia State, Chief Whip of the Nigerian Senate – for the simple reason that “one must have a lot of knowledge” and the technocracy of OUK as a seasoned politician, cannot be denied. Beyond this simplism, why Orji?

Orji Uzor Kalu is no stranger to the Nigerian political environment. Born to Mr. Johnson and Mrs Eunice Uzor Nesiegbe Kalu of Abia state, he is a Nigerian politician, businessperson and lawmaker with good politico-economic and social democratic clout. From a middle-class upbringing where hard work and education were sacrosanct, and with a conviction that “a life so blessed should be lived in service to others,” his story has become ‘the Nigerian story.’

As published in The Korea Post, Yucee Otah Uwah elucidated the developmentally pivotal strides of OUK while governor of Abia state (1999-2007) which specifically include strategic approaches towards job/wealth creation, investment in infrastructures, and better healthcare in terms of affordability and quality to mention but a few. It is even said that till date, the development strides he ignited in the state is yet to be surpassed by his successors.

Having proven himself as an executive leader, as lawmaker, OUK’s promotions has been focused on what could be generally regarded as pro-poor policies vis-a-viz the National Food Bank of Nigeria (Est) Bill which is hoped to cater for basic feeding needs of the ordinary Nigerian; as well as the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) Bill.

While the Man has not declared interest in the presidential race, political pundits, observers and even former Heads of State are of the opinion that this articulate lawmaker may yet play a lead-role as Nigerian democracy consolidates – the story of a man who did not judge himself “able” but has been recognized and identified by others to wear the cap. Perhaps, what the Genius saw in OUK enough to induct him into the exclusive club of ‘three’ with ability to lead the country out of this quagmire, can also be seen by the ordinary Nigerian.

First, OUK is exemplified for his articulation and charisma which the Nigerian Maradona decried the lack thereof in the present administration. He has the capacity to foster consensus with others and nurture coalitions and can therefore relate with Nigerians on a more empathetic level and become the kind of introspective leader Nigerians expect. With good knowledge of and interest in foreign policy as well as with emerging technology, OUK is contemplated as the kind of leader who would recognize and comprehend the developmental deficits of the Nigeria by adopting a more technologically-accommodating stance in order to create the enabling foundation for Nigerians to compete favourably in the international space.

In furtherance to Babangida’s profiling of prospective leaders, OUK is also the typical guy who has such friends and clout nationwide and internationally. His support-base is neither restricted to a certain category of persons (young or old, secular or clerical), nor to a particular geopolitical region.

As in the ratings of Americans where leaders can be categorized as having “positive” or “negative” attitudes, and as being “active” or “passive,” it is indicated that “positively active” American Presidents were more successful than passive/negative ones citing Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt as examples of positively active – that is, their personalities caused them to approach the presidency with enthusiasm and a drive to lead and succeed. In the domestic political space, OUK’s ‘never die’ attitude shines him out as a prime example of positivism and activism – a ‘fire in the belly’ kind of candidate. A similar model was used by a Nigerian political watcher who conducted a survey earlier this year on the feelings of the electorate about their leaders’ attributes or qualifications. Respondents were quizzed on a number of possible qualifications as to whether or not these attributes made them more or less likely to vote a candidate for presidency come 2023.

In reaction to Babangida’s commentaries, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu was evaluated against the afore-stated US parameters and was considered one of the most acceptable based on what Nigerians expect as the resume ́ (CV) of a Presidential candidate. The saying that “it is better to be exalted by others than to prematurely judge oneself worthy” was never truer than in the instance of OUK. Regarding the subject of discuss, the former Head of State must have surely seen these attributes in the Chief Whip to proclaim him worthy; but as per the subject matter, he has also witnessed same in two others. Who are they and how do they stand against each other in 2023? The search continues.

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