Letters & Viewpoints

Thursday, September 12, 2002

Ejike Onuogu, MD, MSc
Baltimore, MD, USA

Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu: Breakfast with the man who could be Nigeria's next president

r. Kalu Idika Kalu presents a formidable picture of a new image Nigeria. His speech at the World Igbo Congress revisits the convulsive issues shaking our nation for years and the unwillingness of previous administrations to calm down and reflect on the plight of the common man.

I have said time and again that true leadership must be accommodating, self-accounting and self-purifying. True leadership must submit to the will of the people in fulfillment of the doctrine of democracy. True leadership must be exemplary, humble and above all God-fearing, loving thy neighbor as thyself.

The writer was privileged to drive down to Baltimore-Washington Airport a few days ago with Dr. Idika Kalu alongside with ace Journalist Godson Offoaro. The time was short as our guest had to catch a morning flight to Dallas to attend the World Igbo Congress. We barely had ninety minutes in our hands, not enough time to dissect the political issues facing Nigeria, nor enough time to bring to bear the many questions which curious Nigerians would wish to ask a Presidential aspirant. As we sat down for breakfast my mind suddenly went blank, being muffled by a myriad of troubling issues facing Nigeria. I really had to prioritize.

However, we did make an inroad. Godson and I kept firing from all angles asking deep-rooted questions on internal security, education, health, power supply, the collapsed civil service structure, telecommunications, tribalism in Nigerian politics, lack of an independent judiciary and humility in the presidency.

The answers were spontaneous, from the heart and reflected a personality not self-invested, not all-knowing but ready to search for solutions, ready to consult with experts and the people in need of the services.

As President of Nigeria Dr. Idika Kalu will welcome public criticism, will create a forum to give an account of his stewardship on a monthly basis if need be, and make himself available to debate Nigerians on shortcomings of the government and ways to move the country forward. He is decisive about the independence of the judiciary and firmly believes that Nigeria cannot be free until the poor man in the street can sleep well knowing that he is fully protected by the law of the land. As a man with years of experience in the civil service, Dr. Kalu decries the total collapse of the Nigeria Civil Service Structure. The ideas and steps he will bring to the table will be different and acceptable to the conscience of anyone who wishes Nigeria well. He notes that Bribery and corruption have eaten deep into our society and withered the minds of many who truly believe that the country is on a downward trend. He firmly believes that Nigeria cannot afford loss of lives as a templat! e for reversing the hand of our doomed clock. By simple example, a leadership can reinvent hope in her people.

Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu served as Minister of Finance for many years under a military administration. He has phenomenal experience in global economics. He firmly believes in privatization as an instrument to enhance quality of service to the people, a way to curb the excess baggage being carried by government, thereby perpetuating the glamor that public service has for those wishing nothing but loot of public wealth. On the issue of tribalism in Nigerian politics, Dr. Kalu started by reaffirming his belief in One Nigeria. He expressed dissatisfaction with those clamoring for an Igbo President or Yoruba president or Hausa President. Once elected, the person is never addressed as Igbo or Yoruba President but as President of Nigeria and swears to uphold and defend the constitution of Nigeria and not of the Igbos or Yorubas or Hausas. Dr. Kalu believes in equity. To him Nigeria must look the same in the eyes of Nigerians. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. A nati! onal development plan where every part of Nigeria is equally considered will obviate the incessant cry by some Nigerians that they have been marginalized. Dr. Kalu was not hesitant to cite tribalism as the cornerstone of the deficiencies of many of our cabinet officers even at the level of the Presidency. Nigeria must begin to perform on the basis of meritocracy rather than the skewed idea of national character which may only hold water with respect to the structural and economic development of Nigeria.........

The interview was short-lived because it was now boarding time and our guest had to rush through his breakfast which he had to interrupt several times to reflect on the storms of questions coming his way. In a warm handshake Dr. Kalu reminded us that the job ahead is Herculean. But Nigeria seriously needs a change of orientation, a President who will present a concrete agenda that will be greeted with a sigh of relief by all Nigerians. He saw in himself visionary, a different approach, to me, an educated approach to our societal woes. In his opinion the Presidency of Nigeria cannot simply be left to the time of the polls when hoodlums can take Nigeria hostage once more and erase another milestone in our national development. The race must begin now with spirited debates based on ideas. The people must take part in this exercise. The people must watch their Presidential candidates on television or listen to them on radio squaring it off with opponents. The media hou! ses should be the fighting arena, our mouth and ideas being the guns and bullets with which the forthcoming political battle is won or lost. I concur that it is on this template that Nigerians can make an informed choice of leadership.