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    Orji Uzor Kalu withdrew from Presidential race: What happened?

    Senator Orji Uzor Kalu (OUK) is a realist. He never wanted to run for the presidency just for the fun of it or just to be seen to have attempted. His decision to run were motivated by two factors, of which I have the privilege to know. First, he genuinely felt that Nigeria was badly derailed and that things were going really bad and he believed he could fix the problem and he really wanted to fix it. Second factor, OUK understands the Nigeria reality. He knew that as long a majority of Nigerian voters will vote along ethnic and religious lines, an Igbo candidate cannot win presidential election because the Igbos are electoral minority for the office of the President. The only way to overcome this problem is through zoning of the presidency to specific region at a time. OUK had assurance from critical figures among the APC politicians and Northern leaders that presidency would be zoned to the South East. Otherwise, he would not have wasted his time. And he made it clear from the beginning that he was running on the belief that his party would keep to the wisdom of zoning.

    We have made several arguments why zoning the presidency to the South East would be the wisest option open to the Nigerian political leaders. I will assume that the ready of this piece is aware of the argument advanced in support of zoning the presidency to the East. So, it was an excellent logic for OUK to assume that zoning was on the table. OUK came out anticipating that with zoning, the contest would be between him and fellow Igbos. Again this was a fundamental assumption that was valid and logical when made.

    When OUK withdrew from the race yesterday, his decision was based on the same logic, now in the reverse. Despite the earlier indications that the leadership of the APC would opt for zoning, in the last twenty four hours, President Buhari and leaders of the party abandoned the zoning option and threw the contest open to politicians regardless of their region or ethnicity. OUK understood that running for the presidency is an extremely expensive undertaking. It is not a thing he wanted to do unless there was a realistic chance of victory and a national consensus on his candidacy. In the past 48 hours, it became clear to him that the fundamental conditions he needed were not there. If he had gone ahead with it, that would have been an ego-trip that would lead nowhere.

    Another factor to bear in mind is OUK’s personality. He is a loyal person. He is loyal and faithful to friends. When the President of the Senate (Lawan) joined to contest, OUK took notice of that. Lawan is his bosom friend. They were roommates at University of Maiduguri. They had been good friends ever since. You will recall that OUK spent six months in prison on a wrongful conviction that was rightly quashed on appeal. For the six months that he was in prison. OUK maintained not only his seat in the Senate, but also his office as the Chief Whip of the ruling party. It is basic to understand that it would not have been possible without the support of the Senate President. Lawan did not initially express interest in the presidency because he too believed there would be zoning and that it would be zoned to the South East, and he was confident that OUK would have a great chance. So, it would seem that Lawan did not want to run because he was supporting OUK. But once zoning was abandoned, both Lawani and OUK understood how that would affect OUK’s aspirations for 2023. It was at this point that Lawan decided to run. And immediately he declared interest, OUK withdrew. It will be wrong to see it in any other light apart from this. OUK’s decisions have remained consistent and logical till this moment.

    Why was zoning abandoned? Several reasons may account for that. One of them was the fact that too many Igbo politicians showed interest – Umahi, Nnamani, Okorocha, Onu, OUK, etc. The Igbo politicians in APC did not behave like a people that really craved to have that presidency for their region. Zoning it to the Igbos would lead to a more fierce competition by the Igbos among themselves that it might be better to abandon the zoning option. And with the idea of zoning it to the South East thrown out the window, you will see the speed with which the Igbo politicians that have expressed interest will all withdraw.

    By Emeka Ugwuonye

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