Kalu On A Mission For Inclusion, Social Justice In Nigeria's Political System

Feature Article Kalu On A Mission For Inclusion, Social Justice In Nigeria's Political System

In this report, ODIMEGWU ONWUMERE examines the peace project of the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Benjamin Kalu who represents the Bende Federal Constituency of Abia State, which aims to uphold inclusivity and social justice as fundamental principles for all individuals, regardless of their background or circumstances

During a reception held to welcome Senate President Godswill Akpabio in Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State, a few days ago, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives who represents Bende Federal Constituency of Abia State, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, who was represented by Abbas Tajudeen, expressed appreciation to the Senate President for his support in advancing the South East Development Commission Bill to its third reading in the Red Chamber of the National Assembly.

In a communication issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Levinus Nwabughiogu, Kalu expressed happiness to Akpabio for his support of the administration led by Tinubu, and believes that once this bill is approved by President Bola Tinubu, it will contribute towards reconciliation from the wounds of the Nigerian civil war.

Kalu commended Akpabio's leadership approach to fostering unprecedented cooperation between the Senate and the House of Representatives. Regarding Akpabio's backing of the South East Development Commission bill, Kalu emphasized appreciation, acknowledging Akpabio as a commendable leader and ally.

He recognized the historical lack of reconciliation and rehabilitation for the Southeast region post-civil war, spanning five decades. Furthermore, both Kalu and Akpabio identified the bill as a strategic instrument to address longstanding issues in the Southeast.

The passage of this bill is seen as a significant step towards providing solutions to various challenges faced by the people in that region. Kalu expressed thankfulness for the positive impact this development has had on fostering peace in the Southeast, instilling hope for presidential approval of the bill.

Kalu is the individual behind the Peace In South East Project (PISE-P), aimed at promoting peace, unity, and development in the region. The project was officially launched in the Bende Local Government of Abia State by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, represented by Vice President Kashim Shettima, on December 29, 2023. While on his peace initiative agenda a month ago, Kalu arrived in Geneva, Switzerland, accompanied by Senator Asuquo Ekpenyong. This information was shared during a press briefing by Jackson Udom, the Special Assistant on Media to the Senate President.

The duo joined Akpabio, who led Nigeria's delegation to the 148th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) from March 23 to 27, 2024. Upon their arrival at Geneva airport, Akpabio's group received a warm welcome from Nigeria’s Ambassador to Switzerland, Abiodun Richards Adejola, and South Africa's Ambassador to Switzerland, Mr. Mxolisi Nkosi.

However, Kalu has been irked by the alleged murder of one Emmanuel Okocha by a police officer in Aba, deeming the dastardly act as reprehensible and offensive. The police officer must be made to explain his behavior, according to Kalu, who demanded a thorough investigation into the incident.

A police corporal attached to the Rapid Response Squad within the Aba Division reportedly shot dead Okocha, a native of Abiriba in the Ohafia local government area of the state, while he was on his way to the village.

A month ago, Ben Kalu spoke at the special edition of "The Ben Kalu's Mandate," a radio program on FLO FM in Umuahia, Abia State. Kalu said that it was deliberate to work behind the scenes to achieve the objective of the frantic efforts ongoing to secure the release of the leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnami Kanu. This might be part of the reasons while unveiling of the PISE-P, Kalu communicated through Nwabughiogu, expressing that his original intention when initiating the South East Project was unequivocal—to advance peace, unity, and progress within the region using a non-violent approach.

The South East is renowned for its abundant cultural legacy, dynamic communities, and industrious populace. Nonetheless, Kalu observed that the region has encountered various obstacles, such as economic disparities, security issues, political tensions, and sporadic conflicts.

The objectives of the South East Project are well defined, according to him. He said, “Our primary focus is on facilitating reconciliation among communities and individuals impacted by previous conflicts. We acknowledge the imperative to tackle the underlying factors of conflict, including economic inequalities and political strains.

“The pivotal aim of this project is to empower communities by equipping them with essential resources, skills, and opportunities for sustainable growth. We strongly advocate for involving youth in peace-building endeavors by providing them with education, training, and leadership prospects—an investment in the region's future.

“Upholding inclusivity and social justice are fundamental principles that we endeavor to nurture to ensure equitable access to opportunities and resources for all individuals, regardless of their background or circumstances.

“Fostering a culture of peace is paramount in our endeavor; thus, promoting dialogue, tolerance, and non-violence as fundamental values within our communities are key objectives.

“Through these concerted efforts, our aspiration is to cultivate a more peaceful, prosperous, and inclusive environment for all inhabitants of the region."

While in Geneva, Switzerland, a letter addressed to the Nigerian Senate President and approved by the Secretary General of the IPU, Martin Chungong, contained a message stating: “Dear Mr. President, the 148th Assembly of the IPU and related meetings are scheduled to take place at the International Conference Centre of Geneva (ICCG), Switzerland, from Saturday, March 23rd, to Wednesday, March 27th, 2024.

“We are pleased to provide comprehensive information about these meetings, including the agendas of the IPU statutory bodies. We earnestly hope that your parliament will be represented at the 148th Assembly and that your delegation, under your guidance, will actively participate in the proceedings.”

It was gathered that the previous IPU session held in Luanda, Angola, saw Nigeria achieve a significant milestone when Akpabio was elected into the Executive Committee of this global parliamentary organization. The global association of national parliaments committed to fostering peace through parliamentary diplomacy and dialogue was established in 1889.

Over time, it has evolved into an inclusive global entity, with membership from 179 out of 193 countries worldwide.

With an eye for inclusiveness, Kalu made a call when he visited the WTO Director-General, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in Geneva on the sidelines of the 148th assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, saying, “The World Trade Organization should help boost the exportation of primary products from Nigeria and Africa in general.”

In one of his peace outings that saw the South East governors and eminent personalities; national assembly members from the zone; the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu; the Obi of Onitsha HRM Igwe Nnaemeka Alfred Achebe; the Ooni of Ife HRM Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi; the Emir of Bichi; the Senate and House Committees on Constitution Review, Kalu advocated the need to set the pace for effective collaboration to drive the ongoing exercise to a successful conclusion.

He hopes that the country will remember that the journey towards peace is not a destination. The process is ongoing and requires everyone's unwavering commitment and dedication. All must continue to promote social justice and empower the youth, he says.

He emphasizes that investment in education, healthcare, and infrastructure can't be overemphasized without creating opportunities for economic growth and sustainable development. The country must cultivate a culture of peace, respect, and understanding, above all.

The Pioneer of Peace in the South East Project is deeply grateful for the support and collaboration of each citizen, believing that together, the country has shown the world the power of unity.

Hon. Benjamin Kalu, who has said that the recent inauguration of the Nigerian-Dutch Business and Investment Forum, in the Hague, Netherlands, by President Tinubu will set a new tone and foundation for stronger economic ties between both countries, also reaffirmed the commitment of "the House of Representatives to the expansion of economic cooperation, friendship, and bonds between Nigeria and the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

A prosperous, sustainable, and peaceful future for the countries can be achieved by pursuing common objectives and closer diplomatic goals. He made the assertions while delivering his remarks at the embassy in Abuja a week ago, on a Friday night, according to a statement by Nwabughiogu.

Kalu believes that the Peace in South East Project (PISE-P) includes reconciliation in the mix of what the project is trying to accomplish, given the significance of Nnamdi Kanu in the peace agenda the project is pushing. He said, "I've always told people that I'll never deny Nnamdi Kanu. He is my brother.

“We're from the same place, and I won't be happy with him being locked up when we can get him out and do more for peace. I can assure you that the powers-that-be in this country know that people like us are not sitting on the fence,” Kalu said.

He believes this cannot be accomplished in front of a judge and will opt for a political approach to resolve the issue, stating that the federal government should provide him with a few things.

Checks revealed that the last time he saw Mr. President, they talked about how important it is for the elders of Igbo land to come, sit, and talk to him. Kanu and SEDC will be one of the topics that will come up there.

"We must show Mr. President loyalty by making sure there is peace in our area as we ask him to release Mazi Nnamdi Kanu for us and give us the South East Development Commission, support his government without getting violent," he said.

The foundation the project has laid should be continued and strive for a South East that is prosperous, peaceful, and inclusive.

Onwumere won Second Place in the inaugural Africa Travel Week Media Awards 2024 held in South Africa. He writes via: [email protected]