Orji Kalu justifies RUGA settlements
•Says no zone is marginalised, service chiefs are personal staff of president
Former Abia State governor and Senate Majority Whip, Orji Uzor Kalu, has justified the intention of the Federal Government to establish RUGA settlements for cattle herdsmen across the nation.
At an interactive session with journalists in Abuja at the weekend, the senator representing Abia North also insisted that no geopolitical zone in the country was marginalised.
He said the concentration of service chiefs in a certain section of the country under President Muhammadu Buhari was not peculiar to his administration, recalling that the Director-Generals of the Department of State Services (DSS) under former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Dr Goodluck Jonathan were from the South-West and South-South geopolitical zones, respectively.
Speaking specifically on the perceived marginalisation of the South-East, he said it was being addressed under the current administration, as he noted that certain individuals from the zone who held key elective positions in previous administrations turned blind eyes to the development of the South-East.
“So, for marginalisation, yes, I cannot lie, but again, our people are not better politicians, because you have to flow like any other region. What do you say of the building of the Niger bridge, doing the Port Harcourt – Aba – Umuahia – Enugu highway and Enugu – Awka – Onitsha highway which even the President Buhari we did not vote for is doing?
“Those we voted for were not productive; those that our people voted for genuinely for 10 years didn’t touch those things. I believe that President Buhari has tried. I am not talking in terms of appointment, because the constitution says that every state should have, at least, one minister. That is statutory.
“It is good to also spread the service chiefs, upon which I will like people in the Senate to bring a bill so that we can pass a law that every region must have a service chief.
“But when you look at it, service chiefs are like personal staff of the president. They are not really constitutionally owned, because you only work with military men you trust. That is the truth, whether you want to hear that or not,” he said.
Justifying the government’s move to establish cattle settlements, Kalu recalled that as a governor, he toyed with a similar initiative in his home state of Abia, adding that it had remained a success story till date.
“When people talk about RUGA, I wonder. In 2001, I did a RUGA in Abia. In Lokpanta, I built it and the cows were being sold in Umuahia and Aba. I invited the Hausa community and said we needed to decongest Umuahia and Aba. Where we have Shoprite in Umuahia today used to be cattle settlement; the same thing with Aba.
“We had a honest meeting with them and agreed that I would provide them land, water, electricity and everything, but that would be their location. I showed them the land and they agreed about Lokpanta. That is the biggest cow market both South-East and South-South of Nigeria today.
“So, it is about the attitude of people to issues. Yes, government should always do further consultations whenever they want to embark on such issues. It is not just to go and put a deliberate policy and say I want to do RUGA. People in villages don’t understand what RUGA means; they would panic and say they wanted to kill all of them.
“Some of us are the largest sellers of cow. I started selling cows as far back as when I was in the university and I am still selling cows till tomorrow, because it is profitable. So, most of the cows you see are also not owned by Hausa people; we trade on cows,” he said.