by Hassan Adebayo,
A former Governor of Abia State, Orji Kalu, who has for 9 years been involved in intense legal battle to avoid conviction for charges of corruption, formally joined the ruling All Progressives Congress on Wednesday.
Mr. Kalu was received by the party’s National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, in the presence of other members of the National Working Committee at its Wuse 2, Abuja headquarters.
The politician cum businessman said he buckled under pressure from his associates to join APC and help build the party in Nigeria, and in the South East.
Mr. Kalu left the Progressives Peoples Alliance for the APC. He had quietly exited the Peoples Democratic Party in the build up to the 2015 general elections to vie for a Senate seat on the platform of the PPA, which he founded in 2006.
Earlier, Mr. Kalu dumped PPA for PDP in a bid to contest the Abia North Senatorial seat, which he lost in 2011.
Mr. Kalu first left the PDP to found PPA in 2006, using the platform to contest the 2007 presidential election, and helped Theodore Orji and Ikedi Ohakim to be governors of Abia and Imo states respectively.
With his latest defection, this time to the ruling APC, Mr. Kalu has joined the list of politicians standing trial for corruption, who have joined the ruling party after it gained federal power last year.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission re-arraigned the former Abia State Governor, Mr. Kalu, before the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court on 34 counts of money laundering to the tune of N3.2 billion on October 31.
Mr. Kalu, who served as governor between 1999 and 2007, was first arraigned in 2007 on a 96-count charge of money laundering.
After a lengthy legal battle, the Supreme Court, in 2016, ordered him to stand trial.
In the amended charge, the EFCC alleged that Mr. Kalu and other accused persons had, between August 7, 2001, and December 2005, (while Mr. Kalu was the governor of Abia State), used the said money to procure Slok Nigeria Limited, a company EFCC said solely belongs to Mr. Kalu and his family.
Mr. Kalu’s category of defectors to the APC includes Joshua Dariye, fugitive Senator and former Governor of Plateau State, who fled the United Kingdom in 2004 after he was arrested for money laundering.
Mr. Dariye is being tried by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, having been accused of siphoning the state’s ecological fund to the tune of N1.16 billion.
Like Mr. Kalu, for 9 years, Mr. Dariye’s was delayed until February 2015 when the Supreme Court affirmed the competence of an Abuja high court to try him.
Others in the category are a former Governor of Oyo State, Adebayo Alao-Akala, being tried by the EFCC over allegations of fraud; and former Governor of old Anambra State, Jim Nwobodo, who benefitted from illicit cash flow, having admitted to receiving N100 million from the detained former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.
The two persons – Messrs. Orji and Ohakim – that Mr. Kalu supported to become governors later dumped PPA for PDP.
The Abia State University, while Mr. Orji was the visitor to the school in 2013, withdrew Mr. Kalu’s certificate saying he breached the school’s regulations.
In the papers he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission to contest the 2015 senatorial election, he used his WASSCE certificate, PREMIUM TIMES can report.