Orji Kalu And The Burden of History By Moses A. Orji

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Of late, Abia State Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu has been the butt of a sustained, well orchestrated media attack by Orji Uzor Kalu and his media outfit, The Sun Newspaper. Reading from the front page editorial of the The Sun of 21st March, 2018 captioned ‘As Abia descends into rot’ and juxtaposing it with an earlier publication by the same newspaper in less than a month (27th February) in which the same tabloid praised Dr Ikpeazu as having done enough to deserve second term, one is left with no option but to concede to the fact that you cannot retain your colour and remain with the chameleon. For those of us who come from Abia State where Orji Kalu held sway as an unprincipled chess player for eight years, there was no element of surprise.

Perhaps Chief Orji Uzor Kalu needs no introduction in Nigeria’s contemporary politics. He belongs to the political clan who craves publicity and media attention, and often takes bizarre and high-risk adventures just to attract it. For the records, it was Orji Kalu who travelled to Kirikiri Maximum Prisons to demonstrate his ability to negotiate the release of Major Al-Mustapha against all odds. To the prison officials he boasted his clout and connections, and did not factor-in the inherent contradictions in undermining a judicial process on a matter that was before a court of law.

Also, when General Buhari, now President, declined to negotiate for and on behalf of the leaders of Boko Haram who had nominated him, our own Orji Kalu jumped into the ring and elected to play the role instead. He quickly reeled out his credentials to buttress his candidature. He was so enticed by the lucrative prospect of being a third party claimant; he threw the caution to the wind. Again, while serving as the Governor of Abia state and visitor of the state owned university, Orji Kalu bulldozed his way and commandeered a university degree for himself contrary to the laid down rules of the institution. The above oddities are just a tip of the iceberg to assist our memory in situating the Orji Kalu persona.

It does however appear to me that Chief Orji Uzor Kalu is this time seeking attention from government but is going about it the wrong way. He is fully aware that Dr Ikpeazu is laying the foundations for the sustainable growth of the state he once ruined, but he wants to be in the picture. He had earlier offered the Governor an automatic ticket for a second term in his own party, the APC. But the former governor seems to be running away from the crux of the issue. The feelings which the heyday of Orji Kalu evokes are so repulsive, and a flashback would easily reveal why the political elite would not want him back into their fold.

For a start, Orji Kalu never wanted an Ngwaman to be Governor of Abia state. He once told Dr Sam Eke (SAMEK) and some other guests that an Ngwaman would be governor only after his own (Orji Kalu’s) daughter, a toddler had taken her turn. But after being choked of political relevance and scheming to warn himself back into the hearts of the same people he had dismissed with contempt, Kalu began to make a volte face. In his Daily Sun interview of September 18, 2104 Kalu had this to say…’looking at it from the point of morality, the next governor of the state should come form Old Aba zone’. That was the truth. But it was coming from the lips of a dying man. It has been said that if there is any sin that should not be forgiven, it is the sin of hypocrisy. With the rugs successfully pulled off his feet by his successor, Kalu began to talk about political morality.

History turns on a small hinge, and contemporary history lends credence to the fact that leaders are judged more by their principled commitment to certain ideals. If Chief T.A Orji, as a sitting governor had not stood his ground on power shift in Abia politics against all promptings and persuasions to the contrary, perhaps we would not have seen this day. As history would surely confirm, Ochendo has not only emerged from the ashes of his predecessor as Abia’s equivalent of a Chris Ngige but has also successfully midwifed our own Peter Obi or even something better.

The story on the lips of everyone is that the sun is on the rise again in Abia State. Rather than descending into riot, Abia is now enjoying a good mention all over the country and the Governor appears to be heading towards a revolution on all fronts. Perhaps, we should all pause for a moment and ask Chief Orji Kalu to point at one legacy he left behind to write his epitaph. There is this Presbyterian hymn which has it that, ‘we shall all be remembered by what we have done’.

Maybe I will continue to remember how the former governor and his family evolved a dubious but ingenious system of administration through which they milked Abia dry. It was christened mamacracy, because the mother was designed to take all the blame since authority apparently flowed from her. I will also not forget his Orji Kalu foisted his younger brother as the most suited man to represent the enlightened people of Aba at the National Assembly to the chagrin of Ngwa intellectuals. Nnanna Uzor Kalu, a stupendous ignoramus and convivial fellow became our standard bearer for eight years and his elder brother did not bat an eyelid.

The truth is that the memory of Orji Kalu and his mother will continue to attract a storm of adverse publicity being a true reflection of the blighted image they have carved out for themselves. Whenever the name Orji Kalu is mentioned, the memories that come alive are: schemer, rabble rousing, brinkmanship, chicanery, megalomania, grandstanding, name dropping, distorted orientation and the likes. Kalu is never associated with the congenial attributes which mark out well bred leaders. Rather than grandstand, it is this solemn truth that should engage the minds of Kalu and members of his family.

Since he left office as the governor of Abia state, Orji Kalu has tried his hands on several projects without success. He had formed the Njiko-Igbo. In the year 2013, he granted an interview in Conakry…”I am not in any political party. My focus is on the unity of Ndigbo which I am championing through a nonpartisan movement called Njiko-Igbo. It is a platform for the repositioning of Ndigbo, most especially on a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction come 2015″. And when he began this his pet project, a Yoruba friend of mine, a journalist, told me the project was dead on arrival. I was surprised that a non-Igbo could interpret the Igbo heartbeat so accurately. The truth is that Kalu has so embarrassed the Igbo nation that no Igbo son or daughter would want to team up with him. As lofty as the idea may seem, where is Njiko-Igbo today? Is Kalu now not campaigning for Buhari’s second term in office, with his personal resources I am told?

Having lost steam in Igbo land, and in his quest for publicity and a platform, the man Orji Kalu then formed a new group called The G.37, said to be committed to crusading against political prostitution, corruption, moral decadence and crass materialism. In league with OUK to campaign for this ethical revolution were the likes of Gbemi Saraki, Olabode George, Musliu Obanikoro, etc. When the news hit me I told my audience that I would not be surprised if Chief Zebrudayya borrowed an inspiration from the group to do a befitting satire.

The fact remains that we may never fully appreciate the sweat of the hen dancing in the rain. Kalu’s chicanery robbed off on virtually all his political associates. His weak character propelled him into riding rough shod over the political fortunes of Abia sons and daughters of nobler parentage. And today the chicken has come home to roost, with Kalu fighting the battle of his life in his quest for a political foothold.

Rather than mount undue pressure on his editorial team, Kalu should concentrate on his well mouthed multi billion dollar business conglomerate. While serving as Abia Governor, Orji Kalu established the following business concerns: an airline, a shipping line, real estate and road construction firms, banks and insurance firms, hotels and furniture companies as well as a flourishing newspaper publishing company. While Kalu has mounted the media pulpit a talk down on us, the injury he inflicted on Abians is yet to heal completely. The issue of backlog of unpaid salaries dates back to his days at the helm. Abia’s Information Commissioner, John Okiyi Kalu, alluded to this when he said…”we have never gone public to inform our people about the origin of the salary and pension payment challenge in the state which dates back to the 1999-2007 era”.

I don’t see Kalu, the former Governor making a headway if he chooses to rely on gimmicks and rabble rousing as a comeback strategy. He carries with him the burden of a reckless past which sticks to him like second nature. He has been profiled, and can no longer take anybody by surprise.

Trying to discredit a pacesetting government that is focused on the path of recovery and greatness is like laying a wreath on a crown. My only consolation is the realization that Abia’s journey to greatness has begun in earnest. Dr Ikpeazu’s government is not only executing ambitious, enduring and quality projects, he is also spreading the projects across the length and breadth of the state according to priority. This is in sharp contrast to the Kalu era when bush paths and farm routes at Igbere were given priority while major routes in Abia North and elsewhere were abandoned.

I am also happy that Dr Ikpeazu is determined to break the vicious cycle which has held Abia down. With his vision for the future, and with what is on ground already, I have no doubt that Abia will catch up, and that the governor’s place in history will be an enviable one.

 


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