The Orji Uzor Kalu phenomenon in Abia State and national politics is evidently bulging into an enigma. Igbeaku Orji reports on how this played out during the Senate Chief Whip’s recent visit to the state he once governed
The recent working visit to Abia State by the Senate Chief Whip and senator representing Abia North Senatorial District, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, was incontrovertibly loaded with favour and goodwill to his party, the All Progressive Congress (APC), educational institutions and government establishments as well as individuals.
During the visit, Kalu, who served as governor of Abia State between 1999 and 2007, was the guest of former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Azubuike Ihejirika at his country home in Ovim, an opportunity he used woo the former army chief to join him APC. He also commiserated with the Abia State Commissioner of Police, Mrs. Janet Agbede, over officers who lost their lives during the #ENDSARS protest, especially in Aba.
Kalu was also in Asaga Ohafia to commiserate with the Director General of the Nigeria Film Corporation, Dr. Chidia Maduekwe, over the death of his elder brother, Chief Okechukwu. The same day the former governor was in Itim Edda for the wake keep of the father of his colleague in the red chamber. A man of energy, Kalu must make the round; keep all appointments, no matter late.
It was the same day he attended the enlarged caucus meeting of the State APC at the Olokoro home of the man they refer to as the father of Abia APC, Senator Chris Adighije. After the meeting, Kalu reiterated the readiness of APC to participate in the December 18 local government election in Abia State on the condition that there is a level playing field for all parties and candidates.
He, therefore, challenged Governor Okezie Ikpeazu and the chairman of the Abia State Independent Electoral Commission (ABSIEC), Prof. Mkpa Agu Mkpa, to emulate President Muhammadu Buhari’s good will demonstrated during the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states and leave a legacy of transparent electoral system as he did when he was governor of the state. He urged APC members to be positive and committed to the vision of taking the state from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) come 2023.
The next day, Kalu’s convoy headed to the ancient Kingdom of Arochukwu, where he received about 500 members of different political parties including, the PDP and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), who had dumped their parties for the APC ostensibly because Kalu’s presence is reassuring and inspires hope. It was on his way to Arochukwu that youths of Ihechiowa blocked his convoy and literally forced him to receive different food items and livestocks in a show of gratitude for constructing and rehabilitating their roads.
The indigenes, who got news that the former governor was to pass through the community, immediately mobilized and lined up along the road in their thousands, forcing Kalu to stop and acknowledge their cheers. The villages in which the roads are being constructed include Achara, Okpo, Amafie, Amaetiti, Ebouoru and Amasa, a gesture they never thought was possible in their life time having been serially disappointed by successive administrations.
Achara Ihe community, for instance, had the hope of constructing their road dashed after the government at the time failed to fulfill the promise before the burial of their son and former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Dr. Nnaukwu Ukoha in 2007.
So, for them, Kalu has come to rekindle their hope. And from the nuances, one could easily see a man whose joy and sense of fulfillment is inextricably tied to the joy of the people. Clearly, you could see a man who sought political office not for the pervasive venal cupidity but for genuine and altruistic service to the people.
From empowerment to infrastructure, Senator Kalu has turned Abia North into a hub of political and social renaissance. Little wonder that the popularity and reception he gets across Abia State and beyond keep growing with each passing day. Interestingly, Kalu left office as governor over two decades ago and only in his first two years of the first tenure as senator.
He assured the excited youths that the roads would soon be completed, while urging them to appreciate President Buhari whose generosity to the South-East made the roads construction possible.
The Chief Whip of the Senate and highest ranking elected political office holder of APC from the South-East, also used the opportunity of his visit to welcome a chieftain of the PDP and immediate past commissioner for Finance in Abia State, Hon. Obinna Oriaku and former commissioner for Works and Transport, Hon. George Nnana Kalu to the APC . The duo were officially welcomed to the APC after decamping from the PDP in Camp Neya, the country home of Senator Kalu. Obinna Oriaku hails from Owerrinta in Mbutu community of Isiala Ngwa South Local Government Area, while Nnana Kalu hails from Amogudu Abiriba, Ohafia Local Government Area.
Presenting the APC symbol (broom) to Hon. Kalu, the Senate Chief Whip said: “Up till last night, he was a member of the PDP but he has chosen to follow the moving train and I will want to also decorate the former commissioner of Finance here today and give him the broom too.” For the love of education, especially girl-child education, Senator Kalu offered to build a N50 million hostel for Holy Rosary Girls Secondary School, Umuahia.
This is in addition to a cash donation of N5 million and 10 sewing machines for the skill acquisition centre of the school. The Senate Chief Whip made the commitment during the ground breaking and fund raising ceremony for a world class multi-purpose hall for the school. Speaking during the launch, the former governor, who was the chief launcher, said the Catholic Bishop of Umuahia personally invited him to attend the event.
He also said he believed that investment in education should be continuous and should not be affected by policy vagaries. His words: “In fact, I wish that this school is situated in my senatorial district. I have special love for this school and I have made it very clear that I will give my full support. My first donation for the love I have for the advancement of women which starts with the girl-child education is that I will build a brand new hostel for this school and the building will be named after His Lordship, Bishop Iwejuru Ugorji.
“My second donation is to support the school with some amount of money to contribute to what they are doing. When the hostel is completed, more students will have access to additional accommodation. I urge the old girls association of this school not to relent in its quest to see that this project is actualized.
I will also donate 10 sewing machines to the girls to encourage their skill acquisition department.” Earlier, chairman of the occasion and APGA National Chairman, Victor Oye, who hailed Kalu for attending the programme, commended the old girls of the school for accepting to champion the project.
Bishop Ugorji, who spoke briefly, expressed his happiness over the products of the school, saying: “I am indeed proud about the quality of women that have emerged from this school. The late founders of this school will indeed be proud that their sacrifice to see the establishment of this school was not in vain. “The old girls association of this school has done quite a lot in terms of entrepreneurship and other areas of ICT and skills. I commend their generosity.
I pray that their dream to have this multipurpose hall comes to a reality.” Also speaking at the event, the senator Akwa Ibom South Senatorial District, Akon Eyakenyi, not only commended the school for its growth but extolled Kalu for his contributions to women development.
She said: “I commend the old girls association of this school. As a fellow woman, who is also a senator I am excited to be in your midst today. Senator Orji Uzor Kalu is a man who recognises the value of women in our society, he is gender friendly and that is why I am here today. I am representing the eight female senators at this occasion here today and as a female senator, I stand for the course of women.”