Igbeaku Orji writes on the recent visit by a former governor of Abia State, Senator Theodore Orji and his son, Chinedum, to the Senate Chief Whip, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu
Among the goodwill visits to a former governor of Abia State and Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, since he left the Kuje Correctional facility in Abuja a fortnight ago, that of his successor, Senator Theodore Orji, his son and Speaker of the Abia State House of Assembly, Hon Chinedum Orji are significant in many respects.
First, it was the first time in many years that the estranged leaders or members of their respective families would meet at such intimate level. The former governor and senator representing Abia Central, Orji, was surprisingly the first to visit Kalu, his predecessor as governor being also a resident of Abuja, before his son and Speaker of the Abia State House of Assembly. The visits have not only reversed and permanently altered political calculations in the state, but doused the tension between the two families which polarised the state politics along personality lines.
Second, it has shown the younger Orji as a leader with character, who takes the progress, stability and prosperity of the entire Abia State as foremost in his consideration above selfish personal or family interest. Third,the speaker has achieved what other leaders and elders of the state, for over a decade, could not, the peace and reconciliation of the two leaders, which others only expressed concern over but did little to actualise. Chinedum Orji must be commended for his uncommon courage and political sagacity.
The move was an initiative that even his elders failed to discern and grab through the eight years his father held sway as the governor of Abia State, even to the fifth year of the present administration. The years of bitter politics will certainly go down in the annals of the state as a period of political eclipse and implacable altercation which the turncoats exploited. At that time, it was common knowledge that to earn the attention and favour of the governor all one needed to do was simply to vilify the person and family of Kalu.
The unkindest cut, like the dagger of Brutus into Caesar’s heart, came from those who had benefited most from Kalu and his family members. Those who saw things differently were hounded out of circulation. In fact, the depredations of the group did incalculable damage to the lifeblood of Abia State.
It was a period of hysteria and paranoid in which inebriated aides pillaged the state treasury so long as it served to smear Kalu and members of his family. Stories were heard about those who were barbers, road side sign writers and all kinds of menial, dehumanizing engagements, who neither had the privilege of good education nor the capacity to earn a decent living before Kalu or members of his family lifted them out of the backwaters to enviable positions through business and political contacts. Majority of the politicians, like the speaker rightly observed, had no relevance until Kalu brought them to limelight.
Even innocuous media reports that marginally alluded to Kalu, his mother or brothers, were regarded as unpardonable affront, too audacious to be condoned. That was the scenario that gave vent to the petition and allegation of graft and looting made to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against Kalu. It is no use reminiscing on the trajectory of that era, but absolutely pertinent to set the issues in their proper perspective. At the moment, one should exult in the journey of reconciliation undertaken by Hon. Orji with uncommon courage and boldly declaring the truth about Kalu and the utter needlessness of the acrimony that tore the state into shreds and stood adamantly on its way to sustainable development and progress in which it had already been placed. He told Kalu: “Whatever I am today it is because of you. Whatever my father is today it is because of you.
But I am sure you must have known Abia State better now, that is why I brought my uncles here to show you that I am here with all my heart. We are not in competition with you for leadership, you are the leader. In the heat of everything you are the leader.
That leader means a lot, you are leading us, forget about political platform.” The younger Orji’s move, by all assessments, must be adjudged the biggest moral and political masterstroke of the time. What most people had concluded would leave the two families and political camps perpetually on war path has come to an abrupt end because Chinedum Orji had the courage to thread the uncharted path. He has by that singular act defeated the hubris that had been the undoing of generations of leaders, pride, ego and conceit. And those who fanned the ember of discord must toe the exemplary line of Orji or hide their faces in shame.
The audacious young man has shown he has the wisdom to go far in politics and in life generally. He is endowed with vision and foresight far beyond his age. He went to Abuja to see Kalu and the senator for Abia North, with two elders from his Ugba Ibeku community, including Chief Charles Ogbonnaya, who has been on the political scene since 1999 and some members of the House of Assembly like Hon Chijioke Chukwu of Bende North state constituency (APC) to underline the importance and sincerity of his intention. And he told Kalu without equivocation that he should forgive whatever wrong he had suffered as a result of the ill-advised altercation because he remained the leader.
Orji must have, in his wisdom realised that those who exploited the situation for personal political gain would do the same if the circumstances were reversed. They are hungry and scavenging for survival grub. They have neither principle nor conviction. Like the jellyfish, they lack backbone nor can they engage in real fight when the chips are down. They will do anything for filthy lucre. They have no shame but thrive in blackmail and have perfected the art of deception as fifth columnists. They will short change and undercut innumerable times without a blink. They will deceive and block you from truth and reality just to serve their selfish ends.
They will lead to a crossroads and beat a retreat. They will not stand with you in adverse situations when it matters most. The earlier you identify them for what they truly are, the better for you and your political career. Chinedum Orji’s action must be applauded as a tacit acknowledgement of the sacrifice and love showed to his family by Kalu for though some would argue that by the principle of rotation it would be the turn of Abia Central to produce the next governor after Kalu from Abia North, there was no consensus on the choice of candidate.
In fact, against popular opinion, Kalu fought, putting his neck on the block, with suave and seamless brinkmanship to ensure against all odds that his successor succeeded as governor. The events that led to the emergence of Chief Theodore Orji as governor are no doubt still fresh in the memories of Abia people.
When the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) sought by all means to rubbish Kalu and his political dynasty in his second tenure, he formed the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) in 2006, on which platform Orji contested and won the election of 2007. Also, what Kalu did to get his then Chief of staff out of EFCC net and inaugurated is an open secret.
So, the acrimony that followed must be regarded as the nadir of Abia’s political history. Chinedum Orji recognized all that and he said so. “You are our leader, there is no politician in Abia today who did not come through you. My father and I would not be what we are today if not for you. You should take your proper place as leader and father of Abia politics.” Nobody will contest this, especially coming from a man whose father and family were the key player and beneficiary, more so, in the opposition party. He realised that it is inhuman indeed unnatural to pay good with evil.
Kalu has been, without doubt, the bastion of Abia unity and progress. It can be said without fear of contradiction that Kalu bore the vitriol of that era with stoic composure. He never hit back, nor harboured malice. In one of his media interactions in 2011 he said: “I will not discuss TA, but if he has chosen to discuss me, let him go ahead. He was my Chief of Staff for eight years and he was like a younger brother to me. Besides, I respect the office he occupies.” He told Chinedum Orji during the historic visit that it was easy for him to forgive because he bore no malice against anyone in the first place.
“Ask your father, I don’t keep malice,” he said. In all honesty, what Chinedum Orji visit did not come to many as a surprise. Since he decided to swim in the mainstream political waters, he has demonstrated exemplary grit and candour. As the majority leader of the Abia House prior to his accession as the Speaker, it was difficult to know he was fresh in legislative draftsmanship as attested to by his colleagues. From that time his deft political calculations has steered the legislative arm out of crisis but steadily on the path of productivity and progress.
His decision to visit Kalu in spite of the political difference as well as having in his entourage, Hon Chukwu of APC, is a political gesture of goodwill uncommon in our environment. Why did he tell Kalu that he was incontestably the leader and father of Abia politics and politicians even when his own father, the immediate past governor and senator for Abia Central, Chief Theodore Orji, is politically relevant and active.
Though the intervention came so many years after it was expected it is nonetheless salutary as it has ended the reckless brickbats hauled at personalities rather than on issues. It is good that he has realised in their life time that the former path was a blind alley politics that led nowhere. The same energy and sincerity should also deployed to reach other members of Kalu’s family who were unjustly hurt likewise by the indiscretion of that time.