I met OUK some years ago and we had a pertinent discussion on both national international issues. Our candid discussion is still pertinent today, hence this revisit.
To most of us, politics, particularly the Nigerian type, seems very unexciting, enigmatic, and sometimes utterly discouraging. But to Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, whose personal fortune in SLOK Holdings is in billions of dollars, as well as impressive dossier in leadership, politics is vivacious and a veritable instrument for achieving common good. OUK, who was on his way to attend World Igbo Congress Convention, breathes the art and science of politics. Politics, to him, is less obstreperous, but pragmatically palliatives that allow for the emergence of superior ideas. Thus, he’s never content with the present—he’s always looking for ways to correct the anomalies.
So, on my trip to Washington, DC for WIC Convention, I didn’t miss a rare opportunity to meet with Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, whose infectious energy was affecting everyone around. That prompted me to ask: Sir, what keeps you going? “My frame of mind,” he responded. “God plays every role in my life.” No sooner had he finished answering my first poser than I started barraging him contemporaneously with questions on multiple issues facing Nigeria. He didn’t mind the unwittingly imperious way I was asking the questions without giving him a breather—an approach reminiscent of ebullient journalist, Sam Donaldson of ABC News.
Since Orji loves and thrives in politics, I began with asking him about his reaction on the newly registered APC. Orji is fully receptive to a viable opposition in the Nigeria’s system. He believes that a strong opposition party would help any ruling party to modulate its actions and the beneficiary will be the masses. “So, it’s good for the opposition to be strong,” he added to the discussion.
On domestic issues, Kalu, who spoke with unbridled passion, had a scathing review of the economy as he touched on the level of poverty in Nigeria. He said that Nigeria has the resources, but lacks good governance and good leadership to address the abysmal poverty rate in the country. He feels that a person with good leadership will be able to assemble experts in the area of poverty alleviation and have them develop sustentative policies to be implemented immediately. Such policies will be measurable so that they could be tested and monitored for their effectiveness. “You see most leaders don’t listen to the experts; they depend on their own intuition,” Kalu interjected. “It’s not about “I” mentality, it’s about a leader’s ability to assembly a team of experts to tackle enormous problems facing the nation,” Orji shared. “Poverty is an endemic problem; our country needs to deal with it immediately with effective and measurable policies,” he stated with disappointment. “A good leader must be able to listen to his team—he must be a good listener in meetings designed to produce results,” Orji continued. “A good leader must be able to get a diversified opinion and take good and bad news proportionally,’ he advised.
Orji lamented that the economy is not moving in Nigeria. “All the economic indices showed that the economy is stagnating; also the electricity and security are not there to help boost the economy.” “Why can’t Nigeria afford train or railway system, which will allow free movement of goods and services?” he asked. Just imagine the fact that Indonesia and Malaysia had worse economy than Nigeria several years back; they were poorer than Nigeria, but today they’re Asian Tigers, whose economy have outgrown Nigeria’s. Orji said that for Nigeria to begin to make progress, it must provide a transformational leader, who will be able to provide good leadership in various areas of the economy, as well as building strong institutions and less of the ‘mini gods’ in office. “Nigeria needs uninterrupted power supply, security and leadership to spur manufacturing industries in the country. This will reduce unemployment and consequently poverty will go down,” he stated. “The country is in a mess,” he added. “I’ve said time without number that the president should have given us light–energy,” Orji continued.
On healthcare system, Orji said that Nigeria has an unimaginable poor healthcare system. “It’s sad that such is the condition in Nigeria where people don’t receive adequate medical care or sometimes they don’t receive at all,” he lamented. “Oftentimes, people die of preventable diseases,” he said regrettably. “We have to build quality hospitals that will be staffed with Nigerians in the Diaspora who will be glad to come to Nigeria to render their services; they want to partake in the nation-building if given the opportunity,” Orji Uzor kalu proffered. “A country like ours has many experts in the medical field and we should provide the enabling environment for these professionals to come home,” he stated. He continued, “I have met several of them who have indicated strong interests to come home with their skill sets to help the country—we need to tap them.” “Our country needs help!” he exclaimed.
On the Igbo dilemma, Orji said, “Commitment is what everybody needs to succeed.” The people in the Diaspora need to start mobilizing those at home. Sadly, the people at home are compromised; they’re easily influenced. According to Dr. Kalu, the Nigerian president of Igbo ethnic extraction is feasible. “It’s for Ndi-Igbo to take it as their responsibility and they will achieve it.” Let WIC be involved; let WIC set up a high-level committee that will take it upon itself to educate the electorate in every polling station on how to vote. The people in the Diaspora are in a strategic position to drive the agenda in Nigeria, but oftentimes, they sell themselves too short. 2015 is now around the corner and people at home are looking upon those of you in the Diaspora for cues. “PPA is now talking with APGA in preparation for the 2015 elections,” Kalu said. “Ndi-Igbo must stand up for their right,” he continued. “If they don’t stand up for themselves, who will stand up for them?” Kalu questioned.
As I was talking with Dr. Kalu, some guests were frolicking around his home. One of the guests, Engr. Ola Famuyiwa succinctly described Orji in a quite striking way: “In my own honest words, H.E. Orji is a man of many hats and dispensation, a distinguished gentleman who has the interest of all Nigerians at heart. For him, the industrialization of Nigeria is paramount in his mind, because he believes that is the only way we can cut down the youth unemployment rate and reduce crime in the society to the barest minimum. Orji has the three E’s Exposure, Experience, and Education; in addition he’s fearlessness, the hallmark of a genuine and true leader. Orji has the ability, international knowledge and connection, and agility to support, mobilize and transform Nigeria to an industrialized country like other countries with similar background, education and culture in the 60’s. Countries like Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Orji is a natural leader and he will not surround himself with “doppelgangers.” He evaluates every situation carefully and he will always bring positive input into well beings of Nigerians.”
In the same vein, Tunde Amusa said, “Dr. Uzor Kalu is an experienced leader, governing Abia State for two consecutive terms. His substantial business acumen includes, becoming one of the youngest international bank chairmen in Nigeria’s financial history and founding SLOK Holding, a successful conglomerate of companies. The next President of Nigeria must be a consummate leader, business and technology savvy, and experienced in political affairs. Dr. Uzor Kalu embodies all of these qualities.
He is the change Nigeria needs moving forward in the 21st Century.”
Expressing his impression of Dr. Kalu, Dr. Oboh shared, “An enigma, a mystery and talent all bundled together. The born instincts of a cat, the pin point accuracy of a diving hawk, the oratory of Julius Caesar and the leadership qualities of Napoleon Bonaparte all bundled together in the same person—Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, Chairman of SLOK Group of Companies. Nigeria should not be written off as a lost cause because of the presence of people like Dr. Orji Kalu. Although a full-time businessman now I still think that the Country should plead with him to again assume a political leadership position that will enrich the lives of Nigerians.”