Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Chief Whip of the Senate and former Governor of Abia State, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, threw the doors leading to his Aso Villa residence opened on Monday, October 26, 2020, to celebrate his wife, Mrs. Ifunanya Kalu, on her birthday.
From the political class, the business community, the legal profession, the military, police, the diplomatic corps and other spheres of human endeavours, they came out in droves to celebrate a humble and unassuming woman who has stood by her husband like the rock of Gibraltar. And for Kalu, it was a payback time for a woman who exudes the true character of a wife and friend. Since the commencement of the event till the curtain was drawn, the birthday shindig had the elements and characteristics of a first class party. This was attested to by the presence of the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan; the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovine Omo-Agege; the Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt. Honourable Ahmed Idris Wase and the Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi.
Also present were a former Senate President, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim; a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives and immediate past Governor of Imo State, Rt Honourable Emeka Ihedioha; former National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie-Oyegun; the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama and his wife, Sulola; the Minister of Power, Mamman Saleh; the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige; the Minister of State, Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba and the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina. The roll call also includes serving and former Senators as well as members of the House of Representatives. Amongst them were the Deputy Senate Leader, Ajayi Boroffice, Rochas Okorocha, Sam Egwu, Chukwuka Utazi, Akon Eyakenyi, Elisha Abbo, Peter Nwaoboshi, Chimaroke Nnamani, Michael Nnachi, Umar Sadiq, Chris Adighije, Lee Maeba, Uche Ekwunife, Nkechi Nwaogu, and Hon. Benjamin Kalu.
The Chairman of the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Engr Elias Mbam; the Indian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Abhay Thakur and his wife, Dr (Mrs.) Surabhi Thakur; the South Korea Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Lee In-Tae, a former Governor of Edo State, Chief Lucky Igbinedion, a former Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, were also in attendance.
Also present were Hon Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu; Chief Chris Uche and wife, Ijeoma; a Deputy Inspector General of Police, Habila Joshua (retd), a former Minister of State, Federal Capital Territory, Chief Chuka Odom; a former Chief of Staff, Abia State, Hon. Mascot Kalu, a former Deputy Chief of Staff, Abia State, Dr Maduka Ukaegbu; a former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Nnanna Kalu; a former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Abia State, Chief Solo Akuma, amongst others.
The event, although social in nature, did not leave out the spiritual side since God is the giver of life. Hence, both the Christian and Muslim prayers heralded the event after which the husband of the celebrant, Senator Kalu, took to the floor for his introductory remarks. Kalu said: “Today is not a speech making day. It is just a day to appreciate my better half who has tried so much in times of difficulty, in times of everything; she has always been with me. This lady came to Kuje Prison six months, everyday on time. No day hindered her not to come. She was there 1pm every day. We have never celebrated birthday in this house. Never! This is the first time and possibly, it will be the last time because we don’t celebrate birthday.”
Kalu also disclosed how the birthday bash was secretly planned and executed as he said there was no invitation, nor text message sent to guests. He explained that the guests who included senators, members of the House of Representatives, and his friends made up of past senate president and past governors, were all invited by phone call.
Kalu added: “And she didn’t know. When I was planning this, I told the Senate President, please don’t call her to ask whether you will be on time or not be on time because you will leak the secret. And I told the Deputy Senate President, please don’t ask any other person because there is no invitation. All the senators here, I just called them by phone. There was no invitation, no text messages.”
Kalu further thanked his wife for her untiring friendship and her personality, saying that life is a deep place to learn and as humans, “we continue learning every day.” He also thanked his colleagues in the Senate and all those who took out time to attend the party, while further appreciating his wife and all those who were out to appreciate her. Kalu equally thanked the senators of the 9th National Assembly for the support they gave him, including the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President, even as he said that the night was one to dine and wine.
As the event proceeded into the night, the trio of the Senate President, the Deputy Senate President and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, took turns to speak about the celebrant. Wase who took to the microphone first, wished Mrs. Kalu many happy returns and the blessings of God upon her and the entire family. “May God continue to keep you alive in good health and may God bless you,” Wase prayed. On his part, Omo-Agege said the event was to celebrate first, their colleague, their brother and a friend, but more importantly, his wife. Omo-Agege recalled that the Holy Bible enjoined Christians that he who finds a wife, finds a good thing and obtains favour from the Lord.
He said: “We are here today to have that manifested by our brother, the Chief Whip because of what the wife means to him. It is one thing to be told the story of who she is, it is another thing to observe, and see, and know exactly who she is and who she has been to the husband. We all saw how she stood by the husband 100 percent as he went through his challenges. “I told a couple of people at the time whenever we went to the prison facility and we saw her. I said yes, this clearly shows that it is not only in good times that you know who your friend is, but also when you have your challenges.
Frankly, they don’t come any better than her, she is the kind of woman you would have or you want to have as your wife.”
Omo-Agege further said the Senate Leadership were at the residence of the Kalus to join Senator Kalu to celebrate his wife and to wish her the very best and to further reassure her as they did, not too long ago that the family can always count on them and they will always be there for the Kalu’s family. “And the only prayer I have before I drop the microphone is that celebration will never cease in this family. Happy birthday!” Omo-Agege chorused.
Addressing the gathering, Senate President Lawan said: “This evening is meant to be an event for appreciating our sister, our wife, Ify Orji Uzor Kalu and that is what I intend to do. Our brother, you are lucky to have Ify as your wife. You know those of us who wedded in the Church, they will say ‘for better, for worse.’ But that is easier said than done. Ify has demonstrated clearly that she is a practical demonstration of for better, for worse.
“My sister, today, you are a shining example to many women. In life, we go through so many experiences. Some pleasant, some not so much pleasant and when you have your better half always supporting you, it is much, much easier for you to survive in whatever condition you find yourself. And that is why our brother is lucky to have Ify.” Lawan further said though it was the first time such celebration was taking place in the family; it was a very well deserved birthday by Mrs. Kalu. He also appreciated Kalu whom he said, went through an unpleasant experience, but said whatever measure, Kalu’s belief in God, his faith and his trust in the nation’s judiciary and prayers from family, friends and well wishers, made him to survive the situation.
Lawan added: “And when you came out, you are better than before. I recall that you tried to come up with legislative intervention on how to make life in the prison better, even though it is not something that anybody will like to have or to go through no matter how good that place is. But that is to show that the experience you had, had shaped your opinion and your kind heart to ensure change so that those who have to go through that system do not suffer unnecessarily.”
Raising a toast to Mrs. Kalu, the member representing Isuikwuato/Umunneochi Federal Constituency, Hon. Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, said she believed by God’s grace, Mrs. Kalu will not die an untimely death but will live to see her great grandchildren.