From Okey Sampson, Umuahia
Sunday, December 27, 2020, would remain an indelible date for residents of Igbere in Bende Local Government of Abia State, as well as for many within and around the state.
All roads led to the community for the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the demise of Chief Johnson Uzor Nsiegbe Kalu, father of the Senate Chief Whip and former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu.
It was a carnival-like event, with several political, business and religious heavyweights from all over Nigeria converging on Igbere community to celebrate with the Kalus.
The roll call of dignitaries include President Muhammadu Buhari (represented by Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Uchechukwu Ogah); President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, Governors David Umahi (Ebonyi), Hope Uzodinma and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu); Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe; Senator Theodore Orji; Nkeiruka Onyejeocha; Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu; Chief Gbazueagu Nweke Gbazueagu; Obinna Chidoka, former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika (retd); Chief Chris Uba; and leader of Ndigbo Lagos, Major General Obi Umahi (retd).
Also in attendance were member of the House of Representatives Ben Kalu, his colleague, Darlington Nwokocha (Isiala Ngwa North/South), former Speaker, Abia House of Assembly, Chikwendu Kanu, Brigade Commander, 14 Army Brigade, Ohafia, Abia State Commissioner of Police, and Abia State director, Department of State Service, among others.
Religious leaders were not left out. At the event was Prelate and Moderator, Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, Most Rev. Nzie Nsi Eke, principal clerk of the church, Miracle Ajah, Bishop Sunday Ndukwo Onuoha of the Methodist Church and a host of other senior clerics.
The first phase of the event, which was held at the helipad of the Camp Neya country home of the Senate Chief Whip, began with a church service. The first reading taken from Genesis 50:15-21, was delivered by Senator Kalu.
Preaching at the event, the Prelate of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, Most Rev Nzie Nsi Eke, said it was good for man to live an upright life.
He extolled the good qualities of the man whose life was being celebrated by the children, adding that, if the patriarch of the Kalu family had not lived a life worthy of emulation, his children would not have been celebrating him 10 years after his demise.
The prelate urged the living to live in a way that would make those they leave behind to always remember them even after their death.
Kalu, in his speech, said the deceased’s children were not mourning but celebrating their father who meant so much to them.
Said Kalu: “A man who left people like us behind would not say he did not leave great people behind. He left people behind that are intellectually and financially sound and that have at any point in time made him proud.”
Kalu said when his father was alive, the deceased had urged his children not to mourn as people without hope even after he might have died. He said it was for this reason that they were not mourning but celebrating the man’s life 10 years after.
He thanked President Buhari, Senate President Lawan, Governors of Imo, Ebonyi and Enugu states and Senators T.A. Orji and Enyinnaya Abaribe for attending the event.
In his speech, representative of the President, Dr. Ogah, said it was always good for a man to bring up his children in a good and responsible way, as did Kalu’s father.
While congratulating Chief (Mrs.) Eunice Uzor Kalu and her children for the honour done the patriarch of the family even in death, Buhari said he was happy to be associated with the Kalu family.
Ogah told Mrs. Kalu that although her husband might have died years back, the children he left behind should be a source of pride to her. The minister said that the President was highly proud of Kalu and identified with him even at this moment.
Lawan, who was conferred with chieftaincy title of Nwannedimba I of Igbere (Brother in the Dispora of Igbere), said truly he had a brother in Kalu, noting that the Senate Chief Whip was his roommate at the University of Maidugiri in the early 1980s.
While describing Abia as a unity state, Lawan said the fact that Senators T.A. Orji and Enyinnaya Abaribe, both of whom he noted were of different political parties, graced the occasion, went a long way to prove that unity reigned supreme in Abia.
He said that Nigeria was designed to be of many people, but with a common purpose. He asserted that Abia was blessed as, out of 20 National Assembly leadership positions, the state had three. He stated further that Nigeria needed all hands to be on deck to make such unity of purpose a reality in the country.
“With the cream of people here, you can see that there is unity among us, not minding our political persuasions. You can see the Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, and Senator T.A. Orji. They are here today to be with Kalu, the Chief Whip.
“So, what’s happening here today is not politics. We can achieve more when we’re united. Nigeria has been designed to be a country of different people yet with common purpose. So, with unity, there is nothing we can’t achieve. Abia is a home of unity. Out of the 20 positions in the NASS leadership, Abia has three.
“So, let’s try to be at the centre of action in Nigeria. In fact, let’s try to even lead Nigeria. When we continue to unite in Abia or South East, we can make it possible,” Lawan urged.
Governors Umahi, Ugwuanyi and Uzodinma all praised the exemplary life of the patriarch of the Kalus.
Uzodimma described the former Abia governor as the light of Igbere, explaining that every community must have its own light that illuminates the area.
He said: “This time last year, this community was in a gloomy mood because their light was taken away. But this year, Christmas is being celebrated in a very festive way by Igbere people. Why? Because Orji is here and their light is back.”
Senators T.A. Orji, Abaribe and the former Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen. Ihejirika, commended Kalu and his siblings for keeping the flag of their father and the Kalu family flying.
Speaker after speaker eulogised the late Chief Uzor Kalu for bringing his life of honour and integrity to bear on his children, whom he was said to have trained with the fear of God.
The event was graced by people from all walks of life, including politicians, the clergy and business associates of yjr Kalus.
The two wives of late Chief Kalu, Elder (Mrs.) Eunice Uzor Kalu and Mrs. Ezinne Mercy Uzor Kalu; his children, led by the former governor of Abia, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, his grandchildren at home and in the Diaspora were all present at the well-attended event that enlivened the entire Igbere landscape.
It was an event that will for long linger in the memory of many.