Tomorrow, April 21, most newspapers would be awash with congratulatory messages and laudatory articles on the 58th birthday of the former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, an ‘Aba boy’ whose political profile smacks of a man on a dynastic conquistadorial adventure.
Anyone who, by now, does not know that Dr. Kalu is the biggest crusader for the re-election of President Muhammdu Buhari must be living in the moon! And, expectedly, some moronic clowns have started lampooning him for the bold initiative. A man must stand for something—those who sit on the fence are not men, but boys!
Dr. Kalu must be the most endangered politician in Nigeria. Other people of his clout enjoy freedom of association and speech, but the moment Dr. Kalu does any of these, he is antagonised for whatever view he holds or the groups of friends, allies and associates he mingles with. Everything about him is suspicious—nobody seems to understand his usually deft and confounding moves. His peculiarities are inexplicable and do aggravate his issues with others. Dr. Kalu is not just an enigma, but everything you can think of. It is interesting to note that, in contradistinction, he does not begrudge others on grounds of their unions or opinions they canvass.
If it were another person that took the responsibility of championing the return of President Buhari in 2019, there would not be any bedlam. But because it is Kalu, ideas and insinuations run wild—including the idiocy of dragging his case with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to the fray! Have people considered the development: of all the governors in Dr. Kalu’s class, only he is being prosecuted for the past 11 years.
Indeed, if it were possible, his traducers will like to determine for him how to spend his money and time! If they had their way, too, they would like
to keep a tab on his movements and activities. And, possibly, gag him on national issues. Perhaps, Dr. Kalu’s greatest challenge is his outspokenness, which upsets a lot of people! Unfortunately for them, Kalu has all the time and financial resources such that nobody can cage or suppress him. Little wonder, Dr. Tunde Bakare recently described him as the most irrepressible former governor and politician.
As someone observed a long time ago, Dr. Kalu is grossly misunderstood and mismanaged. And, if I may add, largely misrepresented on every occasion usually out of mischief, Otherwise, why would his innocuous campaign for the re-election of President Buhari become a subject of rabid gossip and jaundiced newspaper commentaries?
Every Monday and Tuesday throughout February this year, I made sure I was in the High Court, Lagos, where
Dr. Kalu is standing trial on alleged corruption charges. On each occasion, Dr. Kalu was unfailingly in court even before it starts sitting for his case. You could see the demeanour of a man being persecuted for his political beliefs with nobody interested in this dimension of the case. Anytime that Dr. Kalu comes to court, his local and international economic, social and other engagements are truncated. All the adjournments are usually at the instance of the prosecution no further details in order to foreclose subjudice. On the notice boards on the court premises, you will see names of high-profile figures listed who do not come to court, but are represented by their lawyers. Dr. Kalu can also decide not to appear in court -and nothing would happen- but for his beliefs in the rule of law.
In a country where all the tiers of government are bereft of ideas on youth employment, job creation, human capital and natural resources management, how many former governors, serving state chief executives and public office holders have addressed the country’s unemployment superfluity as much as Dr. Kalu? All that we get to read in the newspapers and hear on the electronic media are primitive acquisition of onshore and offshore property and money-laundering irrefutable facts in safe places like Switzerland, South Af- rica, USA and lately Dubai involving the above categories of thievish Nigerians!
On a declarative note, if all former governors had invested half of their money here, instead of overseas, this country would not have been in a currency of stagnation. With the exception of just a few of the former governors, who were already opulent before assuming the reins of government because of their robust professional and entrepreneurial antecedents, most of them were paupers as at 1999. The eminent like of Dr. Kalu, as you will read presently, had “touched” (excuse the parlance) money in all its thresholds. So, Dr. Kalu’s famed financial comfort in all its critics’ inflation has a verifiable pedigree of nobility.
Of course, there are tepid controversies and chimerical allegations maliciously woven around this celebrator. This writer holds the view that no politician of Dr. Kalu’s status and clout (and, indeed, all politicians for that matter) will function in this warped arena without attracting all manner of opprobrious references in rascally contextualisation. The issue is, what is the veracity of some of these moonlight tales and how do they impact on societal re-engineering and the country’s overall human development index? Or, are they just for purposes of witch-hunt and travesty of democracy? And why is Dr. Kalu the biggest symbol of character assassination in the country today among all past governors? It is sheer envy!
As a member of the National Media Tour Team under the distinguished leadership of the then Information and National Orientation Minister, Prof. Jerry Gana, in the first term of the Obasanjo second presidency, I had the rare privilege of going round the entire country on an assessment of the delivery of political dividends in the Second Republic. With all sense of responsibility, I honestly reaffirm here that some contemporaries of Dr. Kalu in sane climes would have been shot dead for brazen incompetency, unquantifiable and indescribable graft and gross underdevelopment of their states. Comparatively, most of his peers at the time had state headquarters that resembled Lagos’ Ajegunle or Maroko of yore. Even the governor of one of the oil-rich states in the South South with all its mind-boggling revenue ran away on the arrival of our inspection team in his state capital because of his mismanagement of the huge resources that had accrued to the state running into billions of naira!
Dr. Kalu may not be a saint, just as he may not be a sinner, too. I take solace in the scriptural realm that says all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. The essence of our existence is the impact we make on society and the level of atonement we make, ultimately. The matter is not about canonisation or holier-than-thou attitudinal disposition. And the question of martyrdom does not arise in this clime.
As long as you are in the public space, it is impossible to carry on without pugilistic criticisms, wild allegations, baseless rumours, sundry suspicions and outright malice. Innuendos, tantrums, vilification, diatribes and vituperation, et al, must inevitably come your way. Some people will just hate your guts
for no plausible reason except for the mirage of corruption and oppressive potentialities! So, Dr. Kalu should understand this public-life matrix and its concomitant jaundice and ignore them or respond sparingly when there is absolute need. In this breath, it does not make sense exchanging vitriolic statements with men of straw. Foul communication tarnishes a leader’s reputation. Public outbursts are for minions. We all have our foibles.
It gets to a stage in one’s life when his works speak volumes of his person and contributions to societal development. That, gladly, is the irreversible point that Dr. Kalu has astoundingly arrived at.
As the erstwhile Action Governor savours his 58th birthday preparatory to the three-score bash that promises to be superlative next year, I wish him many more years of political activism even beyond the South East axis which he has already dominated like an Aztec king.
Obviously a charitable and pragmatic grassroots person who sees community service as a veritable vehicle for social development, he functioned largely as the fountain-head of many financial contributions in aid of community development and featured prominently in numerous community development programmes.
Happy birthday, my compassionate and philanthropic boss-this is wishing you more blissful years ahead!
May you never relent in your campaigns for the re-election of President Buhari. It is your inalienable right. Your critics can fly into the lagoon. You have known President Buhari long before now and will continue to be his man! As a fellow ‘Aba boy’, relationships matter most to us.