By Kunle Oyewumi
Shortly after his landslide victory in the National Assembly election of February 24, 2019, and subsequent inauguration on June 11, 2019, as senator representing Abia North Senatorial District, Dr. Orji Kalu, in his remarks, while playing host to family, friends, associates, business and political, and well-wishers who converged on his expansive Abuja residence, re-affirmed his commitment and determination to bring the dividends of democracy to indigenes and residents of his constituency, comprising Bende, Isuikwuato, Ummuneochi, Ohafia and Arochukwu local government areas of Abia State.
For people who are familiar with Abia North senatorial zone, before Kalu assumed the legislative position, the area was neglected due to poor and weak representation. However, Kalu’s sojourn in the Red Chamber thus far has not only brought about rapid, timely and robust transformation of communities, but also placed Abia North Senatorial District on the global map in the areas of human capital development, infrastructural regeneration and sustainable development, hence, redefining politics viz-a-viz responsive, qualitative and robust representation.
With the achievements of Kalu in the last 22 months as a senator, it is obvious that the former governor has demonstrated effectiveness, patriotism, statesmanship, efficiency, responsiveness and courage in his legislative duties and responsibilities and as such he has delivered on the mandate given to him by his constituents to represent them in the Red Chamber. Kalu has deployed his administrative acumen, political dexterity, and robust network of contacts across board to make life meaningful for the people of Abia North Senatorial District and the larger community of Abia State.
Not surprising, Kalu, who held sway as governor of Abia State for eight years, was christened Action Governor, owing to the massive road rehabilitation, re-construction and construction embarked upon in the commercial city of Aba and other parts of the state within six months of his administration. During his working visit to Abia State, the then President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, could not but acknowledge this feat, and declared Kalu as “Action Governor.”
Apart from the numerous road projects, Kalu’s administration introduced free education (no tuition fee), free health scheme, poverty eradication schemes, ensured timely payment of workers’ salaries, wages and pensions, agricultural revolution through provision of improved seedlings, farming utensils and fertilizers at no cost to rural farmers, crime rate was brought to almost zero, internal peace and security. Also, as a sports enthusiast, the state-owned football club, Enyimba FC, won the Confederation of African Football (CAF) championship cup back to back in 2003 and 2004. All these aforementioned and other giant strides were achieved despite the huge debt of about N8 billion inherited from previous administrations.
Looking at Kalu’s era as governor, the capacity of the Igbere-born businessman-cum-politician was never in doubt for the position he presently occupies not only as senator but also Chief Whip of the Senate. Recently, during his routine tour of his constituency projects, across Abia North Senatorial District, indigenes and residents of various communities could not hide their joy as they came out en-masse to welcome Kalu, who many described as “Projects Senator,” while acknowledging the robust contributions of the senator to the development of their communities.
Quoting the president-general of Amurie Nkporo, Rev. Kalu Uduaghan: “Kalu’s good works will remain indelible in the annals of Nkporo community,” while expressing appreciation to Kalu for breaking the jinx of providing clean water for Nkporo and Baja Ndiagbo communities in Ohafia LGA of Abia State. During his late-night inspection of ongoing construction of 3km asphalt and drainage rural road (2km Phase 1) at Amayi Ammaibo Road in Isuikwuato LGA of Abia State, an indigene of Ajayi Ammaibo, Obi Chima, said: “We used to be in hell. In fact, if there is anything more than hell, I can tell you we passed through it before these roads were constructed.”
Inspecting the 3km asphalt road project at Uhaba Akawa Ariupka, renovation of Eziamma Community Primary School, Nneato, and completed borehole project in Ezioba Autonomous Community, all in Ummuneochi LGA of Abia State, a youth leader, Emmanuel Igwe, described Kalu as the “light of Nneato.”
As a mark of honour for Kalu, who is celebrating his birthday today, it is imperative to acknowledge and celebrate the gargantuan accomplishments of the celebrant in his current legislative capacity by highlighting some of the countless projects facilitated, both completed and ongoing by OUK, as he is fondly called, in his constituency.
Facilitation of political and civil service appointments for constituents; construction of 2km Nneato Junction-Aroikpa road, Ummuneochi LGA; construction of 7km and 2km rural roads with drainage and asphalt at Akanu Ukwu, Ohafia LGA; construction of 5km road (Phase 1-2km) with drainage and asphalt at Isiugwu, Ohafia LGA; construction of 2km Bende-Itumbuzor Road; construction of 2km (Phase 1) at Lodu-Amorji Imenyi Road; construction of 1km Amoku Road, Bende LGA; construction of 2km road in Nkporo, Ohafia LGA; and construction of 2km rural road with drainage and asphalt from Umuobasi-Amankalu, Bende LGA.
Others include construction of 3.2km road with drainage and asphalt at Atan Ihechiowa, Arochukwu LGA; construction of 7.9km Okpor-Arochukwu Road, Arochukwu LGA; construction of 4km (Phase 1-2KM) rural road with asphalt and drainage along Alokwe Item-Uzor Rubber-Ohafia main road, Bende LGA; erosion control project at Ochiagha Boulevard, Igbere, Bende LGA; rehabilitation of Ohafia, Umusi and Onuibana erosion sites along Bende-Ohafia Road, Bende LGA; drilling and installation of motorised boreholes at Aroikpa, Ezioba, Eziama, Nneato and Umuelem communities in Ummuneochi LGA; rural electrification with installation and distribution of 300KVA and 33KV transformers at Ntalakwu, Bende LGA; and renovation of blocks of classrooms at Ozuitem Central School, Bende LGA, rehabilitation of Igbere central school, Bende LGA; Echiele Central School Otamkpa, Isuikwuato LGA; distribution of motorcycles, sewing machines, hairdressing tools and generators, wound gel and gynaecological (cervical cancer gel) to indigents, including farmers, artisans and the youth; distribution of bags of rice and fertilizers to rural women across the senatorial zone; construction of garri processing plant at Ogbagwu; construction of hand pump borehole at Nnaeto Primary School, Ummuneochi LGA; and construction of hand pump borehole at Okposi Primary School, Igbere, Bende LGA.
Aside from his impressive projects as a senator, Kalu, as chief promoter of the Orji Uzor Kalu Foundation (OUKF), with focus on health, education, youth and women empowerment and democratic governance, has equally recorded remarkable feats in humanitarianism. The philanthropic gestures of the former governor date back to the early 1990s, under the “Orji Kalu Free Loan Support Scheme,” which later metamorphosed into a full-fledged foundation (OUKF).
Kalu, in his private capacity, has always fulfilled his personal conviction of improving the lot of the people through the initiatives of his foundation, with the provision of soft and interest-free loans to artisans, petty traders, farmers and co-operative groups, giving vehicles, motorcycles to the youth, sewing and hair dressing machines to women, free medical screening and primary health care and scholarships for university students across the country. Recently, while making a personal donation of N10 million for the construction of a female hostel at Holy Rosary Girls Secondary School, Umuahia, Kalu advocated investment in girl-child education for the sake of national well-being. The senator is an advocate of girl-child education, gender equality, peace and unity, youth and women empowerment and credible leadership.
In view of his impressive, remarkable and robust feats as a business mogul, politician, philanthropist and statesman, it is glaring that Kalu climbed the ladder of success by embracing hard work, perseverance, consistency, pragmatism, dynamism and humility in all his pursuits despite ups and downs. As OUK clocks 61, I wish him renewed strength in all endeavours.
•Oyewumi writes from Lagos