By EBERE WABARA
FORMER Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, is 57 years old today. In this unusual commemoration of his birthday, we shall explore the innumerable fallacies, fixated myths about the man and the unimpeachable facts of his life as much as possible.
My standpoint on the ensuing issues is based on the things I had known about him as a fellow “Aba boy” long before he became the exclusive “action” governor between 1999 and 2007, according to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo; my knowledge of him in his first tenure in my capacity as the editor of The Post Express, my occupational trajectory in this medium before and after robust exploits in the banking and telecommunications sectors at managerial levels long before the currency of my media advisory role to him among other copious editorial and communicative interventions within and outside my core professional role.
When some hypercritics embarrass me that I do not know full well the man I profusely defend, I get bemused. How else do I need to know the one we fondly call OUK beyond the aforementioned circumstances? Some oppositional elements will even assert that they had worked with the man and played politics with him so much that they can read his mind! And the last and least category of ignoramuses on issues concerning this “birthday boy” is the tribe of mischief-makers, who erroneously believe and assert that my combustible defence of Kalu is merely justificatory of my financial recompense.
My official and personal relationships with Kalu have no monetary dependencies. It is fundamentally a function of my professionalism, subscription to the man’s ideals and the necessity of exposing the serial mass deceit of the gullible public through needless and inexplicable criminalisation, demonisation, and calumniation of my principal by the vanishing clan of his haters driven majorly by petty and pedestrian jealousies.
If it were a question of financial benefit, most of us working closely with Kalu in various capacities would have abandoned him a long time ago. Kalu’s borderless and profound philanthropy has an integral element of extrovertism, as his inimitable generosity does not necessarily reflect on us – his numerous personal staff in Lagos, Abuja, Igbere his country-home and some nations on the continent and other parts of the world. We are not complaining because the intimacy of our relationship with our boss transcends monetary considerations.
Let me close this chapter on the reckless, unfounded and irresponsible suspicion that Kalu is extravagantly “spoiling” us with money on a comparative note. A colleague of mine who does the same job I do for a top politician in the South West has as part of his perks of office a 2016 Toyota Prado SUV and a Honda Pilot as his official cars and now the icing on the cake: A palatial home (not just a house) on Victoria Island at the instance of his employer. You can imagine his salary and other add-ups!
The point that needs to be emphasised here with the foregoing reference is that money is not everything for some of us in the personal employ of Kalu. Similarly, too, perquisites of office do not move us simply because of our belief in Kalu’s philosophies. The father of one of Kalu’s senior special assistants is a billionaire – yet the guy works diligently for Kalu, as if he has a pauperised background – his commitment is unparalleled! I will not blow my own existential trumpet except to say that most of us with Kalu are not driven by lucre, as some people think, having attained distinguished levels of accomplished existential humanism. We derive illimitable joy working for and with him despite his clenched fingers and tight-fistedness towards us – his personal staff – amid public philanthropic superfluity and satiety of his institutional generosity.
The first misconception about Kalu is the ludicrous assertion by his critics that his mother, Madam Eunice, was in charge of governance in Abia State during her son’s tenure. And that nothing was done in the state without her consent! Finally, those in this ludicrous school of thought will also inform anyone who cares to listen that Kalu spent most of his time on transnational business trips for the growth of his flourishing entrepreneurial empire.
It is incontrovertible that his Chief of Staff and successor, Theodore Ahamefule Orji, was magisterially the one who called the shots during that regime. Kalu merely performed supervisory roles. His successor held the yam and the knife while Kalu superintended over the barn and other resources with so much trust on his ultimate nemesis! Madam Eunice’s boundless love for Kalu and the mother-son closeness was misconceived, misinterpreted and misperceived to mean usurpation of the powers of the executive governor. Unfortunately, this has been so phenomenally gossiped and entrenched that it is difficult, if not impossible, to change the ingrained attitude of a few persons, who insist on what is wickedly called “Mother Excellency”!
Another preposterous fallacy is that Kalu dropped out from the university. I have never seen anything as malicious as this. It is not true whatsoever. The fact of the matter is that youthful exuberance made Kalu not to return to the University of Maiduguri. As the president of the Students Union Government, Kalu was inevitably involved in the “Ali-Must-Go” episode, which led to the expulsion of Kalu and others during the vice-chancellorship of Prof. (Senator) Jubril Aminu. Only Kalu was recalled but he insisted that other parliamentarians involved in the expulsion should be recalled. The authorities refused and Kalu walked out in sympathy and solidarity with his mates. People who do not know the details of what transpired go about spinning yarns. The Kalu that I know is more knowledgeable than most of his traducers. The eminent professor is still alive for anyone who wants to confirm this account. This incident does not need explication as the records and the past and current VCs are within reach.
Indeed, Kalu’s success story cannot be complete without lavish mention of Prof. Aminu’s interventions in the upcoming of Kalu. It is an irony that the man who signed his rustication will later play an instrumental role in the making of Kalu in all its ramifications. The full narrative of this messianic function is captured in another contribution by a member of the expanded Kalu Media Team, Prince Kunle Oyewumi, a highly cerebral and assiduous young man, who appreciates damsels to the fullest!
Another fallacy is that Kalu’s businesses were crumbling before he became governor and got swiftly revived shortly after his assumption of office. This cannot be true because instead of his business fortunes shrinking as insinuated, he was expanding beyond Nigerian shores and outside Africa. Anyone in doubt should take a trip to The Gambia and Liberia. The ones in Nigeria are doing excellently with additions and diversification. The Slok Group – incorporated on May 6, 1987 – keeps growing to the amazement of Kalu haters and perpetually irredeemable detractors
One thing that everyone agrees on is that Kalu’s business inclination started right from his childhood days under the tutelage and mentorship of his mother, It is, therefore, not surprising that Kalu today sits atop a multinational conglomerate with multifarious interests in quintessential sectors across four continents – and still exploring others.
Yet another fallacy: That Kalu did not have a house in Lagos before becoming a governor! Fact: Kalu built his Lagos residence and an office space on Victoria Island and Apapa, respectively, in 1990 – long before becoming a governor in 1999. I do not understand the viciousness some people exhibit on matters concerning OUK. What could be responsible for such bitterness and murky politics?
At the age of 29, Kalu became the youngest chairman of a bank in Nigeria – Cooperative and Commerce Bank.
Not long ago, some charlatanistic politicians in Abia wing of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stoutly opposed the return of Kalu to the party and dragged Kalu’s name in the mud just to discredit him and achieve their brazen goal of keeping him off the PDP. The characters, who were championing this absurdity obviously never knew that Kalu donated and lent N100 million and N500 million, respectively, to the PDP during its embryonic days. Or is it that local politicians are amnesic as to want to exclude a foundational financier/member of the PDP, who defected for personal reasons? As fate would have it, the PDP today is gladly in disarray and most likely would never recover itself – to the glory of God and our goodness as a country.
Last but not least fallacy is that Kalu is too domineering and dumps people who assist him or relate with him on copious platforms. I do not agree with those who talk of his domineering presence because what happens is that Kalu is misunderstood and mismanaged. As for dumping those who crossed his path, there is no unassailable point to substantiate this allegation, as I know people who have worked with Kalu for years and are still in his employ, including my humble self.
Overall, people need to comprehend who OUK is and do away with weird misconceptions about him. He is a jolly good fellow just having fun with himself without caring a hoot about what people think or say about him. He is mostly interested in the future – not in the past or the transiency of current manifestations.
Next year by the grace of God, I shall examine more fallacies and debunk the concomitant innuendos that trail such evaporative idiocies, character assassination and stupidities that border on monumental and inflammably blissful ignorance.
OUK – my (and our) Oga – may your light perpetually shine on humanity. It is our collective prayer that the Almighty will continue to navigate your way, quadruple your opulence not just as one of the richest 50 men in Africa but in the world. You will spend the second half of your time on earth, which begins today in good health and fear of God!
Wabara ([email protected]/08055001948) is the media adviser to Dr. Orji Kalu.