By Ebere Wabara
IT is common knowledge that Forbes international magazine lists our subject today as one of the 50 richest Africans. At the formation of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 1998, he donated N500 million to the party. This intervention alone vitiates the power drunkenness of latter-day peripheral and provincial members of the PDP, who viciously attempted to exclude him from the association he co-founded and co-funded, before his epochal defection to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
After having been a member of the House of Representatives, Governor of Abia State from 1999 to 2007 and number three on the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential list of candidates in the 2007 general elections, founded and solely funded the Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA) that produced former governors of Abia and Imo states, T. A. Orji and Dr. Ikedi Ohakim, respectively, in the heyday of the PDP, what else does Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu want in Nigeria’s political space?
The point must be stressed that Kalu is not in politics to make money, as he “sees and touches” convertible currencies, which quadruple on account of his supranational investments. It is this geometric, borderless and boundless return on his investments that is confounding hypercritics, who, myopically, link it to his governorship profile and foolishly corroborate their spurious, malicious and wild allegations with the serial EFCC theatricals versus Kalu.
There have been governors in this country who, without any pedigree whatsoever, were god-fathered into governorship saddle only to become billionaires overnight. And because we run convoluted systems in all spheres of our life and existentialism, nobody raises eyebrows over such sudden inestimable wealth. The rot is so systemic that even usually poorly educated councillors live a life larger than that of a professor, let alone a governor!
So, because all lizards lie flat, we do not know those with gastronomical challenges! Issuing from this charlatanistic overgeneralisation, the like of Kalu is seen with the same jaundiced telescopic public eye. It is so bad that nobody wants to believe any contrary view. The perception is that every governor must have looted, expectedly! Therefore, in their warped thinking, a smart “guy” like Kalu cannot be an exception! Fallacy number one!
Fallacy number two: Kalu had money before becoming a governor but not as much as he now has. When a man has top offshore banking, insurance, shipping, aviation, oil & gas, export-import, real estate, agriculture and hospitality blue-chip institutions, among other domestic (onshore) conglomerates, do we expect his income and fortunes to be static? Most times, Kalu is outside the country, holding illimitable meetings with existing and potential business partners. He just came back from London a fortnight ago. In the next few days, he would be off again to Dubai en route to the United States for summit entrepreneurial sessions that explore top-echelon investment opportunities.
Most Nigerians subscribe to the fact that Kalu is an invaluable political asset not just in his state/zone but also throughout the country – possibly more than any other politician in terms of popularity and acceptability. Nobody can refute this declaration. Even his arch-traducers and ingrates of his political beneficence know this incontrovertibility.
Mischief-makers allude to his two senatorial losses and impugn that if he was so famous, as we insist, why did he encounter such political deficits? I sympathise with such people on grounds of their blissful ignorance and non-recognition of the power of governorship incumbency and excessive security-cum-slush funds at governors’ irresponsible disposal in electoral matters at state level and other wasteful expenditures.
The two candidates Kalu lost to (one is dead) cannot, in a free and fair election nurtured by transparency, beat Kalu in any political contest. The embryonic candidates, their grotesque sponsors and hapless voters know this full well.
Most Nigerian politicians go into politics to amass wealth with a majority of them coming from penurious backgrounds. Not so for the Dr. Alex Ekwuemes, Dr. Ken Nnamanis and the Kalus of this environment, among a few others, who were already swimming in opulence as transnational entrepreneurs before coming into politics. Kalu’s desire had always been to serve and add value to our political evolution and consolidation of democratic ideals. This is in line with his superfluous philanthropic antecedents globally acknowledged. Kalu’s flourishing investments worldwide speak volumes.
Anytime I comment on the perennial abject poverty of leadership in Abia in this column or elsewhere, I receive an avalanche of moronic feedback, one of which goes thus: “The rot in the state started with your boss, master, principal, ‘oga’, benefactor, publisher, etc. So, stop defending him perpetually….”
First and foremost, governance/government is a continuum. This fluidity presupposes that it is a thin line, indeed, between past administrations and contemporary ones in terms of policies and their execution, including all other allied incidentals and tangential matters.
For those who may not know, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu was the governor of Abia State between 1999 and 2007. During his illuminative tenure, former president of the country, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, described him as an “action governor.” This was long before the bubble burst in their querulous relationship over copious issues, bordering on advertent federal neglect of the South East.
Because of the official connection between us as his media advisor among other arduous engagements, some readers view my contributions in this medium and in other media with disbelief/suspicion/distrust amid erroneousness that hallmarks bias and subjectivity! It is so unfortunately bad that anything that is published here is seen as having tacit approval of the publisher or his connivance.
Therefore, no matter the content and dispassion displayed, the tainted prism is always at work. As I had always stated in the past for the umpteenth time, Kalu is an unusual publisher because he does not meddle in the day-to-day running of his media conglomerate. These avowals are matters that could be verified independently or professionally through reputable media monitors/agencies/audit and content analysts.
Our first formal meeting was in 2005 when we (OUK, Femi Adesina – a gentleman to the core and presidential aide of profuse humility; and Victor Onochie) – travelled to The Gambia and Liberia in an eight-seat Air Force-like jet for strategic business retreats in my capacity, as a frontline member of the Editorial Board of this medium shortly before the commencement of my cumulative eight years’ regrettable banking career from where I formally and joyfully returned to The Sun family on January 2, 2014, on dual function as already mentioned.
A critical point that needs to be underscored is that most of these social infrastructures have immensely depreciated – some beyond valuation – due to years of neglect since erstwhile governor, T. A. Orji, took over in mid-2007. Of course, without maintenance, these structures dwindled supersonically to decrepit currency.
Just like other human beings, Kalu must have had his own shortcomings and frailties. But this should not warrant his demonisation by his successor, who gave the wrong impression, at every turn and opportunity, that his incontrovertible benefactor did nothing at all in the state! Such blatant and brazen lies diminish the liar – not the accused!
I have also heard in some circles that Kalu was diligent in his first term and achieved so much, but went to sleep in the second leg of his governance of Abia State. Even as this is debatable, let us, for purposes of the benefit of doubt, accept the template that he worked real hard and attained laudable heights in the first leg of his governorship of Abia while not living up to expectation in the second-half of his eight-year stint, what do we say of his successor, who admits that he spent virtually his first term in office (2007-2011) trying to extricate himself from the imaginary stranglehold of his predecessor?
And his second term in the deconstruction, demystification, criminalisation and endless humiliation of Kalu and dismantling of all vestiges and appurtenances of the Kalu irrepressible and invincible empire that flourishes commensurably with the interminable assaults and invasions from Umuahia of T. A. Orji’s era, of all political godsons!
No matter the degree of disagreement and disaffection between leaders, the overriding fact is that governance is a continuum and must not be personalised because of its public-service orientation. Citizens’ interest must be paramount on all occasions and in all circumstances.
Kalu is not a saint – just as nobody is. He indelibly committed irredeemable, unforgivable and unforgettable mistakes, most especially his unilateral introduction and installation of T. A. Orji, his ultimate and karmic nemesis! The point that gladdens my heart superlatively is the deep knowledge that Kalu is better than most of his self-righteous critics and traducers in all ramifications and by all yardsticks and extrapolations.
I welcome constructive explications and credible rejoinders – not incoherently oppositional tirades, calumnies and venomous tantrums. Rebuttal idiocies and specious or imbecilic elucidations will, as well, be dismissed. And, of course, inebriate or conventional juvenilities in the form of vicious interjections are equally unwelcome.
Now, to answer the question: What is left for Kalu is to be president of this country sooner than later, by God’s grace. I premise this expectation on the currency of his being listed among the seven Igbo politicians likely to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari or Atiku Abubakar, depending on how the national leadership narrative and geopolitical complexion go in 2019 and immediately thereafter.
•Wabara ([email protected]/08055001948) is the media adviser to Dr. Orji Kalu.