I want to believe that Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu is floating on cloud 9 and this is because events around him indicate that he is in one of his best seasons. Every life has its complications but when the good outweighs the distractions, it can be rightly said to be a good season. It is more so for us in Christianity where we know that darkness is nothing but a shadow designed by the Almighty to showcase the beauty of light. Just as I tell my friends we need nonsense to identify sense. In the last few weeks so many good things have happened to Uzor Kalu to cause his friends and well wishers at home and abroad to bring him into focus and to celebrate him. Just last weekend the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) my alma mater, decorated him with honorary doctorate degree in Public Administration and it was based on his contributions to the development of our nation especially as a two-term governor of Abia State.
Again, the atmosphere surrounding Orji Uzor Kalu is gradually climbing into the frenzy level, given the time in which we are and the fact that the Kalus are Christians. If one were to hazard a guess, the likely opinion would be that since Christmas is around the corner and the family of Kalu is a rich one, then the heightened atmosphere is natural and so expected. But that is not what is in issue in this particular instance, what is that Kalu is a colossus in business and politics, a philanthropist of high order, who has had his contributions acknowledged once again by a highly respected institution such as UNN, acclaimed for its academic excellence. The good thing about this development is embedded in the fact that the recognition took place while the recipient is alive and healthy to savour the joy arising from his contributions to the restoration of the dignity of man. That is the problem I have with posthumous awards. It is certainly unfair to honour a man at a time he is oblivious of what has happened and may be also at a time it may not be of good use to the children he left behind
But in Kalu’s case he is alive, relatively young and vibrant to receive the reward for his endeavours, only few things can be better than this. By December 21st in Lagos, the celebration will assume a different dimension when his daughter, Neya, will be given away in marriage. I don’t know who the lucky man is but one thing is certain if past experiences are anything to go by, the young man will be happy to have found his missing rib and for the father it is a dream come true. Given the way we have structured our society, no parent desires to have their female children remain at their home when they have come of age. The dream is that they find a good man and go and continue the legacy elsewhere and when that happens, the joy of parents knows no bounds. Kalu in spite of his attainment is no different, after everything he is still flesh and blood; he has feelings and emotions and naturally would react to situations even when he chose to keep some in his chest.
The Kalu personality is difficult to categorize and there is no negativity about this. The truth is that exceptional people are difficult to be defined; they are often very mercurial and eccentric at the same time, very unpredictable and hardly could play centrally. Because of what they carry, they believe the world is under their feet, and many times, depending on where they are, it serves to their advantage and in this regard I can remember men like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln (a man who contested about seven elections before he could win), Chairman Mao, Fidel Castro, Martin Luther King Jnr. and Winston Churchill, to mention but a few. All these men were misunderstood when they began but appreciated when the vision came through; a good feature about them is that they were people who understood their people very early in life. When Kalu’s mates were contented playing football in secondary school, Kalu was happy to be the team manager even as a student.
I first met Kalu sometime in the 90s when I retreated from Lagos to Abia with the intention to run for the chairmanship of my local government area, Ukwa West and the home of Kalu’s mother at Nweke Street, Aba, was the melting point of politics for the state; every who is who in Abia politics then and emergent ones converged at that place to cut political deals or receive outright political endorsement. It was a political Mecca of a kind. Kalu and the mother were at the centre of events. If I recall properly my visit was once but I left with plenty of impressions. The first was about Kalu. I said to myself, here is a young man of my generation who at the time many of us were still groping for life direction, had not only made it but had become established to a point he could become a father figure to others. I was surprised Kalu knew the importance of forming a political structure across the state and funding it as well as the ambition of others who would run on it. It was for me a case of political wizardry and the result is what we see today. It is difficult to distance any key political player in Abia today from Kalu’s tutelage, influence or outright assistance.
Kalu as a person is nice, approachable and very empathetic. He is not class-conscious neither does he carry the disdain for the lower rank as is often associated with men of his class and achievement. He can take his subordinates to the highest top and has no fear hiring men and women of higher quality to work with him. He can also give you free hand. The barrage of attacks he receives and which tend to blur the good about him are all products of his style. He hasn’t had it very easy and smooth with fellow elite, particularly in politics and because these are found in very cosmopolitan areas of the nation, their outburst have not gone a long way to subtract from the overwhelming Kalu myth.
Kalu as a governor was a huge success. He was a true social democrat, never afraid of the people. He mixed with them freely and in some occasions responded to their needs spontaneously; he ran free education in primary and secondary schools when it was not popular to do so and every cadre of worker was paid regularly and before the end of every month. Intra city roads in Aba and Umuahia were made passable, school buildings were rehabilitated.
The rural areas had their best times during his tenure, many communities were linked to the national power grid for the first time and others had portable water provided for them. His stamp till today could be seen in very lengthy roads constructed to open up the rural areas.Among them include the popular Ururuka road stretching from Umuahia, the state capital through several communities in Ngwa land and terminating at Aba, the commercial nerve centre, Owaza-Azumini road traversing two local governments, Lomara-Leru-Nneato-Isuochi road, Ohuhu, Abiriba ring roads and Ohafia-Okun Oku road in Ohafia LG, Secretariat road in Umuahia among others. He made Enyimba Footbal Club truly international by being the first Nigerian club to win the African Champions League Cup, back-to-back. Kalu’s discomfort, if that is what it is, is traceable to low-level politics that pervades the South-East. It is my earnest wish that my people will learn from other groups and build a culture that respects their leaders, whatever may be the interpretation and misgivings. Kalu more than deserves his good fortune.