By Levinus Nwabughiogu

Convivial. That was the atmosphere in the chambers that morning, succinctly put. And they surged and thronged in their numbers in apparent sprawled excitement and lofty expectations.

It was June 12, 2019 and they had just been inaugurated the previous day as the members of the 9th House. And so, banters, pleasantries, broad smiles were commonplace as they still basked in the euphoria of their sweated, hard earned victories from the polls.

But then, the consciousness of the work ahead and the demands from their constituents, and in fact, the impending altruistic service for the nation, which is indeed, the very essence of their election were not lost on them.

Not too long afterwards, the business of the day came underway. The House was called to order and of course, the “noisy” atmospherics abruptly deadened and gave way for a formal setting. And just then, the adumbrarion bagan in ernest in that pin-drop silence.

Then, from within filtered in a scintillating, rhythmic voice that permeated the chambers, piercing through the microphones, and cascading unhindered down to the floor, presenting a motion of urgent public importance on the dilapidation of a road within his constituency. It was persuasive, comprehensive and quite convincing, x-raying and bringing to the fore the economic impact of the road within minutes. In fact, the prognosis laid bare the issues while requesting an urgent attention to the road. To be precise, it is Nkpa road

That was the voice of Rt. Hon. Benjamin Okezie Kalu, the member representing Bende Federal Constituency of Abia State in the House of Representatives, National Assembly, Abuja who had just been inaugurated as a member of the 9th House.

Undoubtedly, Kalu by this development crushed the subtleties of neophytism. From a historic perspective, most freshmen and those still learning the robes usually shy away from moving motions and bills until they are “mature”.

Even some who had passed through the rudimentaries of l)egislative duties most times lacked the boldness to speak.

Of course, the freshman’s orientation course subsumed in the lectures that usually run in fleeting days by the National Institute of Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) before their inauguration can not swiftly activate the legislative acumen of any greenhorn such that he would make an applaudable submission. For sure, only a person with an oratory prowess who had hitherto engaged himself with a distillation of intellectual sophistry could make such a rendition with some celebratory air. And undoubtedly, that was Kalu before he journeyed up to the national parliament. To say the obvious, he was prepared for the legislative duties.

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And to announce his patriotism and divest himself of vestiges of parochialism even though his primary concern is his immediate constituency, Kalu in the House adopted a special approach of introducing himself. For purposes of recapitulation, it is a parliamentary culture for members to indulge in self introduction anytime they have to speak on the floor of the House. And so, Kalu chose to introduce him as a lawmaker representating Nigeria starting from Bende Federal Constituency of Abia State. A way that introduces him better as a detribalized Nigerian.

And shortly after the House was inaugurated, Kalu emerged the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs. The new status automatically made him the official spokesman of the House. By the virtue of the office, he had the membership of almost all the standing Committees of the House and this enabled him to keep abreast of the goings-on in the House so as to brief the media appropriately.

For four year, Kalu was everywhere, speaking and defending the collective decisions of the House. Of course, this earned him a sobriquet “The Oracle of the House”.

In the core function of lawmaking, Kalu also demonstrated strength such that before the end of the legislative tenure from 2019 to 2023, Kalu had sponsored over 22 bills and 100 motions on issues of national importance. Some of them had since received the presidential assent and got enshrined in the body of laws in Nigeria.

But little did anyone know that a higher responsibility was in the offing. After the 2023 election that was keenly contested, Kalu emerged the winner of the election in his constituency for the second term. It will be recalled that the 2023 election threw up a lot of unusualness as the entry of the Labour Party disrupted the political system in the country, especially the South East region. The disruption was louder in Abia State such that the party sacked the candidates of the hitherto big parties and later produced the Governor of the State and 6 out of the 8 members of the House of Representatives. Fortunately, Kalu was one of the 2 lawmakers that survived the tsunami from other political parties. In the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, it was only him that made a safe return to the House.

Perhaps, this was what made him to try his luck further. Having spoken for the House successfully as the image marker, Kalu also aspired to speak for the institution as its Speaker in the current 10th Assembly. Of course, he received the concomitant support from his members.

But in the estimation of the APC hierarchy, the office was zoned out to another region of the country. Kalu also resolved to vie for office of the deputy speaker now zoned by the party to South Eastern region. To the surprise of many people, he was elected unopposed by his colleagues. Today, he speaks for the House as its Deputy Speaker.

In his present office so far, Kalu, the cerebral, indefatigable and the speaking Deputy Speaker has shown competence and leadership in all spheres. For what is already obvious, he is passionate about the progress, unity and the development of Nigeria. In the South East where he hails from, Kalu has birthed measures to develop the region. At a time the people were so troubled by insecurity in the region, Kalu initiated Peace In South East Project (PISE-P) which craves a non kinetic measure to resolving the security challenges and other sociological issues in the political ecosystem of nigeria. Yet, he was not done. He was to later sponsor the South East Development Commission (SEDC), bill which has scaled through third reading both at the Senate and the House. And it’s expected that soon, the bill will receive the assent of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The name of the deputy speaker resonates across the nooks and cranies of the country.

Born on the 5th of May, 1971 in Agbamuzu, Bende Local Government Area of Abia State, the Deputy Speaker, a lawyer before now served as the Local Government Chairman of the Local government. In this role, he effectively managed numerous autonomous communities, political wards, and various departments to deliver essential services to the citizens at that level. He also later served as an Executive Adviser to the Governor of Abia State where he provided valuable guidance on Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and international relations. Kalu, the child of Grace clocked 53 on Sunday, May 5, 2024. Let’s raise a toast to celebrate a great achiever.

• Nwabughiogu is the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the Deputy Speaker