I read Dr. Okey Ikechukwu’s piece on the above subject with deep disappointment. As a member of THISDAY Editorial Board, Dr. Ikechukwu has carved a niche for himself as an objective and deep intellectual who dissects burning national issues with candor and fervor. I look forward to reading his contributions each time he writes.
But on the above subject, the good doctor misfired. He stood logic on its head and relegated objectivity to the background. What he wrote was clearly a Public Relations stunt aimed at whitewashing the records of a failed politician who had so much promise but chose to destroy everything we thought he stood for.
I am an Abian and I lived in Abia State throughout the 8 years Orji Uzor Kalu held sway as Governor. Just like discerning Abians, I find it very difficult to see any link between the man who misruled our state, frittered away her resources, and desecrated our institutions on the one hand, and the man Dr. Ikechukwu desperately seeks to dress in borrowed garbs, on the other.
Orji Uzor Kalu came into office with tremendous goodwill. He clearly won the 1999 elections. His popularity was legendary. I joined millions of Abians to vote him into office. He was seen as the new face of a burgeoning leadership class that will develop our state. He was an “Aba boy” like most of us and we had no doubts that we would deliver. How wrong we were!
In his lopsided deconstruction of the OUK phenomenon, Dr. Ikechukwu conveniently left out his 8 year sojourn as Governor. I posit that any attempt at assessing the real OUK must draw hugely from his performance as Governor.
How did he perform as Governor? What legacies did he leave behind? How did he develop our state, our public institutions? What was the state of infrastructure when he left office? These are the real objective basis upon which his political stature can be properly assessed and not on any other philosophical basis bothering on elevated prose and sophistry.
Dr. Ikechukwu appears to draw huge inspiration on Orji Uzor Kalu’s new found pastime – his so called love for Ndigbo. This is patently laughable. Ndigbo are better off without the likes of OUK leading them. He had all the chances as Governor to practically prove his love for our people. He had all the opportunities to better the lives of the people of Abia State through quality leadership but he threw away the chance. At the PDP primaries that produced former President Obasanjo as the party’s flagbearer, Orji Uzor Kalu spearheaded the failure of Dr. Alex Ekwueme, former Vice President and Ndigbo’s most notable presidential candidate. He led the coalition of young political turks that torpedoed the ambitions of the man who would have become Ndigbo’s first democratically elected President. Yet, this same man goes on and on preaching about marginalization of Ndigbo and our political asphyxiation. How convenient.
I don’t know if Dr. Ikechukwu has ever lived in Abia State. If he has, he would understand my outrage. The man he so desperately seeks to present as a political saint and business mogul laid the foundation for the rot that has bedeviled and still bedevils Abia State today.
In fairness, Orji Uzor Kalu is a successful businessman. His business acumen is widely respected. Indeed, it was one of the reasons behind his electoral success in 1999. Abians believed that a young man with such dexterity in business will help turn around the fortunes of our state. But what did we see?
We saw the liquidation of Abia Newspapers and Publishing Corporation, publishers of THE NATIONAL AMBASSADOR and the birth of a brand new publication, THE SUN owned by Orji Uzor Kalu. This happened while he was in office as Governor. What happened to the so called business skill? The argument that the State owned newspaper wasn’t making profit flies in the face of simple logic. If the venture wasn’t profitable, why would he set up his and it still survives till date employing lots of people and generating profit for him and tax for Lagos State.
While in office as Governor, he set up SLOK AIR and SLOK SHIPPING! While all these went on, the State finances experienced unprecedented hemorrhage.
A leader is assessed based on his legacies. Dr. Ikechukwu may wish to tell us Orji Uzor Kalu’s legacies in Abia State. If he has forgeotten, I will refresh his memories with just a few.
Orji Uzor Kalu left a legacy of family dominance in Abia politics and governance. It was under his tenure that the primitive concept of a family oligarchy crept in and found a permanent place in Abia politics. Strange words like MAMCRACY AND MOTHER EXCELLENCY found their ways into Abia’s political lexicon. For the first time in the history of our state, family members of the Governor became Lords and Emperors. They decided who got what, how and when. The mother of OUK became the de facto Governor of the State. Her words were like summons from the gods. She nominated key members of the State Executive Council and controlled local government councils. All the major markets in Aba and Umuahia were under her direct superintendence. Traditional rulers became pawns in her chessboard. In all of these, the people groaned under a yoke of bad leadership.
Orji Uzor Kalu left a legacy of division between the two major micro-ethnic blocs in the state. Prior to his ascendancy as Governor, the people of Old Bende and Old Aba divisions, the two major blocs in the State cohabited peacefully. It was under him that these two blocs suddenly became political enemies and sought to undermine each other. Yet this is the same man that preaches the gospel of the unity of Ndigbo.
Orji Uzor Kalu left a legacy of instability and suspicion in government. He holds the unenviable record of being the only Governor that had 3 different deputies in his 8 year misrule. Creating the impression that his deputies are not to be trusted, he orchestrated their removal from office and their subsequent replacement. From Enyinnaya Abaribe to Dr. Chima Nwafor and then to Eric Acho Nwakanma, he held his deputies by the jugular and kept them in a state of perpetual fear while they worked with him.
Orji Uzor Kalu left a legacy of institutional desecration. He remains the only state Chief Executive, who as Visitor to the State University, arm twisted the University authorities into awarding him a Bachelor’s degree as a full time student. It still baffles me how a sitting governor will have the time to attend to matters of state and still have time to pursue a full time degree programme in a University. I was a student of the Abia State University then and I looked on with shock as that very unfortunate episode unfolded. I am glad that the University authorities have done the needful.
Another perspective of Orji Uzor Kalu’s legacy of institutional desecration showed in the area of the balkanization of autonomous communities and the subsequent appointment of all manner of people as traditional rulers. Prior to his time as Governor, our traditional institutions had some tincture of decency. Only people with known pedigrees became traditional rulers. As soon as he came on board, our traditional institution became a political playground of sorts and suddenly all manner of people with questionable pedigrees became traditional rulers. Indeed, in some communities, two different people will be appointed simultaneously as traditional rulers of the same community and given certificates of recognition by the same man, thereby setting the stage for fratricidal warfare in such communities. Brothers suddenly became enemies! Yet this man claims to be passionate about Igbo unity!
Dr. Ikechukwu’s reference to the successes recorded in the aviation sector of our economy and Orji Uzor Kalu’s self appointed defence of the Aviation Minister, Princess Stella Oduah raises curious answers.
In the first place, Princess Oduah doesn’t need anybody to defend her. Her rock solid achievements speak for her. Any person that passes through our airports regularly will bear testimony to the total transformation there. There is a deliberate and concerted attempt to change the face of our airports. No one needs any propaganda to tell anybody that serious work is going on at our airports.
This brings me to the second issue. While struggling to defend the Aviation Minister and her legacies, one wonders if Orji Uzor Kalu ever thinks of how he will be remembered. What legacies did he leave behind?
Throughout his 8 year tenure, Abia State Government operated from a temporary Government House, roads were decrepit and the few attempts made to rehabilitate them were feeble and effeminate. Those roads caved in even while he was in government. Our state ministries and departments all were housed in old and dilapidated buildings that were inherited from the old Imo State. One wonders exactly how Orji Uzor Kalu wants to be remembered. One wonders where all the money went!
Public servants and pensioners groaned under the yoke of unpaid salaries and entitlements.
Not content with his 8 year period of misrule, he still wanted to be in charge even from outside. He plotted and installed his crony to replace him and foisted on him, people to ensure total control. But nature always has its own way. His crony metamorphosed into a Frankenstein monster. The story is well known.
Today, Orji Uzor Kalu gropes in political darkness and desperately seeks avenues to remain relevant. From offering to be a Boko Haram negotiator to his latest stunt at the British parliament, he stops at nothing to be in the news. He loves attention but sadly, Abians have moved on. He belongs to our past now…our sad past.
Dr. Ikechukwu does not need to wonder whether Orji Kalu was mismanaged or whether he mismanaged himself. The answer stares in the face.
Finally, Dr. Ikechukwu is well within his rights if he decides to take on the job of a Public Relations Consultant for Orji Uzor Kalu. But in doing that, let him always remember that facts are sacred.
Attorney at Law