Without equivocation I hold that Orji Uzor Kalu, the former Governor of Abia State and the ex-BOT Chairman of the defunct PPA party, has been demystified politically. The strong man from Igbere (who is still mourning the sudden death of a woman, the 47-year-old Ms. Chinwe Masi Ogbonna in his home in America) must be a worried man now given his many political misfortunes of late. Here is a man who knew the smell of the Naira even before becoming the chief executive of the ‘God’s Own State’ hitting it big early enough in big business and reaping success in his gubernatorial quest in 1999.
The publisher of ‘The Sun’ newspaper in Nigeria remains in the eyes of many Nigerians an enigma. As Governor for eight uniterrupted years in Umuahia Kalu was more or less a ‘god’ and his mother commanded a great deal of influence as he (or they) piloted the affairs of the state. His titanic battles with the ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo proved to critics that he was neither intimidated nor afraid to face challenges or opposition. With ex-Governor Bola Tinubu of Lagos they defied ‘Baba’ and paid dearly for it without much regret.
As he fell out with the ruling party, the PDP, Kalu smartly created his own political association as the general elections of 2007 drew nearer. Floating the Progressive People’s Alliance was for him a radical answer to the over-bearing influence of the vindictive Ota monster in the PDP. He thus left but not without calling the PDP unprintable names and vowing never to return. Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar did the same thing but today he is back to the ruling behemoth with many strange bed-fellows.
Kalu’s cascading political fortunes began in 2008 when the Imo State Governor Ikedi Ohakim dumped the PPA (under whose platform he got elected) for the PDP. It was a furious Kalu that wrote a two-part article in his weekly column in ‘The Sun’ lampooning Ohakim for ‘betraying’ him and the party. He angrily called Ohakim names going down memory lane to draw some sympathy from his supporters and readers. The Imo Governor fought back gallantly giving a vivid picture of his side of the story. Today I think Ohakim must be given credit for saying ‘no’ to Kalu at the right time.
Between Ikedi and Kalu however there is the impression one gets that they know something we, ordinary mortals, don’t know. They know each other well enough; know each other’s strenghts and weaknesses, so sizing each other up is not a big deal. What interests the discerning mind is that which is at the bottom of the quarrel: control of the state resources! Kalu saw himself as the godfather before whom Ohakim must ‘bow’ and ‘tremble’ but Ohakim saw things differently having ‘arrived’. So it was all about ego — ‘ego’ in Igbo language means money coincidentally — with state funds at the heart of the matter.
In 2007 as Orji Kalu was rounding off his 8-year stint in the Umuahia Government House he annointed his ex-Chief of Staff (whose loyalty was not in doubt) in the person of the incumbent Governor Theodore Ahamefule Orji. Days before the gubernatorial polls the EFCC struck arresting Orji and locking him away on charges of corruption. Onyema Ugochukwu of the PDP was challenging the PPA candidate in detention. Despite the efforts of the PDP rigging machinery to rig the election Orji was elected even in solitary confinement outside the state! The Kalu magic did it!
And just weeks or months after his swearing-in a scandal broke out bordering on fetish oath-taking. Governor Orji was ‘captured live’ in photos and video almost naked taking some oath of allegiance in a shrine somewhere in town! It reminded one of the diabolical Okija shrine controversy. Though questions were raised as to the authenticity of the story the damage was done to the image of the Governor and his godfather. For some years it was a perfect relationship between the godfather (Orji Kalu) and the godson (Gov. Orji).
Orji Kalu even without seeking Gov. Orji’s opinion appointed Commissioners and Advisers for the Governor as he regained his freedom. He drafted his US-based younger brother, Mascot, in as the Chief of Staff. From all indications the governor was seriously emasculated as Kalu and his influential mother constituted themselves into obstacles to the development of the state. Gov. Orji endured and obeyed until the day of reckoning. First he fell out with the PPA, Kalu’s party on whose platform he got elected. Before a settlement could be reached he decamped to Ojukwu’s APGA describing the PPA exit literally as a good riddance to bad rubbish.
Few weeks after his PPA departure and the APGA ‘immersion’ the PDP began wooing him. This was after the party ‘welcomed’ Orji Kalu back to the behemoth he angrily left and denounced forming the PPA during the Obasanjo civilian dictatorship. Gov. Orji sensing danger with Kalu back in the PDP considered it wise moving back to the basics if only to checkmate rumoured plans of Kalu to field his brother Mascot to wrest power from the governor come next year. So Gov. Orji moved again, this time from APGA back to the PDP with a colourful ceremony organised in Umuahia by the PDP bigwigs (including President Jonathan and Chairman Nwodo and even yesterday’s political adversary like Ugochukwu) in attendance. Nwodo declared glibly that the PDP had found its ‘missing rib’.
While it could be argued that the Governor has not achieved or performed much due to Kalu’s alleged interference in the running of the state events leading up to the guber polls of next year point to an imminent battle between the Orji camp and the other Orji camp. The pertinent question in the lips of observers is: Can Orji Dethrone Orji by stopping him from being re-elected next year? Given the power of incumbency coupled with the fact that majority of Abians detest Kalu’s political meddlesomeness there seems to be a vote of confidence on Governor Orji, so with him safely in the PDP umbrella it is pretty difficult to see how any force or group can possibly truncate his re-election bid.
But now that Gov. Orji has severred his relationship with the Kalu dynasty one expects him to re-double his efforts to bring about some dividends of democracy to Abians. With Abia reputed to be the headquarters of kidnapping in Nigeria it is expected that measures will be put in place to locate the kidnappers in their remote hide-outs and make them face the music of the law. Abia’s kidnapping problems can be resolved if the government gets serious with combatting same. It is not enough to dethrone some traditional rulers or chiefs. It is not enough to say opponents are sponsoring kidnappings in order to make the state ungovernable.
While reports have it that ex-Gov. Kalu is contemplating moving over to the Babangida camp in the hope that his interests will be better served therein the problem remains when Kalu takes the role of an oppotunistic politician without principles who like a whore ‘marries’ any man for the sake of money. Kalu as a self-made man ought to seriously consider his options before he makes any strategic move if only to keep what remains of his integrity. He has achieved some modicum of greatness already in his age, so nothing must be done to undo his achievements.
The truth is that Kalu has lost Abia State to his opponents. Any attempt to challenge this reality could boomerang and expose his diminishing political influence. Orji from Igbere can only pray for Orji in Umuahia and wish him well as the ‘slave’ has become the ‘master’ and the ‘master’ is facing even political annihilation at home front by combined forces bent on seeing him disgraced! I believe Kalu is intelligent enough to know when things are looking up or down.
Governor Theodore Ahamefule (may my name never lost) Orji, through his innocent face, portrays the decent image of a gentleman with conscience. Like President Goodluck Jonathan he cuts the picture of a meek man at peace with his God; a loyal man who should not have ventured into politics Nigeriana as a vocation. Contrast that prof
ile with that of Orji Uzor Kalu the gadfly (who has been well ‘baptised’ in the murky waters of Nigerian politics) and what you get is like the difference between night and day, like comparing a celibate Reverend father to an armed robber or a serial rapist!
But it appears, judging from recent developments, that Orji (the former boss) has hardened the resolve of Orji (the new boss) to the extent that the latter has decided to take his destiny in his own hands by ‘rebelling’ against the corrupt establishment that put him in power in order to cover certain established abuse of office which led to the ‘dethroned’ godfather having his days in court. Whatever happened to the conclusion of that embezzlement case in court? Can Femi Babafemi of the EFCC throw more light as to why many of the former Governors accused of looting their States blind are gallivanting and partying from one choice city to another with the same stolen funds?