Kalu, Anyim and Peace in Nigerian Football

by Odimegwu Onwumere

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
(Matthew 5:9). Without doubt, the quintessential former Governor of Abia
State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu is a man of peace. Ho! Ha!!

On Monday 19th March 2012, he uttered contentment at the diktat of peace on
the predicament facing the Nigerian football, he is a sports promoter.
Reports by his spokesman, Prince Emeka Obasi showed that Kalu was full of
joy that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Anyim
Pius Anyim, was able to command peace and sanity in the Nigerian football,
adding that Anyim has shown that he understands our country, because we
breath football, eat soccer and dream it, which has always brought unity
among Nigerians. Kalu is a man of peace.

We could recall that on Tuesday, December 30, 2003, many of our dailies in
their lead stories titled, “Kalu wades into Sepp Blatter, Hayatou face-off”
Kalu after leading his pet club, Enyimba of Aba, to victory in the
Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League, set to broker
peace between CAF President, Issa Hayatou and Federation of International
Football Association (FIFA) President, Sepp Blatter.

While both Blatter and Hayatou were acting as if all was well with
them events showed a different representation. Reports proved that while
the FIFA boss was working round the clock to see former Black stars of
Ghana captain, Abedi “Pele”Ayew become the next CAF president as at then,
Hayatou gave the man behind the successful hosting of the 8th All African
games in Abuja, Nigeria, Dr Amos Adamu, his blessing.

Kalu saw the move as essential and paramount for him to make the initiative
for peace between the major players in the football forum. Kalu frowned and
said that it was not a good thing for FIFA president and the CAF boss to be
at daggers drawn, because according to him, such wrangle could not bring
any progress to the football and its association but jeopardy.

In his own word: “I am very concern about the cold war going on between the
FIFA president and his CAF counterpart. I understand what is going on as a
politician and that is why I feel I am in the best position to broker
peace. Both FIFA and CAF have been working together for a long time and
that is why we don’t just have to fold our arms without doing anything.”

Dr. Kalu was it who led Enyimba of Aba, as then Governor of Abia State, to
break the 38 years old Champions League plague that had trailed Nigerian
club sides. He did everything within his power in making sure that the
leaders of football at cold war sheathed their swords. In his speech, Dr.
Kalu had said: “Once again I am going to take this as a challenge, I am
going to do everything within my means to broker peace between Hayatou and
Blatter, When I say something I make sure it comes to pass, the records are

Even when Governor Theodore Ahamefule Orji of Abia State was literarily at
his best in an interview with some Journalists 20 hours after he was
sworn-in for second term and spoke on why he moved against Dr. Orji Uzor
Kalu, the later showed decorum, because he is a man of peace, a business
leader and a political activist.

It is because of this feat that Mike Awoyinfa, Dimgba Igwe, in there book
“Orji Kalu: Leadership Lessons from A Master Strategist” tells us that Kalu
evokes deep and extreme passions of love and hatred, that is Kalumaniaand
Kaluphobia. He hates liars and unworthy fellows with passion.

As reviewed by Mr. Ray Ekpo, the reviewer captured Kalu’s uniqueness and
selfless service to humanity, saying that here is a young man, an
undergraduate of the University of Maiduguri, who was rusticated along with
other students who refused to go back when recalled. Reason: Kalu wanted
all other rusticated students recalled. That didn’t happen so he settled
for trading, something that comes naturally to his people, the Igbere
people, the Igbo people. He tried his hands on all sorts, palm oil
trading, furniture making, contracts, commodity trading before he broke
into the big time, oil lifting. His business philosophy can be found on
pages 20-30 of the book. It is some kind of pocket MBA. It may work for
you, it may not but it worked for Dr. Kalu. When you look at his business
success it seems such a short walk from a rascally student to a mandarin

Notwithstanding, it is a known fact that the art of peace-deal making seems
second nature to him. Ekpo opined that as a student of Eziama High School
, the book tells us, Kalu was the deputy team manager for football, even
though he never kicked a ball or even an orange. But Eziama was noted for
its soccer wizardry. In 1976 the school had spanked the famous Government
College , Umuahia, 3-0 in the semi- finals of the Imo State Principal’s Cup
competition. Kalu saw an opening for a deal and went for it. Government
College, Umuahia needed some sports laurels with which to garnish its
excellent academic record. The young deal maker, Orji, arranged for some
of the Eziama footballers to be admitted at Government College, Umuahia
along with him the negotiator. The following year Government College won
the Imo State Principal’s Cup. Orji’s popularity soared.

Kalu seems to have a knack for capturing attention, Ekpo said. During the
IMF debate launched by the Babangida administration, several people were
spewing up all sorts of high-falutin suggestions on how we could make our
way out of the economic wilderness in which we had found ourselves. Kalu
offered no armchair thesis. He was down to earth: why don’t rich
Nigerians offer Nigeria some loans to save Nigeria? He was ready, he said,
to drop $800,000 only on the table for that purpose. He became an instant
hit, a celebrity of sorts. People were bound to ask: Abiola we know,
Dangote we know, but who is this? Reporters trailed him, fortune hunters
hounded him. From then onwards his life was never likely to be the same
again. He probably enjoyed the attention he got from the media.

The mafia never thought Kalu could make it for two reasons., Ekpo
continued. One, he was no intellectual, a professor or lecturer, who
invariably are awe-inspiring individuals for the common people. Two, Kalu
was young, very young and in Igboland, age is a strong reference point and
a benchmark for respect although the famous Chinua Achebe had said that
when a young man washes his hands he can dine with the elders. The
traditional power brokers didn’t think so. But they were to be jolted when
2/3 of the state’s local government chairmen Kalu sponsored, won. They
knew there was fire on the mountain. But as you know the godfather never
sleeps. These ones didn’t. They tried two methods. One: A forged letter
purportedly emanating from the office of the chief of general staff alleged
that some contraband seized at Calabar port which belonged to many Igbo
traders was engineered by Kalu’s petition. The traders threatened to deal
with him severely even though Kalu reveals that he himself had 13
containers among the trapped cargo. He had to seek special protection from
the army. Several meetings later, his innocence was established and the
matter was settled.

In Chapter 11 of the book Kalu says leadership must go with moral authority
for that’s the way to beat followership into line. He says none of the
commissioners and special advisers “I removed said a word when I reshuffled
my cabinet and sacked many of them. In doing that I was daring them to
expose me if any of them had any evidence of corrup

tion against me but none
of them said a word. Many of them were even very grateful to have escaped
prosecution.” He said there’s a choice. “Either serve the public
selflessly or go into private ventures to make money.”

With what Anyim has done in reconciling the Nigerian football, it was said
that Kalu drove down memory lane to certify a point, likening Anyim’s role
to what transpired in 1977 when the then Chief-of-Staff, Supreme
Headquarters, late Maj. Gen. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, worked out a deal between
Enugu Rangers and Shooting Stars of Ibadan. Inter alia, Kalu said that at
this time, we need to give peace a chance.

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