Orji Uzor Kalu, a man of the people @ 53
By Odimegwu Onwumere
Once every year, somebody must remember his birthday. Some persons celebrate theirs in a majestic style, while others just think-over it. Reasons for these vary among individuals. It is the motive of this treatise to memorize a former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu as he clocks 53 on April 21, 2013.
While friends and well-wishers of Kalu are preparing to celebrate with him in the 36 states of the federation, in Europe, Asia, other African countries and around the world, it is essential to keep-in-mind that there is no amount of party – be it grand or ordinary – that will surpass the fact that Kalu is alive today. Any day a person is alive is one biggest quiet celebration on its own, even though that it is not amplified. This is why the Igbo would say that Odi ndu kele Chi. (Any living should thank his God).
Kalu is a friend of the people who has helped numerous people both financially, emotionally and in anything positive. Some he knew, many he did not know. He has filled a lot of people’s sorrow with happiness, joy and peace. He cannot make a list of the people he has assisted in life. However, one content of the help that he has rendered to mankind that does not vary to suit any person in particular is humility. If Kalu were a kid, due to the tremendous help he has turned-to people, on this occasion of his birthday, many would have taken him to the market and buy him balloons, whistle, paper-kite, toys and other children’s fanciful items.
While a host of peoples around the globe are in the festive mood to celebrate with Kalu, without doubt, he is busy in prayers for his dear life and for providence making him who he is today wealth-wise, but among all, as a man who is loved, admired and adored by many friends than perceived foes. As a token of love to appreciate him, at his Igbere hometown of Abia State, Kalu’s kinsmen and kinswomen have been celebrating his 53rd birthday remembrance since the past one month. At his Neya country home, the atmosphere is an epoch one. What people have not eaten and drank are not in the market. The significant aspect of this festivity is the cake which was in the shape of a beautiful house, resembling Kalu’s expensive and expansive compound that was cut. All these the villagers have done in acknowledging that their son is alive today to witness his 53rd birthday.
It is something to cheer about that Kalu who was born without a golden spoon, but not in the absent of a spoon, has become a personality that is drowned in gifts of thanks-giving from people around the world that cut across creed, culture, tradition and religion. It is worthy of praise that Kalu who was not born into an upper-class family has taken his lower-middle-class family to the upper-class family. The momentous aspect of this year’s birthday tribute to Kalu is that the world is very particular about observing it because of his years of very active thorough service to mankind; though since his birth, Kalu has been regularly celebrated every year. As a central figure that all eyes are set on, on this birthday occasion, Kalu’s joy knows no bounds, and is thoughtful of the passing year and the year to come.
Another exceptional aspect of this year’s birthday is that it comes when Kalu who hates evil has taken to coordinating an anti-corruption war in Africa, which is supposed to be profound in South Africa this May, having stakeholders with part of European Union, the United Nations, some diplomats from the United States and other Western countries. In this bid, Kalu is crying that government agencies in Africa have failed to fight corruption; hence the use of Non-Governmental Organisation to fight corruption ensued. Kalu vehemently frowns at politicians, civil servants who are stunningly financial rich today, but were paupers before they assumed their different leadership positions.
Kalu is using his birthday to enlighten people that corruption is not only synonymous with those in government, but there are jokers in all the spheres of human endeavours. He is one politician who has suffered politically-motivated cases in the hands of the authorities, losing many of his assets in politics. He lost two banks, offshore companies, building platforms and an airline he came to power with, when he was a former governor. He has been severally molested by the authorities. An example was in 2007 when traducers launched a vilification campaign against him that an anti-graft agency was looking for him. He was in London and called Ibrahim Lamorde, a Czar of the agency that he was coming to Nigeria. He told Lamorde the time that he was going to land in Nigeria – 5a.m – and even specified his place of landing which was Abuja, instead of Lagos. He also told Lamorde that by 11a.m., he would be in Lamorde’s office.
Kalu would not be celebrating today if his God was and is not always with him. What was his voluntary return was made to look like caught of a suspect after a hard chase. One Nuhu Ribadu of the anti-graft agency came to the airport with an arsenal of journalists and cameramen to arrest Kalu as he landed in Nigeria. They tried to rubbish him but here is the great son of Ndigbo and a citizen of Nigeria without blemish; a man who has never been afraid of who will lock him up or use rules that are not in line with the constitution to chase him. Kalu’s birthday today tells the story of a man who was governor at 39 and lost many of his businesses, but is here today stronger at 53, than the political demagogues wanted to feeble him.
Kalu’s fears at this year’s birthday are not his, are not that he’s being persecuted by the authorities, but that the country is gradually ebbing to a point where anybody can do anything he or she likes, because the leaders are not able to come together and address this issue, hence law and order are being broken down. He has not been happy that Nigeria has a lot of problems but has always said that if Nigerians are all part of the problem, they should all be part of the solution. Without equivocation Kalu has been part of the solutions to solving majority of the problems besetting the country.
One time Student Union leader and House of Representative member, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu has served as Chairman of the Borno Water Board and of the Cooperative and Commerce Bank Limited, before he was governor of Abia State, from 29 May 1999 to 29 May 2007. In his capacity, he founded the Progressive People's Alliance (PPA), where he was as well as Chairman of the Board of Trustees, before he was a presidential candidate in the April 2007 general elections. These are not excluding his excelling in business, politics, and philanthropy, and being one of the big employers of labour in Nigeria, which are within banking, oil/telecommunication, import, financing, insurance, publishing, real estate, shipping and manufacturing. He is also a member of many national and international organizations, with his business offices in Ghana, Benin Republic, Sierra-Leone, South Africa, Togo, South Korea, Singapore, United Kingdom, United States, the Gambia, Liberia, Botswana and Cote D’Ivoire, but not limited to these.
Kalu is not only known as a businessman and politician, he is also a household name in sports. Accounts have proved that he’s the chairman Nigeria Judo Federation; and Enyimba Football Club of Aba won the trophy for Nigerian League back-to-back for the first time in the more than 38 years history of the African CAF League Cup Competition. These were achieved through Kalu’s benevolent efforts. In 2004, the club defeated Esperance F.C. of Tunisia to win the trophy the second time, which was crowned Super Cup in 2004/2005.
As stated, Kalu did not win in politics only. He has won many local and international awards. The Industrialist of the Year awards by the Nigeria Chamber of Commerce, Trade and Industry was regarded as the prominent. Others were given as Humanitarian Award by the Humanitarian Club of the prestigious University of Nigeria Nsukka; Volunteer Award by the International Association of Volunteers; Youngest Bank Chairman Award by the famous Top Magazine when he became the chairman of Cooperative and Commerce Bank in 1987; a special award by the European union in Brussels, Belgium, and the National Merit Award of the Member of the Order of the Niger (MON); Special Award by the Enugu Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Fellow Bauchi Polytechnic, Fellowship Institute of Certified Management Accountants, and the prestigious Leon Sullivan Award by the World Bank, Washington; and not limited to being a visitor of Miami Dave County in the State of Florida, United States of America.
This dude with over 450 traditional titles to his honour and several books to his credit, went through his academic career, starting at Christ the King School, Aba for his primary education, Eziama High School, Aba; Government College, Umuahia for secondary education and tertiary education at University of Maiduguri; Abia State University, Uturu, where he obtained B.Sc in Political Science; Harvard University Graduate Business School (AMP 153) Boston, USA., IEA Certificate by USAID; honorary doctorate degrees in Law by the University of Port Harcourt, Abia State University, Uturu, and City State University, Los Angeles, USA.
Among all, may Kalu’s God grant him an Igbo presidency in 2015 through his Njiko Igbo, when he would be 55.