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Orji Uzor Kalu: Who Is This Man?

Orji Uzor Kalu: Who Is This Man?By S. O. Idika

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“The politics of revisionist history is not just about keeping us from understanding the past. It’s about ensuring we cannot understand the present” – Dr Hajar Yazdiha

For people who are not familiar with Abia North Senatorial Zone, the reelection of Senator Orji Uzor Kalu in the February, 2023 National Assembly election came as a huge surprise — judging by the overwhelming support the Labour Party enjoyed in Abia State and South-east in general—largely due to the Obidient movement that awakened the consciousness of a generation of young Nigerians who saw hope in Peter Obi’s candidacy for the Nigerian presidency.

However, for some of us with a deep knowledge of Kalu’s outstanding performance and scorecard in the 9th Senate, it wasn’t surprising that he was re-elected by majority of his constituents – who rewarded him for his outstanding performance in office as their governor from 1999–2007; and as their lawmaker in the 9th Senate. For the first time in the history of Abia North Senatorial District, a lawmaker embarked on major road construction projects, rehabilitation of schools, distribution of education materials, installation of solar street lights, scholarships to students and many more. From 2019–2023 was a time of infrastructural regeneration and sustainable development, hence, redefining politics viz-a-viz: responsive, qualitative and robust representation.

I am compelled to write because a small number of people are trying so hard to rewrite history by trying to make a generation of young Abians believe that Senator Orji Uzor Kalu failed them as their governor from 1999—2007.

I met a young Abian in her early 20s in Abuja around January, 2024. This young lady is an influencer and a vocal critic of Senator Orji Uzor Kalu. I quietly approached her and we exchanged pleasantries with a quick banter on the happenings in Abia state.

She politely hailed me with: “Orji Uzor Kalu’s man”, and I responded with: “my Obidient sister”. I had to quickly engaged her on why she was very critical of Orji Uzor Kalu. She replied by saying: “I don’t like him because he didn’t do anything as Governor of Abia State for eight years; he owed salaries, stole everything in the state and didn’t build a single road in Abia state”.

At this point, I was flabbergasted, shocked and disappointed. You know why? The young lady is from a community called Okon -Aku in Ohafia Local Government Area. I reminded her that the only road leading to her community was constructed by Senator Orji Uzor Kalu upon his emergence as Governor in 1999. The road stretched from the Council Headquarters at Ebem to Asaga–Ndi Ibe–Amuma– Amangwu–Okon communities. I reminded her how her community told Senator Orji Uzor Kalu in a 2022 Town Hall Meeting that the late Premier of Eastern Nigeria, Dr. Michael Okpara; former Governor of Old Imo State, Dee Sam Mbakwe and others campaigned with the road without doing anything. She quickly interrupted me with: “are you sure it wasn’t done by Governor Alex Otti?” Normal Obidients’ thing, Abi? In other to convince her, I quickly called Mr Jack Ume, a community leader from Okon to confirm the story to her— with my phone on loud speaker . Surprisingly, she told me that Jack Umeh was a supporter of OUK (Orji Uzor Kalu) —and, that she would call her to mum to confirm. Fortunately, she was able to reach her mum who was able to confirm the road construction as Senator Orji Uzor Kalu’s project. Her mum also told her that Senator Kalu provided free healthcare for women, free education for pupils in primary schools and students in secondary schools, revolutionised agriculture, sports and built most of the health institutions in Abia. She interrupted her mum with “they’ve bribed you to deceive me”.

After the call, I jokingly asked her if she was now convinced that Senator Kalu was a performer, she smiled and said: “ But he brought his son, T.A. Orji to succeed him. At this point, I laughed so hard at her ignorance— knowing that, Chief Theodore Orji was not related to Senator Orji Uzor Kalu. To convince her, we had to google it and also show her that Chief Theodore Orji was even older than Senator Orji Kalu.

She became helpless by saying she thought they were related by blood. I ended the conversation by listing some of Senator Kalu’s achievements when he was the governor of Abia state—and now as the lawmaker representing Abia North Senatorial District.

I told her that as governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu built and equipped the Abia State University Teaching Hospital (ABSUTH); he recruited reputable professors and made ABSU’s Faculty of Law one of the best in the country, and law students from Abia State University topped their peers for years in the Nigerian Law School while he was the governor of the state.

I informed her that it was Orji Uzor Kalu’s administration that built the Okpara Auditorium to the state in which it was before Theodore Orji took over. The Aguiyi-Ironsi Conference Centre, Legislators’ Offices, all the Housing Estates in the State, Joint Allocation Committee (JAC) building, Commissioners’ Quarters, staff quarters in Lagos and Abuja, the gigantic Abia House, Abuja, and the Aba and Umuahia Township Stadia were built by his administration.

He successfully initiated and completed in Aba: Cameroun Road, Ojike Lane, Ehere, Ehere Road Extension, Umuola, and All Saints’ Academy – all handled by Grandstar Construction Company Limited? What of Umuahia? He did the following roads: Igbere, Aguiyi-Ironsi Layout, 4 Nos. Roads in Government Station Layout, Okigwe Park, Aba Park, Agulu, Olokoro, Awkuzu, Cameroun, Orlu, Nkwerre, Timber, Afara, Niger/Asaba, Asphalt overlay at Mater Dei Cathedral, Okigwe Park Link Road, Nkwoegwu to Express, Umuobasi, Oba, Car Park and Extension of Arochukwu Street, Ohuhu, Olokoro Street with spur to Olokoro Crescent, Eze Ogbulafor, and Nsukka.

Apart from Umuahia and Aba that took the large chunk of the roads, he also undertook gigantic road projects across the state, especially in the rural areas. They included the following: Owaza-Obehie-Azumini in Ukwa East (over 40 kilometers), Ekenta Igbere, Asaga-Ndibe-Amuma-Okon-Amangwu in Ohafia, Nkwoegwu Ring Road in Umuahia North, Abiriba Ring Road, Umuikea-Omoba in Isala Ngwa South, Ndiro-Irunta in Ikwuano, Umuchieze-Leru-Lomara-Nneato in Umunneochi (over 20 kilometers), Ururuka – Acho Nwakanma’s residence in Obingwa Local Government (the Acho Nwakanma’s stretch was over 10 kilometers), and all the roads in Ikwuano. He also started some roads which successors deliberately refused to complete. They included Igbere-Umuhu, Mbawsi, Nunya, and Alayi-Ugwueke-Ebony State.
He also did some roads in Igbere. They included: Central School Road, Amankalu I, Amankalu II/Ibinaukwu, Access Road to Okafia, Golf Road with Drain, and Umuobasi.

Working in conjunction with the Education Tax Fund (ETF), he was able to transform our school system. I quickly informed her that the morale of students and teachers was very low, while parents grappled with high school fees and poor service-delivery. To deal with the problem, he undertook a survey of all the dilapidated schools in the state, and the figure was mindboggling: 1,250. Again, many of the schools lacked teaching aids, science equipment and qualified teachers. Added to this were the unpaid arrears of minimum wage of teaching and non-teaching staff, running into several months.

Through the State Primary Education Board (SPEB), his government executed the following projects at the various primary schools in the state: tuition-free education at public schools, renovated 821 dilapidated schools, constructed 524 new classrooms, provided 155,000 desks/benches, 1,700 chairs, provided 1,800 first aid boxes, printed and procured instructional materials, reviewed the Abia State Curriculum module to cover such important subjects as Igbo, Agricultural Science, Physical Education and Health Education.

He also maintained regular subventions to all the tertiary institutions in the state, including SPEB and SEMB. In addition, he built new hostels at ABSU, provided it 500KVA generator, 1414 bus to the SUG and 16-seater bus for the management.
He also upgraded facilities at the Abia State University, Uturu, and other tertiary institutions in the state to enable them get accreditation for relevant courses and many others.

I also highlighted some of Senator Orji Uzor Kalu’s achievements as a lawmaker to include: Construction of over 70 rural roads across Abia North, installation of solar powered street lights across over 150 communities, construction of hotels in secondary and tertiary schools, reconstruction of 100 schools across Abia North, distribution of education materials, scholarships to students to study medicine and surgery in South America, agricultural, youth and women empowerments and many more.

I also brought out a copy of what Senator Kalu was able to facilitate to Abia North Senatorial District in the 2024 appropriation bill–explaining to her that if Senator Kalu was not a transformational leader, he would have gone for empowerment programs like other lawmakers did in the budget to amass wealth for themselves; but instead, he (Kalu) is facilitating reconstruction of schools and roads for the benefit of all.

I informed her how Kalu was approached in 1998 to join a new political group, which later metamorphosed into the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). During the formation stage of the party, he donated and lent the party N100million and N500million respectively.

She couldn’t help but to apologise for misunderstanding the personality called Orji Uzor Kalu. We ended the discussion by concluding that Kalu is a serial performer and achiever–who has suffered from smear campaigns of calumny against him from perceived political opponents and others.

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