ORJI KALU: SWIRLING WICKED RUMOURS OF BETRAYAL
BY EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO
One of the most successful youths from the South East of Nigeria is the self-made man who is the chief whip of the senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the senator representing the good people of Abia North- Senator Orji Uzor Kalu.
This gifted political tactician who incidentally is the pillar of sports in Nigeria, has a very intriguing records of equal numbers of those who genuinely love and admire him and the other bunch that show certain elements of not so well grounded reason to hate him all the same, they hate him because he has achieved a lot just within so short a period in a man’s life time.
A lot of Nigerians do normally work like donkeys for donkey’s years just to make enough money to be able to meet up with their basic obligations of shelter, foods and other essential social needs.
But here is a man who in his very youthful age, met divine benevolence waiting for him and was heavily embraced by fortune, good fame and good name through resilience, consistency and his abiding faith in God and his genuine love of mankind. Not too many people know that Senator Orji Uzor Kalu is a devoted Roman Catholic who even has a beautiful Chapel built within his house in Abuja. All the same, inspite of his good nature and friendliness, some persons still fund joy in spreading wild and unsubstantiated rumours against him. This human attitude is somewhat universal.
Writing on the topic “Why the Most Successful People Have the Most Haters”, John Brubaker a nationally renowned performance consultant, speaker and award-winning author. Using a multi-disciplinary approach, Said: “Picture yourself standing in the middle of a crowded stadium. You’re in the heat of competition in front of 100,000 screaming fans, and at least half of them aren’t cheering for you. Some of that 50 percent even hate you. They don’t just hate you, they are letting you know why and precisely how much they despise you. Maybe even with disgusting comments about your family.”
“You actually enter into your own personal version of that stadium every day in the sport of business. They’re called haters, and you probably don’t have enough of them. That’s right, you read that correctly. I am suggesting you need more haters. Why? Because there’s a direct correlation between the amount of success you enjoy and the number of haters you have.”
The author wrote too that many experts will tell you that if you want to achieve greatness, you have to be willing to be hated. I spin it a little differently. You should love the hate, because that means you’re on the right track. There’s a big difference between willingness and love. Every top achiever has their critics — even Michael Jordan to Steve Jobs did — yet they were still wildly successful.
His words: “Haters are people who think they know the route to success, but they never actually get in the plane to fly themselves there.”
As stated above, this rapidly endowed young Nigerian Senator Orji Uzor Kalu became a governor at an age when so many of his contemporaries were battling to make ends meet.
An online entry on his biodata stated that: “Orji Uzo Kalu was born on April 21, 1960.
He attended Christ the King School Aba and Government College, Umuahia. Orji Uzo Kalu also attended Barewa College, Zaria, from where he got admission into the University of Maiduguri where he studied political science. He later left the University to study at and obtained his degree in Abia State University. He also has a degree in Business Administration, which he obtained from Harvard University. The University of Maiduguri later honored him with a doctorate degree.”
“Orji Uzo Kalu, after his university education, borrowed $35 from his mother with which he started trading in palm oil. He would buy the oil in the Eastern Nigeria and travel all the way to the North to sell them and make reasonable profit. He later started trading on furniture which he would buy and resell for some profits. Later, Orji Uzor Kalu founded a company called SLOK Holdings, a conglomerate that consists of other companies he had founded like International Bank Limited, Adamawa Publishers Limited, Ojialex Furniture Company, Supreme Oil Limited, SLOK Airline, SLOK Botswana, Cotonou, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, South Africa, SLOK Korea, SLOK Nigeria Limited, SLOK United States Incorporated, SLOK United Kingdom Limited, SLOK Vegetable Oil, Aba, SLOK Paper Factory, Aba, Sun Publishing Limited and a lot more others”.
A good observer said that Putting all he has accomplished into consideration, especially their benefits to the Nigerian economy, Orji Uzor Kalu was honored with the National Merit Award by President Ibrahim Babangida, at the age of 26 in the year 1986, making him the youngest Nigerian to receive such Award.
Orji Uzo Kalu later ventured into politics and became the governor of Abia State of Nigeria in 1999 and served for the two tenures of four years each. He was a foundation member of the Peoples Democratic Party which incidentally is where he met a lot of unimportant rumour mongers who tried to spin around a poor story that as a governor or governor elect that he betrayed former Vice President and reputable architect the late Dr. Alex Ekwueme from emerging as the Presidential candidate of PDP in 1998/1999.
Most stories weaved around him by some ignorant haters goes to show that all those stories are basically made up just so they can tarnish his good name and especially given the fact that he became very successful at a very young age.
With the 2023 presidential election around the corner and given that Senator Orji Uzor Kalu has disclosed his intention to contest for the office of president of Nigeria, some hack writers are on the same lazy lane of crafting rumours accusing senator Orji Uzor Kalu of betraying the former Vice President Chief Alex, Ekwueme who was favoured to emerge the presidential candidate in 1999 when the military handed over power to the civilians. Orji Uzor Kalu was a governor of Abia State then and was not known to be as close enough to the ruling military class then to predispose him to being used as their stooge or agent to deny the Igboland the opportunity of producing the President of Nigeria at a time that the military class made up largely of Hausa/Fulani had denied the Yorubas of South West of the opportunity of being sworn in after Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola won the 1993 Presidential election. The then Presidential flag bearer of the Social Democratic Party Abiola who was acclaimed as the winner of the June 12th 1993 poll was murdered inside military detention and so there were discussions by the military then to compensate the South West.
This particular rumour of the so-called betrayal of Alex Ekwueme is basically unfounded because Orji Uzor Kalu was never running for the PDP’S slot as the presidential candidate and so he has nothing personal to gain by undermining the chances of his kinsmen –Alex Ekwueme.
Secondly, Orji Uzor Kalu was already the governor of Abia State and so could not have betrayed his kinsmen because of monetary gains and given also the fact that he was a wealthy man before joining politics and is renown to be very contented with the much that God has endowed him with.
Also, the 1999 election was in the hands of the military and Orji Kalu was not a soldier.
Professor T.U Uzodinma Nwala wrote as follows after Abiola was killed by the military in suspicious circumstances:
“The administration of General Abubakar organized a series of meetings throughout the country to facilitate dialogue with the people on the way forward. The Government received several Memoranda from various interest groups and individuals. Series of meetings were held with the G-34 leadership and the Human and Civil Rights Groups as well as other organizations, both local and foreign.
The Secretary General of’ the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, the Secretary General of the Organisation of African Unity, Mr. Salim Ahmed Salim envoys of several countries and other international organizations visited Nigeria arid held dialogue with General Abubakar.
“It was in the course of one such visit by the American delegation that a great tragedy struck the nation. Chief M.K.O. Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12. election died on the 7th of July. The whole nation literally stood still, in utter shock and bewilderment. It was indeed an act of divine intervention that the nation was spared from going into an unimaginable conflagration as a result of this most inexplicable development
“By divine providence, the nation passed through that trauma. One must also commend the manner in which the Abubakar Administration handled this unfortunate event. The International community also played a major role in diffusing the tension through participating in an open process of autopsy to ascertain the cause of Abiola’s death.
On July 20th, 1998, General Abubakar addressed the nation and announced a number of policy directives which included the following –
i. The release of all political detainees and the renewed commitment to human rights and the rule of law.
ii. Dissolution of the five political parties.
iii. Cancellation of all elections conducted under the flawed transition
Programmes of General Abacha.
iv. Dissolution of Transition Agencies and NECON.
v. Genuine dialogue with civil society organizations, pro-democracy
groups and NGO’s on The Way Forward.
vi. Strong commitment to a transparently honest electoral process under
The supervision of an Independent Electoral Body, and under watchful eyes of reputable international organizations such as the United Nations, the Commonwealth and the OAU.
vii. Withdrawal of charges against political detainees and political exiles, thereby making it possible for such exiles to return to Nigeria,
viii. Realistic package of socio-economic policies aimed at improving the quality of life of every Nigerian.
ix. Respect for freedom of association by Nigerians and the revival of
popular organizations such as labour unions, student unions, etc.
x. Freedom of Nigerians to form Political Parties of their choice without official manipulations”.
These facts enumerated above show that it was solely the determination made by the military that led to the emergence of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as president in 1999 and that there was never any betrayal of Alex Ekwueme by Orji Uzor Kalu.
On July 25th 2009, Okwesileze Nwodo told the Vanguard when asked thus-: “Your party, the PDP, you served as its first secretary and chief Solomon Lar served as its first chairman. Â Itâ€™s a very large family now but how did all that come about, the arrangement of zoning offices, without elections?” And he responded thus-: “When we were coming to form the PDP, we had a steering committee. That committee was chaired by Alex Ekwueme and Jerry Gana was our secretary. And as you know this was as a result of the G-18 which later became G-34 and so on.
And when we wanted to put it together as a political party, and register it, our biggest problem at the time, was that we wanted to find a way of shifting power to the south.
So we debated this power shift for a long time. And the night we agreed, it was in Jerry Gana’s house and Jerry Gana at that time, like I said was the secretary.Â And based on the new realities that we wanted to put in place, we had to zone the chairmanship of the party to the North and the Secretary’s slot to the South.
The North was to produce the Chairman so that we can have a southern President, and the Secretary also from the South. Alex Ekwueme had to relinquish being chairman. The North Central zone where the chairman was to come from picked Solomon.
The Secretary came to the South, and Jerry Gana had to relinquish his secretary’s post. And then it was zoned to the South East and that was how I became the chairman. This was how we zoned all the other post.That was what happened at that time. But you know that immediately after the states convention, and the governorship elections, we now had our national convention.
Before that convention and while you people were into this your zoning arrangement, the story we heard was that the military had made up its mind on what to do and where the Presidency would go, and that whatever the civilians were doing was just a dramatization of a script which the military had written.
When we agreed on that zoning arrangement, Lawal Kaita, former Governor of Kaduna State, got up and said, this zoning is going to be capped. We are zoning the presidential ticket of this party to Alex Ekwueme.
But Alex Ekwueme in his characteristic humility, got up and said, no!, this zoning is not about Alex Ekwueme, anybody from southern Nigeria is fit to run”.
The above 1998 Jos Convention of the PDP for the 1999 Presidential election, shows that aspirants were drawn from the 3 Southern geopolitical zones, showing there was no micro-zoning, or gifting of the party ticket to any region or tribe, besides the fact that it was exclusively zoned to the South, while the North watched from the sidelines having wielded power for about 20yrs uninterrupted (1st Oct 1979 to 29th May 1999).
How can someone who is rumoured as betraying Alex Ekwueme be the same person who reconciled Ekwueme and Oduemgwu Ojukwu? On February 2nd 2019, Orji Uzor Kalu told vanguard when asked thus: “You reconciled the late Ikemba Nnewi, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and former Vice President, the late Dr. Alex Ekwueme at Government House, Umuahia. I was there. Such reconciliations in Igbo leadership seem lacking now. What do you suggest?
Then Orji Uzor Kalu responds thus: “Well, may their souls rest in peace. I found out when I went for a meeting sometime ago, that both Dr. Alex Ekwueme and Ikemba Nnewi, Odumegwu Ojukwu, both of them were not talking to each other and I felt it was a very big slight on the Igbo, and I decided to reconcile them, because at the time, I had just reconciled the former President Ibrahim Babangida and President Muhammadu Buhari at Igbere, my home town. We had done some reconciling for them also. So, my place in Igbere has always already known as a place for unity and peace in Nigeria. I have reconciled many other people that you cannot see in the pages of newspapers. I take delight in ensuring that peace reigns amongst our peoples.”
Despite the readily availability of sacred facts, haters have continued to spin out unsubstantiated rumours against him. One of such unwarranted attack and fake news on Orji Uzor Kalu was carried title: “Monday 15th February, 1999, A Day Orji Uzor Kalu Betrayed The Igbos” and was credited to one Sir Don Ubani.
The rumour said: “Events make dates historic. Massive fall in the value of stocks in the Wall Street that ended up triggering similar falls around the world made 19th October, 1987 to be declared a black Monday.
The event of 15th February, 1999 in Jos Township Stadium, unspeakably made it a Black Monday for the Igbo.
That Monday was the day the Peoples Democratic Party had its first National Convention and it took place in Township Stadium, Jos.
More than a month before the Convention, Abia delegates to the Convention had made up their mind that they would vote for the former Second Republic Vice President, late Dr Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme.
Of course, apart from being the founder and first National Chairman of PDP, Dr Ekwueme had visited Abia State severally, spending huge amount of money on the Orji Kalus. Every top stakeholder of PDP in the State was passionate about his aspiration to be Nigeria’s next President.
Even Chief Orji Uzor Kalu who had become a Governor-elect in 1998, always gave the impression that he was in support of Dr Ekwueme’s presidential aspiration.”
This writer went ahead to make very weird, wild and unprintable accusation of betrayal of Alex Ekwueme by Chief Orji Uzor Kalu and all he was able to show as a source was a wild conjecture and from his imagination filled with hatred for Orji Uzor Kalu.
It is time that Nigerians are told these sacred truths and to state categorically that Senator Orji Uzor Kalu is a team player and someone who subordinates his personal to the larger interests of the collective. Best bet us for observers to focus on facts and figures and not conjectures.
*EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is a POLITICAL AND MEDIA STRATEGIST based in Abuja.