Yesterday, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu turns 60. Twenty one years ago, he was the strong man of Abia politics. Perhaps one of the most flamboyant governors of his time. Till date, I am yet to see any governor East of the Niger, that commands the kind of charisma he exuded.
He was a natural charmer who lapped up public adulation for his outwardly personality. For a man that young, his occasional run in with the then President showed a courage that is rare, another reason people liked him. He knew his way around, a cosmopolitan politician with associates that spread from North to West.
At home Kalu was loved. The two men that came after him cannot command the respect he was accorded at home and abroad. Ochendo is a local champion and chances are that many will not recognize him outside Abia. Ikpeazu seems content with being “a nwa Aba” and the first Ngwa governor.
If Kalu’s youth was his problem, his lack of depth proved a far bigger problem. He surrendered his government to his family. His mother held court and his brothers wielded powers that didn’t belong to him. The culture of mediocrity began under Kalu. His aides and appointees were men who were required to bring only loyalty to the table. Charlatans and demagogues occupied positions meant for technocrats. That was the beginning of sycophancy in Abia.
Besides converting the state till to his family purse, the greater damage was the idolatry and satanism that dogged his regime. It was the beginning of diabolism and occultism in Abia politics. Today, it has become an established norm.
The greatest damage Kalu did to Abia is not the roads he hurriedly constructed or the monies he used in expanding his business empire. Those sins were grave but the gravest of them all was his choice of a successor – a virulent, vicious and vindictive man that eventually brought him down.
Tinubu left Lagos in the hands of Fashola, Duke brought in Imoke and Chimaroke gave Enugu Sullivan. These men would go on to uplift their states but the man he gave us from prison left us worse off and foisted his like on us. This to me was Kalu’s fatal mistake.
At 60, Kalu has tasted the beauty of life in its finest form. He has handled power and enjoyed the influence it confers. He has amassed wealth and seen the limit of its intervention. He may be connected and influential and rich, but he lacks the one thing no one can lay claim to forever. Power!
He is learning his lessons in Kuje.
Happy 60th birthday OUK. We now have a duty to strip you of your last remaining status of importance, the senate seat of Abia North.