I was a tiny little boy at Government College Umuahia in 1999 when Orji Uzor Kalu began his first reign as the Governor of Abia state. It was after years of military bastardization of the country’s economy and an uninterrupted looting spree by its evil-minded officers, just after the ‘heavenly’ intervention that led to the death of Nigeria’s most notorious thief, Sani Abacha.
The atmosphere for a democratic system of government was at most cheering, expectant, and very accommodating with many Nigerians believing that the return to democracy would erase decades of satanic leadership from the men in boots. It is over 20 years ago, and here I am a sad grown man writing about someone who governed my state while I was still a little boy, now harbouring political desires to rule the nation. Sadly, since the exile of the military from the helms of our political and economic affairs, we have witnessed little or no change.
The faint memories I have of Orji Kalu are not that bad. I could remember coming out of the school gate in my pink shirt, brown short with brown sandals, brown belt, and school bag, seeing a long white bus conveying hundreds of students free of charge all the way from Umudike through, National Root Crops Research Institute, then Government College, Ofeke to Umuahia main town. It was a sight to behold as smiles on their faces could not hide the joy of such a gift. There were also road constructions in Abia state, and he was very popular at the time, young and desirous to work. Truth be told, his reign was not that spectacular.
Examining the political and moral credentials of Orji Uzor Kalu, putting into perspective the changing political dynamics, it is quite safe to say he is formidable but flawed. He has an obese wealth of political experience having served as a two-time governor and now senator. He has the financial muscle to blow our ears away with his campaigns across the 36 states of the federation, even Abuja. Such is his envious political resume that supporters recently besieged him asking him to declare for the presidency in 2023.
Photo: Alexander Thandi Ubani
Honestly, I believe Kalu shouldn’t waste his money on campaigns trying to please sycophants urging him to run for president in 2023. Being a two-time governor and now senator is enough privilege in his exasperating political career. It will be a chase after the wind for him to heed the call of desperate people and waste his time, energy, and resources on a campaign that is dead on arrival
Of course, he has political reach outside the south and can boast of few political allies; but there are myriads of problems confronting him should he dare declare for president in 2023.
Kalu has a serious corruption case hanging on his neck after serving as Abia state governor for 8 years. To be honest, many people still consider him guilty even after the Supreme Court ruling. He is alleged to have stolen N7.1billion from Abia state treasury for which he was found guilty and sentenced to 12 years in prison by a High Court before the Supreme Court nullified the prison sentence.
Interestingly, the Supreme Court based its judgment on the fact that Justice Mohammed Idris who sentenced Kalu to 12 years imprisonment had already become a Justice in the Court of Appeal, so should not have sat at the High Court to entertain Kalu’s case. The Supreme Court after nullifying the sentence, ordered a retrial. The curious part is that all the evidence used to nab Kalu by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission leading to his conviction by the High Court are still intact and incontrovertible. So, should the case come up again, it is likely to follow the same process that led to his earlier conviction. This baggage is too heavy for someone who wants to be the first Igbo President since the fourth republic. In saner climes, a sensible man would forego his political ambition to clear his name, especially on an allegation that is troubling.
Photo: Orji Uzor Kalu