Kalu: A man for all seasons@ 57

CAN  one in a short piece effectively express his sincere feelings about a man who just like an eagle, has consistently kept soaring higher? April 21 of every year is a special day for many, but particularly, it is a special day for an Igbere born philanthropist and politician, a devout Christian, a Forbes listed billionaire, a man of conscience and courage who have contributed to the growth and development of the society having remained true to his principles and positions under all climes and at all times as he marks his birthday. The former Abia state governor (1999-2007) and Forbes listed billionaire’s lifetime achievement   is  impressive and an inspiration to millions of people endearing him to many  as a role model and pride of Africa.Today also makes it almost ten years since he served government actively. If today is considered an appropriate time to take stock, it will be recorded that Dr Orji Uzor Kalu has excellently passed his first 57 years test of history. He is still very relevant, he is still listened to. Or to put it more bluntly, he has doggedly remained a man for all seasons.

This is harder than you might think. Kalu is revered by many –not just because of what he has done in the past but because of what he is today. The fable of the lion and the gazelle says that “every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will perish. Every morning also, a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle: You must outrun the other or you perish.” Orji Kalu is either a Lion or a Gazelle. Being a lion, he started outrunning the gazelle at 19 and still counting. As a gazelle, at 57, he has continued to outrun the lion. He has continued to jump and pass the hurdles . Kalu has undoubtedly achieved the impossible, leaving no stone unturned . Overtime, he has proved to be more powerful than commonly understood. His accomplishment even before emerging as governor at 38 is enigmatic, as he set a record. Prominent among them is bagging a national honour at 25.

In the history of mankind, only very few people have had the courage to translate their dreams into reality.There is no denying Kalu through hardwork and perseverance has done a good job of making himself rich. According to Forbes’latest rating, he is worth$1.1 billion  Orji Kalu in 1999 was welcomed with both hands by indigenes and non indigenes when he took over the reins of power . The revolution he began, which focused on insecurity and infrastructure challenges endeared him to the hearts of the people. He was soon given a new name by citizens, ‘soro uzor,mara uzo’. Abians demonstrated their love for Kalu when they overwhelmingly re-elected him in 2003. Kalu in his days as governor certainly had some grandiose ideas-and zeal to accomplish them. He aspired to make government compassionate and give hope to the hopeless. He empowered all class and ran an open door policy. His humanitarian initiative was responsive to the needs of Abia people and corresponded with their expectations. His achievements were notable. Despite leading in an era of rising governance costs, lean resources, and persistent political persecutions, it was still possible for his administration to meet the very high expectations.

The People’s Enyimba could point to many achievements in his tenure. He attacked education from the root and embarked on long term plan for quality education.  His free education programme from primary to university education did not exclude non -indigenes, some of the neighboring states also benefitted from the free education. Today, the foundation he laid many years ago is paying off and Abia state is recognized as first among equals in education rating especially in SSCE examinations.  Besides his enduring legacies in every sector of Abia state’s economy as governor, is also his simple, uncommon personality. Unlike some of his contemporaries who relish unnecessary brigandage of officialdom, or who have allowed themselves to be carried away by the exaltation of their office, using expensive official cars, Kalu radiates simplicity both in appearance, utterances and actions. He remains the only governor whom throughout his eight years tenure rode in buses. In today’s age of political gridlock in Nigeria, the case of Orji Uzor Kalu,as much as that of any of his kind,could illuminate a way forward. A closer look at the political life and career of Kalu reveals an inspiring record of a lofty thinker, an ultimate political operator, a strategist, a master pragmatist  who got things done in times but eventually gets misunderstood.

At 57, Kalu personifies an eagle. He embodies rare courage and selflessness that distinguish him from the pack of other leaders. He is not just a consummate politician but an embodiment of courage who often times snatches victory out of the jaws of sure defeat. His fearless pursuit of whatever he believes to be right, even when it is unpopular makes him an uncommon hero. At times, I query why some people want to tarnish Kalu’s hard earned reputation. It is with anguish bordering on physical pain that I must condemn the persistent poisonous attempt to ruin Kalu’s image  using the nation’s anti graft agency over unfounded serial allegations. But for the action governor , none of the vagaries of time nor the propaganda of his  adversaries can dim his  value and position.For being able to achieve the unexpected, Kalu’s memories will linger on forever. In the past , he has had daunting challenges which, to many people, looked insurmountable and were capable of drowning him in the murky waters of Nigerian politics. But he has always risen up to the challenges to prove to skeptics wrong.

  • Eze is Dr Orji Uzor Kalu’s Personal Assistant