By Peter Eze
Celebrating Orji Uzor Kalu in this interesting political times and global unrest is inexplicable. Having distinguished himself in business and politics, his name features prominently when an objective compilation of events of political and economic development of Nigeria is made. Where young men of his age surrendered, he conquered. Where other politicians have compromised their principles, he had adhered strictly to it. Kalu has continually aired his views and taken a definite stand on national controversies regardless of whose Ox is gored.
The eminent businessman and astute politician was born on April 21, 1960. Nwa Aba’, he was called, had the vista of business world opened to him at a very early stage of his life. Many would remember those early years of Kalu’s life; his activism as student leader in Government College, Umuahia and University of Maiduguri; those times he ventured into businesses, and the rough rides on his road to the mountaintop.
A young man who knew what he wanted made the most out of the thirty-five dollars support from his mother, Elder (Mrs) Eunice Uzor Kalu. This was the stimulus that launched the then university student into the business world. Kalu went into palm oil business and then into furniture, and as business boomed, SLOK Holding would be born. SLOK would become a conglomerate that consist of Ojialex Furniture, SLOK Nigeria Limited, SLOK United Kingdom, Adamawa Publishers Limited, SLOK Vegetable Oil, SLOK Paper Factory; and today SLOK is virtually everywhere in every part of the world from shipping to airline to banking.
While he was conquering the world of business, he knew he had to fulfill yet another of his passion which was politics; he went into it during the military era, learnt the ropes until military dictatorship was swept away. He contested for Abia state governor in 1999 and won under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and history would have it as the root of his honorific burdens. He stepped on toes as he took with him his spirit of activism from his university days into politics. He believed the right thing must be done if society must make any meaningful progress and development.
And he took with him the riches and wealth he had made outside politics into the politics of Abia state. They saw in him the messiah who had come to rescue the state. In 1998 and as a top financier of the PDP, he supported the party with five hundred million naira. His future disagreements with the leadership of the party led to his protest and he floated and single handedly financed a new party, Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA). The party birthed in 2006 benefitted from Kalu’s popularity as it won two governorship states (Abia and Imo) three senatorial seats, four seats in the House of Representatives and several House of Assembly seats during the 2007 General Elections. The party remained politically relevant for the period while it was on its feet until Kalu decided it was time to move on.
Some may ask, why the leap to the APC? The answer is simple- one only needs the shift for political dreams and ambitions to be fulfilled. In politics nothing matters but leadership and the fulfillment of dreams and visions of political realism; either power or fulfillment to dominate or power to serve. Where Kālu has erred in all this is yet to be seen; unless one would want to ask questions about his needs for power. His flaws notwithstanding, his personality and lifestyle has never shown he is the type who needs power to dominate his subjects; he is a jolly good fellow who believes in the progress of all.
His passion for humanity and sports, His philanthropy through Orji Uzor Kalu Foundation, His courage and tenacity, His love for the youth, His unquenchable zeal for the upliftment of every Nigerian devoid of tribe, religion or tongue, His enigma and political sagacity, His pattern of rewarding loyalty, His never dying quest to conquer new grounds, His unrepentant determination to stand firm on what he believes is right. He is a true leader!
He became a governor at the age of 38(1999-2007), a Senator and Chief Whip of the ninth assembly at 59. He has seen too much. Heard too much. Believed too much. Regarded too much. Trusted too much. Hoped too much. His recent political incarceration is only but a period of reflections, for that which he is being held in force solace cannot be certainly said to do with corruption; but of boldness; of activism, of carrying a people along in the logic of an existing system they simply refuse to embrace; of the temerity to stand his grounds in surging seas of tempests, of his belief in the oneness of all in the midst of shaky waters of mental ripples… but just as the sun and the moon do not need any special effort to hang and shine from the sky, Kalu’s destined light will continue to shine.
But for all that he is, for having touched and impacted lives, we will never loose sight of a giant with many strides who dances where angels fear to tread and is still leaving his footprints in our hearts. Kalu has built a firm stairway with the stones thrown at him for others to climb on and grow.
He remains the most impressive, sought-after and enchanting political leader to have risen from Abia state in modern time. He is a phenomenon with an indescribable sense of value. The people love him. The people are passionate about him. He cuts the image of a deified political dinosaur in his carriage and activities.
Today he is 60, and this is to say Happy Birthday to the Ahaejiagamba of Igbere, Enyimba of Aba, Okeosisi Abia, Mmiri riri enyi Ndigbo, Kachalla Misau of Misau Kingdom,Dan Baiwan Hausa of Daura Emirate, Aro of Ogbomosho Kingdom, and Bobameto of Ijesha land. A visionary leader, a proud father, my Boss and Mentor I celebrate you Sir!
*Eze is Special Assistant to Senator Orji Uzor Kalu