“Our lives are not measured in years, but are measured in the lives of people we touch around us.” – Peeta Mellark.
I decided to pen this short note as a way of identifying and celebrating one or two qualities of a man of many parts and today’s celebrator, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu. This great personality can best be described as a statesman, an astute business mogul, a consummate politician, a de-tribalized Nigerian, a bridge builder, a philanthropist par excellence and above all a servant of the people.
Kalu, like many other prominent leaders around the world, did not attain his political and business status from his parents, but through hard work, perseverance and dedication. He has gone through many challenges in life like every other mortal. However, despite all odds, Kalu’s achievements thus far can be traced to his personal attributes and philosophy of life, which are anchored on humility, selflessness, fairness and generosity.
Having known and worked closely with this Forbes-rated billionaire for many years, we have shared his good and bad moments together and as such, I make bold to say he is a rare gem considering his disposition to life.
Unfortunately, we live in a country where people are quick to tell the stories of others from a negative perspective, not bearing in mind the countless good sides of the person. Without mincing words and without apologies to Kalu’s critics, the celebrator’s good works have transformed lives and impacted the society positively. To say the least, Kalu’s contributions to the social, economic and political development of our great nation are commendable.
The celebrant’s simplicity is not hidden as he does not see himself as superior to the common man unlike many well-to-do individuals, who live as if others don’t exist. Kalu’s likeable demeanour cannot be ignored even if you are meeting him for the first time. He cherishes relationships and friendships and as such he is quick to warm up to anyone regardless of economic, political, ethnic and religious differences. Anytime Kalu has the opportunity to meet someone from a poor background, he encourages the person to remain focused and committed, while recalling his (Kalu) humble beginning.
Take it or leave it, for Kalu life is about service of God and humanity. Before the advent of the Orji Uzor Kalu Foundation (OUKF), the celebrant had been a father to many fatherless, a voice of the voiceless and a mentor to many mentees. His milk of kindness knows no bounds. Kalu’s philanthropic gestures include petty traders’ zero-interest loan scheme, free medical outreach, youth empowerment transport scheme and scholarship scheme for university students. Just a few weeks ago, at the unveiling of cash prizes for the best graduating students in the Departments of Economics, Political Science and the overall best student of the University of Ibadan, Kalu used the occasion to institute a N100 million endowment chair in the university to assist brilliant students upon graduation to establish businesses. All these humanitarian activities are borne out of the benevolence of the celebrator.
It was Kalu’s unrelenting desire to add value to people’s lives that endeared him to active politics despite his robust and intimidating credentials in the business space. Yes, today he may have regrets of his sojourn into politics, but again looking at the giant strides of his administration as governor of Abia State from 1999 to 2007, it was not a mistake that he ventured into politics. To impact lives positively is the only reason Kalu is still playing party politics.
Kalu is not a saint neither is he a bad person, but I passionately acknowledge his outstanding qualities and remarkable legacies. Kalu is a fountain of knowledge – be it politics or business – and men like him are very few in the society. The time is now for other leaders to emulate the noble and gallant qualities of the celebrator.
Today, as Kalu marks his 58 years on earth, it is not out of place to say the celebrator has not only done well for himself and family members, but used his enormous wealth to better the lives of many Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike. To his credit, his business endeavours – Slok Group, the Sun Publishing Limited, New Telegraph Publishing Limited, Happy Home Furniture Limited, Slok Energy Limited, Bende Export Import Limited and many others – have over 4,500 employees.
On a final note, to the sports-loving celebrant and holders of several chieftaincy titles cutting across the whole of Nigeria: Continue to shine and blossom.
. Oyewumi writes from Lagos.