Let me define the conceptual prognosis of this end-of-year intervention in the dismal case of the governance of my state, Abia (also known as God’s Own State), which was created 23 years ago and has remained a toddler. The subject of this analysis as the headline hints is a superlative comparison of the tenures of the immediate past governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, his successor, Chief Theodore Ahamefula Orji (Ochendo), and, anticipatorily by way of extrapolative presumptiveness based on dual predecessors’ pedigrees, his anointed lackey who is the controversial governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu.
Despite my especial relationships with Dr. Kalu, I will try as much as possible to be dispassionate in this analytical contribution. I make this declaration because of my scholastic and occupational backgrounds which prescribe sacrosanct objectivity and professionalism. This assertion notwithstanding, there would always be oppositional juvenilities in the importunate reactionary mode! Just like my namesake, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, whose second term is inalienable, would affirm, I will not give a damn about such moronic interjections.
From all that I have heard, read or known about my principal, the main allegations, in no particular order, against him are that he is autocratic, gallivants, practised surrogacy between 1999 and 2007 when he was the Executive Governor of Abia State through the instrumentality of his mother (mischievously called “Mother Excellency” by Dr. Kalu’s vanishing clan of detractors), he ran the state like a fiefdom (a family enterprise), subjected his appointees to secret oath-taking, diverted the fortunes of Abia Newspapers to the establishment of The Sun, never brooked dissenting views, held his successor by the neck until Gov. Orji liberated himself (and Abia State, eh?) from his stranglehold after four years in office, he wanted his younger brother, Mascot, a potential House of Representatives member, to succeed him, laid no solid foundation for his successor, that he has no modicum of respect for elders, party stalwarts and other stakeholders, and, finally most grievous, there is a suspicion that he amassed wealth by misappropriating state funds (which the vindictive EFCC under President Olusegun Obasanjo could not prove despite viral harassment and asinine intimidation). Accordingly, the only way to worm himself to those opposed to him and his brand of politics, his tribe of critics insists, is to show remorse by disavowing these idiosyncrasies of his and apologizing to all aggrieved persons and Abians generally for there to be any unqualified reconciliation. Thereafter, he will do a solemn appeasement of the gods for the forgiveness of his copious “sins” against the land! Until Dr. Kalu follows the foregoing peace route, his opponents demand, he remains a pariah in the scheme of Abia politics.
Most of the foregoing issues are weighty and beyond my competency/mandate—and indeed anyone’s apart from the man himself. This palpable handicap notwithstanding, I will try and address some aspects of the charge sheet, as it were. A few of them, of course, are baseless and mere imbecilic pub gossip. Nobody, excluding the central figure, my boss, as I mentioned here earlier, can have all the answers. Constructive elucidations are welcome for edifying record purposes, if nothing else.
As indicated, I will handle the matters that I am knowledgeable about while at the opportune time Dr. Kalu will further respond to grey areas as he is already doing in his Leadership Series column in Saturday Sun, which some people erroneously believe he is not the author! For purposes of clarification and civilization, even the greatest world leaders and captains of industry have speech writers and spokesmen who articulate their principals’ ideas and ventilate the same for public consumption. This, however, does not necessarily mean that such bosses do not have the cerebral capacity to embark on daunting communicative processes. The fluency or refinement may not be there, it does not imply brainlessness or intellectual vacuity as being impressed riotously and derisively.
There is nothing suggestive of autocracy in my principal’s personality traits. Even in 2001 when I first met him during the Abia leg of the National Media Tour, he drove in unaccompanied by security details to meet members of the team where we were lodged and exchanged pleasantries with all of us. The government officials who welcomed us said that was how he moved about occasionally without escorts because of his popularity and familiarity with the people. An autocrat does not have such credentials. The impunity of his successor is so vaulting that on March 28, 2014, he lawlessly sent 17 idiotic policemen to abduct me from my Lagos home and go by road handcuffed to Umuahia in an excruciating trip that lasted about 13 horrible hours! What informed the arbitrariness and effrontery? Suspicion of libel! Other instances would be listed presently. No elaboration on the abduction as the matter is already in the Lagos High Court.
My boss is also accused of travelling a lot. He was (as governor) and still is an international businessman which necessitates exigencies of travel to meet partners and associates. He did not start it when he became a governor. Brazen critics should be considerate in condemnation of this penchant; the issue should be if such travels affected the business of governance. Was he travelling at state expense? Were there no auditors and vouchers? Is it possible to examine the books now?
Of all the impolitic criticisms of my principal, the most virulent and propagandistic one is what his rascal hyper-critics call “Mother Excellency” and the fallout of “Mamacracy” used loosely in reference to Dr. Kalu’s mother’s exaggerated influence on the business of governance. I will not dwell on this because it belongs to the grand suspicious realm without any tangible evidential proof. What do we then make out of Gov. Orji’s surrogacy with his son, Chinedu, brutishly calling the shots in the state while his father watches hands akimbo? If at all “Mamacracy” existed, I will prefer it to Chinedu’s arrogant boyishness and his father’s bizarre haplessness. There is no basis for drunken comparison between the extremes in terms of intoxicating power control arising from satiation. The latter case is incomparably notorious and deleterious to the people’s health because of its noxiousness.
Another vicious allegation is that Dr. Kalu subjected all those who worked with him to oath-taking for absolute loyalty at Okija shrine and other mundane places. Despite the mountain made out of this molehill, a competent court of law dismissed the existence of any such thing in the case between Chief Onyema Ugochukwu (my editor in the Daily Times of yore) and Chief T. A. Orji after the 2011 governorship election. That landmark ruling of the court brought to an end all related jibes about the much-maligned former governor’s purported involvement in rituals.
There is this roadside gossip and stupefaction that the foundation of The Sun Publishing Company Limited was laid with the resources of Abia Newspapers when Dr. Kalu held sway as the governor. This kind of cock-and-bull yarn fits the circumstance and sounds believable even without any proof. This is what has happened in this particular matter. The Abia State Newspaper was almost moribund before Dr. Kalu took over from a military administrator. The state could not revive the paper for reasons best known to it. So, the moment The Sun hit the newsstands, mischief-makers and other bohemians went to town with their specious spin that the gradual death of one publication has led to the birth of another one! The rest, as they say, is now history.
Perhaps, the most laughable of all the allegations is that the former governor held his successor by the jugular so much that Gov. Orji admittedly spent his first tenure in a phony liberation struggle and finally “extricated” himself and the state at the end of his first tenure. I do not know how this could have been possible. Why was it that only my state experienced this mirage, non-existent drawback? And why did an Executive Governor allow such delusionary and impossible clutches for four years? For me, it is a sign of feebleness on the part of an incompetent governor looking for pedestrian, flimsy excuses.
It is also alleged that Dr. Kalu did not lay a solid foundation, if any at all, for his successor. If this is true and the governor spent four years trying to assert his constitutional authority after imaginary extrication from Dr. Kalu’s alleged asphyxiation, it means that with four years’ second tenure of propaganda, calumniation, demonization, humiliation, denigration, criminalization and crass embarrassment of OUK nothing else could possibly have been done in the state. Therefore, whatever is in the state today largely would be the ones Dr. Kalu did in his first tenure when it was acknowledged that he performed creditably while arguably slumbering in his second term.
One of the curious and illogical allegations against Dr. Kalu is that he does not have any modicum of respect for elders, party stalwarts and all manner of stakeholders. Respect begets respect. This reciprocal tenet is missing in the relationship between my principal and his critics who all see him as a young “boy” that should nightmarishly kowtow to everyone else, social class and personal attainments notwithstanding. For me, this is not an issue because some government officials who are unfit to be cleaners in any of Dr. Kalu’s palatial homes in major cities of the world gutter-snipe him at every turn. Yet, nobody sees any disrespect in that. Respect/greeting is a personal thing with a cultural undertone and not a group/communal/organizational/
Finally, there are hushed insinuations that my principal must have misappropriated money as governor considering his present life of comfort superfluity/luxury and economic flourish. Nobody cares a hoot that the man has his hands in so many blue-chip pies—local and global—which had been in the bakery years before he became a governor. The portfolio of companies in the Slok Group alone will be bigger than most states’ cumulative revenue, let alone just Abia. The wealth of Abia both external and IGR could not have made Dr. Kalu one of the 50 richest Africans, according to latest rankings by Forbes international magazine.
Based on the foregoing and my explications, let us still take it that Dr. Kalu was bad as a governor, his unprecedented sporting exploits with Enyimba FC of Aba and other accomplishments vis-à-vis 1,000 housing units at Ehimiri, Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi Conference Centre, 50 roads in Umuahia and adjacent cities including motor-parks, distribution of poverty-alleviation vehicles, rehabilitation of Abia State University whose staff he never owed a dime unlike accumulated debt stock that obtains now, rejuvenation of 496 schools across the state, rebuilding of all dilapidated secondary schools in the state, construction of asphaltic roads and other legacies (this word again!) notwithstanding.
If Dr. Kalu is bad in terms of governorship of Abia State, it follows that his successor, who was the Chief of Staff for about seven years, is worse for reasons already adduced and the ones that follow! The best way to end the comparison between Dr. Kalu and Gov. Orji is for two of them to appear on national TV with some of their aides for a live debate whereby the audiences will ask questions as opposed to phantom advertorials with the creative and deceptive deployment of photo-shop technicality to hoodwink some docile Abians—not the majority who can read between the lines. How much external and internal revenue accrued to both governments in the past 14 years? Why is Abia underdeveloped unlike other states in the 23-year league?
For most Abians, as long as Aba is in a bad shape in terms of social infrastructures, it is safe to say that nothing has happened in the state in the past seven years without any fear of subjectivity on grounds of the economic significance of Aba to the state and the South East zone. Dr. Kalu’s first term is still nostalgic because of the number of roads he reconstructed. Today, there is hardly any road that is not bumpy. Building a secretariat, a conference centre, a Government House under construction and relocating a market from proximity to Siberia all with more than N1 trillion that has come in since May 29, 2007 is not something that calls for celebration. When you hear the bedlam about Gov. Orji’s “Legacy Projects”, you will think Abia has been transformed! In reality, shorn of media rascality informed by stupendous government outlay, the legacies are distantly incommensurate with the noise and fiscal profile involved. Governor Ibrahim Shehu Shema of Katsina State built a massive complex that houses all the aforementioned in Abia and much more with just N8 billion ROI on the state government’s fixed deposit, which a greedy governor could have pocketed. The multi-faceted edifices are unparalleled in Nigeria. The amazing structure deserves to be a tourist attraction. In other words, there should be no more fuss or effusiveness over these routine official buildings. If Kalu and his predecessors did little or nothing about Aba roads, what has Gov. Orji done so far to ameliorate the condition of those roads? Why is he always splashed with sachet water and stoned by Aba residents who are disenchanted with his governance style anytime he visits the mega-city?
Overall It is very ludicrous to say that a governor for eight years—be it Dr. Kalu, Chief Orji or indeed any other helmsman—did nothing during his tenure! We can talk of wretched performance and poverty of leadership, but not non-performance at all. That is the most uncharitable and wicked thing to say about anyone. Dr. Kalu and Gov. Orji did their best but that was not good enough. That should be the kernel and not blanket dismissal of both men. Comparatively speaking, then, we can now say that because Gov. Orji received far more allocations than his erstwhile mentor/live benefactor, there is a yawning mismatch in terms of delivery of democracy dividends. People should not muddle up this cardinal issue with their estrangement over issues exclusive to just both of them—ignore the charlatanistic explications and survivalist rationalizations by their scurrilous aides/PAs and multitudinous hangers-on who overreach themselves essentially because of peanuts!
There are robotic elements in Gov. Orji’s lethargic administration who tell the marines that Dr. Kalu did not impact positively on the state from 1999 to 2007. This is absolute falsehood and the most reckless crap imaginable. I know full well that Dr. Kalu bequeathed value to the state particularly in his first term. In any case, much of the tangential structural achievements wantonly attributed to Gov. Orji are things established by Dr. Kalu which are now being white-washed and touted as “legacy projects”! With the power of incumbency and handsome statutory allocations and increased IGR, it is almost impossible to effectively and efficiently counter the media onslaught, worsened by journalistic corruption and poverty. Tomorrow, I cannot because Gov. Orji indulged in sporadic, borderless and boundless media insurgency all through his abysmal tenure with funds that should have been used to grow my state wasted on multi-media pugilism, irresponsibly declare that he still did not carry out programmes.
If Dr. Kalu is admittedly bad for not taking Abia to greater heights in his time and handpicking Gov. Orji (to succeed him against all oppositions and wise counsel) who is even worse in terms of everything, it inevitably follows that Gov. Orji’s stooge, Ikpeazu, in line with tradition, will be the worst governor should he be elected! It is the same political tree, leadership lineage with a genetic trait of systemic deterioration and naturalness of diminishing returns. A bad/worse tree does not germinate good fruits. Similarly, a bad/worse man cannot birth good children except God intervenes.
Now, between OUK and Ochendo: who is an ingrate, a pathological liar, witch-hunter, snake in the grass, darkness, slimy, sheep in wolf’s clothing, coward, leopard, chameleon, propagandist and devilish, ad infinitum?
As an aside: when will the multiple taxation of residential and business premises and markets in Aba (and other major cities) in the sadistic name of “infrastructural levy” stop? You levy a building and equally levy the shops situate! Even Pharaoh couldn’t have been this wicked.
Wabara ([email protected]/08055001948
) is the media adviser to Dr. Orji Kalu.