By Shirley Ikonne E.
According to the Barrack Obama, the former president of United States, being a leader is not a matter of having your name up in lights, making speeches or corralling power at the top. It’s identifying the power in other people and unleashing it. Orji Uzor Kalu has always been a leader in a true sense. Even before becoming the governor of Abia State and holding 2 terms at the office, Dr. Kalu was a prolific businessman and was revered by the many people especially from his home state Abia where he was elected as governor as well. It was getting involved and helping the community that made him a public figure and later a politician known all across the country.
Orji Uzor Kalu was until 2007 the highly visible and voluble Governor in the South East. His special leadership abilities and charismatic personality were readily apparent!
I will take time to highlight the reasons why Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu deserves our love and respect. When he assumed office on May 29, 1999, as the executive governor of Abia State, infrastructure was non-existent, workers’ morale very low, due of two-month unpaid salaries, with pensions and gratuities of retired workers running into several years in arrears. He inherited an N8 billion debt accumulated by past regimes, comprising arrears of salaries, pensions and gratuities, contractual obligations and other matters relating to the administration of government which made it look so tough for any incoming governor to govern smoothly. However, as a leader who understands the enormous task ahead, he was so passionate to build and transform Abia state. His administration inherited foreign debt worth 680 million United States dollars. The loan was secured during the NPP/NPN era for the building of Enyimba Hotel and Glass Industry – both in Aba, Ogwe Chicken Farm in Ukwa, and Metallurgical factory at Olokoro, Umuahia. They were made to pay up the loan by then President Olusegun Obasanjo before the end of their administration. The manner in which a leader handles challenging situations or conflicts is one example of leadership opportunities for modeling strong integrity. The few days he stayed in the state before his inauguration revealed the rot in the state and the urgent need to hit the ground running smoothly. Right from the first day, it was business till the end of his administration in May 28, 2007.
Great leaders are never self-serving. Unlike the star employee, they aren’t focused on proving themselves but are focused unconditionally (and not selfishly) on what is best for the organization. They put their vision for the company above their own interests. Before May 29, 1999, hundreds of communities in Abia had no electricity and pipe-borne water, school buildings were in a state of dilapidation and abandoned; facilities in existing health institutions were insufficient, while those available had no operable staff and equipment. The State Teaching Hospital was like a cottage hospital, not to talk of the palpable state of fear among the citizens, occasioned by frightening rates of crimes.
While serving as governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu built all major roads in Abia State, he came up with a poverty eradication scheme and drastically subsidized school fees to 35,000 for students at Abia State University. During his tenure as the governor of Abia State, he was passionate about enabling schools to become better places for students to learn and for teachers to work. He arithmetically increased subventions to the Abia State University, Uturu; Abia State Polytechnic, Aba; and the College of Education (Technical), Arochukwu. The same could be said of infrastructure and other facilities that enhanced cognitive capacity in the citadels of learning. The rehabilitation of primary and secondary schools by his administration shows depicts him as a transformational leader and change agent who had great dreams of what public education could be. It is also pertinent to state here that all though tenure of Dr. Kalu as executive governor, there was no single industrial action by workers in the state because of the existence of harmony between the workers a nd government. The only time workers embarked on strike was when the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) embarked on a national strike. And academic activities were never interrupted in any of the tertiary institutions in our state throughout the duration of our government, making the students to graduate when they should. All these were made possible because Orji Uzor Kalu went to Abia State University and negotiated a deal with the state’s chapter of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and they told him they would join their colleagues to commence the action and would back out after two days. And they kept to their words. The philanthropist owns a foundation that provides scholarships for undergraduates; the foundation provides anti-malaria treatments as well. Till date, Dr. Kalu still gives scholarship to many students. I can categorically say that there are many people under education scholarship from Orji Uzor kalu Foundation from primary schoool to university level.
Great leaders have the ability to inspire confidence in others. They can clearly and concisely communicate their message to motivate those around them to greater heights of achievement. People will do more for leaders they respect than they would do for anyone else. Enyimba Football Club of Aba was at the brink of relegation from the elite division to the second division. This was the situation on ground when Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu assumed office in May 1999. To add to these, the Enyimba City which is the biggest commercial centre in Africa, also called the Japan of Africa – was a shadow of its old self. Unfortunately then, it looked like a deserted city as its residents wallowed in self-pity and abandonment. There was also no single state-of-the-art conference centre anywhere in the state, except the Okpara Auditorium (which lacked the necessary facilities for conferences and other formal events). In less than two years Aba city was transformed. Those who had earlier left the city, including business men, started retuning. Life gradually picked up. Aba started regaining its lost glory. Even a blind man could see the transformation of the state from obscurity to global pre-eminence. Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu took Abia State to every nook and cranny of the world, attracting investors and other partners in development, who brought in their investments with confidence. He had a gift of innovative thinking, a visionary spirit, and the tenacious patience required to successfully lead meaningful reforms. As a result of his deep knowledge and experience about football and club management he was able to set in motion a redemption plan for the club, which yielded immediate and efficacious result. Towards the latter part 1999/2000 football season Enyimba had regained its winning power and the team escaped relegation. The visionary governor went ahead to embark on another project. This time to build a new Enyimba team that would win the elusive CAF African Champions Cup. So, by the begginning of the 2000/2001, we had a brand new Enyimba team. At the end of the season Enyimba FC won the National League. The following season, Enyimba became a force not only in Nigeria but also in Africa. The team won the 2001/2002 season National League and Challenge Cup. Enyimba football club went ahead to win the 2002/2003 season, thus winning the league back to back. The People’s Elephant became the pride of Nigeria football, they broke the record by winning the African Champions Cup for Nigeria for the first time in 38 years in 2003. All these achievements in sports would not have been possible without putting the necessary infrastructures in place. He therefore started the expansion and the upgrading of facilities at the Umuahia and Enyimba Stadium.
His passion and hard work led him to become a great leader with the ability to navigate an elected council, lead an organization, and take tons of public criticism with finesse and grace. People went about their legitimate businesses without fear of molestation. Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu paid serious attention to security of lives and properties. He believes that no reasonable investor would come and invest in a state where kidnapping and banditry held sway. He got the right the personnel that would execute the plan and he created a means to motivate them to do their best. He provided them with vehicles and communication gadgets and also occasional monetary rewards. He further put in place an insurance scheme that insured each of the 3000 policemen posted to our state. These incentives effectively boosted their morale and made them ready to confidently execute their duties to help secure Abia state from criminals and hoodlums. As a result of his security masterplan, security was such that no single case of kidnapping or political killing was recorded throughout the eight years he served as the Chief Security officer of the state. It is on record that Abia State was adjudged one of the safest states in Nigeria. Other South East governors took a cue from his security masterplan.
As a strategic thinker and planner, he succeeded in clearing the two-month salary arrears owed the workers by the previous administration in less than two months in office and then established a system that ensured that workers got their entitlements every 25th of the month. After he had achieved the plan for regular payment of salaries he then decided to look into pensions and gratuities. Dr. Kalu was not deterred by the many years of arrears owed. He started somewhere, hoping to settle a reasonable percentage of the arrears before the expiration of his tenure. And so, it wasn’t a surprise to many that by the end of his administration, only a few percentage of persons were yet to receive their gratuities.
As a leader, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu understands the specific traits that helps achieve a high level of leadership success. He loved people, and was willing to do the hard work it takes to build all kinds of relationships. Because he worked as a public servant, not everyone was satisfied. Yet he made friends from enemies. He intentionally built the kind of relationships in the communities in his state in that would bring people together and along. Because he was so good at relationship building, things got done.
At age 25, Orji Kalu became the chairman of Borno water Board; As the chairman, he examined the water problem of the state and provided a lasting solution. He introduced policies that made possible the availability of clean water to over 5 million indigenes of Borno State; an area where there was an outbreak of Guinea worm. It would have been easy for him to slip into an authoritative power mode, but Kalu’s humility was the real power he had in the relationships he cultivated. Being humble helped him to be known as someone who acted out ethically even while others in similar positions did not. Orji Kalu was appointed the chairman of The Imo State Marketing and Supply Agency. As the leader, he developed strategies for acquiring and allocating the necessary goods and services. In 1987, Orji Kalu became the Chairman of Cooperative and Commerce Bank Limited. He was just 27 years then. The accomplishment made him the youngest person to take on such an eminent responsibility in Nigeria even till date.
And of course, he was human. The former governor of Abia State made his share of mistakes. As a Senator, he’s doing all to correct the mistakes we all felt he made. He has the passion for his people. Whatever mistakes he must have made, we must be willing to forgive him. This man has the welfare of the people in mind. The difference between him and other leaders is that he pondered those mistakes and quietly learned from them. They weren’t made a second time, and he grew and developed because he had a learning mindset. His humanity extended to his family, friends, and anyone else who knew him. No doubt, he is a man of the people. He is easy to know, an open book.
Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu was known for mentoring others in the (business) profession he loved; he was the “go to” person for young leaders to gain the self-confidence needed to do the difficult work of public service. He sought to develop the people who worked in his organization because he knew they would be better leaders as a result of what they learned.
If he could look back on what he did as the governor of Abia State, I think he might be more than a little surprised to see that not only did his passion for leadership drive the communities he helped developed to be better than he found them, he also embodied the mantra of “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu not only made positive changes in the communities he was a part of, but he also cared about people. He believed that positive change and caring about people were intricately linked. Today, the Orji Uzor Kalu Foundation is giving a non-refundable loan in the 17 local government of Abia State which started since 2014 till date. Till date, despite the fact that he has left office, Orji Uzor Kalu is still constructing roads in Abia state. His experience in government and governmental affairs makes consulting and government liaison services for our local and foreign clients smoother. As an international businessman, he has continued to give hope to the hopeless through his registered Non-Governmental Organization, helping the less privileged ones in the rural Nigeria especially in the Northern territories the Boko Haram insurgents have ravaged.
Under two years as a Senator, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu has achieved some tremendous feats! As a great leader, he posses the ability to inspire confidence in others.
He has succeeded in clearly and concisely motivating and empowering his people to greater heights of achievement with lots of sustainable projects and empowerment schemes. Below are some of the projects he executed while serving as a Senator representing Abia North Senatorial Destrict which comprise of Empowerment, Infrastructure and Education.
• Distribution of motorcycles for rural farmers, sewing machines and generating sets to artisans for Bende LGA, Abia North Senatorial District valued at N100m.
• Distribution of motorcycles for rural farmers, sewing machines and generating sets to artisans for Ohafia LGA, Abia North Senatorial District valued at N100m.
• Supply of motorcycles for rural farmers, sewing machines and generating sets to artisans for Arochukwu LGA, Abia North Senatorial District valued at N100m.
• Distribution of wound gel and gynaecological (cervical cancer gel) for Abia North Senatorial District valued at N100m.
• Distribution of bags of rice and fertilizers for rural women in the five LGAs of Abia North Senatorial District valued at N200m.
• Rehabilitation of Three (3) Primary School Blocks at;
– Ndi Agwu Abam primary school
– Okweji memorial school Ozu-Abam
– Agbagwu primary school Aro-Town all in Arochukwu L. G. A Abia North Senatorial District, Abia State.
• Rehabilitation of 2Primary School Blocks at;
– Ugwuafia Primary School
– Kpoke Primary school all at Ohafia L. G. A Abia North Senatorial District, Abia State.
• Rehabilitation of 2 Primary School Blocks at;
– Otamkpa Community School
– Ahaba Imenyi Community School all at Isiukwuato L. G. A. Abia North Senatorial District, Abia State.
• Rehabilitation of Two Primary School Blocks at;
– Umuelem Central School, Isuochi
– Eziama Community School, Nneato all at Umunneochi L. G. A, Abia North Senatorial District, Abia State.
• Rehabilitation of 3 Blocks at;
– Ozuitem Central School
– Okafia Primary school
– Item Central School, Okoko all at Bende LGA Abia North Senatorial District, Abia State.
• Construction of 2km road at Nneato junction to Aroikpa road in Nneato umunneochi LGA with asphalt.
• Construction of Abia Ohafia road 5km phase one 2km.
• Construction of 7km ,2km rural road with drainage systems and asphalt for rural farmers at Abia Akanu Ukwu in Ohafia LGA, Abia North Senatorial District.
• Construction of 5km phase one 2km rural road with drainage systems and asphalt at Isiugwu, Ohafia LGA.
• Construction of 2km road(phase one) at Bende Itumbozor road.
• Construction of 2km road( phase one) at Lodu to Amorji Imenyi road, Bende L.G.A.
• Construction of 2km road at Nkporo, Bende LGA.
• Construction of 1km Amoku road in Bende LGA.
• Construction of Akawa to Amuikpa 2km with drainages at Nnaeto junction.
• Construction of 2km Road at Aro town, Arochukwu LGA.
• Construction of Elele Ohafia road of Lohum to Amoji Imenyi road with drainage and Asphalt.
• Construction of 2km Road with Asphalt and Drainage, Bende/Ohafia Road Local Government of Abia State.
• Construction of 2km Akama Road.
• Construction of 4km (2km Phase 1) Rural Road for Farmers with Asphalt and Drainage in Amaokwe Item — Uzor Rubber —Ohafia Main Road in Bende L.G.A, Abia North Senatorial District, Abia State
• Construction of 2km rural road with drainage and asphalt from Umuobasi Amankalu in Bende LGA to Abiriba in Ohafia L.G.A.
• Construction of 2KM road with drainage systems and asphalt from Arochukwu road to Atani Ihechiowa, Arochukwu L.G.A.
• Rehabilitation of 3km rural road from Asaga – Okon Ohafia L.G.A.
• Construction of 8km (2km Phase) with Asphalt and Drainage at Itumbuzor in Bende L.G.A, Abia North Senatorial District.
• Installation of motorized boreholes at isuochi and nneato.
• Installation of motorized boreholes at Umuelem Isuochi and Ezioba nneato in umunneochi L.G.A.
• Erosion control project at Ochiagha boulevard, igbere.
• Rehabilitation of Okafia , Umusi and Onubina Erosion Sites in Bende /Ohafia Road.
• Rural Electrification project currently ongoing at Ntalakwu bende LGA, with installation and distribution of 300 kva and 33kv transformer.
• Rural Electrification project currently on ongoing at Mkpa
• Rehabilitation of Igbere central school.
• Renovation of classroom blocks at Ozuitem central school.
• Renovation of Echiele central school Otamkpa Isuikwuato.
• Renovation of primary school blocks at Ahaba Imenyi central school.
• Installation of motorized borehole at Ndi agbo , Amuri Nkporo Bende LGA.
• Installation of boreholes at Aruikpa, Ezioba,Eziama Nnaeto and Umuelem community Isuochi.
• Rehabilitation of Okafia, Umusi and Onu ibina Erosion sites.
• Construction and Furnishing of Block of 3 Classroom at Amaokai Primary School, Ugwueke, Bende L.G.A.
• Construction and Furnishing of Block of 3 Classrooms at Akara Junction, Isiukwuato L.G.A.
• Construction of Solar Powered Borehole Uzuakoli Town, Bende L.G.A Okporoenyi.
• Construction of Hand Pump Borehole at Okposi Primary School, Igbere, Bende L.G.A
• Construction of Solar Powered Borehole at Atani, Abam, Arochukwu L.G.A.
• Construction of motorised boreholes at Amaekpku, Amankalu and Federal Government College ,Ohafia.
• Construction and Furnishing of Block of 4 Classrooms at Eziafor, Ohafia L.G.A.
• Construction of Hand Pump Borehole at Nneato Primary School.
• Provision of motorised borehole at Umuobasi,Igbere secondary school Ezuikwu and Okagwe.
• Erosion Control Project for Rural Farmers at Ochiagha Boulevard University of Igbere, Bende L.G.A Abia North Senatorial District, Abia State.
• Construction of Garri processing plant in Ogbagwu village will process Garri, Cassava flour for baking and starch for textile production.
This is an example of a man who has the interest of his people at heart. Orji Uzor Kalu is no doubt a leader Nigerians can confidently trust as a representative. With these projects (highlighted above), we can see he’s a visionary leader with a gift of innovative thinking, a visionary spirit, and the tenacious ability to lead and transform the lives of people. According to Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, his major aim to be in the senate is to deliver on the promises he made to the people.
“My firm resolve is to let my work do the talking, as we have no other business at the Senate other than to work for my people in Abia-North, the Southeast and the overall interest of Nigerians in general.”
He further stated his desire to continue to serve the people and his plans. “In this year’s 2021 budget ,Abia-North will by the grace God have nothing less than 20 new Road projects asides the previous 19 roads which are already ongoing completion at their various stages. I remain yours in service!”
Great leaders lead by example with an overriding guiding vision or purpose. They possess an unquenchable passion for successfully implementing the vision of the company regardless of the disapproval of those individuals who fail to see the bigger picture. They don’t waste time worrying about day to day responsibilities or problems. Instead, they focus on where the organization needs to go. Orji Uzor Kalu has proven to be a leader who has seen the future and is serving his people with the future in mind. The people rewarded him in 2019 when they overwhelmingly voted him to represent them in the senate.
Orji Kalu is currently the coordinator of Njiko Igbo Movement, a non-biased political operation set to help the south eastern people of Nigeria realize their dreams and aspirations in politics.
He is conscious that the future belongs to those who prepare for it today, therefore, he is laying a solid foundation for the economic well-being of his people. When it would have been popular for him to pander to short-termism, he is thinking ahead and using the resources of today to correct the mistakes of yesterday while building for tomorrow. Great leaders know how to be themselves and are proud of who they are. Because they are comfortable with who they are, they are able to do what they need to do and say what they need to say with conviction — and without caring about what anyone else thinks. Senator Orji Uzor Kalu possesses the qualities that people expect from leaders, which are integrity, goal achievement, the ability to motivate, innovation and collaboration. So we must learn to forgive and let go whatever mistakes he has made in the past and let us look at the bright future and focus on his lifelong passion to create a generation of people who earn a living, rather than beg for a living. He is focusing more on sound economic policies than politics, for he understands that for political power to be fulfilling and enduring, it has to stand on a strong economic foundation.
Written by Shirley Ikonne E.