Don Norman Obinna (Agu Ibeku)
More than a few Abia State citizenry must have heard and read a superfluity of discomfiting stories about the former governor, Dr Orji Uzo Kalu (OUK). From ritualism to oath-taking, his traducers (mostly those he gave political lifeline) have obstinately blamed him for all the state’s afflictions and quagmires they masterminded.
Beyond these miscellanies of propaganda, however, his government functioned within the tenets of democracy comparatively. He laid a fitting foundation for all the ministries and local governments and offered elected officers and appointees a conducive environment to work unrestrictedly.
SSAs and other appointees had functional offices and corresponding allowances (car and wardrobe) and overhead costs.
Commissioners had the statutory power to award contracts not exceeding the sum of N10 million and pay through the ministries cashiers under his government.
The 17 local government executive chairmen were not figureheads under his administration either. They, like the commissioners, had the authorisations to employ workers into the local and state government civil service.
Sub-treasurers paid for contracts awarded without a directive from the Accountant General. Abia State Environmental Protection Agency (ASEPA) and all the government agencies exercised their franchises unrestrictedly including then, Chief of Staff, Sen. Theodore Orji.
Under his watch, businesses thrived as contractors got a 60 per cent mobilisation fee for contracts upon approval thanks to his decentralised system of administration. Let’s modulate payment of salaries/pensions because these are obligations. But he promptly fulfilled them.
Elected governor at the age of 39 in 1999, OUK is the Political Iroko that produced all the bourgeoning branches in Abia State politics. Except for a handful, no today’s grandee in Abia politics was made without him. He is influential to their grass to grace story.
He is the father of all Abia State political godfathers, not an authentic leader the Abia State House of Assembly Speaker, Hon. Chinedum Orji erroneously called him. It was a cruel, belittling remark for an Alfa politician like OUK.
He made them the Croesus and kingmakers they are today. But they were perfidious and reminiscent of the Roman senators (including Brutus, Caesar loyalist) conspiratorial assassination of Julius Caesar, they conspired and killed OUK politically.
For a decade, his traducers successfully built their political dynasty and enriched themselves by running roughshod over him. They told us how OUK emptied the state treasury, wanted them to keep making returns and deserves his EFCC and detention ordeals.
But they forgot to tell us that the sum of N250 million allegedly syphoned from the Abia State coffers was released to Ochendo Campaign Organisation, which handled PPA’s campaigns for the April 2007 governorship race.
Lady J. O. Kalu, the acting chief of staff when T.A. Orji was drafted into the governorship race, had, in an April 12 letter, informed Abia state commissioner for finance that OUK had approved the sum of N250 million to Ochendo Campaign Organisation to offset some campaign expenses.
They told us how OUK lured them into ritualism and oath-taking. They called his mother diabolic and accused her of forcing evil melon on them. But they never told us how OUK fought the Obasanjo-led federal government to ensure they won the governorship election while in prison.
The historic feat remains unprecedented because it was the first and the only time a gubernatorial candidate contested, campaigned and won an election in incarceration. It was one record of Ochendo that worth a place in the Guinness Book of Records thanks to OUK’s doggedness.
These people who stifled the system and brought untold hardship to Abians are masters in psychological warfare. They capitalised on the people’s ignorance and played victim over conundrums they hatched and nurtured.
They incited the masses against OUK, made him a monster and referred to him as Egypt. They called him unprintable names and vowed never to go back to Egypt again.
Of course, for a decade, they enjoyed the schadenfreude of OUK’s political woes. They did not visit or return to so-called Egypt until the minatory from Ngwa PDP stalwarts threatened the existence of their political dynasty in 2020.
It was a development that made Cosmos Ndukwe, Eze Chikamnayo, Don Ubani and ACB Agbazuere almost scapegoats. Chief Reagan Ufomba got involved. Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe was incensed. It’s an intriguing political story that will blow your mind.
To be continued.