Orji Uzor Kalu: 64 Years Of Meteoric Rise Through Innovation, Influence And Leadership

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By Peter Eze

FROM his brilliant exploits at the Government College Umuahia, pundits were of the opinion that he was designed for uncommon accomplishments , engineered for success, and endowed with the seeds of greatness. True to predictions of those good gone years, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu is celebrating on April 21, with a bagful of accomplishments, having attained the age of 64.

A man of innovation whose ideas birthed successful business chains; a man whose influence knew no bounds; a man who from becoming the Chairman of Borno water board at 25 to becoming chairman of Cooperatives and Commerce bank at 28. A man who became member of House of Representatives in 1992, and would later become a Governor in 1999 and a senator in 2019.

His exceptional humility , commitment, excellence and philanthropic humanism were more than enough to make me one of his numerous mentees. Underneath his meteoric rise to greatness is humanism and humility. A man of amazing grace and courtly civility. A shinning star among the galaxy of stars. He creates his own comparative advantage through the dints of hard work and weds it to a wholesome pursuit of excellence as a way of life. To OUK as he is popularly called , anything less than a total commitment to excellence is an acceptance of mediocrity which he detests with passion.

He has built a strong brand; a household name, especially since his foray into politics. This name has been on the lips of Nigerians having made it very early in life, and a lot would expect him to be older or younger than he is, having built friendships across older and younger generations but the enigma remains who he is – Orji Uzor Kalu. His strong name and personality often suggests a typical African Igbo man with high spirit to succeed. A man who understands responsibility and must never fail because any such failure would mean a lot to his brand .

The ‘Action Governor” as he is also known, grew up in the commercial city of Aba with plenty to study and to learn from, and he indeed studied and learnt a lot from that city, which would sharpen and propel him for the future in the world of business and politics which he succeeded and continued to succeed in.

With a global outlook and exposure, OUK’s participation in politics and governance  were propelled by an abiding passion to see change in the way citizens’ welfare are prioritized by the government, policies formulation and implementation. Since, then he had cause to look back, since he threw his hat into the ring. He rose to become a leading voice for Nigerian citizens in the political space.

He was elected two-term governor of Abia state from 1999 to 2007 and presided over 5.7 million population state. While as Governor, OUK designed and adopted strategic approach in tackling poverty, job creation, and huge investment in key infrastructures, affordable and quality health care, pro-poor policy.

with near to zero funding, either from the federal government or little to nothing coming as Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), he was able to carry the state on to a state of recognition, stamping out the silly politics and politicking of subjectivity that hampered growth and development. He made a name for the state in football, having won CAF championship back to back through Enyimba Football Club.

He left behind a legacy of public infrastructure, affordable and inclusive health system, strong and accessible education, strong industrial base, pro-poor focused social services, job creation, as well as attractive and competitive investment climate in the state. Till date, the development strides he ignited in the state is yet to be surpassed by his successors.

In 2019, he was elected Senator representing Abia North Senatorial District in the Nigeria’s National Assembly. His colleagues in upper legislative chamber elected him with the Chief Whip of the Senate, making him a ranking member of the Senate. Today he is Committee Chairman on Privatization and Commercialization.

Since his entrant into the senate, he has continued to prove that he knows what constituency and the representation of the constituents at the federal level is all about.
His constituency and constituents have continued to benefit from his rich leadership which had been denied them over the years. Roads have been constructed, schools and hospitals have been built. In his five years as senator, OUK has built and connected more than 140 rural roads in his Abia North Senatorial District. His excellent outing in the senate has earned him great honor and admiration from Nigerians as he has become an exemplary senator. He has won best senator of the year back to back.

OUK has never stopped being philanthropic and charitable. And he has continued to show that the redemption of any society lies in the enlightenment of the minds and the kind of education entrusted to the occupants of such a society. He is the only Lawmaker who sponsored the highest number of bills among 13 ex Governors in the Senate in the last 10 months. He has promoted series of pro-poor legislations aimed at improving well-being of citizens and the country at large.

OUK leverages huge network across diverse political, economic and social spheres, as well as the enormous goodwill and support base across ethnic, political, professional groups and demographics to build a coalition for a new Nigeria hinged on equity, justice and unity. With over three decades of impactful participation in national affairs, OUK has remained a dominant figure with landmark achievements as a respected leader in key political groups and coalitions formed during the transition to civil democracy in Nigeria.

At 64, nothing has changed about him. He still inspires hope in many Nigerians, young and old, rich and poor. He still motivates. He still gives hope. He is still ambitious. And essentially, the love of his people and his country has never diminished. He believes that Nigeria has everything it takes to compete with the rest of the world and could even better if given right leadership.

OUK believes that leadership has continued to be the bane of the country. And he is so sure about it that once the country could get to the climax of leadership principle and discipline, the sky is only the limit for the people and country.

He remains one of the very few Nigerians who is conversant with the dynamics of every region. This is because he has a special bond with people from every part of the country.  He had lived with them; he had done business with them, and still collaborating with them. He enjoys mutual trust that has yet to be diminished by time. He knows many very well and vice versa.

On his 60th birthday four years ago, Former South African President, Thabo Mbeki commended the great man for all he has done for his country and Africa at large , in speaking truth to power and standing for just and patriotic causes.

At 64 God has shown him love and unconditional grace. His large heart has also been felt by humanity and his influential personality has never been misused. May God bless him with the brilliant beams of the sun on his life, satisfying it with his every desire

Happy birthday to a very free man, a great man… Orji Uzor Kalu

Eze , Special Assistant to Distinguished Senator Orji Uzor Kalu wrote in via sirbontux@gmail.com