Mismanaging Orji Uzor Kalu

14 May 2013

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Edifying Elucidations By Okey Ikechukwu. Email,

As far as an evaluation of actors in the public space go, it is fairly obvious that neither Nigeria nor Ndigbo know exactly what to do with (or about) Orji UzorKalu, the former Governor of Abia State.But he is doing something with himself, with Ndigbo and with Nigeria, so it is impossible to write him off. To pocket him is out of the question. To use him without his having a say in the matter is not to be contemplated at all. that is why many have said ‘we don't know what to do with that Orji fellow’, with a mixture of dismay and consternation.

Let those who speak thus remember the words of the German Philosopher, Martin Heidegger. He heard people saying, “You cannot do anything with philosophy” and surveyed all of them and their various reasons and then said: “It is true, as you say, that we cannot do anything with philosophy. But it is quite possible that philosophy, if we allow it, might be able to do something with us”. So is it with OrjiKalu, whomarching on with a jaunty air and doing something with everything and everyone. My view, which I have canvassed for years, is that the man is a thoroughly mismanaged resource of Abia State, Ndigbo and Nigeria. Some may even argue that Orji is the one mismanaging himself, but we all know that it is the failure of elders and a strong family culture that brings family matters to the market place.

Prof. Chinua Achebe played host to Governor Orji UzorKalu on his last birthday, before he passed on. It was a quite, informal and yet very solemn occasion. More importantly, it was the celebration of a friendship that has lasted for decades between the two men. Orji’s goodwill, as well as his habit of religiously travelling to wherever Achebe was at any time to spend his birthday with him was always a given for Achebe. And it was also always one of the most cherished elements of the latter’s birthday anniversary every year – even until his very last birthday on earth. Achebe loved Orji andrepeatedly vouched for him as he has not vouched for many people throughout his life.

The trouble with Orji UzorKalu, or at least part of the trouble with him,is that he is an enigma in more ways than one. He has the energy of several very active people put together. This is sufficiently alarming on its own. His contacts, business girth and political networks cannot be dismissed as an accident, as they aresimply too wide, too well structured, too well choreographed and too effective to be the result of idleness. His understanding of politics and power in Nigeria stands at the very cutting of the political economy of power relations in a nation like ours. He has also always shied away from the politics of appeasement and would boldly take the blows arising therefrom - and without apologies.

The other week he was in far away Asia telling the cream of the business world that Nigeria is the place to be. He spoke like very few people have ever spoken in recent times about the beauty and strength of the Nigerian economy, environment and people. Orji spoke as a respected international businessman, among international business peers (not the beggarly and dishonest ‘private sector’). He challenged them with statistics about his investments and that of others, pointing out the critical role of Nigeria in the emerging new world economy. He spoke as a proud Nigerian and not as someone doing a paid job about the image of his country. He was able to silence many apparently informed commentators on Nigeria, who he exposed as not knowing what they were talking about. And he did not speak like a government functionary.

All of this took place at theProgressive Harmony Development (PHD) Chambers, Delhi, India. Prime Electric Group of India organized the forumand Orji Kalu used it to do what our Diaspora platforms always do very badly, even after taking money from government. A successful businessman can showcase opportunities where others see limitations, contest the advertised image of Nigeria and argue, convincingly, that anyone who ignores the Nigerian market, business opportunities and its robust peoples and culture is missing out on a most essential element of future world development.

And who turned up recently to brief the British House of Commons, Westminster, London, United Kingdom, if not Orji UzorKalu! He spoke on “The historical plight and precarious future of Igbo people,” to an audience that included members of the UK parliament, diplomats,state officials and members of NjikoNdigbo, an organization he leads.The issue is not what he said, how he said it, or where he said it. It is the fact that Orji’s capacity for legwork is being allowed to run unharnessed by many who can make greater mileage by keying into his capacities and working with him. I am certainly not in on the 2015 Igbo Presidency Project of Njiko Igbo, but we must admit that Orji’s Njiko Igbo is filling a vacuum that Onanezendigbo and the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) cannot fill. Ohaneze appears content with gestural things and speeches, while MASSOB suffers from the twin problems of (1) appearing like a strong man who merely beats up his siblings andneighbours without being available for wars other villages (ikena eke bauno) and (2) lack of political sophistication.

Someone may ask: “inwhat capacity did Orji Kalugo to address the British House of Commons? Another may also wonder why he should overrideOhanezeand take up arms in defense of Ndigbo outside Nigeria.Saying, “let us forget the troublesome fellow and face more serious business”, can sum it all. But what is this serious business? But we cannot deny the fact that Orji Kaluwas addressed the British House of commons while those who wear the title of Igbo leaders (and who are perpetually ‘threatening’ to save Ndigbo)did not? As Orji Kalu is stimulating some serious thinking across several political divides on the way forward for both Nigeria and Nidigbo,he remains the only governor who never withheld any negative salvos from President Obasanjo. Yethe still got everything he ever wanted from the man (except Slok Air, of course) – because the latter respected his forthrightness and also feared his value in Real Politik

Leadership involves being able ascertain and deploy people’s abilities in their areas of strength. Like it or not, Orji Kaluis an asset for which the right use must be found by Abia State, Ndigbo and Nigeria. Otherwise none of his detractors shall sleep at all. an element of his character can be seen in the fact that he has been religiously propagating his viewson leadership, development and sundry human-interest issues via a newspaper column, which many expected to die shortly after it was flagged off. Years after he wrote the first column, it is still on. This is that strength of character, resilience and never-say-die spirit that has bee the rue of many of his enemies. He is the one who actually writes his columns, unlike many in his position who would outsource it to a team of scribbling researchers whose limited experience often saddles their unsuspecting patron with strange postulations.

Orji Kalu has even taken his writing further, as his Leadership Series has surfacedin another Newspaper; where he rose in defense of the Aviation Minister and with a plea that the new Minister of Power be protected from the syndicate of doom undermining that vital sector. Hear him on Odua: “When Stella Oduahwas appointed Minister and assigned the Aviation portfolio some critics and pessimists took rounds to malign and impugn her for no justifiable reason. They likened her to a square peg in round hole. The misogynists and chauvinists among the armyof her critics painted a more pitiful picture of her … describing her posting to the Ministry of Aviationas ‘misplaced’. They would have preferred the less visible ministry in charge of women affairs or social development.”

The curious thing is that Orji Kalu stepped down the column he had written for that week about his birthday, to dwell on the matter of Odua and the Aviation sector. Hear his reasons: “Those who know me are already familiar with the fact that it is not in my character to praise people on the pages of newspaper. But I could not resist it this time, since the criticism of this innocent, hardworking woman has gone unchecked. One of the functions of the media is to defend the weak and oppressed and give voice to the voiceless. At least, it will enlighten the ignoramuses and place in proper perspective the commendable job this woman is doing.” 

Is there anything strange, or even special about all of this? Not exactly, except that Orji Kalu somehow always manages to have the presence of mind to focus on things rattle. It was at the end of the piece that he added this pargraph: “Tomorrow is my 53rd birthday. I thank God for his mercy and love upon me and my family these past tortuous years. I pray him to continue to bless and fortify me as I contribute my little quota to the development of our great nation. I pray him also to bless our country Nigeria, which currently immersed is in deep economic and political crises. I know at his time Nigeria will experience a new dawn.”

Which brings us back to the matter of what to do with (or about) Orji UzorKalu. He has carried on, and will continue to carry on, as Ejinduemegini, andthose saying, “don't mind Orji Kalu” had better note that he mighteventually be their undoing. It is time to wake up to the reality of the current wretched profile of Igbo politics and stop pretending that Orji can be easily ignored.Let those who can, and who should, riseand make the best of an Orji UzorKaluwhile they still can!

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