Chief Orji Uzor Kalu
By Olawale Olaleye and Charles Ajunwa
Abia State Governor, Chief Theodore Orji, has shed more light on the bitter feud between him and his predecessor, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, saying one of the key elements of their disagreement was because he declined to sell some of the state’s property to Kalu for personal use.
Orji said his predecessor had approached him and offered to buy the state’s guest house in Victoria Island, Lagos, and the General Hospital in Umuneato, Bende Local Government Area, which incidentally is Kalu’s council, as part of the site for his university on a 50-year lease.
But Kalu has denied the allegation, saying it was Orji who offered him to buy the Lagos property. He asked his successor to face the business of governance and deliver on his electoral promises as against “shadow-chasing” as alibi for failure.
The former governor’s response was contained in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Emeka Obasi.
Orji, who was speaking with journalists in his state, said: “I can say confidently that something good is happening in Abia State. You cannot compare what obtains now with what used to be. I gave you an instance in the banquet hall when my predecessor called me and told me to sell the Abia State Guest House in Victoria Island, Lagos. You know where Victoria Island is? He told me to sell it to him and I said no, I will not. I said no, I wouldn’t do it. Why didn’t you buy it when you were in office?
“He also told me to lease Umuneato General Hospital to him for 50 years to use it as part of the university he is building. I also told him that I will not do it. I told him that this Abia property, if I cannot develop it, if I don’t do anything with it, it will be like this so that any other person who is coming can do anything with it. But for me to sell any Abia property, I told him I wouldn’t do that. You see, what held back the state for many years is greed. The same old school that messed up the state wants to come back and continue and we are saying no. Abia people have suffered enough. Let’s fight this evil and clear it once and for all.”
The governor also said his misunderstanding with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the state, Chief Onyeama Ugochukwu, had nothing to do with him as a person but Kalu whom he (Ugochukwu) perceived as the man behind him.
“I told people at the banquet hall that Chief Onyema Ugochukwu was not fighting me. To be sincere with you, he wasn’t fighting me. He was fighting the perceived man who was behind me. All the people you saw at the banquet hall, if they are sincere to you, will tell you one favour or the other that I have done for them in life when I was with NECON now INEC as an administrative secretary. There is no politician of note that didn’t pass through me. So, if I was a bad person; if I was giving them condition at that time including my predecessor, ask him, maybe he could have tagged me a bad person. But I never did anything unholy with anyone of them.
“My predecessor boasted before the 2011 general election that if he puts a monkey there, the person will pass. He actually put a monkey there, but did the person pass? He also came out and lost. It was my own credibility and how people perceived me that earned me victory at the poll even while in detention.
“It’s not easy. If it’s easy, I have been saying it to any person who says it is easy to let the person go and stay in detention and contest election. Don’t do anything, just go there and say lock the door. So, as I said before, the issues going round that nothing is happening are from my predecessor. He started it, yet, he was responsible for nothing happening here,” he said.
Orji explained that most of the things written against him and his administration were instigated by Kalu.
“He has a media house, the Sun newspaper. He is the publisher, so they have that connection. I have told you severally (several times) that I am not interested in owning a newspaper. Not that I don’t have the capacity. I am not interested. My interest is not there and I want to depend on others who discharge their duties professionally and transparently without taking sides,” he said.
Kalu said if Orji had dedicated one-tenth of the time he uses in shadow-chasing to governance, the people of the state would not be complaining. He said at no time did he dictate to his successor how he should run the state and did not seek any personal favour from him.
The former governor said there was no iota of truth in the allegation that he requested the General Hospital in Umuneato, his village, to be sold to him, noting that his demand to use the General Hospital was properly documented.
“When it was observed that the hospital, built as a deliberate policy of my government to take health care closer to the people, could not be sustained by the present administration as there is no single doctor or health official there and no one uses it, a proposal was made to lease it on 10-year basis so that the building does not become dilapidated. It is for the use of the university in the area and not for personal use. The proposal is documented. If this is not acceptable, does this amount to begging the governor as if it is an under-the-table deal?” he asked.
On the guest house in Lagos, Kalu said: “I have been living in my own house in Victoria Island in Lagos since 1986. If I wanted another property in Lagos, do I need the assistance of Orji?”
The former governor said it was not too much for the people of the state to demand, in the minimum, a return of the state to the era when he was governor, even if Orji could not move forward.
The statement read: “The state has been in reverse gear since Orji came on board. He was recently accused by a party of commissioning non-existent projects. Is that also Kalu’s handiwork? Nothing is working in the state as we speak, even now that Kalu has decided to stay far away from Abia State in order to allow Orji perform the magic he promised to perform if left alone.
“It is now very obvious to the people of Abia State that Orji is not receptive to constructive criticism. And like it is said, a dog that is going to go astray will never hear the whistle of its master. We shall see how Orji will end up after eight years in power and frittering away the state’s resources without achieving anything.”