Don’t Cry For Me, Orji Uzor Kalu Tells Nigerians

By Uche Amunike

I came across this really interesting but deep narrative written by my dear friend, Ikeddy Isiguzo. It is as revealing as it is interesting; as thought provoking as it is retrospective; as meaningful as it is eye opening! It is an article about the man, Orji Uzor Kalu. It first looks at his early life as a young school boy at Aba, then follows same through his teenage years and through his university days. Then, his later years as a politician. It is a most interesting narrative laced with controversies. The truth remains that OUK has truly fallen from grace to grass and his future truly looks bleak. Nigeria is a country where anything goes. We’re that lawless. OUK has made a lot of mistakes and stepped on many toes. It’s a pity if he believed that President Buhari would have his back. There are indeed, so many lessons to be learnt from Kalu’s ordeal. He has been an ardent Buhari loyalist. I’m sure that he is still just as shocked as a generality of Nigerians that Buhari’s government had the mind to put him in jail.

I guess what goes around comes around. Will Buhari start jailing other politicians like he did OUK? Or are there sacred cows? Are there others to join him in jail? We’ll just keep our fingers crossed and see how this plays out. Please read the rest of it. I hope you like it as much as I do…

When Yulisa Amadu Pat Maddy, a Sierra Leonean writer, poet, actor, dancer, director, playwright, and teacher, wrote his acclaimed first novel, ‘No Past, No Present, No Future’, in 1973, he could have been writing about Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, though the setting was Freetown, Sierra Leone. Orji at 13, like the key characters in the novel, had begun plotting his path through the labyrinths of intrigues that landed him in jail on Friday. Who would believe he is in jail? Not those who had known him from Eziama High School, Aba, through Government College, Umuahia, GCU, or University of Maiduguri, which he left in swirling scandals. In those places, he honed his skills at profiting from the sweat of others. He cut his teeth through football, which he never played, but started managing as a teenager.

Someone, who knew him in Umuahia, said that he first heard the phrase, ‘include me out’, from Orji. Not only was the expression un-GCU, a school that prided itself in the prim and proper manners of its students and their high standards in the written and spoken words; it was nouvelle. Chinua Achebe, Gabriel Okara, Elechi Amadi, Ken Saro-Wiwa, among other great writers were products of GCU. The school pointed at them for its students, not to Orji who not only was above the law, but was the law. Orji always asked them to ‘include me out’ when the selections for teams were being made. He had a heavily bandaged knee that broadcast an injury he never treated and that never healed until he disappeared from GCU almost the same way he came – unannounced. Amazingly, Orji was recruited to GCU as a special student, a footballer, which he was not. He was unabashed about his mismanagement of the English language.

Is he really in jail?
The Senate Chief Whip has spent the days since Thursday’s judgment in Ikoyi Prison. People doubt it. Some lawyer, surprisingly anonymous has been spewing the falsehood that OUK, as his followers, numbered in millions, call him, would not spend one day in jail, as the sentence would run from when the prosecution started in 2007. Conditions at Ikoyi Prison are nothing near the splendour and opulence of Orji’s palatial homes. He had lived in such settings, years before he became Governor of Abia State, and wantonly took over N7 billion, in ways that suggested that he believed the money was his, after he was addressed as Executive Governor. Some mattresses that Dr. Alex Ekwueme brought in during his incarceration in 1984 are said to be still useful in Ikoyi Prison. Orji can take care of himself.

Don’t Cry For Me
Accounts that Orji shed tears when he heard the sentence are not completely true. Even if he did, the tears have been misinterpreted. Orji was not weeping for himself. The tears were for Nigeria, and Nigerians who failed to appreciate him for all the bridges he built across the country. He probably cried for those who don’t under the implications of Most Distinguished Senator, Dr, Orji Uzor Kalu, being jailed, even if it is for one day. He contemplates the ridiculousness of jailing the Representative of the Caliphate in the entire South East. Didn’t someone know who was on trial?

Orji Won’t Walk Alone
Politicians, serving, served, or intending, have been served notice of things to come. Orji will not walk this path alone. Cases, old, new, pending, can be resurrected and justice served quicker than some think. Orji has gone ahead, as a pathfinder, to prepare the prison – they call it correctional centre – for others. It has to be so.

Who Is OUK?
Anyone who claims to know OUK would drown in his own lies. Nobody knows him enough to discuss him. He was rooted in Aba, transmogrified while at GCU to a student of Barewa College, Zaria, a school for the Northern elite that has produced three Presidents. The mystery is that Orji was at Barewa in the same years he was supposed to be at GCU. Orji has more than ten versions of his studentship of Barewa, none with any credible ending. In later years, he was more comfortable claiming it was an exchange programme. Again, he seems to be the only one involved in the programme, or who mistook it for studentship.

Other details of Orji’s are parts of the mists that he erects around himself. The most important thing about him is that he “became a millionaire in his 20s”, at a time that Ndigbo did not boast about their millions. The emphases were on character and values of uplifting the society. Those wont to make noises about their money were seen as classless. Orji scaled that barrier with facility. He was to ease through more obstacles in his race for relevance.

Presidential Ambition Jailed
Orji was a perennial presidential aspirant. A tale that makes the rounds is that he was swiftly jailed (this case started in 2007) to abridge his chances of being President of Nigeria, the most qualified Igbo candidate, in 2023. Orji would be thrilled to see angles of absurdity added to his stories of victimization as an Igbo Man. In 2015 when Orji filled the media with notices about his FIFA presidency, Blatter reportedly said: “The position of the FIFA president is too important to be left to just anybody. I find the businessman from Nigeria, Kalu, very qualified and interesting because he is not only a businessman, but a politician with lots of contacts and corporate experience. He can bring his great experiences to bear in the running of world football. He is passionate about the game. I remember how he sponsored one of Nigerian clubs to win the CAF championship twice. He is a man that can take world football to the next level”, Blatter said. Kalu never campaigned beyond those media appearances. In December 2003, Orji had promised to resolve a frosty relationship between Blatter and Issah Hayatou, the former everlasting President of CAF.

Posterity Is Present
In a November 2014 Facebook post, Orji stated: ‘I am proud to state, no matter the nega¬tive propaganda mounted by the government, that our administration sincerely worked to trans¬form Aba. We made enormous sacrifices to change the face of the City. It is only posterity that will place our names in the proper places in the annals of our State.’ Nobody expected posterity to meet us here.

No Past, No Present, No Future
The novel is about Ade John, Santigie Bombolai, and Joe Bengoh, three young men from the fictional African country of Bauya. They called themselves the three brothers. They struggled through social barricades in seeking relevance. Ade represented the elite, Santigie, the son of a tribal chief, was royalty, and Joe, a poor orphan, stood for the lower classes. Where Orji belongs in these classifications is not easy to detect as he has masked his past so effectually, that some doubt his real name. All their struggles to be ‘somebody’ came to naught, and they journeyed to a void, emptiness, a nothingness that sealed their future just like their past and present. Is Orji much different from them?

Maddy taught drama at the University of Ibadan and University of Ilorin. He died in March 2014, aged 78, in his native Freetown. The lessons from his book remain relevant to today’s Nigeria where all sorts of confabulations are posited as substitutes for honest labour.