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Between the predecessor and the successor in Abia

IT is a fact that a drowning man will not like to go down alone; rather, he will be desperate to pull others down with him, if it is possible. But where this appears impossible, he is more likely to be left confused, frustrated and helpless.

So I was not surprised when recently I came across an interview which the former governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, granted his newspaper. In the interview, he made a lot of claims which call for circumspection and suspicions, and also put a question mark on their authenticity. The claims which were clearly intended to attract undue public sympathy bordered essentially on the reasons for the political differences with his successor, Theodore Orji, how they met and how former President Olusegun Obasanjo asked his mother to install his brother as his successor in office and other issues.

But Kalu failed to tell the world why his successor went to prison and why he did not quarrel with him until the latter liberated the state following his defection from the Progressive Peoples Alliance, PPA, to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Maybe Kalu has forgotten that Nigerians are not fools or suffering from amnesia.

It is a fact that since 1999, governors in the country do no choose their successors and members of their kitchen cabinet from people they did not know very well or who have not made impacts in their various endeavours before they became governors. It is a public knowledge that Governor Orji is a 1978 English graduate of the University of Ibadan. After his youth service in Sokoto, he was employed as a civil servant by the old Imo State Civil Service Commission. From then he was in public service, rising to the position of Administrative Secretary in the then National Electoral Commission, NECON, now Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

It was while Orji was working in NECON prior to the 1999 general elections that Kalu who was facing stiff opposition to emerge as the governorship candidate of PDP in the state came seeking for his help.

Orji in humbly assisted Kalu without asking for anything in return. After the elections, Kalu reciprocated the gesture by approaching Orji to join his government as his Chief of Staff, a very strategic, sensitive and powerful position in government that is not for outsiders or strangers.

It is on record that for the eight years he served Kalu as Chief of Staff, Orji displayed a high level of professionalism and diligence, using the benefit of the enormous experience he garnered in the civil service for decades. It was the position that prepared and equipped Orji better for dealing with the herculean task of governance and challenges of holding public office in trust. After Kalu’s second term in office which could not be extended constitutionally, the search for his successor began. The factors that determined the choice of his successor included the personality of the individual, the senatorial zone and the choice of majority of the party stakeholders in the state.

Before then, it was clear that  President Obasanjo who had always been at loggerheads with Kalu had already thrown his weight behind one of his aides, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu from Abia Central zone to emerge as PDP governorship candidate and possibly the next governor of the state. This made the stakeholders in PPA to zero the search for Kalu’s successor to Abia Central zone in order to tame the PDP.

That was how the choice of Orji as Kalu’s successor was made by party members. Kalu being from Abia North senatorial zone wouldn’t have chosen his successor from the zone in the interest of fairness and equity. Besides, his numerous deputies whom he changed at will during his tenure were all from Abia South Senatorial zone, the likely zone that might produce Orji’s successor in 2015.

At the time Orji emerged as the PPA governorship candidate in the state, Kalu had been on the wanted list of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for alleged corruption while in government.  But because of the constitutional immunity that he enjoyed then as governor, the anti-graft agency could not arrest or prosecute him. Orji was, therefore,  arrested and incarcerated for an offence allegedly committed by his boss.

While Orji was in the EFCC custody, his supportive wife, Mrs Mercy Odochi Orji whom he married while both of them were in secondary school, Orji being an only child, went to all the nooks and crannies of the state with other party members campaigning for her husband and telling the whole world that he was being held in captivity for an offence he didn’t commit. The message was enough to convince the people that Orji was being politically persecuted and they voted massively for him. His release from prison before his swearing-in was made possible by the inability of the EFCC to arraign him and prefer any charges against him. This is contrary to the bogus claims by Kalu and his columnists that they facilitated his release.

On assumption of office as governor, Kalu hijacked Orji’s government and appointed his younger brother as Chief of Staff. He made other sensitive appointments in the government which included Commissioners of Finance and Works, and Accountant-General of the State. Council chairmen in the state were also not accountable and answerable to the Governor.

The situation remained like that for almost four years. Throughout this period, Kalu had no reaason to complain or criticise Orji, not even on non-performance as being presently alleged.

But immediately the duo parted ways over Orji’s assertion of his right to  promote good governance and push for people-oriented legacy projects, Kalu started crying wolf by, calling Orji and his government names.

But why should Orji be lampooned and harassed for doing what he(Kalu) failed to do for the eight years he was in office?Please enough of his distraction; he should simply let Governor Orji be for the good of Abia people.

Mr.  OGWO UMAH, a community leader,  wrote from Aba, Abia State.


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