Senator Theodore Ahamefule Orji is the senator representing Abia Central Senatorial District at the Upper Legislative chmaber of the National Assembly. Before becoming a senator, he was the executive governor of Abia State from 2007 – 2015. Before then, he was the Chief of Staff to his predecessor governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu. His steady rise was smooth until he met a brick wall during his reign as governor.
Having become governor in 2007, he was expected to continue in the footstep of Orji Kalu’s administration of impunity where the people were at the mercy of Kalu’s mother who wielded enormous power that so many Abians thought she was the governor. Her influence in Abia State governance became so pronounced and disturbing that the terms “Mamacracy”, “Mother Excellency” and such other labels were invented and infamously became part of Abia State political lexicon.
That Orji Uzor Kalu is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, today, for an alleged fraud of N3.2bn involving the State’s money is an example of how Abia was run like a pub and a State under siege during Orji Kalu’s era.
Abia State was considered a conquered territory of the Kalu’s and every Abian particularly government appointees were expected to be servile to him and his mother. There were consequences for those who tried to be themselves. It is a known fact that Abia ran a very strange and deviant variant of democracy known as “Mamacracy” then, a system of democracy that was choking Abians and leaving them asphyxiated.
When Senator Theodore A. Orji came in as governor, he thought it was time to terminate the political brigandage and executive recklessness that had become the order of the day in the State. He knew the enormous financial and political powers which the Kalu’s wielded then. To rescue Abia from their grip even when they were out of government house was a risky, yet, inevitable task. He knew that Abia would not survive another 8 years of such rascality as he was supposed to continue as an appendage and lackey of his predecessor.
This much was confirmed by Mr Eze Chikamnayo who was Special Adviser on Information, Strategy and Civic Orientation, to T.A Orji when he was governor. Hear him, “By 2010, immediately after the victory of the PPA at the appeal court, the Orji Kalu clan moved in to quickly implement the next phase of the vicious hidden agenda of their dynasty. Having used the admirable image and good name associated with T.A. Orji to cross the chasm of the 2007 election, they decided it was time for him to give way.”
Also Barrister Uche Ihediuwa said of the sad situation: “The crux of Kalu’s pain is the fact that he and members of his family no longer determine who get what, when and how in Abia State. Ask any Abian the meaning of “Mamacracy” that crept into Abia lexicon and he would define it as a “Government by a mother and her children for the benefit of themselves, their relations and friends”.
So T.A. Orji as a man of good conscience knew things could no longer continue like that. He had to do something, and something he did. He saved Abia by terminating all the shenanigans put up by the Kalu clan who fought back viciously using their media outfits to attempt to distract Orji by pouring unprintable vituperations on him, yet, he would not budge as the progress of Abia was paramount in his mind and he was ready to make sacrifices, even at the expense of his personal convenience and comfort, for this purpose.
Then came the naughty issues that had been tearing brothers apart in the State: the issue of fairness, equity and justice in ensuring that all senatorial zones of the State have equal opportunities of producing governors based on the principle of rotation. But for the “Charter of Equity” which Senator T.A Orji faithfully formulated and implemented despite enormous pressure on him from powerful quarters not to support a man from Abia South for the governorship position, he not only supported someone from there but also worked assiduously for him to become governor. Once again, he terminated the skewed system which greatly limited the possibility of people from certain parts of the State from becoming governor.
Today, it is a thing of joy and pride for every Abian that Senator T.A. Orji’s “Charter of Equity” did not only produce a great achiever as governor in Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, it has set the tone for rancour-free transition and sharing of power among the people. This fact was confirmed by many who attended the respective Ukwa Ngwa, Ohafia and Old Bende rallies and grand receptions organised for the governor. At the Old Bende rally, Senator T.A. Orji was so impressed with the work of his successor that he declared, “There is no success in life without a good successor”. Continuing, he said of Ikpeazu, “By his ascension, we have been able to institute equity in Abia State through rotation. He has shown that he can perform. Why should you deny him a second tenure?” he asked.
In an era where former governors and political godfathers are at loggerheads and would want to dictate to their successors how to run the state and interfere with governance, it is a known fact that T.A Orji has not in any way interfered with the running of Abia State under Ikpeazu. Instead, he has continued to give the governor maximum support and always eulogized his sterling credentials and performances everywhere he goes.
This rare show of political maturity by Senator T.A. Orji has seen him face his work as a Senator squarely and has records to show for it. Rather than try to destabilize the State like Orji Uzor Kalu did to him, T.A Orji has moved 14 bills and 4 motions so far in the Senate with the one to upgrade Abia State Polytechnic to a federal institution arguably the most pivotal.
That Bill to upgrade Abia State Polytechnic depicts Orji as a man who truly wants the best for his people. With the billions sunk into the institution already by the Okezie Ikpeazu administration, Orji knew that if the polytechnic could be taken over by the federal government, it would be a relief on the financial burden of the State as there would now be more money available to face other equally critically important aspects of the people’s lives in the State. Beyond that, the polytechnic would enjoy greater financial support from the enormous wealth at the disposal of the federal government and lead to a more equipped institution for Abia students in particular and those of Nigerians in general.
That Bill, thankfully, has passed Third reading in the Senate. If it was other senators with similar opportunities, in states where predecessors and successive governors are at loggerheads with each other, the plan would have been to look for means to pile more financial burdens on the state or frustrate its efforts to get low interest loans to implement people oriented projects so that the current governor would look bad before the people while the state suffers. But it is not so for T.A. Orji who has over time demonstrated his unwavering commitment to the prosperity of Abia State and her people.
In a complex country like ours where every state and region is struggling for almost the same thing at the same time, it takes political deftness, sagacity and goodwill to have your colleagues give overwhelming support to such a Bill as the upgrade of a state polytechnic.
In the Senate of today, there are two categories of achievers: those who achieve things by talking and those who achieve things by working. While T.A. Orji in his calm mien might not be a man who talks much, he certainly belongs to the category of those who adroitly work their ways into achievements.
His indelible legacies in Abia include the “towering ultra modern secretariat buildings for workers, Digital Library, ASEPA building, New High Court Complex, New BCA House, Specialist Hospital and Diagnostic Centre, newly-built school buildings and refurbished Old buildings, Amaokwe Housing Estate, completed legislators quarters, Traders Housing Estate, Afara Housing Estate, Government Guest House, Public Servants Housing Scheme, Isieke Housing Estate, Army Command quarters, many roads spanning several kilometers to mention a few”.
In a clime where some are empowering their youths with wheelbarrows, shoe shining kits, tea making kits and such other petty empowerment items, T.A. Orji bought over 4000 vehicles to be used for commercial purposes as empowerment scheme for Abia youths. There are also several Abia youths who are on scholarship through his initiative and at his own expense. The many functional Primary Health Care centres he built for Abia communities as governor are part of the reasons why the people gave freely gave him the mandate to go to the Senate and continue his good works.
It is therefore not surprising that Dr Okezie Ikpeazu has leveraged on this symbiotic relationship he is enjoying with his predecessor and benefactor, the solid foundation he (Orji) laid after extricating the State from the grip of Orji Uzor Kalu, to excel far beyond the reckoning of naysayers. But for his courage to terminate the slavish hold of Abia by those who held sway in the state from 1999 – 2007, Abia would have been in a sorry State today and T. A. Orji would not have forgiven himself if he did not do what he did then to rescue the State. Today, wherever he goes in Abia, the shout of “Ochendo Global” rent the air in celebration of a man who laid the foundation for a greater Abia.
By Jude Ndukwe
—firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @stjudendukwe