By Charles Ajunwa
A few months into his second term as governor of Abia State, Chief Theodore Ahamefule Orji, now Senator representing Abia Central Senatorial District, invited me to Umuahia, the state capital, for a private chat.
Before accepting his invitation, I had a dream and saw myself sitting alone in the governor’s living room while the governor and his son, Chinedum Enyinnaya Orji, now the Speaker of Abia State House of Assembly, backing me had a long discussion on the dining table. I woke up and told my wife about the strange dream. But as a Christian, I knew that God’s hand was in the whole arrangement. I never hesitated embarking on the journey to my home state – God’s Own State.
On arrival at the Government House Umuahia, I was warmly received by the governor’s security detail. While sitting at the reception, I was determined not to display any sign of fear. I acted bold and smart. Honestly, prior to the invitation I never had any intimate relationship with the governor.
My closest contact with him was on a few occasions when I was invited with other Lagos-based journalists to cover state functions. Finally, when I was ushered into his office, the governor received me warmly as a father. He started the discussion by asking me about my family and job. Then he threw the bombshell.
He said, “Charly, I have decided to appoint you as my ChiefPress Secretary. Please, keep it to yourself until the appointment is announced officially.” He told me clearly that the decision to appoint me as his mouthpiece was based on “merit”.
True to his word, I never lobbied for the position. He simply followed his innermost heart and went for the best. I never regretted serving Ochendo (as the governor was popularly called by his admirers and the Abia State Government. After his eventful eight years as governor, I told him I had decided to go back to the newsroom.
I didn’t get his approval immediately. He had a different idea for me; he wanted me to go to theSenate with him. After seeing that my mind was made up, he obliged me. My rapport with him has continued to be cordial and he treats me as his biological son.
On November 9, 2020, Senator Theodore Ahamefule Orji turned 70. Seventy has a sacred meaning in the Bible that is made up of the factors of two perfect numbers, seven (representing perfection) and ten (representing completeness and God’s law). Let’s celebrate this great son of Abia in particular and Nigeria in general.
He prefers a gentle lifestyle. This does not mean that he does not inform his friends, especially those around, of his birthday anytime it sets in. But he does not like people making a case out of his birthday like putting up adverts and whatnot. He prefers the quiet celebration with prayers to his God for His blessings to him.
Orji who is noted for his urbane, simple and humble lifestyle likes going out to reach the downtrodden in the society without clattering over what he shares with them. He would tell people around him that he is not a celebration man, not a party man; not used to throwing parties and inviting friends.
He once told me, “It’s not by inviting the whole world and buying drinks and cooking food, and getting every person dancing. Instead, you should be humble before God and thank Him, because He is the person that has made you what you are. If there is any offering you have, you offer to God. If there is anything you want to do for God for keeping you alive you do it.”
Part of the example above, were the churches he built to honour and appreciate God for keeping him alive to observe his birthdays in good health and sound mind. For example, the huge Cathedral inside the premises of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, which he built from the scratch.
“That is to appreciate God for what he has done for me in life,”he says. “That is just one church; there are many of them I built for Catholic,I built for Church of Christ, I built for Anglican, and just like that, to say God thank you for all you have done for me. And I believe that is the best way of thanking God and celebrating any good thing that has happened to you.”
At the national stage, Orji who loves quality education, has given scholarships to many students. His aim is to make sure that at least 10 or more students from each of the six local government areas of Abia Central senatorial zone receive the scholarship, worth N100,000 per student, every year.
As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Privatisation, Orji has also sponsored many bills and motions of national importance with positive impact on millions of Nigerians.
Orji, whose style of politics is devoid of antagonism against opponents, told me before the 2019 general election that he would quit active politics after 2023, to pave way for the younger generation.
He said,” You see, I’m right now in the Senate and I’m angling to go for a second tenure which I know I will make because the facts are thereon the ground. Since I’m talking have I mentioned any of my opponents? But they go about mentioning my name in their interviews and stories. You see after2023, I would retire voluntarily from elective politics.
All of you are from the state, to make sure I create a vacancy for you. Because if I go there and say I would stay here as far as I’m popular winning election, how will you advance? Mark my word, after 2023 I’m off to make chance for the younger people. After all, we passed a bill – Not Too Young to Run. How do you practicalise that bill?
I was one of those who supported the bill and to put it into practice is what I have told you. So that time I will leave so that the younger generation from my constituency will now vie for that and stay there and for that, they will respect me the more because I was not forced out, I relinquished that position. Any person who takes over will always refer to me, will always respect me.
And that is what we need in life, nothing else. That you have retired, you are there and the younger generation will come and value you. You saw what happened in the hall today when I arrived the InternationalConference Centre, Umuahia, for the 27th anniversary of the creation of Abia.
It shows that people value you; this man is a truthful person. If he tells you yes, it’s his yes. This man is a good-hearted person. Those are the qualities that will carry you in life. So when I retire and come back here –this house I stay – people will still come here bring me hot drink and say papa Ukwu we have come to see you, take this one and entertain your visitors’.That’s it. So mark it, 2023 I’m off from elective politics!
As the Senator turns 70, I pray that the Good Lord continues to expand his coast and give him more strength to continue to serve Nigerians.