“The wind of change is blowing through this continent and whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact.” – Harold Macmillan, Former British Prime Minister
Thanks to the Peter Obi factor in the 2023 general elections, the wind of change has come to Igboland.
Leadership has been our misfortune but this time ‘round, Ndigbo have embarked on a selection and election process deliberately designed to send forth our best team. In that wise we count as a good omen that: Former First Lady Ebele Obiano and Governor Okezie Ikpeazu won’t be going to the Senate; and Uche Ekwunife, Governors Chimaroke Nnamani and Owelle Rochas Okorocha won’t be returning to the Red Chamber either.
In addition, Governor Chukwuma Soludo will find more motivation to concentrate his mind on delivering dividends of democracy to the people of Anambra State as Labour Party picked up 8 of 30 state assembly seats. The days of executive rule are over. Finally, the wind of change delivered Labour Party’s first governor as Alex Otti clinched the contest for Abia State. It is the hope of all patriots that as the critical mass for good leadership forms in Igboland a strategic imperative for regional development initiatives follows.
That said, I am not unmindful that a few bad leaders got away by the skin of their teeth. Engr. Dave Umahi leaves the state house in Abakiliki for the Senate. Curiously, but not unexpectedly, the courts had ruled that he could go ahead with the contest for Senate after he failed to clinch the presidential ticket for APC. In the eyes of the court, it was okay for him to run for two offices at the same time.
He had spent 8 years as governor building roads, bridges, ghost new markets, and an international cargo airport that had a minimum economic impact on the people.
However, the greatest regret of this election season was that Governor Orji Uzor Kalu returns to the Red Chamber, and he has duly announced that he wishes to contest for Senate President. I don’t have a dog in the fight for Senate President – which I argue is reserved for third class citizens; as I am also indifferent to APC’s zoning policy because I don’t think anything would make a difference in their philosophical approach to governance or lack thereof. However, I contribute this piece as a cautionary tale.
Chief Kalu was the second civilian governor of Abia state, which was created by the Gen. Ibrahim Babangida regime in 1991. He was the first to complete two four-year terms when he resumed office in 1999, under the platform of PDP. There were indeed high hopes that the ‘pint-sized industrial giant’ – as he was popularly called by the mainstream media for his investments in the manufacturing of iron rods and other hardware – would rise to the occasion to lay the infrastructural groundwork for the industrial and technological take off for the young state.
Chief Orji Uzor Kalu was a big disappointment.
Abia state was his personal fiefdom and cash cow. He could not even be bothered to mount a sophisticated caper to defraud his people. He simply, serially, directed his state director of finance, Mr. Udeh Udeogu to cut checks from the state treasury in favor of Slok Nigeria Ltd., his family-owned business. It took the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission twelve years to bring him to justice. On December 5, 2019, he stood in the dock of a Lagos High Court to hear this pronouncement from Justice Mohammed Idris:
“No evil deed will go unpunished. The offences were anti-human; it is condemned world-wide because it is crime against humanity.”
The Honorable Justice of the High Court was addressing the honorable incumbent senator whom he found guilty of contravention of sections of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act when he caused to be transferred the sum of $18,622,247.77 from the coffers of the Abia State Government into the account of Slok Nigeria Ltd.
Justice Idris sentenced Chief Kalu to serve twelve years in prison.
But he served less than half-a-year when the Supreme Court, in an uncharacteristically expedited trial, voided the judgement of the Lagos High Court. The reason given by the Supreme Court for the judgement reversal was because Mr. Justice Mohammed Idris had been promoted to the Appeal Court by the time he read that judgement. Again, it had taken twelve years to come to that place. Even as the honorable justice was pronouncing his lofty words of “no evil deed shall go unpunished” Senator Kalu seemed distracted. He knew those words were mistakenly directed at him. He was proven right for the Supreme Court moved promptly to hear his prayers on appeal – even under the dire circumstances of a Covid-19 pandemic – and expectedly overturned his conviction.
The Senate on their part did not declare his Senate seat vacant, and his APC party position as chief whip was left unfilled. He left prison and walked right back to his seat and position in the Red Chamber to continue the urgent and important business of lawmaking for lesser mortals. The only curious thing was this: When he was sentenced in December 2019 he was led out of court unsecured by the warder of Nigeria Prisons for he had pleaded loudly for all the world to hear – “Please don’t put handcuffs on me in public. I will follow you peacefully!”
The power grid and other infrastructural initiatives, New Aba Market, the Aba-Port Harcourt Road and a roads/bridge network for Aba, Bende, Isikwuato and Afikpo business districts will build itself for its former governor was a man set apart from his own people.
So here we are on the cusp of APC electing Governor Orji Uzor Kalu as Senate President as a reminder to us of what they stand for – Bad Governance and Rule by Impunity.
IK Ngene, a pharmacist, lives in Atlanta