A person may be a blessing to himself and his immediate family, other times, he may be a blessing to a close set of beneficiaries: For instance his kinsmen. Rarely do we find a man who is a blessing to his people, his country, the African race and his generation. Such a man stands tall at all seasons.
I ask myself what gift one can get the man who God has blessed with almost everything for his birthday. A man who has given in commensurate of what he has received. Indeed, the biblical injunction holds true: Blessed is the hand that waters for it shall be divinely watered also. Can one in a short piece effectively express his sincere feelings about a man who just like an eagle, has consistently kept soaring higher?.
April 21 of every year is a special day for many, but particularly, it is a special day for an Igbere born philanthropist and politician, a devout Christian, a Forbes listed billionaire, a man of conscience and courage who have contributed to the growth and development of the society having remained true to his principles and positions under all climes and at all times as he marks his birthday.
The former Abia state governor (1999-2007) and Forbes listed billionaire’s lifetime achievement is impressive and an inspiration to millions of people endearing him to many as a role model and pride of Africa.
Today also makes it almost 10 years since he served government actively. If today is considered an appropriate time to take stock, it will be recorded that Dr Orji Uzor Kalu has excellently passed his first 57 years test of history.
He is still very relevant, he is still listened to. Or to put it more bluntly, he has doggedly remained a man for all seasons. This is harder than you might think. Kalu is revered by many –not just because of what he has done in the past but because of what he is today.
The fable of the lion and the gazelle says that “every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will perish. Every morning also, a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle: You must outrun the other or you perish.”
Orji Kalu is either a Lion or a Gazelle. Being a lion, he started outrunning the gazelle at 19 and still counting. As a gazelle, at 57, he has continued to outrun the lion. He has continued to jump and pass the hurdles. Kalu has undoubtedly achieved the impossible, leaving no stone unturned.
Overtime, he has proved to be more powerful than commonly understood. His accomplishment even before emerging as governor at 38 is enigmatic, as he set a record. Prominent among them is bagging a national honour at 25. In the history of mankind, only very few people have had the courage to translate their dreams into reality.
There is no denying, Kalu through hardwork and perseverance has done a good job of making himself rich. According to Forbes’latest rating, he is worth $1.1 billion Orji Kalu in 1999 was welcomed with both hands by indigenes and non indigenes when he took over the reins of power.
The revolution he began, which focused on insecurity and infrastructure challenges endeared him to the hearts of the people. He was soon given a new name by citizens, ‘soro uzor,mara uzo’.
Abians demonstrated their love for Kalu when they overwhelmingly re-elected him in 2003. Kalu in his days as governor certainly had some grandiose ideas-and zeal to accomplish them. He aspired to make government compassionate and give hope to the hopeless. He empowered all class and ran an open door policy.
His humanitarian initiative was responsive to the needs of Abia people and corresponded with their expectations. His achievements were notable. Despite leading in an era of rising governance costs, lean resources, and persistent political persecutions, it was still possible for his administration to meet the very high expectations. The People’s Enyimba could point to many achievements in his tenure.
He attacked education from the root and embarked on long term plan for quality education. His free education programme from primary to university education did not exclude non -indigenes, some of the neighboring states also benefitted from the free education.
Today, the foundation he laid many years ago is paying off and Abia state is recognized as first among equals in education rating especially in SSCE examinations. Besides his enduring legacies in every sector of Abia state’s economy as governor, is also his simple, uncommon personality. Unlike some of his contemporaries who relish unnecessary brigandage of officialdom, or who have allowed themselves to be carried away by the exaltation of their office, using expensive official cars, Kalu radiates simplicity both in appearance, utterances and actions.
He remains the only governor whom throughout his eight years tenure rode in buses. In today’s age of political gridlock in Nigeria, the case of Orji Uzor Kalu,as much as that of any of his kind,could illuminate a way forward. A closer look at the political life and career of Kalu reveals an inspiring record of a lofty thinker, an ultimate political operator, a strategist, a master pragmatist who got things done in times but eventually gets misunderstood. At 57, Kalu personifies an eagle.
He embodies rare courage and selflessness that distinguish him from the pack of other leaders. He is not just a consummate politician but an embodiment of courage who often times snatches victory out of the jaws of sure defeat. His fearless pursuit of whatever he believes to be right, even when it is unpopular makes him an uncommon hero.
At times, I query why some people want to tarnish Kalu’s hard earned reputation. It is with anguish bordering on physical pain that I must condemn the persistent poisonous attempt to ruin Kalu’s image using the nation’s anti graft agency over unfounded serial allegations.
But for the action governor, none of the vagaries of time nor the propaganda of his adversaries can dim his value and position. For being able to achieve the unexpected, Kalu’s memories will linger on forever. In the past , he has had daunting challenges which, to many people, looked insurmountable and were capable of drowning him in the murky waters of Nigerian politics. But he has always risen up to the challenges to prove to skeptics wrong.
Kalu’s continuous principled stand on matter of governance and economy has earned him admiration and critics alike. Those who know him well would attest to the fact he is not likely to slow down on this, even as he turns 57 today. He believes that a man must stand for something. Otherwise, he falls for everything.
As a title holder of ‘onunaekwuruoha’, the Igbere first son believes truth remains a necessary ingredient of justice, and that justice must be done irrespective of its cost. He has always maintained that with justice, obeisance to the rule of law, and accountability, Nigeria would stand tall among the league of nations. The Barna Zaki of Lapai has a reputation of being fearless, although some people interpret his actions as being vociferous and controversial.
But whichever perspective one sees Kalu’s personality, his somewhat defiant streak has surely helped in securing him to a treasure base. For those whose hardwork had been to unravel the mystery behind Orji Kalu’s success against all odds and human adversities, they may have to unbolt the uncommon providence and mysticism surrounding him.
Just as history will never forget the popular dual citizenship bill he sponsored as a member, House of Representatives in 1991, of which many are benefitting today, so shall history definitely make its own judgment of Dr Orji Uzor Kalu.
Few politicians achieve consistency- Kalu did. Fewer still can point to a physical impart in the lives of thousands- Kalu can point to the lives of millions, directly and indirectly. Definitely, Kalu will be remembered very long after others are forgotten. He is still the man of the moment. He will, in my view, be seen as the last hope for a new united Nigeria.
•Eze is Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu’s Personal Assistant.
FG owes A’Ibom N140b for road rehab, says Inyang-Eyen
Mr. Ephraim Inyang-Eyen, Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Works, in this interview with TONY ANICHEBE sheds light on some issues surrounding the activities of the state government
Information has it that billions of Naira spent by the last administration on federal roads in the state have been refunded?
Let me take it from this angle. If we are currently doing 40 road projects in Akwa Ibom State and the Federal Government has refunded one kobo to us, we would be doing 80 new roads. The Federal Government is owing Akwa Ibom State about N140 billion from genuine approvals and when we met over the matter they agreed after verifications to pay the first tranche of N70 billion, pending the completion of other ongoing jobs. But as we speak now not a kobo has been refunded. We are still hopeful as the state government keep getting assurances from Abuja that the money will be paid. The governor was able to do so much because of prudent management of resources. For instance, before now much funds have been wasted through payment of compensations, but presently we have eliminated the middle men and compensations money goes directly to the beneficiaries.
Again through prudent management, funds earmarked for compensations of properties are now reviewed to the barest acceptable level leaving more funds for the actual road constructions. The secret of the ongoing massive road construction is prudent and transparent management of funds at our disposal. The governor is so keen on doing more for the people that rumour of abandoned projects being peddled by critics is unfounded. We are doing a massive 45 internal roads in Uyo
Talking of abandoned projects, the two major roads always on peoples’ mind are the Uyo – Ikot Ekpene road and Enwang – Etebi road started by the immediate past administration. What is their fate?
It was not just those two we heard. We inherited Eket – Ibeno road leading to Exxonmobil QIT which we have finished and nobody is talking about it anymore. It is 20km of dualized road. The only snag there was that the Exxonmobil said they contributed N8 billion on the road construction which I debunked. The N8 billion was the palliative meant to be paid to the core communities of Ibeno, Esit Eket, Onna and Eket communities for oil spills from their platform. Eket – Etinan road was also inherited at almost zero point but if you take a ride through it, you will enjoy yourself. Now to your question, Etebi – Enwang was not abandoned but not funded for a season.
There was a contractor and technical partner involved in the project making it difficult to know who to hold responsible but we have resolved the issues, now we have one line of communication. God helping us the road will be commissioned soon without the bridge because the bridge which is 1.1km will take more time to be completed however, work is ongoing at the road project site now. It gets me amazed when people say that Uyo – Ikot Ekpene road have been abandoned. When the Udom Emmanuel’s administration came on board, the job was still ongoing, the problem was that the contractors could not bring down buildings on the right of way because monies earlier earmarked for compensation have been exhausted. We were not in a hurry to jump into the issue because compensation is a delicate thing. We have to take time to verify who was paid and who was not paid. However, we have started paying compensation along the road again and work has since resumed even as we are talking, payment of compensation is ongoing there. If people have said that the work was not going at maximum speed, I would have agreed but that it was abandoned was absolutely false.
You spoke about eliminating middle men in the payment of compensation, why did you do that and how are you handling the outcome of that decision?
When the governor sent me to this Ministry, he made it clear that everything surrounding compensation must be made open and transparent and every loophole sealed. Before now, the valuer was paying and we stopped that. Again, the issues of compensation was transferred from the Ministry of Lands to the Ministry of Works so that once we pay we take the right of way. So we get valuers which we call consultants and ask them to value and send the report to us. Then we in the Ministry will go for verification, filming and documentation.
We take time to see if what they did is in the tandem with best practices, because if you value a bungalow for N20 million and one storey building for N15 million, we will question your professional integrity. Then we will send the valuers report to the payment consultant who will go round and ensure that all the recorded codes on properties are genuine before payments are made directly to property owners under video and still camera coverage. The beneficiary and about five people will sign to authenticate the process. The five people include the beneficiary, his witness, consultant contractors etc.
Using this more transparent process, we eliminated middle men who strived to truncate what we are doing but failed not even their petitions and blackmails could stop us. The process has made those advised to take us to court to see no justifiable reason to do so. What this new system had succeeded in doing is to ensure that if one person is entitled to one naira for his property he gets his money directly without a third party and that too save more money for the government. It is not business as usual here.
As the administration began payments of compensation along the new dualized Uyo – Etinan and Etinan – Ndonuyo roads for structures, we observed the sudden emergence of over 200 shrines, grave yards and tombstones along the said roads. Were compensations paid too for them?
In fact, even most buildings we saw along Etinan – Ndonuyo and Uyo – Etinan roads emerged overnight because the buildings were without foundations. Some are mere block works without doors and windows and many without roofs. What we did was to demolish all. Along Awa – Ukat – Asom in Mkpat Enin Local Government Area, we have over 1000 tombstones and shrines along there and we were asked to pay one million each, we wiped all of them out without paying a dime. We don’t pay compensation for such things.
People who buried their dead along the right of way, more than 20 years ago asked us to pay for the tomb stones; we don’t pay for such things. We only pay for genuine buildings. The entire land within the state belongs to government. If, for instance, you bought a land for N100 million and have a structure of N4 million on it, when government needs the land for overriding public interest, we pay for the cost of the structure and the land reverts to government. The money belongs to Akwa Ibom people and must be prudently managed and accounted for. For all we are doing, we do to justify our conscience because God is watching and people are watching too.
Talking about the impact made on the lives of the citizens by the government through your ministry, can we know them?
Well in Uyo, the state capital, about 45 roads are ongoing. We are doing massive road networks in the city in such a way that you don’t need to come to the major roads to get to your destination. We are also remodeling Oro nation; over eight roads have been done in the first instance under emergency intervention. When the governor commissioned the first set of roads, he ordered for a second intervention with an additional eight roads and massive erosion, intervention in the area. We hope to commission the second phase during the third anniversary of the governor’s administration.
Again, we are intervening in a major ravine in Oron which is threatening major households within the vicinity. Go to Eket city today and see from Atabong road up to the post office, you will see the remodeling beauty of the city. The phase two will go up to marina area of the Eket. The problem here is that the job is not as fast as I wanted because there when people received their compensations to vacate their buildings, they still foot-drag slowing the pace of work.
They make us look like bad people who came to take away their properties.
Today eight major roads are under construction in Eket and we have added additional eight roads, making it 16 roads going on in Eket. People will ask what of Ikot Ekpene, we all know that the area benefitted immensely from the immediate past administration. So what we are trying to do is raise the status of other Senatorial Headquarters too, like Eket, Oron and Uyo. So rather than concentrating on Ikot Ekpene, we move in to other areas under the district like Ini, Ikono, Obot Akara, Oruk Anam council areas etc, to give those communities a sense of belonging too.
Do you think that Governor Emmanuel has done enough to deserve a second term?
Yes! Akwa Ibom people will massively vote Governor Udom Emmanuel for many reasons. Emmanuel has tried to reach out to communities yearning for development over the years. For example, Ini Local Government Area has not had a road since 1999 but the government has not just given them a good road, but one that links the state through Obotme to Arochukwu in Abia State over a distance of 14.7km with a bridge. Today you can drive from Akwa Ibom to Arochukwu in Abia State very comfortably courtesy of Governor Emmanuel.
Now go to Obot Akara Local Government Area which was neglected, Emmanuel has taken dividends of democracy to them too. When the former Deputy Governor Engr Ekpeyong appealed to the governor that their roads were impassable with children unable to go to schools again, he responded with a 6.41km of roads with two bridges linking the area to Enwere Azu in Abia State. You can now access our neighboring states through there.
The truth is that many communities crying over neglect before now are smiling with good road networks. Mkpat Enin Local Government Area has also benefited immensely. Akwa Ibom people will vote Governor Emmanuel because development have spread to every nook and canny of the state. People get projects because they truly need them and not out of political consideration. In Oruk Anam Council Area, four new roads are ongoing. In Akwa State University Obio Akpa campus, a 5.1km road is under construction and the entire community has been linked up. People want good road network and they have been given that by the governor. Economics 101 states that for you to have industries, you need good road network for accessibility to the source of road materials and to evacuate goods.
We have dualized roads from Airport Road to Okopedi in Okobo council area. From there we got CCECC firm to break through a thick forest to do another 15 km road to Uya- Oro, the terminal port of the East West Road.
From Uyo, we are working to dualize road from Ikot Oku Ikono to Etinam. There is a dualized the road that is going to Ndonuyo to East-West road, and to the left through Etinan Institute. There is another dualized road that empties you to remodeled Eket town. We are about to award Abak – Ekparakwa – Eket road. These will give people many options into the state without any hassles. If you are a voter and a governor in two and half years achieved all these in one sector, then you will agree with me that the governor has genuine vision for the state. My governor should be the best governor in road infrastructure in Nigeria.
N3.9bn airport fund diversion scam politically motivated –Oduah
Senator Stella Oduah has said that recent report in a national daily, alleging that N3.9 billion airport renovation fund was diverted under her watch as Minister was politically motivated.
Oduah, in a statement issued in Abuja, described the report as the work of political detractors whose intention was to strike her politically as the 2019 election year approached.
The politician, who is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Cooperation and Integration, also frowned at the newspaper for stooping to an unprofessional level by publishing such unverified false report without recourse to her.
She stressed that the content of the report was completely untrue, saying that those behind it were unhappy with her overwhelming political popularity and doing everything to tarnish her image.
“It is very unprofessional and indeed shameful for a seemingly reputable newspaper …to make such wild accusations without verifying the source of their information and without any recourse to me.
“This is purely the handiwork of my political detractors who are uncomfortable with my overwhelming popularity as a Senator representing my zone.
“It is not surprising that those tales are coming at a time when the general election and political party primaries for the election are at the corner, with my detractors piqued with the staunch resolution of my people to re-elect me as Senator.
“What is surprising is how a once respectable newspaper will descend so low to run the errand of political libel, she said.
Oduah insisted that the statements contained in the publication were completely false and should be disregarded by the general public.
“At no time was any money meant for contracts under my watch as the Aviation Minister diverted to any company belonging to me neither did I paying back any loan from any such funds.
All contracts awarded by Ministry of Aviation under me followed due process and as for the contract under reference, the said contract was executed.
“As the Minister of Aviation, I committed myself to the service of my country to the very best of my ability and as it am widely acknowledged; my record and performance as the Minister of Aviation remain laudable and unbeatable.
“What we did in aviation was so far reaching that it had never been done before, it was so unprecedented. If you remember how just Abuja airport used to be: one used to literally find it impossible to use the rest rooms there. To get into the lounge where people sit was impossible, most motor parks were better than what we had at the airport whether it is Lagos, Abuja, and Sokoto.
“We took them on and efficiently and in a very timely manner changed every single one of them: and we did not just change that we changed the safety of the Nigerian airspace.
“Before we were having accidents literally every six months but we made sure that the safety of Nigerian passengers was prioritised to ensure that the landing gears, the flight gadgets, every single thing that will make Nigerian airspace the airspace that it is today, recognised by ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), it had never been done before.
“I challenge anybody to just do a spreadsheet; how aviation was before, how I made aviation and how aviation is today. In all honesty if the person does not give me 120 per cent it means that they cannot add.
“It is thus natural to expect odious reactions from some elements whose greatest political punches are calumny,” she said.
The former minister, therefore, cautioned the news medium to refrain from playing into the hands of political detractors whose aim was to ride on them to score cheap political points.
“Anyone in my position will be constrained to seek redress in a law court against the publisher of such news, but suffice it to pass a word of caution to the authors of that libel at this stage,” she said.
CNPP backs NASS on order of elections, cautions CSOs
The Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) has thrown its weight behind the National Assembly on reordering of the 2019 general elections and beyond, insisting that the presidential election must come last to save the Nigerian democracy and the country from nose-diving into a one party state at any point in our national life.
In its reaction to the controversy surrounding the reordering of elections by the Assembly ahead of the 2019 polls, the CNPP in a statement issued by its Secretary General, Chief Willy Ezugwu, noted that proposal by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will enable the party, which wins the presidential election sweeping the polls at all levels in view of the history of elections in the country.
CNPP also counseled all civil society organisations (CSOs) “towing the path of INEC to retrace their steps as they are unwittingly aiding a rigging formula that will turn the country into a one party state.
“If INEC wants to conduct free, fair and credible elections in the country devoid of rigging, the Commission should listen to the voice of the representatives of the Nigerian people, who are working hard to reduce bandwagon effects in voting. Members of the National Assembly are not only experienced politicians but major stakeholders in the outcome of the elections.
“You don’t put in place an electoral process in place with one man in mind because if another person comes in, the process will be inherited by the person. The process should be to do the right thing and follow the path that can deepen democracy rather than a party that will ultimately destroy all democratic tenets we have all labour to build.
“For us, the reordered elections are the best thing the current National Assembly has done for Nigeria and democracy in the country. And anyone against it is a hater of Nigerian democracy.
“The issue is not about President Muhammadu Buhari’s reelection bid. It is about Nigeria after President Buhari,” the Conference observed.
The CNPP then tasked the electoral umpire on free, fair and very credible 2019 elections that will surpass the legacy left behind by the last leadership of the Commission. It equally urged politicians to work together to save democracy and unite the county rather than working for selfish purposes, with destruction as its end.
The Senate and the House of Representatives had recently concurrently reordered the 2019 general elections timetable released by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The order of elections was first reordered by the House of Representatives on January 24, 2018, by amending Section 25 of the Principal Act and substituted it with a new Section 25 (1), stating that the elections shall be held in the following order: (a) National Assembly election (b) State Houses of Assembly and Governorship elections (c) Presidential election.
Similarly, Section 87 was amended by adding a new section 87 (11) with marginal note: “Time for primaries of political parties. The primaries of political parties shall follow the following sequence (i) State Houses of Assembly (ii) National Assembly (iii) Governorship, and (iv) President.
“The dates for the above stated primaries shall not be held earlier than 120 days and not later than 90 days before date of elections to the offices.”
INEC has said it would obey the amendment passed by the National Assembly only if it is assented to by the President.
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