— 1st October 2016
By Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, MON
Recent events involving the former governor of Abia State, Chief Theodore Ahamefule Orji (popularly called T.A) have shown that the evil that men and women do lives after them. Only two weeks ago, his kinsmen openly repudiated him for his lacklustre performance for the eight years he served as governor. They regretted ever voting from him to become governor.
It is not only Ibeku people who are dismayed by his less than average performance in office. Other communities in the state have all kinds of sad stories to tell about his tenure.
Since I was born, and up till now, the idiom: “The evil that men do lives after them,” has always been used by the majority of the population, especially when they have been deeply wronged. I heard it for the first time from my mother who was very fond of it (the idiom). When I grew up to a reasonable age, I was forced to ask her one day why she always used the idiom any time somebody did something wrong to her. Her answer was often very intriguing and didactic. She would say: ”My son, vengeance is God’s. As a human being I may not be able to seek vengeance adequately.” Later events have since proved my mother right.
She was a virtuous woman who believed that men and women should live in peace and harmony, not taking anything to heart. She also believed that whatever a man or woman sows, that he or she shall reap. And it works for her.
So, when I emerged the governor of Abia State in 1999 she reminded me of the need to tolerate those that might offend me and leave everything in the hands of God. It was not, therefore, surprising when temptations started flying from all angles as evil people bared their fangs, seeking who to devour.
I was psychologically and spiritually ready for the huge tasks of the office of governor. In making the choice of my principal aides I allowed God to guide my steps. It was not an easy job.
In all, I was focused and at the alert. I knew there were banana peels everywhere I went. Powerful people called me from different parts of the world asking for one favour or another.
The most difficult appointment I made was that of my Chief of Staff. Long before the announcement was made some people had started calling me not to consider his name, because he was a man I would not be able to tolerate. They named some of the activities he was involved in the past to portray him as somebody not suitable for the job. Deep inside me I knew I must stick to my choice before I lost focus.
Therefore, I insisted the Chief of Staff should be Mr. Theodore Ahamefule Orji. He was not a chief then. Forget all the Shenanigans of these days: The man was nothing when I picked him up and brought him to the corridors of power. In fact, I was the one that encouraged him to receive his first chieftaincy title in his Ugba na Nkata village in Umuahia South Local Government Area of Abia State.
This was how it happened: his people approached me for an autonomous community status, which I granted them after serious consideration. After the autonomous community was created the next thing was to appoint the Eze (traditional head of the village). On the day of his coronation, he (Eze) nominated T.A. Orji as one of the two conferees of a traditional title. He was bestowed with the chieftaincy title of Ochendo of Ugba na Nkata.
The second title he received, Utuagbaigwe (iron doesn’t rust) was conferred on him by a first class traditional ruler, Eze Ben Enweremadu, of Ngwa Ukwu. This title was the precursor to his odyssey to the governorship seat of Abia State. I was the person that mooted the idea and saw it through.
In the primary for governor by the Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA) T.A. Orji emerged winner after a gruelling contest. He won not because he was too popular or rich. He won simply out of providence and the massive backing we gave him.
I cannot forget what my mother told me when the news broke out from the convention ground that T.A. Orji had won. She exclaimed:” Oh, my God! This man will not be faithful.” I dismissed it with a wave of the hand. After all, I had worked with him for close to eight years and he had exhibited extraordinary leadership skills (all buried in deceit). Nonetheless, I did not ever think he had some wicked tricks stored up his sleeves. I thought he was what he looked like on the face value.
So, one could imagine the disappointment in the face of my mother when he started showing signs of infidelity and obduracy. His first preoccupation as governor was to make his first billion. Not millions! He started engaging in all kinds of demeaning activities ranging from taking huge overdrafts from banks to contract inflation. The overdrafts were used for personal aggrandisement instead of for infrastructural development as earlier stated as reason to justify the overdrafts.
Our first disagreement happened when I tried to talk him out of the treacherous habit of seeking overdrafts regularly. I told him that his action amounted to systematic impoverishment of Abia State. He took offence at my innocuous advice and instead of retracing his steps opted to fight me.
He unleashed everything in his arsenal as governor against me. He told barefaced lies against me before former President Goodluck Jonathan to curry favour. It was later that Jonathan discovered that all the stories he told him against me were jaundiced, tendentious and malicious. By this time the harm had been done.
He plotted all kinds of evils to tarnish my image and make me inconsequential in Abia politics. He targetted my former aides that worked with him. He refused to pay them their salaries and allowances. It got to a point that he had to do away with them in a most ignoble manner. He dismissed them without paying a dime out of their many months’ unpaid salaries.
Not done yet, he went after some of the monuments my administration built, such as the Umunnato General Hospital; Abia State Teaching Hospital, Aba; Glass Industry, Aba, etc. His hatred for anything concerning me became too morbid that some were forced to ask if there was something I did against him that he had chosen never to forget. I searched my conscience and found none.
The truth I later found out was that the man is a naturally wicked person. A sadist! He demonstrated this in several ways during the time he worked for me as Chief of Staff. He was very slippery and snaky. I never get to know these things then.
For the eight years he was governor, I deliberately decided never to step into the Government House or Governor’s Lodge. And I religiously kept to this decision.
I am, therefore, amused when I read reports that we quarrelled because he refused to give me the money I asked from him. Yet, some others said it was because he refused to award huge contracts to me that caused the rift between us. None of these caused any disagreements between us.
The man is still alive: I never for one day asked him for any favour for that matter. I also never interfered in his government. I allowed him free hands to run the show.
Can well-meaning Igbo forget the way and manner T.A. Orji treated the Great Ikemba Nnewi, Ezeigbo Gburugburu, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. He promised the Ikemba that he would never defect from All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) to another party if admitted into the party. Recall that at this time many of us had been delisted from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
For his sake the Ikemba journeyed from Enugu to Umuahia, in spite of his indisposition, to welcome him into APGA. In his usual unreliable manner, in less than three months, he left APGA for PDP. The news of his defection from APGA to PDP devastated the Ikemba and contributed to his moodiness in the remaining days of his life. All the people involved in the deal for T.A. Orji to join APGA are yet to recover for the shock.
How he defected from PPA to APGA was more dramatic than his move to PDP from APGA. Those familiar with Abia State politics will agree that it was not easy to make T.A. Orji governor against all the forces massed against him. It was public knowledge that former President Olusegun Obasanjo vowed that he would never be governor. Obasanjo deployed everything in his arsenal to ensure that Orji was not made governor. To show his determination to actualize this threat, he visited Abia a day before the governorship election. He put forward a man he believed would make this happen: Chief Onyema Ugochukwu.
Many people had already concluded that Onyema Ugochukwu was going to be governor. But God had not spoken. We believed strongly that my performance as governor would make victory for T.A. Orji very easy, despite the fact that he was in prison at the time.
We campaigned from house to house, community to community. Nothing was left to chance. We knew deep inside us that victory for PPA would foster democracy in the state and promote sustainability and continuity. We were aware of the evil plots of the powerbrokers in Abuja, but we placed all our hope and trust in the Lord.
We went for the election and, as God would have it, won convincingly. Not done yet, Obasanjo and his fellow plotters laid ambush in the courts to frustrate his being sworn in. As masters of the game, we got wind of this evil design and planned a counter-attack, which paid off.
Even their plots by the EFCC to re-arrest and return him to prison did not work. It was circumvented through masterly strategies. In fact, we had to smuggle him to the Government House, Umuahia to be sworn early enough for immunity to cover him. This left the plotters in disarray.
By noon of May 29, 2007 he was already making his speech at the Umuahia Township Stadium as an executive governor. I left Umuahia the same day straight to Igbere to begin a new life as a former governor. I am yet to step into the Government House since that time.
Interestingly, as T.A. Orji was being sworn in, the same thing was happening at the Dan Anyiam Township Stadium, Owerri where another PPA governor-elect was being sworn in. The emergence of Ikedi Ohakim as governor was designed by God and made possible by me. There is no question about it. Forget all the braggadocio some people show when they refer to the regime of Ohakim.
I find it ludicrous when some persons create the erroneous impression that I chased T.A. Orji and Ikedi Ohakim out of PPA. How did I chase them out – persons I singlehanded made governors? What happened was that the two men decided on their own volition to try their luck in PDP for reasons best known to them.
Though one of the reasons we founded the PPA was to serve as a fall-back position in case Obasanjo came after some of us he thought were obstacles to his Third Term Agenda. Another major reason we formed the party was to serve as a galvanising force for Igbo who at the time were scattered like sheep without a shepherd. It almost worked. If the two PPA governors did not dump the party, I am sure by now PPA would have been controlling at least the five Southeast states.
It is important to place on record at this point that T.A. Orji’s reign as governor is still seen today as a curse by many that encountered him or watched the flurry of events that happened in the state under his watch. Many openly blame me for bringing such an insensitive and ill-intentioned man to serve as their governor. I have since apologised for what had happened and hope those aggrieved by his choice as governor would find a place in their hearts to forgive.
His tenure as governor was marked with all kinds of controversies. His performance is adjudged the worst since the state was created 25 years ago.
My worry with his governance style had nothing to do with any personal interests, rather it had to do with the impact it would make on the life of our people. His acquisitive tendencies coupled with his highhandedness made him a very unpopular governor.
It was sad that he did not allow anybody with good intention of advising him come close to him. He was unadvisable and inaccessible. In fact, he made himself incommunicado and ran the government as if it were his private estate. This was why everything about the government for the eight years he ruled revolved around himself, his wife and his son.
Now that the chicken has come to roost, the centre cannot hold any longer – the day of reckoning is coming earlier than expected. Hundreds of petitions are in the domain of the EFCC and ICPC over the many infractions he committed during his tenure. The looting and large-scale malfeasance that occurred under his watch is gradually coming to light. It is no longer in doubt that he ran the state aground, making it difficult for his successor to navigate efficiently.
I recall warning him to mind the way he ran the government in order not to attract opprobrium to himself after his tenure. But he took my advice as dictating to him and decided to court the friendship of those that opposed our regime from 1999 to 2007. They took him on a merry-go-round and landed him in a serious mess. Where are all the fair-weather friends that usually clustered around him and served as his errand boys? They have all deserted him, for sure, searching for new victims.
I know that the cries of the people of Abia State – whom today suffer grave deprivations because of his tenuous and cruel leadership – will soon reach heaven. I have always said it that the evil that men do lives after them.
This is given credence by the recent actions of his kinsmen. First they berated him for bringing shame upon them through the invidious way he ran his administration without any single thing to boast of that he did for them. Second, they led a delegation to me seeking forgiveness for the way their son treated me. Led by their traditional ruler and other stakeholders they sought audience with me. The result of the audience, after much persuasion, was the visit I made to T.A. Orji’s Ibeku Community late last month. It was an eye-opener.
The rousing welcome accorded me and my entourage was unprecedented. The people showered us with affection and used the occasion to make restitution for their son’s atrocities against me and the people of Abia State.
I do not regret anything that happened between Orji and me. Indeed, I believe God allowed it to happen for a purpose. I allow His will to prevail.