By Fr Anokwuru Christian Uche
John Okiyi Kalu. Remember the name? The man who told us what a wonderful governor Okezie Ikpeazu was; how he had “totally transformed Abia;” the fellow who never stopped talking about the “kinetic” performances of “our dynamic governor.”
Strangely, while Okiyi Kalu spent his waking hours itemising the “achievements” of the Ikpeazu administration, our pensioners and civil servants were dying in thousands. Reason: Kalu’s master refused to pay them their genuine entitlements.
So this man literally endorsed the mass murder of elderly pensioners and middle aged civil servants. If closing his eyes and mouth to the wickedness of his master was the price to pay for a place at the looting table that was the Okezie Ikpeazu administration, Okiyi Kalu had no problem paying it. As commissioner for information and later trade and investments, Kalu proved himself to be a man at conflict with truth and contemptuous of hard facts.
No decent man should or would take Kalu seriously because of his long history of dishonesty and untold disdain for facts. But then we live in the age of social media, we now have platforms that amplify so much nonsense and make sane men question reality. So while every sensible man can easily tell that a man with Okiyi Kalu’s long career of misrepresenting facts and misleading his audience is not worth any attention, one can still find a few unsuspecting members of the public who may be beguiled into believing a man to whom nothing is sacred, one who assumes that everything, including honour and dignity,can be bought and sold.
In a recent outing that clearly indicates that while Okiyi Kalu may have been a member of the Okezie Ikpeazu cabinet, he apparently was not brought in the know on much of what happens within the multiple power centres in that administration. He was not deemed important enough to be let in on the things that really mattered.
If Okiyi Kalu claims to know the inner working for the administration he served for much of the last 8 years, can he point us to copies of the relevant handover notes put together by Okezie Ikpeazu and his team, containing an exhaustive list of government property, investments and records of financial transactions with banks and other important national and international institutions?
What exactly did Kalu mean when he claimed that “Otti orchestrated his own hostile handover?” Was he expecting the governor-elect at the time to come and lie prostrate before the cabal that was ruling Abia before the needful would be done? Was Dr. Alex Otti expected to apologise to Okezie Ikpeazu and the PDP for beating them at the poll? Was Kalu expecting the opposition leader to be remorseful that he ran a successful campaign that defeated all the machinery and schemes put up by the PDP to frustrate his election? Did Otti not set up a transition team to interface with Ikpeazu’s men? What level of cooperation did the then governor’s team give them?
As the head of the Dr. Alex Otti Transition committee, I made sure everyone in my team approached their tasks with a firm disposition to fairness, respect and the dignity such a responsibility demands. Recall that at the end of our first interface with the ex-governor’s men, I addressed the press and told them that I was satisfied with the impression I got from our friends on the other side.
Our communication and engagements with them remained respectful because we understood what was at stake, especially since the electioneering campaigns had ended and the victor determined through all the processes laid out in law. We knew that at that level, the interests of the state count far beyond and above political allegiances. My team members were therefore committed to midwifing a sincere pattern of engagement that would lead to an orderly transition and nothing else.
But what did we get from the other side, the team Okiyi Kalu now seek to defend? Lethargy, arrogance and a nauseating attitude to doing the most basic of things, like presenting an inventory of government property and other necessary documents needed to ensure smooth continuity of governance after May 29. Okezie Ikpeazu’s team, we realised much later, were yet to come to terms with the fact that a new governor would be sworn in on May 29. We understood that the outcome of the election hit them like a thunderbolt and many of the men who were supposed to be working with us to ensure a smooth handover of power were still in disbelief. Someway, somehow, one realised, they were still hoping that something unprecedented would happen in the weeks ahead and the daylight victory of the Labour Party candidate would be stolen by some sleight of hand. We were therefore not taken aback when a strange ruling came from an obscure court in Kano “nullifying the candidature of all Labour Party candidates in Abia State.”
Development like the laughable ruling from Kano was something the likes of Okiyi Kalu had long banked their hopes on, hence the stonewalling, the arrogance and poor disposition. They had convinced themselves long before then that “Otti does not have the anointing to be governor.” Well, we now know, once again, that man is not God. Otti was elected governor and has since been sworn in. He is diligently executing the functions of the office of the governor and within the limits of the law, there is nothing the Okiyi Kalus of this world can do about it.
Back to the heart of the matter; when it became apparent that the Okezie Ikpeazu team was only interested in “entertainment,” purchase of vehicles and allocation of funds thereto, without any attempts at presenting us with key documents and inventory of government property, I and my team wrote the then secretary to the state government who was the head of the ex-governor’s team and expressed our concern. The letter was acknowledged but until their tenure ran out, no one ever bothered to responded to our expressed concern. Was it in error? No. It was deliberate as it was never their intention to engage with us fairly.
Well, our mandate was not to receive new cars for incoming government officials nor get budget for inauguration entertainment so we refused to be distracted by any schemes that would further lead to the pillaging of government resources, a terrible hallmark of the Okezie Ikpeazu era.
If Otti orchestrated any form of hostility in the handover process as Okiyi Kalu alleged, why did he bother to set up a transition committee with strict instructions to his team to focus on the issues and avoid any form of distraction? That is not exactly what a man given to aggression would have done. As a democrat, Dr. Otti understood clearly that with the end of the elections, governance must become a priority, over and above whatever may have transpired in the course of the campaigns. Otti knew that a man who genuinely won a major election as the governorship of a state only holds power in trust, for the people. He remained humble and accommodating despite endless provocations and personal attacks. So what was Otti’s offence in seeking that the right things be done?
Okiyi Kalu spoke of Dr. Otti’s interview with TV stations soon after his victory where the governor-elect responded to questions about being congratulated by the outgoing governor. Well, Dr. Otti is respected by all who know him for his candour and sincerity in speaking. He says what is in his mind and tells you exactly what he thinks. Okezie Ikpeazu congratulated him on his victory and yes, how was he supposed to respond? Take a trailer load of cows to Umuobiakwa in excitement? No nah, the man worked for his victory and God and the people crowned his efforts. Congratulatory messages like the one from the former governor were mere niceties. The governor’s gratitude belongs to God first and foremost and then to the people who elected him in that order. That should not be difficult you know.
So what really was the aim of Okiyi Kalu’s recent intervention in the public space after just a few weeks of living outside the patronage of political authorities? Okiyi Kalu, truth be told does not care about Okezie Ikpeazu. In private engagements, he tells everyone who cares to listen that Mr. Ikpeazu is unfit to hold a public office and did actually set the state back in the 8 years he ruled. He knew in his time as commissioner that the man he addressed as “His Excellency” had no shred of excellence in him. But he must put up an appearance of loyalty in order to keep his privileges.
Mr. Kalu knows that he belongs to that page of our history that is better forgotten. He knows that he cannot mention his name in the company of decent men and women and not be booed. He knows that his name, and that of the man he wrote in his “defence” stir resentment in all who had followed developments in the state for the past 8 years. Mr. Kalu may be very dishonest and given to fake promises but he is no fool. His last outing was a poor attempt at self promotion, to at least hear the sound of his own voice once again.
But instead of just picking a pen to embarrass himself, Mr. Kalu would have done better if he had paid heed to the biblical admonition in Proverbs 17: 28. It was half -witted of Mr. Okiyi Kalu to have abruptly called undue attention to himself at a time our people are still struggling to heal from the trauma caused them by the administration the man himself was a faithless servant of. Yes. A man cannot be faithful to debauchery except of course his soul is incurably diseased. As a priest, I would not condemn the former commissioner as a soul in mortal affliction. Troubled yes, but irredeemable? No.
Okiyi Kalu can be redeemed from his affinity to lies, distortions and fake appearances but he must initiate the process deliberately. How? By telling himself the truth of his abominations against our land, and our people. He must seek forgiveness from the people and most importantly, appreciate that he must do away with his old profession of lying for a living. Yes. A man like Okiyi Kalu may never get the opportunity to serve in a public office ever again but he must come to terms with the truth that indeed, he does not need a public office to live decently.
Lastly, Abians need to heal from what they were put through in the last 8 years. With the magnitude of revelations gotten so far about the level of theft and debauchery carried out under the watch of Okiyi Kalu’s master, we cannot guarantee that even the mightiest army would be able to hold off any mass revolt against the characters
who put our people through hell and now want to further foul the atmosphere with their putrid interventions. Simply put: anyone who participated in masterminding or executing the debauchery that attended the reign of Okezie Ikpeazu would be wise to quietly retire from all forms of public engagements in the state. Forever.
Rev Fr Anokwuru Christian Uche, PhD, was the Head of the Alex Otti Transition Committee on Handover