Former Attorney General of Abia State, Chief Umeh Kalu, has revealed how the long feud between the erstwhile former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu and his successor, T. A Orji started.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria, who spoke on the politics of his home state, said good governance in Nigeria is hampered by sycophancy and eye-service by political appointees. According to Chief Umeh, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, who is now the Chief Whip of the Senate, is the patriarch of modern Abia politics, as well as the undercurrents of succession in 2023 in the state.
Speaking with TheSun Newspaper, Chief Umeh, narrated how the war between the two former governors started.
“Orji Uzor Kalu is patriarch of modern Abia politics. They were all in PDP which Orji Uzor Kalu was and they had issues. That led to the formation of PPA. In PPA, Orji needed a successor and that was what brought about T. A Orji, his Chief of Staff. And then, PDP was divided. You had the Onyema Ugochukwu camp and the Orji Uzor Kalu camp. Those in Orji camp were in PPA. People in Ugochukwu’s were Senator Nkechi Nwogu, Col Akobundu and a whole lot of them.
“It was a long battle and the election came up and I’m sure you know the issue of the incarceration of T. A Orji and some other people who were with Orji Uzor Kalu and all that. T. A Orji was in prison when the election was conducted, it was Orji Uzor Kalu that was all over the place campaigning for him and eventually, he won. He started a government under PPA. It was at this point that I joined them. I wasn’t part of them. I joined the Orji Uzor Kalu camp as a lawyer. It was he (Orji Kalu) that engaged me to defend T. A Orji when EFCC invited him in Lagos.
“I was the lawyer who had that brief. I was the one who took him to EFCC and they were about eight of them. Later, Tayo Oyetibo (SAN) joined me, he led me in the matter. Later, Olisa Agbakoba came into the matter when we were at the Federal High Court. The person who handled the matter finally was Prof Osipitan. He led me into getting T. A Orji out of prison. In all these, it was Orji Uzor Kalu who briefed us. He was the one who picked the bills. Two years after, I was made the A-G in 2009.
“Orji Uzor Kalu was still calling the shots, at some point, there was a power play. There were people who felt they should create a rift between both of them. So, some issues came up. First, Orji complained about the construction of Aba road, there was an Akwa Ibom man who was the PPA Chairman. He issued T. A Orji a query as a governor and he felt that was the height of it. At some point, there was a dissolution of the government. Those who were loyal to Orji Kalu were yanked off and it became the government of T. A. Orji alone.
Narrating how he survived the war between the two political big men, Chief Umeh said he wasn’t asked to leave despite the fact the he was called to join the T. A Orji’s government by Orji Uzor Kalu.
“Well, I was there. I survived. I wasn’t asked to leave. But remember I told you who brought me into government though it was T. A Orji who was the governor. It was Orji Kalu who called me and told me I’ll be made the A-G. But it was T. A Orji’s government. He also invited me. Those he wanted to retain, he retained.
“That was the breaking point. When T. A got off the PPA, he started looking for a platform. First, there was a movement to APGA, which Senator Umeh was involved in it. We took APGA membership cards. Even the late Ikemba of Nnewi, Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu was involved. He came and addressed us.
“Within two to three weeks after that, then negotiations to the PDP started. And eventually movement to the PDP. The Onyema camp was already in PDP and he felt that was a bigger umbrella. He needed somewhere to go in. That was what happened.
Speaking further, the former Attorney General of Abia State, said he may not know exactly what started the fight. “There may be more than what we know. I didn’t know when they started beefing”, Umeh said.
“I wasn’t there from the onset. I can’t tell you how T. A Orji met Orji Kalu apart from stories people tell. They were already relating well and he was already Orji Kalu’s Chief of Staff by the time I joined them. It was Orji Kalu and my classmate, Chuka Odom, former minister that introduced me to T. A Orji. Asking me how I managed that time, well, I had a job to do as the A-G. The A-G is not like any other political appointment, it’s more or less a professional calling, depending on how you want to handle it.
“I may be involved in politics somehow, but I tried to be very professional. That is why people say that when I was in Abia, they were not seeing me on the television or rallies, I said yes. When you’re on that seat, it’s a very busy seat. If you want to be a good A-G, you can’t be junketing with politicians, attending their rallies and all that. The workload is enormous. Once you take that oath, you have to do justice to everybody, not just your party. If you do that, you’ll take yourself away from the sacred duty.
“The A-G is not like the Commissioner for Housing or Works. If you look at it, the A-G has the power of life and death. Everything ends on your table. You determine who to prosecute. Even if a murderer is arraigned, the A-G has the power of Nolle to jack away a murderer. Even when the man is being tried. He can just issue a Nolle and say he has looked into the case and the man should be released. It’s very powerful weapon. No one has it. Only the A-G. But I kept strictly to my job. I was a party man.
“But I attended meetings I wanted to attend. Not every meeting. When you get enmeshed in politics as an A-G, you’ll get your hands soiled because those people will come to you to ask for favours. So, when they had that rift, some people insulted Orji Kalu, but I stayed out of it. It was my duty as A-G. I know those who went. I maintained my relationship with T. A Orji.
“I was conscious of the fact that I needed to retain his confidence. I was not running to Orji Kalu’s place. I wasn’t relating with him. I had no cause. For 10 years, the only time I saw his matter was when he wrote that his emoluments had not been paid. I saw it on my table written by a lawyer.