- By AGU. U. AGU
Orji Uzor Kalu, at the age of 20, had started early in life to make ends meet, build a name for himself and set up his various establishments. By the year 1980, 20 December to be exact, OUK and I met at Heathrow airport.
He was shuttling between Lagos to London to buy what he thought his schoolmates will like to wear as long as it was legitimate.
At that time he had a furniture company called “Orjialex” in Maiduguri. Also associating with the powers that be then like Uba Ahmed, the secretary of NPN then. Due to his large heart, he invited me to come with him to Maiduguri, which I declined because I had enrolled in the National Youth Service Corps.
OUK is not an ‘emergency philanthropist’ rather he has been a philanthropist and has been drawing from the seeds he sowed over the years with people and contacts made in the past.
According to the English Oxford Dictionary, philanthropy is benevolent altruism to increase the well-being of humankind. It further defined the term as charitable giving.
Many people who are blessed financially are devoid of this exceptional attribute and find it difficult to extend their blessings to others. Here is a man whose generosity, benevolence and magnanimity epitomize this exceptional attribute of ensuring the well-being of fellow human beings who from his childhood is sine Qanon to giving to others in situations.
The generosity of Senator Orji Uzor Kalu an Igbere-born business Mogul and now Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. OUK is synonymous with philanthropy, even the heavens can attest to that.
In the ’80s, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu (Aha Eji Aga Mba) an Aba brought up during his days in a book lunch which attracted the presence of the Governor of old Imo State, Chief Sam Onunaka Mbakwe, did what Napoleon could not do to the admiration of Dee Sam Mbakwe and applause from the people of Enyimba City.
Many elect to extend their largesse to others only when they are expecting something in return. Meanwhile unlike Senator Orji Uzor Kalu who never dreamt of venturing into politics, provided jerseys and boots for the Enyimba lads to excel in their football competitions and never expected a reward from anyone.
He equally awarded scholarships to indigent students and curated loan schemes for Aba traders. No wonder when he expressed his interest to contest as the Governor of Abia State, he was generally and widely accepted in 1999, as a reward for his philanthropy.
As a result of his humane disposition and being a detribalised Nigerian, he proceeded to Maiduguri to exhibit his good act which equally did not go unrewarded.
In 1997 at the age of 25, OUK became the Chairman of the Bornu State Water Board where he initiated policies that provided potable water for millions of Bornu State indigenes.
This was in the guinea worm endemic area. What a great feat! It is said that a golden fish does not have a hiding place; this philanthropist was again identified as a goal-getter and an achiever.
He was appointed the Chairman of the Imo State Marketing and Supply Agency where he evolved strategies for the formation of policies for the procurement and distribution of essential commodities through the creation of viable systems and regularization of policies for the then Governor to implement. If I may add a famous colloquial from Gen Z; It is indeed good to “follow who know road”.
As though his administrative dexterity and sagacity were not done, a then foremost bank in Nigeria called ‘The Co-operative and Commerce Bank Limited’ which many acclaimed politicians today cannot attest to its existence, identified this exceptional talent who is endowed with human, material and financial management and appointed him the Chairman of the bank where he served from 1987-1989.
Orji Uzor Kalu was widely celebrated as the youngest Chairman of many banks in Nigeria. Our thoroughly groomed and widely exposed business mogul and Philanthropist OUK was later appointed Member National Sports Commission under the Chairmanship of Chief S.B. Williams where he served from 1989-1990.
This national figure whose desire is to serve humanity without expecting anything in return, except appreciation and encouragement to do more, was beckoned by the people to represent them at the lower Chamber of the National Assembly under the platform of NRC between 1992 and 1993, where he served as Deputy Chairman, Committee on Finance which was a rare privilege for a first timer.
Senator Orji Uzor Kalu has carved a niche for himself and he is highly celebrated. At the young age of 24, he founded Slok Industries Limited at Aba in 1988. And the rest are as follows; Slok Nigeria Limited at Lagos in 1987, Slok Limited in the USA in March 1992, Slok Togo Limited in 1993, Slok Limited at Benin Sari, Cotonou in 1995, Slok UK Limited, London in 1989.
All these establishments provided employment opportunities to many people and by so doing, placed food on the table of many families. This business mogul, now a maverick politician established Adamawa Publishers Limited (Publishers of Every Woman) in July 1990 and equally established First International Bank Limited in Banjul, Gambia, before he became the Governor of Abia State in 1999.
The numerous accolades Senator Orji Uzor Kalu has been and is still receiving today including the best ‘Project Senator Award’ did not start anew. OUK simply does not lobby to be recognized or identified for an award, unlike others who may bargain for such with monetary inducement.
Top Magazine bestowed on him “The Youngest Bank Chairman Ever” in the history of Nigeria, and the Nigeria Chamber of Commerce, Trade and Industry in 1990, and awarded this great icon the Industrialist of the Year.
His philanthropic disposition stands him out everywhere and it is no wonder a Humanitarian Award was bestowed on him on the 26th day of March 2001 at the Humanitarian Club, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
What exactly am I trying to portray, except stating the obvious that the numerous tangible and intangible infrastructures the Distinguished Senate Chief Whip has been attracting to his Constituents and beyond his Senatorial zone (Abia North) is what has become part of him from childhood He feels happy to put smiles on the faces of people.
The number of projects OUK has attracted to Abia State in less than four years should be commended and appreciated by all and sundry. I would indulge those who are challenging him to rethink so as not to waste their time and resources, because, in legal parlance, facts speak for themselves.
This unassuming, accessible, amiable and philanthropic Senator, whose track records cannot be challenged ought to be rewarded by the people of Abia North in particular and Abia State at large.
I wish that the Constitution of Nigeria had made provision for a third term as many would beckon on OUK to come and use the magic wand he deployed to make Enyimba FC win the CAF trophy back-back, paid civil servants, teachers, parastatals, pensioners and made political appointees to be proud of their positions to repeat itself.
Though no single human being is perfect, Orji Uzor Kalu remains a Colossus in the annals of the Abia political arena. He excelled despite the meagre allocation he received. Why is it said that his successors have not improved much in those arrears they allege OUK did not get it right since 2007, almost 16 good years since he left office?
In less than four years as a senator, OUK has attracted and ensured that numerous roads are constructed and completed in his senatorial zone. Please, I urge us all to call a spade a spade and doff our hats for this great philanthropist, an achiever, a goal-getter, and a man of many parts whose swag knows no bounds.
Chief. AGU. U. AGU