- By Emeka Ugwuonye
As I watched Senator Orji Uzor Kalu’s speech on the floor of the Senate, tears came to my eyes too. For the six months he spent in unjust and wrongful imprisonment in Kuje Prison, I spent average of two hours with him every day. He is one of the best Nigerian leaders when you get to know him well.
I am sure you have never seen me praise any Nigerian politician publicly, not even Zik, not even Awo, not even M. I. Okpara. But I have no hesitation in praising OUK. And if you recalled, he was the only Nigerian politician I was ready to support if he were to run for the president of the country. And please, don’t make the mistake of thinking that I have not known how other leaders are.
Don’t forget I was a personal lawyer to a Nigerian leader for seven good years, and have worked for many other leaders in Nigeria and beyond. But why do I feel this sure about OUK? Because I discovered in him exceptional qualities I would never have known were in him.
He was kind to everybody, but he was exceptionally kind to me, even during a period of our shared affliction. In the course of the time I spent with Senator OUK, I discovered why he was put in prison and those who put him in prison.
OUK knows them. But I can understand that he would not tell you who those are. The intrigue it took to put him in prison was a very extremely complex one. But it is in the center of the character of the country of Nigeria.
When OUK was moved to tears while delivering his speech, I was also moved to tears as I watched him. How can I explain this emotion? I will try in the following way. One day, while I was in prison, I called my son in America.
I was upbeat in explaining to him that I met OUK and how nice and encouraging he had been. My young son asked me who OUK was. I explained to him. I expected my son to share in my optimism. But my son was suddenly quiet. I asked him why.
He said: “Dad, if they could keep a man like OUK in prison in the circumstances you just described, that means you have no hope for Nigeria”. My son was wondering logically how I could be optimistic about Nigeria if Nigeria could put a man like OUK in prison falsely and unjustly. I understood what my son meant.
“That was why the tears in my eyes three years after my detention in Kuje. The tears in OUK’s eyes are not for himself. The tears in my eyes are not for myself either. They are for Nigeria and Nigerians. If you know why and how OUK was unjustly sent to prison, you will cry ceaselessly for Nigeria.
OUK is a hero, and not any of the things we were misled to think about him. He is a great leader. So sad anyone would think otherwise. My hope is that Nigeria will take the maximum advantage of what that man has to offer this country.