Kalu, Orji in drama of reconciliation
A drama of sort played out at the weekend in Abia State as a reconciliatory attempt to get Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, former governor of the state, reunited to his successor in office, Chief Theodore Orji, got the public more confused.
Though a truce seemed to have been secured for the political feud that has been on for years, even without the physical presence of one party, the response from both parties left people wondering what the future portends.
For example Kalu said: “I have forgiven T A Orji … I will not forget it,” while Orji replied: “I have also forgiven him … I will also not forget what he did to me when I was governor.” However, the move to settle the two political bigwigs is indicative of a positive development and willingness on both sides to put the past behind them. Only time will tell how far this would go.
Orji, an indigene of Umuahia Ibeku in Umuahia North Local Government Area (LGA), was Chief of Staff to Kalu, a native of Igbere in Bende LGA, throughout Kalu’s two tenures as governor of the state. The Senator later succeeded him as governor in 2007 and also governed the state for two terms of eight years ending in 2015.
But towards the end of Orji’s first term in office, irreconcilable political differences set in between them, which has lingered till date. The differences was quite deep that they both parted political ways with Orji abandoning their hitherto common political platform, the Progressives Peoples Alliance (PPA). Kalu remained in PPA while Orji decamped to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from where he was elected into office in 2007 and used the PDP platform to re-contest for his second term in office in 2011 and won.
Orji had alleged that the disagreement between them resulted from Kalu and his family’s overbearing influence in his government, that he virtually became a stooge who more or less was being dictated to on how to govern the state.
Besides, it was claimed that Kalu threatened that Orji would be denied the PPA platform to re-contest for second term in office in 2011 which was given credence to when Orji’s then deputy, Dr. Chris Akomas in an interview with a newspaper said that it was the party PPA that would decide who would be its governorship candidate in the 2011 election.
Nonetheless, Kalu refuted Orji’s allegations that he (Kalu) interfered in Orji’s government. He said that for several years, he neither met nor discussed the governance of Abia with Orji and that he (Kalu) also did not visit the Government House after he left office. Akomas’ remark, which was considered ominous by many, came at a time it was being rumored that the PPA was shopping for a governorship candidate outside Orji. At that point in time, Akomas had started to be sidelined as Orji’s deputy, and he was prompted to resign from office following the process of impeachment against him by the state lawmakers.
Akomas eventually became the PPA flag bearer and contested the governorship election alondside Orji who beat him to the Government House in 2011.Predicting that this was possible, Orji first decamped to All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) but shortly after, the PDP, then led by Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo as National Chairman, trooped to Umuahia and successfully wooed Orji into the party. He was offered the PDP platform to contest for the second term in office, an offer governor Orji happily grabbed.
Since the advent of their lingering feud, Abians and the political watchers of the state have looked forward to seeing not only the end of it but also how it would be end.Thus, last Friday provided an insight when Kalu visited Umuahia and met with some Ibeku people at the home of their Traditional Prime Minister, Chief James Uche Akwukwuegbu with the Traditional ruler of Ibeku Clan, His Royal Majesty Eze Samuel Onuoha, the Ogwurube Ibeku in attendance.
On Kalu’s arrival in company of some non-Ibeku sons like Chiefs Tony Ukasanya from Ubakala in Umuahia South LGA, Igwe Laz Onwuneme from Ohuhu in Umuahia North LGA among others, including the ex National Chairman of the PPA, Mr. Larry Esin from Akwa Ibom state, the Ogwurube Ibeku (Eze Onuoha), it became certain that something good was in the offing.
The traditional ruler, Eze Onuoha addressed the gathering, disclosing that the meeting was convened to render apology to the former governor, Kalu and also to plead with him to forgive Ibeku people whom he (Kalu) helped to make their son (T A Orji) his (Kalu) successor in 1997.He lamented that soon after Orji became governor, a protracted political dispute and disagreement set in between him (Kalu) and their son (ex governor Orji).
According to the traditional ruler, the strife portrayed Ibeku people as an ungrateful people despite that the scenario worried and haunted them. “This is why we are today gathered to apologize to you (Kalu) and plead that you forgive us (Ibeku people)”. Chiefs Ukasanya, Igwe Onwuneme and Prime Minister Akwukwegbu corroborated this stance in their separate remarks.
Responding to the apology and plea for forgiveness, the former governor told them that he accepted it saying, “I have forgiven T A Orji. But naturally, I would not forget it. I have nothing against the ruling state governor Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu who succeeded T A Orji on May 29, 2015”.
Similarly, in his own reaction, Orji, who is presently, the serving Senator for Abia Central, told The Guardian in a telephone conversation that he was not aware of the meeting and was not part of the tendering of apology or pleading for the forgiveness by his Ibeku kinsmen as reported.
His words: “I am not aware and part of this meeting, the tendering of apology and plea for forgiveness. I have also forgiven him (Kalu) like he announced he has forgiven me. I will also not forget what he did to me when I was governor”.
According to Senator Orji, the absence of some notable Ibeku sons at the meeting and the reported presence and attendance by non-Ibeku persons/sons like Ukasanya and Igwe Onwuneme including Larry Esin who gave the vote of thanks, showed that the meeting was not an entirely Ibeku outing. Just like Kalu was said to have facilitated the emergence of Orji as his (Kalu) successor, Orji is similarly given credit for the emergence of governor Ikpeazu as his successor.
The Guardian gathered that the Friday meeting was more than a forum of apology and forgiveness seeking. Sources claimed that it was part of an on-going strategic moves to re-unit Kalu’s teeming admirers and supporters in the state as well as to align forces for present and future politics in the region.
The Local Government election, which the state government has scheduled for Saturday December 17, 2016, is a test case for this political reunion.It would be recalled that governor Ikpeazu served in Kalu’s government as Special Assistant in Charge of Passenger Insurance Manifest Scheme, and as an unelected Local Government council Chairman.
Also, Orji appointed him as one of his political aides. Since Ikpeazu’s emergence as governor, he has not publicly visited Kalu or made any negative reference to him in public, which suggested that the Kalu/Orji row might not have entangled him.
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