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Orji Kalu and the road to prison: Implications for Southeast APC

Since former Abia State governor, Orji Uzo Kalu left Government House, Umuahia 12 years ago, his attempts at regaining political relevance in the state have been accompanied by severe battles.

Ordinarily, this should not be so for a man who rode on power for eight years, calling the shots as he deemed fit, ‘making and unmaking’ people as he wished, while his administration lasted. People have always alluded to his efforts at installing his successor, Theodore Orji in 2007, who was then in prison.

But since leaving office in 2007, Kalu has had to struggle at every election he contested. On two occasions, he lost the bid to represent Abia North senatorial zone in the National Assembly. And it was not untilhe switched to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2019 general elections that fortune smiled on him. Energised by the Court of Appeal’s ruling,he was able to regain the election he won to represent Abia North senatorial zone.

A tribunal had actually quashed his election and declared a fresh one in the area. An appeal he filed over the tribunal’s judgment led to the restoration of the election in his favour. That was the mandate he had enjoyed in the last few months.

Last Thursday, that mandate was again challenged. This time, however, it was not based on the electoral contest, but on the alleged atrocities, he committed 12 years ago while serving as governor. The case had been in court since he left the office.

On Thursday, the Federal High Court in Lagos found him guilty of the charges; convicted and sentenced him to 12 years imprisonment over N7.2bn fraud. The money was said to belong to Abia people, but which he allegedly cornered for himself, while serving as their governor.

Justice Muhammed Idris convicted Kalu alongside his firm, Slok Nigeria Limited and Jones Udeogu, who served under him as Director of Finance and Accounts.

While Udeogu was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, the judge ordered that Slok Nigeria Limited be wound up, and its assets forfeited to the Federal Government.

The High Court’s judgment, which Kalu has vowed to appeal, marked the climax of a petition that emanated from some concerned citizens of the state years back, which detailed the sleaze committed during the former governor’s administration.

It was gathered that enamoured by some of the former Governor’s political opponents, some groups had sent petitions to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) about how funds that accrued to the state during the period went into private pockets. They were said to have maintained that the under-development suffered by the state was created by his administration’s inability to judiciously utilise funds, and implored EFCC to help recover the money and prosecute those involved.

Apparently to thwart investigations and delay the course of justice, Kalu, on several occasions, distanced himself from the court under the guise of ill health and other technicalities employed by his lawyers, while the trial lasted.

Sources indicated that his poor handling of the state’s affairs pushed several stakeholders into objecting to anything that could enable him re-launch himself back to political relevance in the state.

Although the politician had assumed the flamboyant posture of an Igbo leader and statesman, having been in politics for a long time and forming a political party, Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA) on which he vied for presidential election and lost, the same oligarchy ensured that his return to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which gave him the platform to become governor in 1999 was unsuccessful.

It was gathered that the resistance against his return to the state PDP clearly proved to him that the battle to politically keep him out was no longer being treated with kid gloves. It then dawned on him that those who authored the petitions against him would stop at nothing in ensuring it was prosecuted to the last letter.

Apparently realising the damage it would do to him and his business, should they have their way, the former Governor was said to have moved to truncate and probably protect himself from prosecutions when he approached APC to become a member.

The source stated that he was ready to do anything to garner APC leadership’s confidence on why he should be accepted into its fold, and to achieve his aim, he made several promises on how he would single-handedly restore Southeast to APC in the 2019 elections.

Orji came close to confirming this much on November 16, 2016, during the formalisation of his APC membership, when heassured the then party leadership, under Chief John Oyegun that he would “deliver the entire Southeast to the party in 2019, ” as a way of giving it thereal nationalspread it required in politics.

He had told the then party’s national working committee: “Today is a happy day, and I want APC to be all-inclusive. I want to thank the National Chairman for using this opportunity to personally welcome us. Between Sunday, when I registered at Igbere and now, there are 4,000 new members already registered with APC in Abia.


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Posted by on Dec 8 2019. Filed under Latest Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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