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Orji Uzor Kalu in the ‘Evil Forest’

The jubilation in Ala Igbo over the incarceration of former Abia state governor, Orji Uzor Kalu speaks to deeper concerns beyond affirming the truism that failure is an orphan. Individuals and groups in the land have affirmed the necessity for the former governor of Abia State to serve his 12-year jail term for the heist of Abia State funds. The court found him guilty of stealing N7.5 billion from the state.

I agree with the majority view that Orji Uzor Kalu earned his just deserts and should spend time in jail. He may deploy the period to think about his disservice to Abia state and its citizens. He may even find in the loneliness of imprisonment the opportunity to reflect on his eight-years and offer an apology.

People point to not just the stealing of resources but the swagger and impunity with which Kalu carries on. After stealing the state blind, he brazenly stated that he was more prosperous than Abia state. At other times, he claimed to have governed Abia State with his own money.

In the wake of the 2019 elections after which he became a senator, Kalu disavowed his Igboness or interest in fighting causes dear to the Igbo. First, he played the double-dealing game. Ahead of the contest for offices, he deployed the Igbo card. He was a fighter for Igbo interests. Soon as he lost the prime positions, he changed. The people quote him by asking him to “carry your cross, brother”.

His volubility and support for RUGA against the direction and views of Ndigbo have come handy to his traducers. He also lied against the Igbo, blaming them for his business failures. Kalu stated, “I know what I have lost to politics, defending Igbo and fighting to see Igbo take what belongs to them. This cost me my bank, airline, oil blocks and many other businesses. I lost friends in politics, business and my social friends both at home and abroad. Do you think I would have quarrelled with Obasanjo if not for Igbo? Do you think that I would have left PDP? Do you think I will have been on the EFCC list?

 His volubility and support for RUGA against the direction and views of Ndigbo have come handy to his traducers. He also lied against the Igbo, blaming them for his business failures

“…Ohaneze and co can do Igbo as they like, I don’t give a damn. Everyone must carry his cross. I am not afraid to speak the truth; I’m trained by a Hausa Fulani, I brought RUGA to the south-east. I built a mosque for the Moslems when I was governor. I have business scattered in the northern part of the country. We are one Nigeria. We must support Buhari to implement RUGA across the country. Anytime a vote is called for any bill to be passed in favour of RUGA, I, Orji Uzor Kalu, will vote in support.”

The convict Orji Uzor Kalu may still regain his freedom on appeal to higher courts. Quality representation in court or political gamesmanship may bring him freedom.  Good luck to him. Ndigbo are currently happy with the message of the 5 December 2019 judgement.

Welcome to the Evil Forest. In speaking out volubly in support of his incarceration, Ndigbo sentenced Orji Uzor Kalu to the “Evil Forest”. They have also reaffirmed belief in the fundamental values that served as anchors for the society.

The “Evil Forest” in Igbo lore was a physical location usually at the extremities of each community where they sent people the community sanctioned for various offences. It is a place of abomination and condemnation. It is a place worse than the modern correctional facility of a prison.

The Evil Forest today is a metaphorical place of abandonment and sequestration of undesirable elements the society has condemned. It is reputational. The Evil Forest today resides in the minds of citizens. It is a dangerous location.

The Evil Forest is the Vox Populi. It is an opinion poll that reports the perceptions of stakeholders concerning public figures and celebrities. It is a barometer that provides an instant update, but that may change with time and circumstance.

Ndigbo say the Evil Forest awaits other former governors of the region. The result of the referendum is foreboding. They are bitter concerning the evidence of failure to provide dividends of governance in the region by these men. Some of these former rulers joined in the cry of marginalisation of the region when they were the ones doing the damage.

Watch out, say the people to current rulers, from governors through local government chairpersons to those in state and national assemblies. Perform. Or citizens will join in ensuring that the long arm of the law grabs you after the removal of immunity.

Persecution of Igbo highflyers? 2023? Forget it. Nothing in this case that started under the Yaradua administration links to those issues. Zilch.

There are cultural issues around values arising from the Orji Uzor Kalu jailing. Many have questioned the rejoicing because Ndigbo do not rejoice at the downfall of one of their own. Then the matter of the expectations of the people from public officeholders.

Ndigbo generally do not rejoice at ill-fortune. The Igbo are fair-minded. They crave for justice. The seeming ululation is not mockery but appreciation for justice.
More significantly, a man who wilfully appropriates what belongs to all for himself alone is an enemy to the generality. The trending YouTube video of his humungous estate speaks to the overweening greed, impunity and lack of discretion of the otherwise streetwise former governor. The message of values is that the people still care about the sanctity of public trust and public finances and noblesse oblige. To whom much is given, the public is right to expect so much. They also have the right to express their displeasure and disappointment.

CHIDO NWAKANMA

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