The news that the Abia State University, ABSU withdrew the university degree awarded the immediate past governor of the state, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu was not surprising to many.
For some folks, it was a logical step in the continuing mutual war of attrition between the incumbent governor, Chief Theodore Orji and Kalu.
But how the “intellectual assets” of Dr. Kalu became an issue in the acrimonious war between the governor and his predecessor is something that is bound to worry many otherwise academically inclined Nigerians. It would be especially so, if the underlining reason for the withdrawal of Kalu’s degree was based on political consideration. The effect would be that academic credentials of oppositionists in the land would be open to political permutations.
As governor of Abia State, Kalu had caused a spectacle when he enrolled in the university raising moral questions as to how a visitor could at the same time be a student in the same university. It all passed away as the many intrigues and wonders of the Kalu years in Abia. That was until last week’s revelation of the revocation of the degree and the political reverberations that came with it.
When in 2007 Kalu handed over the instruments of office to Orji, few expected the kind of bickering between the two men as we are now seeing.
Kalu had against all odds defied the then authorities by presenting Orji, his chief of staff for eight years, as the gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Progressive Alliance, PPA, the party he nurtured after he lost out in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Governor Orji’s transition from custody to the council chambers of the Abia State government in May 2007 was a remarkable act of political ingenuity crafted by the brawny and brainy Kalu that not many university degree holders could have pulled through.
Following the transfer of power, Kalu’s junior brother, Mascot Uzor Kalu emerged as the new chief of staff in the Theodore Orji administration that was, however, largely alleged to be programmed by the former governor and his mother.
The mutual tolerance of the old and the new continued until the emergence of the Goodluck Jonathan administration in 2010 when enemies of Kalu went through the first lady, Patience Jonathan who is partly from the state, to help Orji out of Kalu’s grip. Before then, there were suggestions that Kalu was about using the two governors in his PPA, – Ikedi Ohakim in Imo State and Orji- as bargaining chips in his own bid to return to mainstream party politics in the PDP. But Ohakim, reportedly a street wise man like Kalu, pulled a fast one on Kalu, and returned to the PDP ahead of Kalu.
Orji, who was the only remaining governor in Kalu’s PPA when Jonathan emerged, inevitably grabbed the opportunity when the PDP Abia caucus, led by the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, went on a carefully crafted mission in 2010 to “woo” Orji to the PDP.
Chief Orji’s condition for accepting the offer, it seemed, was that the door being opened to him must surely be locked against Kalu.
Since that separation which has largely been celebrated as the liberation of the state, and Governor Orji hailed as the champion of the liberation, the politics of the state has inevitably put both men at odds. Remarkably, most of those who dined and wined with Kalu and used his political machine to achieve one political seat or the other in 2007 moved along with Orji to the PDP.
Since his famed liberation in 2010, Chief Orji according to some who have visited the state, has progressed in the delivery of democracy dividends to the electorate. Visitors to the state claim a spurt in infrastructure development with new constructions here and there.
One notable political development is the emergence of a new set of political lords. Where mother and son reigned in the past, a new set of power wheelers has emerged.
The new power peddlers may have checked Kalu, albeit for now. Given the controversies that trailed Kalu’s admission into ABSU, it is not unlikely that those that did this to him could go further to probe the circumstances under which Kalu obtained his secondary school certificate! But Kalu it is said has long reaches that make the present developments just a stop gap in the running feud between the two men.