By Eddie Onuzuruike
Warrant Chief Tom Orji Ikoro wished his son well. Having been in close contact with the colonial officers, their lifestyles so much impressed him that he to some extent acquired the white man’s technique, owning a motorcycle and acquiring a double barrel gun which hung across his chest like a sash as he cruised on his Triumph motorcycle in those days when fumes of burnt petrol trailed the rider miles away. He did not stop at that, being the first to raise a story building when most people around his palace in his Amokwe Ugba Ibeku homeland dreamt of huts and hovels for shelter.
Chief Tom wished his son to become a District Officer who represented the British colonial government. His obedient son heard his daddy well and swore to realize this loud wish.
In those days, education was the only tool for upward mobility as crime and cheating prevalent today were highly deemphasized and seen by many upright people as anathemas in achieving objectives.
Young Theodore, Schooled at St Michael’s Primary School, Ugwu Nchara, Umuahia, a Catholic Mission School and after, preceded to another Catholic institution, the Sancta Crux Secondary School in present day Olokoro Community in Umuahia South LGA of Abia State.
Conditions then were not that easy to many as schools were not located in every neighborhood like the ones dotting every space today. What mattered most was the goal. Young Theo as he was called then by many of his fiercely protective aunties trekked over ten kilometers, sometimes through bush parts daily to go to school and back, but he did not bother or complain as many who today believe so much on the philosophy of the instant coffee.
Sen. Orji had his hard times as he went through the secondary school, made a brief stop at Holy Ghost high School Owerri notably, another Catholic school and landed at the elite University of Ibadan when university education was highly competitive as universities could be counted off on the fingers in the country.
Immediately after the NYSC mandatory service, he took the civil service seriously when many felt that they should engage in moonlighting to survive the hard times. Due to his stringency of being goal bound without any godfather, he made it to the topmost cadre in the civil service as Permanent Secretary- obviously the District Officer equivalent as his father had wished. By dint of hard work his sterling qualities and the personal resolve to always do the needful could not escape the watch of scouts in many situations he had found himself being a consummate team player. In one instance, he was poached by the Fed government to become the Administrative Secretary of NECON in Abia and Enugu States, today’s INEC after which he found his way back to Abia State Civil Service and was appointed the Chief of Staff for eight years. The Lord who led him did not stop as he became the First Civil Servant in Abia to be elected a governor. His governorship and governance style were in many ways out of the ordinary as there were challenges that would have forced the lion hearted to abscond but not him. A political maneuver kept him out of circulation for no offence of his, a very shocking and depressing time. Daredevil kidnappings and incessant armed robbery made mockery of governance and threatened the imposition of martial laws in Gods Own State, but he deftly handled the muster, ending the heinous crimes to which the number one crime boss of Nigeria, the Inspector General of Police then, I D Mohamed, classified the surprising end of these maximum crimes in Abia as a case study.
In a related development, Late Eze Ahuama of Ukwa, a deserted community then due to the encampment of the most wanted criminal then, Osisi Ka ngwu, the Royal Highness confessed then that Ochendo has done all that he will expect from any living person, bringing him, his wives and family back alive to his kingdom. In his words, ‘I used to be a feared wrestler in my youth, growing up not fearing any but instead, hired by many communities to wrestle for them, but this boy Osisi Ka nkwu drove me into exile but Ochendo, you brought me back, good will always follow you.’
Ochendo ended his governance in style like most things he sets his hands on, scoring firsts in each situation. He promoted all civil servants to the next salary grade level, building the International Conference Center, housing the Civil servants in a comprehensive building outside rented offices, and the first to shift power to Abia South with their son Okezie Ikpezu on seat today just to mention a few. Most notable is that he left Abia totally peaceful devoid of the catastrophe in many states where predecessors and successors are at daggers drawn. You may wonder what’s happening in Edo, with Oshiomole and Obaseki, Obi and Obiano in Anambra, Akume, Gemade and Ortom in Benue and Lagos where the outgone Gov. Ambode was brashly denied a second tenure. A situation T. A. Orji suffered and as a highly principled fellow swore not to wish his enemy. In a statement some time ago, Gov Ikpeazu admitted that a very cordial relationship exists between him and the former governor and that they have mutual respect for each other.
Unstoppably, he is in the senate scaling the hurdle of the first tenure where he was spotted by the Daily Trust newspaper as the most upcoming legislator, so did the verbatim Magazine and the Authority Newspapers. He sponsored many life-improving bills and motions, many passed and awaiting presidential assent. He has returned to the senate with maximum votes in the 2019 elections, promising to upgrade his charity, educational programmes and philanthropy.