For Sen. T. A. Orji, A Long Walk to Three scores and Ten

By Eddie Onuzuruike

My father once told me that wards who have nobody to advise them should stop on their move and listen even when the advice is meant for another ward. Valuable advice for wards today abound in many forms. There are abundant short videos, mini drama skits on TV and radios. Even before now, anecdotes and aphorisms have been of great assistance to those who tarry a while to peep into books.

WhatsApp platforms, Instagram pages and twitter handles are replete with such stories, some good and bad, others fair and foul. Opera news and all, pop up with stories as you are on the move, popping every second. But I find biographies more interesting. They are like home teachers, pricking your conscience, taking you round the globe as if you were on a tour.

Some of these lifetime treatises were on Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Junior and many innumerable others. Up till tomorrow, they thrill like scintillating films. The common factor with these men were that they were astute, firm like the rock and very stoic in most of their acts and decisions.

Abraham Lincoln chose the hard way, refusing dubious shortcuts and insisted on the world-celebrated Freedom Charter and the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863. Most of his speeches were like predictions that have come true today, remembering the following. ‘That these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.’

Nelson Mandela despite his barefoot beginnings was later taken to the Great House where he was being groomed to be the next of kin of a royalty coupled with an arranged royal marriage, but he dashed the hopes and plans of his avuncular benefactor, the Thembu Regent, Jungintaba and chose to advocate for his people.

Ghandi fought against racism abroad, and four layered caste system at home insisting on equality and even as a lawyer, chose a Spartan lifestyle, shunning opulence and flamboyance. The world still remembers him for the nonviolence resistance stance and the Swaraj [self rule] that he gave to his people.

Martin Luther King Jr by all measures was an enigma unforeseen and untold. He had oratorical prowess and used it to the hilt. He magnified the nonviolence resistance style in America, quaking the conscience of his people. His speeches sound like they were made yesterday. Recall the, ‘I have a dream’ speech which manifested in President Obama’s presidency. His decisions were unshakable even with death threats, promises of a good life and cash.

I see a cocktail of these men in Senator Theodore Ahamefula Orji. He may not have led the Israelites across the reed sea, misinterpreted today as the Red Sea, but he saw battle, and was politically detained for no just cause, yet he made history by winning election when he was put out of circulation.

Interestingly, his emergence into politics was turbulent and shocking. Can you imagine that a man who was never arrested by the police for once, not even for a traffic offence, was detained for months but historically won the Abia State governorship election while in detention, in 2007. Even when declared a winner, trouble rather than recede increased with multiple court cases that trailed from Umuahia, Port Harcourt, Lagos to Abuja Courts. Just as he planned settling down, internal party wrangles wouldn’t give him peace in the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), but he later united Abia in a peace accord untold, bringing friends and foes to one dining table from which he crafted a landslide in the 2011 elections for all Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidates, while clinching his own re-election. Not only the peace template, he reached out to all communities with projects and appointments.

Are we forgetting the security issues of kidnapping and dare-devil armed robbery when the former hunter and school dropout, Osisika Nkwu declared the Ukwa and Rivers forests a roguish republic, abducting people against their will, chasing traditional rulers away and challenging soldiers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Civil Servants for once were automatically promoted to the next level, health workers in Abia State were one of the earliest to be paid the special salary structure. In line with his largesse, Abia workers sheathed their swords and did not contemplate strike actions for eight years, making Abia civil servants the envy of other States in government-labour relations and adjudged the best nationwide. Investors were encouraged, the capital city of Umuahia got a facelift with the Legacy Projects, especially with International Conference Center that can host high-level seminars and conferences. A look from the ICC, are the bold Abia State Universal Basic Education Board (ASUBEB) buildings, remarkable Environmental House and the 90% completed new Government House cynosures. I can go on and on but for space.

In all times, he took Isaiah 41:10 seriously ‘Fear not for I am with you, be not dismayed for I am your God, I will strengthen you, I am with you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand”.

With these glaring achievements, escaping the snares of friends and foes, which is postulated in Igbo saying that the crab that escaped the snare should count its limbs, Ochendo beat the odds, escaping the snares with his limbs and appendages intact. The lone child of his mother is now surrounded by four hefty men and a queen.

Significantly, he has not lost any election till date and has vowed to quit when the ovation is loudest.

Being a peace advocate, the battle that started in Abia between him and his predecessor, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, has ended in Abuja.

You may misread these as a loud boast, No! We are counting Ochendo’s blessings, with huge thanks to God for His Amazing Grace and exceeding faithfulness.

Recognising him for having been Chief of Staff to a Governor for eight years, Governor for eight years, and now a Senator for six years and still counting, in one voice we say… Congrats Ochendo, the Grand Governor, Omezirimba, Ebekuo Dike, Father of Equity and the single tree that has made a forest.

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