The former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, MON, is expected as a guest lecturer at the second distinguished lecture of the Faculty of Arts, University of Nigeria. A public notice from the Faculty has it that the event shall hold on Friday, 12th May, 2017 by 11am at the Princess Alexandra Auditorium (PAA), in the Nsukka campus of the school and is to be chaired by Dame, Prof. Uche Azikiwe.
The first distinguished lecture of the Faculty, whose Dean is Prof. Christian Onyeji was given by Prof. Toyin Falana, of the Department of History, University of Texas in Austin through the efforts of the Faculty’s Committee on Distinguished lectures led by the able Head of Department of History and International Studies, Prof. Chima Korieh. The first Distinguished lecture was held in the school on February 7th, 2017, titled “Contemporary Challenges of Higher Education in Nigeria”.
The visit of OUK, as he is fondly called, to the den will be the second since he left office as the Executive Governor of Abia State, the first occurring in 2014 when he delivered a lecture at a special event organised by the Department of Economics. At that event which took place on March 21st, 2014, Kalu made donations of computer sets to the Department and also set up a prize for Best Graduating students in three different categories (The School as a whole, Department of Economics and the Faculty of the Social Sciences).
Orji Uzor Kalu is one man whose profile begs for attention and could really be a great inspiration to the youths of the country. Born on April 21, 1960, OUK began his educational career at Christ the King School, Aba. He moved over to Federal Government College, Umuahia, where he began his secondary school Education. He was later to complete his High School studies at Barewa College, Zaria, from where he moved to the University of Maiduguri where he studied political science. However, he was not able to complete his studies in Maiduguri due to his active participation in Student Unionism which did not go down well with the Obasanjo-led Military Administrators at that time as he with other students (under the aegis of the National Union of Nigerian Students, NUNS) were suspended for their roles in the famous April 1978 “Ali Must Go” riots against then Federal Commissioner for Education, Ahmadu Ali over a 50 kobo increase in prices of meal across Nigerian Universities.
With suspension handed to him, OUK refused to give up on himself and with $35 which he reportedly borrowed from his mother, OUK set out into business, beginning with trade in palm oil, later on to buying and selling furniture.
At the very tender age of 25, OUK became the Chairman of Borno Water Board. Also served under the Imo State Government in the Marketing and Supply Agency as the Chairman. He was to go on to become the youngest man in history to be the Chairman of of any bank in Nigeria, when in 1987 at the age of 27 he became the chairman of Cooperative and Commerce Bank Limited. No wonder, in 1986, the Government of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida recognised young Kalu (26 years old) with a National Merit award, making him the youngest Nigerian in history to receive such a prestigious award. Many awards will follow on after that including being named the Nigerian Chamber of Commerce’s Industrialist of the Year. He was also awarded the Humanitarian Award of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka’s Humanitarian Club, the Volunteer Award of the International Association of Volunteers, the EU Special Award in Brussels, and the World Bank Leon Sullivan Award.
OUK set up his SLOK Holding, a Business conglomerate that today consist of a number of successful companies, including Ojialex Furniture Company, SLOK Nigeria Limited, SLOK United Kingdom Limited, Adamawa Publishers Limited, SLOK Vegetable Oil, Aba, SLOK Paper Factory, Aba, SLOK United States Incorporated, SLOK Ghana, SLOK Togo, SLOK Cotonou, SLOK Guinea, SLOK South Africa, SLOK Liberia, SLOK Botswana, SLOK Korea, Supreme Oil Limited, SLOK Airlines, Sun Publishing Limited, Daily Telegraph and First International Bank Limited.
OUK has a degree from the Abia State University, a Certificate in Business Administration from Harvard University and Honorary Doctorate Degrees from the Universities of Maiduguri and Abia State.
Despite his many successes as a businessman, OUK is better known to Nigerians as a Politician than a businessman, he first came to political limelight when he served as a member of the Federal House of Representatives from 1992 to 1993. It is widely held that he sponsored the famous Dual-Citizenship Rights Bill in the House. He was elected the first Governor of Democratic God’s own State, Abia State in 1999 under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a political party which he contributed immensely to its founding.
OUK took giant strides as Governor of Abia State, no wonder barely six months into office as Governor, he was dubbed “THE ACTION GOVERNOR OF NIGERIA” by then President Olusegun Obasanjo, during one of his working visits to Abia State on February 26th, 2000. He also ran for the office of the Presidency in 2007 under the platform of the Peoples Progressives Alliance (PPA), a party which he founded and was its onetime BOT chairman.
Indeed, just enough can not be said of the man, OUK. Though, he has come under so many criticisms in time past for his political views and positions, yet, one thing remains resounding, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu was and is an Achiever, one that should be greatly looked up to by the Nigerian youths of today.
There could not have been a better topic for him to speak on than “Culture, Leadership and Higher Education in Nigeria” and there could not have been a better time than now, when the country is passing through a unique acculturation process. Kalu is a man which in my views has seen it all in terms of culture, having received over 200 traditional titles from far and wide, Leadership, both in business and Politics, Higher Education, one time union leader, a Governor and one who has through his foundations contributed immensely to the development of Education in Nigeria.
The 2015 Forbes-rated 49th richest African turned 57 recently, and he marked his birthday in a significant way as he turned out to the farms in his hometown, Igbere, with his cake and other goodies for the celebration which according to him, was the first celebration in over 20 years now.