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NOW IS THE TIME FOR PEACE AND RECONCILIATION

My beloved People,
bring you good tidings of the Season of Advent – the season of love – set aside by Christendom to prepare us for the commemoration of the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
My desire to write you at this time of the year is to underscore the significance I attach to the need for all humanity to co-exist in love and mutual tolerance. We are witnesses to the sordid events, especially the downturn in the global economy and wanton destruction of precious human lives, which have characterized the world in which we live today. There is no more respect for human life or dignity of labour. What rule our world today, unfortunately, are greed, wickedness, licentiousness and ostentation. The era of ‘ONURU UBE NWANNE AGBALA OSO’ seems to have gone with the winds.

Our state, being an integral part of the world, cannot, therefore, exist in isolation. What affects the world could even affect us in greater magnitude, considering the history of our existence in a society that has been most unjust and uncharitable to us. It is not the intention of this letter to lament our past, but there is no way we can discuss the present reasonably without reminiscing on the past.
My heart is in deep pain that our people have been made to suffer untold hardships in the midst of plenty, when they should be rejoicing. I recall the unsuccessful, but powerful moves we made in the recent past to reposition our state and build a more cohesive platform to further our collective interests. Unfortunately, some of us (Ndigbo) have continued to constitute a clog in the wheel of progress. The disadvantaged position we occupy in the scheme of things in Nigeria is not caused by any other reason other than self-centredness. The monumental achievements of our forbears were predicated on their indissoluble and indefatigable commitment to stand together and face the adversaries that came their way together. In unity and love they were able to conquer.
The legacies our forbears bequeathed to us are gradually and steadily dying. Yet we have continued to live as if nothing has gone amiss. The greatest disservice we can do to ourselves as a people is to allow our personal differences or parochial interests to becloud our sense of reasoning, to such a level that we can no longer navigate our way properly in the murky waters of Nigeria’s socio-political life.
Things have come to a point that we can no longer pretend to be fighting one another, while our house is on fire. Igbo are not the only tribe in Nigeria. There are two other major tribes with hundreds of socio-linguistic groups that make up the entity called Nigeria. Despite their socio-cultural differences they have stuck together under thick and thin to weather the unfavourable storms of life. The unity that pervades other tribes and ethnic entities is a lesson for Igbo.
For how long shall we fight and disparage one another before we realize the need to love one another and work together in harmony? What plans do we have for the incoming generations of Ndigbo who place their hope and trust in us? Why should strange things happen among us and we gleefully gloss over them? Why have we suddenly lost our manhood, behaving as if we have no scruples anymore?
The generations before us shone like a million stars. They were men and women of valour who made enormous sacrifices both for Ndigbo and Nigeria. It was their courage and steadfastness that placed Nigeria on the global map. They did not shy away from the challenges that faced them, even when some of these challenges bore mortal consequences.
The recent primaries of the political parties in Nigeria have further exposed the disunity and lack of political sagacity on the part of Igbo politicians. While other tribes spent less money and made less noise to achieve their goals, our people doled out billions of naira, which could have been channeled to other more useful ventures, and squabbled among themselves to achieve the same purpose. Why couldn’t our politicians exhibit more maturity and love, and less acrimony, in the quest for political power? Those that participated in the primaries whether in APGA, PDP, PPA, APC, etc in our state were all Abians. Must we always fight, intimidate and harass one another before we achieve our political goals? I have asked these questions because answers to them are at the heart of the endemic problems confronting us as a people.
As a first step to rekindling the new Igbo spirit of unity, love and progress, I, ORJI UZOR KALU, hereby tender an unreserved apology to any Abian and, indeed, Nigerian, whom I have offended in any way or form, especially during the 8 years (1999-2007) I served as the executive governor of Abia State. This apology has become necessary to set the tone for a new beginning for our people. We owe it as a duty to offer a similar apology to all those we have offended individually or collectively. Apart from trying to cement the bond of fraternity among us it is also a way of satisfying an obligatory religious duty of every Christian to love one another and live with one another in peace and brotherhood, particularly this Christmas. In the same vein, I have forgiven in advance those that trespassed against me.
There is no question that for the eight years I sat in the saddle as governor of Abia State I must have made mistakes – consciously or unconsciously. From whatever angle you look at these mistakes they were made in good faith and in furtherance of the duties of the office of governor. We never intended to deliberately offend anybody. The decisions we took as a government could not have pleased everybody. But in the long run, most of the things we did helped to move our state to the next level of development.
We have never deluded ourselves that everybody would be happy with all that we did. That would have amounted to asking for too much. But any objective observer or analyst will agree that considering the circumstances we found ourselves, with mountainous debts and absence of basic infrastructure, we did our utmost best. We served Abia people honestly, dedicatedly and transparently. We inherited a debt of N8.3 billion, made up of a staggering 168 million US dollars, several years of unpaid pensions and gratuities, three-month salary arrears of workers, and billions in successfully delivered contractual obligations. The reason past administrations failed to meet these obligations was best known to them.
Since government is a continuum and determined to leave behind something for which we would be remembered, we decided to take up the defrayal of the debts. I am glad to announce that by the time we exited office on May 29, 2007 we had paid all the debts. We were able to achieve this feat by the grace of God and an unremitting determination not to fail.
Our success as a government between 1999 and 2007 was also made possible by the unprecedented support you gave us. You stood by us at all times and showed faith in our dealings with you. We ran a transparent government and maintained due process in contractual matters, making it difficult for treasury-looters to operate. Again, as Chief Executive, I never had any underhand business with anybody be they Chief of Staff, Commissioner or contractor. The only money I spent, which was judiciously done, was the statutory security vote duly appropriated by the State House of Assembly. The money was used for the purpose it was meant and was managed by our present governor, Chief T.A. Orji, as my Chief of Staff. I wish to state without any equivocation that I did not personally handle any money throughout the period I was governor. This fact could be attested to by our civil servants who know every corrupt government official.
Our total collectible revenue from the federation account from May 1999 to April 2007 was N108 billion compared to the over one trillion naira the present administration has collected between May 2007 and September 2014. We were not given the May 2007 allocation on the orders of the President then that no state should be given that month’s allocation. With the meager resources we were able to do many projects, paid salaries and pensions regularly, offered free education and healthcare, provided all-round security, and ensured freedom of speech, movement and political association.   
We transformed the civil service in Abia State and built a culture of transparency and accountability. Though the first 97 days of our 8-year tenure was tumultuous as we tried to implement reforms in the service, however, we were able to sail through, because we were open to objective criticisms and ideas.
I listened to everybody who had a contrary view about our government. The two Catholic Bishops in Abia State – Luciu Iwejuru Ugorji of Umuahia and Vincent Ezeonyia of Aba – were particularly quite helpful in resolving the initial disagreements we had with civil servants over critical issues. The civil servants went to them and they came to me for discussions. We sat in-house and resolved all contentious issues amicably.  Thereafter, it was a smooth sail all the way. It is on record that Abia State ranked first among the states in Nigeria in industrial harmony. In fact, there was no single strike by both the civil servants and lecturers of our tertiary institutions throughout our tenure. We paid subventions to all institutions in our state as due. We also paid salaries every 25th of the month and met contractual obligations promptly. All this led to the peace and tranquility we experienced during the period under review.
Recall that during my tenure as governor we offered free education and free healthcare to our people. We did these things for the love of our people, even when the financial resources were scarce. We could have done more if the resources were as rosy as they are today.
In everything, we give God the glory, especially in our struggle to recover the 43 oil wells ceded to other states. We initiated and completed the process, and we thank the late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua for graciously granting the approval before he died. Abia is forever indebted to him for his benevolence and love for our people.
My dear people, contrary to the wicked insinuations of some laid-back critics our administration, to the best of my knowledge, did not award any contract to my mother or any member of my family as a matter-of-factly. I was vehemently opposed to giving any contract to any of my relations, no matter how sanguineous. Those who peddle the rumour have no concrete evidence to support their claims.
I am always open to quality and transformative ideas. Nevertheless, I have deep aversion for injustice and oppression. This is why it is very easy to do business with me once you can observe these principles. There is nobody I had done business with that would claim I cheated him. When I feel strongly about any issue, then there is an element of injustice in it. As a government, we were not unnecessarily confrontational, as some critics would make some believe. We took the federal government to the Supreme  Court on a number of occasions to seek interpretation to vital constitutional matters. And the judgments given helped to enhance our legal system.
For instance, my disagreements with Olusegun Obasanjo as President were purely based on principles and beliefs. They were not personal at all. I have utmost respect for the former President and will always do. For the avoidance of doubt, Obasanjo was a strong president and remains a patriot with huge passion for Nigeria. It is the same respect I have for Obasanjo that I extend to all our elders who have conducted themselves with dignity and integrity.
It is sad that some elders in our state have behaved in a manner that calls their integrity to question. They have made futile efforts to displace the truth with their inordinate desire for political largesse. Wherein then lay the hope of the younger generation if such elders could sell out too cheaply?
I wish to place on record that some of these elders, who today work against the common interest of our people, were recommended for ministerial appointments and appointments to boards of federal parastatal agencies by me. I even brought some of them to PDP from other splinter political groups. So, I have nothing personal against any of them. However, I appeal to them to sheathe their swords and let us work together to advance the cause of our state. If they felt aggrieved in whatever way, I sincerely apologize to them.
Some people erroneously blame me for the choice of T.A. Orji as governor. I take total responsibility for his choice. Let me, nonetheless, state here that the choice of T.A. Orji was made out of a sincere desire to enthrone a leadership that would be close and work for the growth and development of our state. There was no way I would have presented him to you for support if I knew he would turn out as a chastisement to our people. As at the time I settled for him, after due consultation, he was deemed to be the best. How he changed overnight to become what he is today is still strange to me.
I remember I cried out when Governor Orji started derailing, but nobody listened to me. I drew his attention to the development and advised him not to run for a second term rather that he should go to the Senate. He probably did not like the idea and decided to do his own will. This, I believe, could be the cause of the rift between us. If he had any other reason he should let the world know.
It is important our political and traditional leaders, youth, clergy, elders, men and women come together and invite the governor and myself to sit eyeball to eyeball and let him tell them what I had done against him to warrant the spewing of such venoms from him.    
It is, however, my belief that if God had not anointed him governor there was no way he could have won election from prison. We knew what we went through to convince major stakeholders to accept his candidature, while still in prison. The election proper that produced him as governor was entirely an act of God.
If I may ask: for how long are we going to cry over spilt milk? We have made a huge mistake in the choice of T.A. Orji, for which I am very remorseful. But it is high time we put it behind us and faced the future squarely. The challenges ahead of us are greater and mightier than those we had already overcome. This is why there is an urgent need to convoke a mini-Summit mid-January 2015 to discuss the way forward for our state. We cannot afford to fold our arms and watch mediocrities toy with our collective destiny.          
One fact all of us should bear in minds is that our state has drifted dangerously in the past 8 years. We may wake up one day and discover, to our chagrin, that our state has been mortgaged on the altar of greed and selfishness, unless we do something drastic now to avert it. No time is better than now for us to work together to reposition our state.
We are blessed with rich human and material resources, yet our state is very backward in terms of infrastructural development. We did our best to develop Abia State between 1999 and 2007, in spite of the staggering problems we met. We thank God for the wisdom and strength he gratuitously bestowed on us, which saw us through. What we achieved might not be adequately appreciated today. I am confident posterity will judge us better.                            
The times in which we are call for the concerted effort of all Abians. The blame-game should give way to a more pragmatic approach to resolving whatever differences exist among us. It is time to move forward. The time has come when the experience and acuity of many of our sons and daughters, irrespective of their religious, political or cultural inclinations, are needed to effect the desired change. We can only tap into their rich reservoir of knowledge by bringing them together and according them the required recognition to propel them to do more for our state.
Coming together to discuss the way forward will eliminate acrimony, which is brewing steadily among those who felt shortchanged in the just concluded primaries of different political parties, and produce suggestions that will promote peace, progress and development of our state.
We have the capacity to resolve whatever disagreements exist among us. Spreading malicious rumours and making tendentious allusions appear to have become a trend among us. When we run one another down we set the hand of the clock several days or months back. We are all the same brothers and sisters of one heritage. What then do we gain running one another down?  That one does not like my face should not be a cause for us to kill or malign ourselves.      
I was the first governor in Nigeria to bring people from other states to work with us for the development of our state. We engaged them for their exceptional skills and to further cement the bond of unity among all Nigerians. It was after we had altruistically engaged in this exercise that other governors started doing it for selfish political gains.
I have made immeasurable sacrifices for the peace, unity and progress of Abia State, nay Nigeria. The sacrifices might not have been noticed or recognized by some persons for personal political reasons. But deep inside me, I believe I have steadily done my best to promote the cause of our people.
I took up the gauntlet when others feared to do so in the heady days of the regime of President Olusegun Obasanjo. It was the speech I delivered at the World Igbo Summit in Enugu on January 21, 2001 that set the tone for the Igbo project in Nigeria. It has always been my conviction that Ndigbo should not play a second fiddle in Nigeria. Do we have any reason to behave as second class citizens in a nation we have equal stakes? I do not belong to a timid and trepid generation. Our generation should be able to leave something remarkable for the incoming generation to build on.
We should act as one at all times and guard our interests jealously. Our support for the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan is non-partisan – it cuts across parties, religions and cultures. It is also borne out of the conviction that he would protect our interests and leave behind substantial legacies at the end of his tenure for the good of all Nigerians. Having resolved to collectively throw our support behind President Jonathan’s reelection bid, whatever is left of other political positions will be distributed in such a way as to promote equity and fair play.
The survival and sustenance of our unity and progress should not be decided by one man. It should be a collective decision and choice. Abia deserves the best and nothing but the best.
The interest of our state is bigger than the interest of any one man. We must place our collective interest above our personal, parochial, and narrow interests. We cannot afford another round of lousy and clueless leadership characterized by egocentricity, arrogance and mindboggling malfeasance. We need a clean break from our past to chart a new cause for the growth and development of a new Abia State.
We must have made mistakes individually and corporately, it is now time to reconcile and move on. What is paramount is the new attitude we bring to the table. This new attitude should be built on mutual trust, respect for one another, love and reconciliation.
Abia State is now in the dawn of a new era. Abia State has been rededicated to God, who ab intio, has been in control of its affairs.
I urge all of us to embrace the new wind of change blowing in our state. This is the only opportunity we have to right the wrongs of the past and build a new Abia State in which our millions of youths will be gainfully employed, in which peace and harmony will thrive, and in which the fear of God and love of neigbhour will flourish.
I thank you for your tenacity, courage and patience over the years. I pray the good Lord to bless and keep you safely into the New Year.
I wish you Happy Christmas and a prosperous 2015.
I remain,
Yours in the service of God and man,
Orji Uzor Kalu
Governor Abia State (1999-2007)
Camp Neya, Igbere

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