‘I virtually live in the air now,’ Orji Kalu says, advises Nigerian governors

Orji Uzor Kalu

“It is head you lose, tail you lose. Public service is truly a thankless job in Nigeria.”

A former Abia State Governor, Orji Kalu, on Friday, shared his retirement experiences with serving governors at the 4th Retreat of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

Mr. Kalu, who spoke through Gabriel Akinadewo, the Managing Director of the New Telegraph newspaper, said that public office should not be the beginning and end for anybody.

“It should not be the case that the quality of your life should drop drastically when you quit public office, simply because you have no second address,” Mr. Kalu said.

“Is any of us born in Government House? No. Even if we were born there, a time to leave would come, as the next occupant of the place would show up. So it should not be that we become objects of pity after public office – sad, lonely, idle.

“For me, before public office, I was active in business, involved in corporate governance, both nationally and internationally. And when I left office, I returned to my original calling, which is business. That is the way it should be,” Mr. Kalu added.

The former Abia governor lamented that his businesses shrunk during his eight years tenure as governor due to the demands of public office.

“Today, however, God has repaid me in several folds. I can hardly keep pace with all my investments in different parts of the world, and I virtually live in the air now, criss-crossing continents.”

While advising the governors to lean towards entrepreneurship at the end of their tenures, Mr. Kalu told them to remain politically active.

“As a former governor, they will think you have all the money in the world, so they will continue to bring their needs to you. Therefore, think towards entrepreneurship, so that you can still meet the needs of people round you.

“You do not need to give them free money. Rather, you can give them opportunities in business where you have dominant shares, or link them with other colleagues and friends who equally have investments.

“If you don’t do this, they will abuse you as a selfish man, who does not give opportunities to others,” he said.

“As one who has held executive office for two terms, there is no way you will not continue to be a stakeholder in the politics of your state.

“Being a stakeholder is not the same thing as being a godfather or kingmaker. No. You will naturally be interested in who succeeds you in office, without necessarily imposing your successor,” Mr. Kalu added.

The former governor, who has been having a feud with his successor, Theodore Orji, however, cautioned on the need to “mind the type of person you help to succeed you.”

“And in saying this, you know what I mean, because you are familiar with my experience. Beware of animals in human skin. Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Be sure of the quality of person you are backing. Make sure he is a true human being, and not an animal or monster,” Mr. Kalu continued.

“Some of those that smile at you wear daggers, unknown to you. They will pretend, earn your trust, ride on your back into office, and having got there, they show their true colours.

“It has happened in many states round the country. Our own case in Abia is particularly the worst specimen. Watch it. Be careful, be circumspect. You can be very sad out of office, if you help a man to succeed you, and he turns out to be an animal in human skin. I will not say more than that.”

Mr. Kalu also said that being a former governor is a burden for life.

“Even if you leave office poorer than when you went in, a cynical public would never believe you. They believe that half of the public treasury is kept in your house, so they will come daily to line up, telling one tale of woe after the other. If you give then, they will say they only came to collect what belongs to them. If you don’t, they will say you are selfish and stingy.

“So, know that for life, you will carry the cross of having been a governor. Therefore, if you don’t replenish your purse through investments and businesses, you will soon become poor.

“And when you become poor, the same people will abuse you of being a foolish man. So, it is head you lose, tail you lose. Public service is truly a thankless job in Nigeria,” Mr. Kalu added.


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