After eight long years, former Abia State governor, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu on Friday made a grand triumphant entry into Umuahia, the capital of Abia State, which he ruled between 1999 and 2007.
His return was greeted with pomp and fanfare, as the grateful citizens trooped out in their scores, in adulation to welcome their highly prized great son.
The euphoria of his entry which spread like wild fire almost resulted in stampede as people abandoned their businesses to catch a glimpse of a man who showed them love when he was in power.
OUK, said to have arrived through Sam Mbakwe Airport in Owerri, Imo State, rode in a convoy of vehicles, with a large entourage of friends, political and business associates and admirers that laid siege on him at the airport en-route Umuahia township stadium.
The crowd that greeted him from the express road intersection of the state capital evidently forced him to open the side door of the branded bus he rode in, to acknowledge greetings from the people.
As his convoy arrived the popular Okpara Square in Umuahia, there was a traffic and human gridlock as many people ran from different directions to wave and touch what could be described as the ‘helm of his garment.’
Unequalled joy was evident on the faces of the people, who shouted, cried and wailed at the sight of a man who once stood as an epitome of good governance for them.
It was clear that some wished and prayed manifestly that he had come back to redeem them from the clutches of tyranny and bad leadership which had become their lot in the past years.
Some broke into small discussion groups exchanging views on their predicaments under the present government. Specifically, they were overheard bemoaning their fate, and counting their losses from draconian government interventions in their businesses. Their shops and business premises, according to them, were demolished, without compensation. Others stated how their wives were disengaged from the civil service for reasons, like they are not citizens of the state; while others talked of the crushing multiple taxes that were imposed on them unilaterally.
A particular widow gave a chilling narration of how her husband who was hale and hearty died suddenly after their shop which was at Mgbuka area of Umuahia was forcefully taken from them without compensation.
All these, they said did not happen when OUK was in power.
It was a reunion of a lost love with his lover as some people became hysterical with palpable nostalgia boldly written on their faces.
In his usual style of convivial human relations, the former governor clung to the bus with one hand, and with the other acknowledged cheers from the tumultuous crowd. At a stage, he submitted to the whims of all humans, as he broke down emotionally, hissing and shaking his head over their outbursts and plight.
From Okpara Square, his convoy sneaked its way to the old Cooperative Bank junction, en-route Uzuakoli road, with the heavy crowd tagging along, cheering endlessly. Eyewitness accounts stated that at some points, the streets were completely jammed, intermittently halting the movement of the convoy for several minutes. Never in the history of the state has a single man made so much impression on the people. The young, the old, the able, the disabled, were excited. From Uzuakoli road, the convoy moved to Uwalaka, crossed the rail, entered Umuwaya road and headed straight to Isi Gate, which is another part of the heart of the town.
By this time, more people had thronged out, dotting the entire stretch of the road, telling stories of who and what they saw. Suddenly, noises erupted from the northern end of Umuwaya, and people were seen standing, shouting and waving from their shops, houses, sheds and vehicles. The attraction was OUK’s convoy, which it was later learnt was held up for over one hour between Uzuakoli road and Uwalaka, where people stopped him completely at intervals, crying for joy, and craving for his intervention to rescue them from the clutches of bad governance that has been their lot.
An elated OUK warmed up to the outpouring of love and gratitude.
It was as if OUK was reluctant to leave his people, because from Isi Gate, his convoy made a detour through Aba road, Bank road, turned at Okpara Square and headed back to old tower, then to Post Office and straight through Bende Road to Bende Town.
At Bende Town, all the traditional rulers in the town were on hand to perform the ceremony of “Ima Nzu”, a traditional way of welcoming home a great son. They offered prayers for him.
From Bende, he headed to Isiukwuato, the home axis of army generals. Isiukwuato is the home of former Chief of Army Staff, General Azubuike Ihejirika, retd, former Mwinister of External Affairs, Gen Ike Nwachukwu, retd, and former Military Governor, Gen Osondu, retd, etc. At the popular Akara junction, he was treated to a reception organized by the people of the area, who had gathered there from 6 o’clock that morning. After initial interaction with them, they compelled him to alight from the vehicle and walked with them to the palace of Eze Ezo Ukandu, Ehi na Obiangwu of Imenyi ancient Kingdom. He had a close door meeting with all the traditional rulers from Isuikwuato LGA at the palace.
OUK was also received later that day by all the traditional rulers in Umunneochi.