Last week, a friend sent to me, via WhatsApp, a video on YouTube entitled: “CAMP NEYA: The home of Dr Orji Uzor Kalu,” showing his expansive and palatial residence in his Igbere village in Abia state. My friend must have decided to share the video with me knowing that I enjoy some friendship with the former governor of Abia state (1999 -2007) and current Chief Whip of the Nigerian Senate (where he represents the good people of Abia North Senatorial zone).
I was not too eager to watch the video simply because I had a rare privilege of visiting the place in 2004 with the former governor while he was in the leadership saddle. I was travelling with him to Abriba en-route Igbere to the country home of Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (retd), who was celebrating his retirement from Abriba community service in a grand ceremony, called Ime Uche or Igboto Mma, that marked the handing over of certain responsibilities of the community by his Akanu age group to the next.
Governor Orji Uzor Kalu, as he then was, had directed his convoy to make a stopover at CAMP NEYA. To be sure, CAMP NEYA was inaugurated on May 28, 1999 (the eve of his swearing in as governor) by the then State Military Administrator, Col Tony Obi. The stopover at the Camp was short and sharp like the Angel’s visit. CAMP NEYA presented an idyllic scenery, somewhat positively violated by the construction of beautiful buildings, the handiwork of man’s creation, worthy only of Ozymandias. That was my takeaway as of that time. Even then, in its near pristine form, it was clear that CAMP NEYA would turn out to be an ambitious, audacious project that would continue to inspire the brain behind it and, of course, its funder-a prodigious businessman of the very shrewd genre.
I decided to watch the video two days later and I discovered there was a world of difference between what I saw then and what is sitting pretty on the sprawling land on which the country home of Orji Kalu is circumscribed. The different dimensions of the buildings on the estate present a composite picture of distinctiveness. It is simply awe-inspiring. Little wonder, the country home was reported elsewhere as one of the most expensive residences, yet, of Nigeria’s billionaires.
But then, it is not the amount of money pumped into the actualization of the CAMP NEYA project that is my concern here; nor is it the sheer size of it. This is my interest: with CAMP NEYA, Orji Kalu has reconstructed a mini-Nigeria where the philosophy of unity is replicated in an environment of limitless possibilities, limitless possibilities in the transformation of a forest into CAMP NEYA. Let me briefly digress- just to situate the Orji Kalu persona in the context of a transformational restlessness that defines visionary leadership globally; and to state that the road from Umuahia to Igbere village where CAMP NEYA is constructed in its inimitable grandeur had first benefitted from Kalu’s rehabilitative or constructional imprimaturs.
Such was the development touch that Kalu gave to roads and other infrastructure projects while in the saddle as governor. Without a doubt, he is replicating his passion for projects delivery and infrastructure development-related motions and bills through his good offices as senator to the discomfiture of political forces whose ideas and political missions are not in pari materia with Kalu’s pan-Nigeria outlook. Perhaps, they wonder how Kalu was able to seamlessly take Abia’s political terrain by storm, especially in 1999, becoming governor, in the first instance, and has since remained an issue in Abia politics! To be sure, he had been immersed in politics and political cross currents before 1999. I remember he won election into the House of Representatives in the ill-fated Third Republic.
Indeed, having profoundly and munificently infused rare courage into the processes of defining his political engagements in the unfolding eon of Abia and, by extension, Nigeria’s politics, Kalu has earned his badge and is now sufficiently recognized as a politician of national significance and hue. No one, not even in Abia, can validly challenge that perception. The Orji Kalu politics transcends Abia, even though it is solidly rooted in the southeast state. From his home base, he has strengthened his hand of fellowship to the north and shown love to the south. He has constructed and reconstructed bridges of friendship and political accommodation that is region, tribe and religion blind.
This is the summation of the substantial approbations that Kalu has given to friends and political associates who are all leaders in the conceptualization, design and actualization of the ambitious idea that CAMP NEYA typifies. As I watched the video and CAMP NEYA unraveled in its sheer splendor, I saw the OUK (Orji Uzor Kalu) Lawn, dividing the dualized road that leads to the main mansion. Thinking that was all to the CAMP, I realized immediately that there was more. Then I saw the following delineated areas, halls and buildings: Abubakar Atiku Flower Garden, Bola Tinubu Square, Aguiyi Ironsi Drive, George Bush (Jnr) Square, Nelson Mandela Square, Aminu Kano Lawn, J.C. Menakaya Orchid, Ebitu Ukiwe Lawn, Yemi Osinbajo Fountain, Ike Nwachukwu Lawn, Amadi Ikwecheghe Lawn, George Bush (Snr) Hall, Sam Mbakwe Lawn, General Abdulsalami Abubakar Square, Achike Udenwa Centre, Jaja Nwachukwu Lawn, James Ibori Circle, Alex Ekwueme Lawn.
Wait for more, and this will give you a sense of the extent of CAMP NEYA: Rilwanu Lukman Fuel Dump, James Ukaegbu Prayer Centre, Professor Chinua Achebe Walkway, Nnamdi Azikiwe Building, Wole Soyinka Lawn, Muhammadu Buhari Lawn Tennis Court, Sir Dr Ogala Osoka Swimming Pool, General Ibrahim Babaginda Building, Joseph Tarka Coconut Plantation, Alvan Ikoku Barbecue Spot, Okechukwu Ikediani Lawn. I saw Zina Children Playground and a Gold field.
I have confirmed that there are 127 tastefully-furnished rooms in the buildings and all the states of the federation have rooms named after them in the CAMP; likewise all former Nigerian leaders, especially in the massive Nnamdi Azikiwe Building.
I believe there could be more of such demarcated or allocated areas on the CAMP, which obviously seeks to reconstruct the narrative of the possibility of a revalidated commitment by Nigerians to the quest for Nigeria’s unity amid the diversity of its boundless opportunities that require a visionary leader to harness for the good of all.
It is in this context that I see Orji Kalu’s message through the prism of his CAMP NEYA country home as being in apple-pie order. It strikes at the very heart of the matters of friendship, association, accommodation, love, unity, and selflessness in the effort to save and strengthen our nation, which needs redemption currently more than any other time in its annals. This is the significant message, the essential symbolism of CAMP NEYA. Whereas Kalu has also extended his friendship beyond the shores of Nigeria in the CAMP NEYA exemplification, it is important that we build on the message inherent in the overarching CAMP NEYA exemplar as we relate with contending national issues between now and 2023 general election.
Mr. Ojeifo writes via firstname.lastname@example.org