From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
Nigerians from all walks of life, Wednesday evening, gathered at the Aso Villa residence of the Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, to rejoice with the former Governor of Abia State as he clocked 61.
From the political scene to the business world, from the academia to legal practice, and from the security sector to the diplomatic terrain, they all came in large numbers to dine and whine with the Kalus.
Even with the showers of rain, guests were not deterred from celebrating with the celebrant all through the evening lasted.
Amongst the dignitaries were the Senate President, Senator Ahmed Lawan; the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Femi Gbajabiamila; the Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi; the Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Ajayi Boroffice; the Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi; the immediate past Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu and the Deputy Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Hon Nkeiruka Onyejeocha.
The event also witnessed the presence of Senators Sam Egwu, Abba Moro, Teslim Balogun, Sadiq Umar, Gabriel Suswam and wife, Architect Yemisi Suswam, Mukhail Adetokunbo Abiru and other senators too numerous to mention.
Also on ground to honour the Kalus were the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo; the Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen; and the Minister of State, Mines and Steel Development, Uche Ogah.
A former Governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel; erstwhile Delta State Governor, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, former Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, a former Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, Musiliu Obanikoro, were in attendance.
There were also the Executive Director, Projects, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Dr Cairo Ojuigbo; retired Deputy Inspector General of Police, Azubuike Udah; Chief Chris Uche (SAN) and Wife, Ijeoma; media mogul, Bashorun Dele Momodu; Senator Dino Melaye; Board Chairman of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), Kashim Imam; Chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Chief Peter Ameh; the Executive Secretary, Nigeria Film Corporation, Dr Chidia Maduekwe and billionaire businessman, Terry Waya.
From the diplomatic community were the South Korean Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Kim Young-Chae, and his Wife, Judy Kim (MP); the Deputy Chief of Mission, United States Embassy, Kathleen FitzGibbon; the Representative of the Chinese Ambassador-Designate to Nigeria, Mr Cui Jianchun, Mr Song Huhang; the representative of the French Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Jérôme Pasquier and the Political Counselor, Embassy of France, Mr Franck Aubry; the Nigerian Ambassador-designate to Spain, Demola Seriki, amongst others.
In his remarks, Senator Lawan said: “I wish the celebrant, my friend, my brother, my colleague, the Chief Whip of the Federation, an institution by himself, happy birthday, many more years of service to his constituents and indeed, the country.
“This is an additional year on his life and because he has been a very strong person, a solid performer, we expect him to continue to be what he has been and even better.
“For us, we are here because this is one great colleague of ours who adds value to what we do in the Senate. And of course, the 9th Senate, there is no doubt that we are populated by strong men, men of focus, men of determination, courage and the zeal and the love of the country to ensure that this 9th Assembly delivers to Nigerians, what we have promised Nigerians. What we promised Nigerians at the beginning is that this is a Senate that will work for Nigerians. And we are proving this point up till this time. We will prove it even farther and more by the grace of God in the next few months by what we are going to do in terms of legislation in the country.
“I believe that this man has a great family that has always stood for him. Talking of family, the Senate is also a family. That is why here in this house today, you have the entire Senate. Everybody is here and this is to show how we are committed to each other and how we love each other.
“Finally, on behalf of all my colleagues in the Senate, I wish this great man, someone I consider an institution at this moment, for achieving so much in his life, for achieving to his state and representing his constituents very, very well, a happy birthday and long life and an additional year next year and more and more years in subsequent years of service to our country.”
Tallen, on her part, said she celebrated Kalu and thanked God for his life.
“II know the grace of God is upon him. So, I wish him a very happy, happy birthday, good health, long life and prosperity,” Tallen said.
Also speaking, Moro, a former Minister of Interior and senator representing Benue South Senatorial District, said Senator Kalu is a man that has caught across Nigeria.
Moro said: “Quite frankly, from the array of friends that are here, it means he has gone continental and in fact, intercontinental.
“The lesson that I learn from the gathering of this night and the previous ones that I have seen, is the fact that you just have to be a good man. There is no option.
“And so, Orji Uzor Kalu today has attracted the crème de la crème of the world quite frankly. Members of the diplomatic community are here; captains of industry are here, politicians are here and quite frankly for the Senate President to leave his tight schedule to be here with the leadership of the National Assembly speaks volumes about the man Orji Uzor Kalu.
“So, he is somebody that I have admired from a distance, that I have come close with and I am happy that I am here today. I am happy that God also has granted him another year and my prayer for him is that God should bless his age with good health and strength to carry on and to contribute very positively to the development of the Dream Nigeria that all Nigerians are craving for.”
Eulogising Kalu, Otunba Daniel said Kalu is a unique Nigerian and somebody who has given a very good account of himself.
According to Daniel, “We are very proud of him and that is why we have come to celebrate with him.”
On his part, Suswam, the immediate past Governor of Benue State and senator representing Benue North-East Senatorial District, said Kalu is a blessed man of God with a lot grace.
Suswam added: “I wish him all the best, I wish him more blessing, I wish him long life, good health and above all, the grace of God.
“He has impacted a lot to Nigerians, he is an employer of labour, he has provided service and he is still providing service. So, for somebody like that, you can only wish him God’s blessing.”
Responding, Kalu said he felt very happy and that it was a good thing to have all his colleagues in the Senate and the House of Representatives celebrating with him.
“My brother, the Foreign Affairs Minister came very early and I am excited to have him always. The Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives have been honouring me in everything I do. So, I thank God,” Kalu said.
Asked about his resolution as he clocked 61, Kalu simply said “resolution that we must amend the constitution.”