|The Very young and innocent Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu @ 13 in 1973 while leaving with Pa Ayeni|
Ekiti in present day Ekiti state in South Western Nigeria is almost like a
fairy tale story told by story tellers of the moonlight tales series on NTA. A
veteran of the Nigerian civil war, Pa
Ayeni who was a Lance Corporal in the Nigerian Army fought in several battalions
during the 3 years war affair between the Nigerian Federal Government troops
and the Biafran troop between 1967 and 1970.
Pa Ayeni ended well on the side of the winning Nigerian troops in
Eastern part of Nigeria. However, one remarkable aspect of his civil war
experience was the singular honor of rescuing one of Nigeria’s and World’s
richest men of today, His Excellency Dr.
Orji from the snares of post war experience. The young Orji Uzor Kalu who
was a victim of the war found favour and peace in the ambience of Pa David Ayeni.
Orji Uzor Kalu is the first civilian governor of Abia state is one of world’s
rated billionaires rated by Forbes
Magazine. Pa Ayeni’s role then
was to save ten years old Orji Uzor Kalu who was a victim of the very
terrible and biting Biafran war. Pa
Ayeni still has a picture of Orji Kalu at 13 with in his diary till
date, took the Igbere, Abia state born business mogul turned politician into
his custody as the head of his platoon. Orji Kalu who was allegedly going
through post war trauma and health challenges soon found favor in the ambience
of the old soldier who treated him as “his servant-son’. When Asabeafrika heard about this great man
and his efforts in the life of Dr. Orji
Uzor Kalu who is today a role model in business and politics, we took the
pain to go after him and locate the old man who after several persuasions
agreed to speak with Asabefrika by
breaking the story to us as the first medium to have the story in the world. Pa David Ayeni spoke to Asabeafrika
penultimate Thursday Morning in the midst of his children and grand children.
drink and snack as you enjoy the story of a war rattled boy turned world
billionaire. Today, 55 years old Dr. Orji
Uzor Kalu is the Chairman SLOK
Holdings Ltd; Chairman, First
International Bank Limited of Liberia and founder of the Progressive People
Alliance Party. It is a story of nothing to something, from war to more!
|Pa David Ayeni with Gbenga Dan Asabe of Asabeafrika after the encounter|
David Ayeni. I was a Lance Corporal in the army before I retired.
|Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu with Asabeafrika’s Gbenga Dan Asabe few weeks after OUK’s 50th birthday inside his Abuja mansion|
in the Nigerian Army?
Nigerian Army in 1967. I started my training at Abeokuta depot and after
passing out I was transferred to Kaduna, from Kaduna to
Makurdi from Makurdi to Ogoja from Ogoja
to Ikom and it was during my posting to Ikom that we experienced
the Nigerian Civil War and I was drafted into the war and started fighting in
that place until I was moved to Abakaliki and from there to Afikpo.
My subdivision was later recalled to Abakaliki before we moved to Umahia
area in Abia state. From Abia I
started fighting from Osuakole, Osuakole is in Abia state
down to Alaye unto the interior of Igbere
and finally to Abriba where and when the war ended. I was at Abriba when the war ended in early 1970.
During that time, the Biafra people
who were coming out from the bush were being re-admitted into the Nigerian
society for rehabilitation and renovation as that was the aim and objective of
the General Yakubu Gowon regime. It
was in the course of this that I met with one boy called Orji Uzor Kalu. During that time, he was my house boy. I took him
as my house boy.
“One of the young people who were
victims of that event was Orji Uzor
Kalu. Fortunately he met me as the leader of my platoon when he came out
from the bush; at times he will come to me
and eat and after that he will go away and he kept doing that until he started
living permanently with me”
|Lance Corpral David Ayeni; Baba in his younger days as an officer|
war, was he going to be killed and you rescued him or what, how did you ran
during the war, we Nigerian soldiers were able to liberate people from Osuakole
unto Abriba. When we got to Abriba, we were able to drive the
entire Biafra army, both civilians
and soldiers, we drove them into the bush and when the war ended majority of
them started coming out from the bush. One
of the young people who were victims of that event was Orji Uzor Kalu. Fortunately he met me as the leader of my platoon
when he came out from the bush; at times
he will come to me and eat and after that he will go away and he kept doing
that until he started living permanently with me. We were living together and I
think because of his enterprising nature, he started collecting soldiers’
uniforms and washing it, he will wash your clothe for you for a month, weather
N2 or N5, you give to him for his services. He will collect this man’s own,
collect the other man’s own and collect like five people’s clothes and continue
washing for them and at end of each month, they will pay him some amount of
money and we were there living together until 1971 ending when he told me that
he was going to Aba and I asked him
‘are you sure it is okay for you to leave here and go to Aba?’ and he said
‘yes’. I cannot disturb him from going; so, he left. Later on in 1973 he came
back to me, when he returned in 1973, he brought this photograph (Showed Asabeafrika the Picture) and he gave me
his new address at Aba but due to my
up and down movement as a soldier I lost that address. And since then, we
didn’t meet again but I kept the picture he took while living with me
|Forbes rated Orji Uzor Kalu; The 1973 pose has changed!|
when he went into politics?
tried seeing him during his regime as Governor of Abia state but I was not allowed to see him. I went to Umuahia
but I couldn’t see him, they told me he has travelled out to oversea and since
then, I have not been able to see him up till today. You can see the way he
looked at that time (Handed the picture to Asabeafrika) and this is equally my own picture during my service years (Gave
us his own picture as a young officer)
“He served me as a servant and I
served him as a master because if he calls me, he will say ‘My master’ and I
always call him “Orji-Orji” that is the language I use to address him in those
days, I will say “Orji-Orji” and he will say “My Master
then? Was he a rascal or a gentle guy?
is gentle. He is cool headed and he is very respectful to everyone not just to
me alone and I like him because the way we lived together was quite unique. He
served me as a servant and I served him as a master because if he calls me, he
will say ‘My master’ and I always call him “Orji-Orji” that is the language I
use to address him in those days, I will say “Orji-Orji” and he will say “My
Master”. He was a cool headed young man.
|Pa David Ayeni to Asabeafrika….’Ayo Fayose is a good man but people misunderstood him’|
his father for that period of time. I was his master and his father and he was
my son. In fact I don’t know any of his parents and he doesn’t go to any of his
parent. Maybe he was going and I didn’t know but not to my knowledge. Openly,
at all; he was totally with me.
was the Governor of Abia state, did you make any other move again to see him?
there was no any other move because I don’t know any other way to see him, you
know it has been long we saw.
|Pa Ayeni to Asabeafrika…..’My relationship with Orji Uzor Kalu was that of a servant-son to a master|
Uzor Kalu right now, do you think he will recognize you?
about Orji Kalu is that he is a
faithful person, based on what I know of him when he was living with me. If he
hears my name alone, he won’t deny knowing me. He is not a deceptive person, he
is honest and that I can guarantee you.
soldiers in the war front or was he just a civilian casualty?
time, you know I told you that the Biafran
soldiers had already surrendered; they have surrendered their weapons to the
Federal Army and he (OUK) came out of the bush without any weapon. So, by that
time I took him in as a civilian casualty of the war and I quickly adopted him
as my boy but because at that time his body was full of measles due to the
effect of the bush environment and the bad weather associated with war and bush
life and I was able to take care of him out of sympathy. I didn’t treat him as
a slave or a Biafra boy, I took him as my brother and he took me as his brother
too; as his master and father. So, I can
say he was a casualty of the war and probably one of the lucky ones for that
matter. I thank God for using me to cater for him after that sad experience of
|The Very young and innocent Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu @ 13 in 1973 while leaving with Pa Ayeni|
like from your resume here we learnt you equally served under late Colonel
Sukar Bukar Dimka, what would you say about Dimka?
under the One Division in the
Nigeria Army, that is Fly Horse and
I equally served under Two Brigade
and our head quarter was at Afikpo
in Ebonyi state. We are the section
of the Nigerian army fighting towards Ohafia,
along Okigwe side by that time. I met Dimka at Ikom and by that time he was a
lieutenant and because he came out from a boys’ military school, he was our
adjutant at the time and when we were moving to Iyahe, he became our
adjutant. Later on when we got to Afikpo he became our commander. So, Dimka was our commander at Afikpo that is the 26 battalion. So, I
served under the 26 battalion at Afikpo.
And that is the only memory I have of Sukar
Bukar Dimka, he was quite intelligent as an officer.
“In fact if I see him right away the
first thing to do is to hug ourselves and congratulate him for succeeding
despite the odds of life. And I am sure he will equally be surprised that this
old man is still alive and living in this country”.
the army apart from Lt. Colonel Suka Bukar Dimka?
under Major Madugu, he is a Hausa
man. I served under him, I equally served under another captain, I have
forgotten his name right now; that was at Ahoada
and it was after the war. Anyway, I served under many commanders and it was a
very fantastic experience for me because discipline was the hallmark of the
army of our own days.
think it was a just war?
mean by just war?
|Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu; Boyz-to-Man|
have fought that war?
you know during that era, there was great misunderstanding between our Igbo
brothers and our Arewa brothers and that brought a lot of skirmishes in both the
social and military circle. It was such a bad situation. Especially among the
Eastern people of Nigeria which led to the establishment of the Republic of Biafra and because of that
Nigeria decided to protect her land mass
that led to the war because we don’t want our Igbo brothers and sisters to
leave us and go on their own and if you ask me to judge I will only say the war
was necessary because we needed to protect our unity.
state, how would you describe the political situation in Ekiti state as
orchestrated by Governor Peter Ayodele Fayose?
state. Anybody that contest in Ekiti from any political party in
Nigeria and such a person is born of Ekiti
decent, I see him purely as a native of Ekiti state, whatever he maybe in terms of strength of character,
since he has been voted into power by the people of Ekiti state, we don’t have any other choice than to respect the
general wish of the people; yes, Fayose may
be good on one side and may be bad on the other side. But as today, I know Mr. Ayodele Fayose is the governor of
|Pa Ayeni to Asabeafrika…..’The Military of our own era was had a different training and orientation’|
high principle but with Ayo Fayose’s attitude of using hooligans to block the
state house of assembly, do you think such act put your people in good light?
said earlier, those assembly men are natives of Ekiti state and the people who voted the assembly men and Fayose into power are all from Ekiti. Our solution belong to us as Ekiti people to solve. Nobody can solve
our own problem for us. Yes, Governor
Fayose called the 19 legislators and pleaded with them to solve the matter,
if you are my son and I am your father and we had a misunderstanding, I can
call you and ask for settlement. That was what happened between Fayose and the legislators. I know Fayose tried to make things work for them;
I know he was able to plead with them and I think we should give him a benefit
of doubt. I think he tried his best.
Governor Fayose will be eventually removed as the Governor of Ekiti due to
certain issue that characterized his election?
personally, I don’t want him to be removed.
peace, because of the interest of the
Ekiti people and because we don’t want Ekiti
state to become a battle field, we don’t want Ekiti state to go to war. We want peace to reign in Ekiti state, Fayose is a native of Ekiti
state and Ekiti people voted him
into power and for me, that one alone is basis for us to have him stay in
power. He is the people’s choice.
|Pa Ayeni to Asabeafrika….’OUK was a very enterprising young boy. He washed clothes for soldiers in the barrack|
Ekiti Rigging Voice Video that is making wave across the world where voices
suggested that the June 21, 2014 election in Ekiti state was rigged with the
use of soldiers and other agents of Government and even the then minister of
state for Defense, Musiliu Obanikoro
was part of the rigging with other actors?
knowledge and what I saw with my face in my area there is nothing like that. I
mean in Ikole Ekiti, there was no
presence of soldiers even the police men at the pooling booth were there busy
doing nothing because no fighting, no abusing. So, everything went peacefully.
Of course I can only vouch for Ikole
and not any other place. But in Ikole,
that is my experience. There was peace and no crisis.
growing years and Nigeria of today, is there anything that has changed?
government of today is the government of Nigeria and I am sure everybody will
cooperate with the present government because anybody that is voted in as
President or governor deserves the support of the generality of the people;
they need to support him for maximum progress. Today’s youth are trying but
government is not supporting with policies that can turn around lives, we need
a people sensitive government and for that to happen we need to act as the
driver of our own system. We need to speak truth to power and make government
honors her vow.
|Pa Ayeni to Asabeafrika….’When Orji Kalu came out of the bush, his body was full of rashes but i took care of him’|
and what can you say about him?
in terms of his personality but I don’t have any relationship with him. From
what he has done in the past, I think he can be trusted to do well in his
what are you going to tell him?
if I see him, I will introduce myself to him. In fact if I see him right away
the first thing to do is to hug ourselves and congratulate him for succeeding
despite the odds of life. And I am sure he will equally be surprised that this
old man is still alive and living in this country. I have nothing to do for him
than to greet him and pray for him and say “God bless you”, he is a great man
and I thank God for bringing our path together.
|Baba, Pa David Ayeni meeting the GDA|
education at Ikole Ekiti, I had my
early education at a modern school in Ikole
Ekiti before I joined the Nigerian Army in 1967. Today, I am a pensioner
and I am taking stock of what life has taught me.
things have changed with today’s army. During our own days in the army, Boko Haram was like tsetse fly. During
our time we would have swept them away because I can’t understand what kind of
training our soldiers got this day. I don’t know what to call them, weather na malaria
soldier o weather na runaway soldier
o, I don’t know what to call them or how to describe them but during our
own time, and if it was the soldier of our own time, there will be nothing like
Haram because we know the way and tactic to use to remove them but
today, look at the tactics they are using to kill our own soldiers like
chicken. Our own days, military strategy and stratagem were very strict. You
cannot be a complete military man if you don’t have the boldness to solve such
a minor crisis like Boko Haram. It wouldn’t have grown to this level.
|Pa David Ayeni to Asabeafrika…..’I equally served under Sukar Bukar Dimka at 26 brigade|
be eradicated. It is a pity that old soldiers like us doesn’t have energy or
strength to go fight any war again. I can’t run much again and I cannot take
over as I normally do in my younger days. There are so many things I can not do
again because I don’t have the strength any longer if it should have been in
our own time who is Boko Haram? Who
are they? Boko Haram is not to be an
issue in a sane country where military welfare and military tactic is taken
Buhari as President and Commander-in-Chief?
and my former commander but I believe the young ones can advise the old ones.
My own advise is that he (President Buhari) should let Nigeria be one and
equally give peace a chance in anyway and any part of Nigeria. There must be no
tribalism, no misunderstanding and no dispute of religion. Let everybody work
for the greatness of Nigeria.
|Baba, Pa David Ayeni with his children and grand children|