By Kingsley Okoye
Senate Chief Whip, Orji Uzor Kalu broke down weeping on Saturday as he recalled his experience in the past four years as a member of the upper chamber of the National National Assembly.
Kalu, a former governor of Abia spoke at at the valedictory session to signal the end of legislative activities, which began on June 11, 2019. The former governor became emotional when he recalled that soon after he was jailed after he became a Senator during which he spent about a year in Kuje prison.
Kalu was in December 2019 sentenced to 12 years in prison for N7.65 billion he allegedly stole from Abia State when he was governor.
He was tried alongside his company, Slok Nigeria Limited, and Udeh Udeogu, who was Director of Finance and Accounts at the Abia State Government House during his tenure as governor.
However, he was set free on May 8, 2020 when the Supreme Court ordered a retrial of the case.
Recalling his prison experience during the valedictory session on Saturday, Kalu thanked his colleagues for giving him unalloyed support as Chief Whip for four years.
He also thanked his colleagues who visited him while in prison.
Orji-Kalu said his election to the Senate gave him a better opportunity to continue to fight for a united Nigeria.
He stressed that he was not a thief before he took to politics, saying that he never lacked anything and could buy anything money could buy.
He said he brought money in 1997 and 1998 to fund and support the formation of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before he became governor, stressing that he was never a thief.
He said those who put him in prison had their reasons to do so, adding that they also took over his businesses.
According to him, Nigeria is not fair to people like him.
He said he built factories and manufacturing companies to employ Nigerians and all he got was to be labelled a thief.
Present at the session were Vice-President Kashim Shettima, Sen. Oluremi Tinubu, Malam Ibrahim Hadejia, Deputy Chief of Staff to President Bola Tinubu and Gov. Uba Sani of Kaduna State.
Also in attendance were the Deputy Governor of Akwa Ibom, Dr Akon Eyakenyi and former Deputy Governor of Zamfara, Alhaji Hassan Muhammadu.
They were members of the ninth Senate, before their election into new positions on March 18.
The former lawmakers were ushered into the chamber following a motion to suspend senate order as moved by Leader of the Senate, Abdullahi Gobir (APC-Sokoto).
Before the session, senators present were presented with certificates of service and a copy of the Legacy Report of the ninth Senate each.
Clerk to the National Assembly, Alhaji Sani Tambuwal, presented certificates to the Senate President, Sen. Ahmad Lawan and Deputy Senate President, Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege.
Lawan, in turn, presented certificates to other senators.
The senators thereafter took turns to reminisce experiences of their four years of service in emotion-laden tones.
Words of thanksgiving to God, commendations, love, apologies and admonitions formed the bulk of expressions of senators at the session.
Sen. Omo-Agege (APC-Delta), said it was a solemn moment as he was grateful and honoured to be elected deputy president of the Senate, saying that it was a rare privilege.
He commended colleagues for defiling odds to pass the landmark Petroleum Industry Act, the Electoral Act, the Finance Act and for ultimately returning the budget cycle to January-December.
Omo-Agege thanked senators for their patriotic disposition and urged incoming senators to support the new leadership of the Senate that would be elected on June 13.
In his remarks, Shettima noted that debates at the ninth Senate defined Nigeria’s politics, saying the Assembly was leaving behind indelible memories to guide generations, successors and followers.
He said Nigerians would continue to need the services of members of the ninth Senate as they had served Nigeria in turbulent times.
He said the ninth Senate was a testament to the possibility that could transpire between the Executive and the Legislature, realising the fact that they were bound for the same destination.
Shettima said the senate chamber would continue to bear memories of the lives the senators touched by serving humanity.
He thanked the senate president for his leadership, patriotism and dedication to democracy.
He urged incoming senators to note that the “stability of Nigeria is superior to the stability of their pockets’’ and urged them to vote wisely on June 13 at the election of principal officers.
In her remarks, Sen. Tinubu thanked God for sustaining her as a three-term senator, saying that it entailed a lot of sacrifice to serve Nigeria.
She also thanked her husband, President Bola Tinubu for his unflinching support and freedom to make contributions for the people, especially for women and youths.
She said God used her to make exploits in the senate, saying she did virtually everything required as a lawmaker, sponsoring bills and motions that were signed into law.
She said a nation that young Nigerians would be proud of could be built given the crop of lawmakers that emerged from the Legislative to the Executive arm of government.
“It is not due to share luck that the president passed through the Senate before, so has the vice-president and myself; the president’s Chief of Staff, the deputy; governors and deputy governors.
“We can only say God is good.
“We need to give so much to this nation; this new administration beckons hope, and we have to make the necessary sacrifices which starts with the 10th Assembly,’’ she said. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)