Posted by Emeka Ugwuonye | 15 October 2014 | 5,890 times
Kalu Idika Kalu’s birthday is actually October 14. I have been trying to get this message across since yesterday, but MTN disappointed at the critical moment, as usual.
I admit it sounds quite imprudent of me to see myself as the friend of KIK. You can understand that point when you realise that KIK was already a Minister of the Nigerian Federation before I finished secondary school. In fact, he was Senior World Bank Economist around the time I was entering secondary school and a Professor of Economics in America even earlier. He went on to become a Minister in four different ministries or departments, including finance, transport, planning, and one more.
It is therefore truly egotistical of me to call myself his friend. But do not assume that KIK is an old man based on the huge age and status gap between him and me. He just happened to have become accomplished very early in his life. He was marked for a unique mission and purpose in life and was a public figure even while he was in his 20s. Also, I would explain the gap a bit differently by reminding you that most of my friends here actually believe I am 15 years older than I really am, which was why I stirred up some confusion last year when I announced that my mother just turned 65.
Apart from being my friend, KIK occupies multiple positions in my life. He is also my mentor and my leader. By mentor, I mean that I am constantly learning from him. Indeed, in my adult life, there are about four scholars or intellectuals who have had direct influence on my intellectual development. They are: (1) Professor David Smith, a former Dean of Harvard Law School, (2) Professor Roberto Unger, Professor of Jurisprudence at Harvard, regarded as the father of the Critical Legal Studies Movement (the “Crit”), a school of jurisprudence to which I belong. These two men supervised my academic work and research as a post-graduate student. Then you have Professor Jeffery Sachs, Professor of Economics at Harvard and one-time Executive Director of the Harvard Institute for International Development (HIID). He took me on Economics electives and later became my boss when I joined the HIID as legal and policy advisor. And finally, but not the least, comes (4) Dr. Kalu Idika Kalu.
While I may refer now to the first three a bit in the past tense, I refer to KIK in the present continuous tense. It is not to my credit that I associate closely with KIK. Rather, it is to KIK’s generosity, nobility and humility that he and I are friends. He is a Nigerian leader that I can trust and vouch for. He is well principled and highly disciplined, and would not allow personal or pecuniary interests to compromise his values. He is a courageous person too and would not hesitate to offend you if hearing the truth offends you. He has, to my knowledge, given up or passed on many opportunities for financial rewards just in order to protect his integrity and sense of justice and fairness.
KIK’s accomplishments involve a long list of credentials. But I just focused on those that affect me personally in this present context. As a testimony to the humility and simplicity of this man, he frequently joins us on Facebook to discuss issues and to comment on our posts and even entertain arguments from anyone who bothers to argue. Yet, I wonder if some of those who argue with him on this medium were really aware of the rare opportunity they have to exchange views directly with such a man. You will not find any other Nigerian with KIK’s standing who would readily make himself available to argue with high school certificate holders without showing any air of superiority. I try to learn this quality from him and I hope God will help me succeed in that.
If you spend an hour with KIK on any subject, you will leave visibly uplifted intellectually and spiritually. He has an inexhaustible list of precedents and best practices he can readily draw from to address whatever the challenge you present to him. He is also a sweet person to socialise with. Just don’t bring in your end-of time argument or some bizarre beliefs in human beings turning into birds. He may not be as patient with you as I have been. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly, I know.
Please join me in wishing my dear friend, mentor and leader a happy birthday, albeit one day in arrears.
•Emeka Ugwuonye, Lawyer and Activist, Group Founder/Principal Administrator of Due Process Advocates (DPA), writes from Lagos. Photo shows Prof. Kalu Idika Kalu.
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