Nigeria deserves a patriotic and selfless leader at this critical juncture of her checkered history. The nation needs a man whose public actions, utterances and opinions of running government reflects the mood of the nation and the overall interests of majority. Nigeria needs a revolutionary leader who will drive an all-inclusive pluralist democratic process. A man full of wisdom and understanding of the diversity of the nation and its associated political, cultural and religious dynamics. One with the desired temperament; who has held the reins of power and emerged incorruptible. Peter Gregory Obi, the former governor of Anambra State fits into this narrative. He is a business man per excellence, was the chairman of Fidelity Bank Plc. and sits on the boards of many conglomerates before venturing into the foray of Nigerian politics.
Those who are familiar with the terrain of Anambra politics could testify to the fact that it takes the ingenuity of a man like Obi to become the governor of Anambra State at the time he was elected. Political hawks had invaded the political spaces and held almost everyone hostage. Anambra was in the news for the wrong reasons and was notorious for electoral brigandage. The state was under a siege created by some political stalwarts and shylocks who see Anambra as their personal or family estate. The unfortunate but celebrated case of forced resignation and abduction of Chris Ngige – a sitting governor capped the complete lawlessness prevalent in Anambra at that time.
However, Peter Obi who flew the flag of an unknown party then – the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) was able to navigate through the murky waters of Anambra politics with a unique brand of people oriented politics and emerged victorious. Nobody believed or saw it coming. In fact, he does not fit into the definition of people expected to win. When one talks of political money bags in Anambra state, he comes a distant last. People believed in his philosophy of “are we the cause or we are cursed.” Eventually good reason of who has the best interest of Anambra people prevailed. However, the enemies of Anambra state did not take a break. They conspired with the Peoples Democratic Party dominated House of Assembly which broke its own rule to impeach the governor. The unlawful impeachment was challenged and reversed. The conspiracy shifted to the temple of justice and the Appeal Court sitting in Awka voided his election but the people of Anambra stood behind their mandate and re-elected him once again.
From 2007-2015, Peter Obi changed the face of governance in Anambra state. The central theme of his government was anchored on accountability, transparency and judicious management of scarce government resources. He was a champion of frugality in management of state finances. An avid apostle of total overhaul of huge and unsustainable costs of governance. We are all aware that the running cost of servicing the comfort and conveniences of those in government eats far deep into the budget more than appropriation for infrastructure and capital projects. This has affected visible development in security, health, human capital development, education, water, roads, electricity and others. The above gave him a new name ‘stingy’ man. Peter Obi’s legacies dotted the nooks and crannies of Anambra.
What stands Peter Obi out over and above his political contemporaries, one may ask? First, he discouraged corruption and personal enrichment in official high places. The idea of looking at government as a place for quick accumulation of primitive wealth and deployment of government resources to service mundane avarice of families, friends and associates was dismantled.
Second, wastages in government spending were deliberately plugged and money for infrastructural development for the people of Anambra saved. Typical examples were the stoppage of funding of government house fuel depot and daily slaughtering of cows for government house meals. Anambra state house in Abuja was sold for not adding any economic value to the state. The governor flies economy class, reduced the number of cars in his convoy and entourage. Cheap Abuja hotels are his preference. Salaries of staff were paid as at when due. There was no outstanding pension arrears before his last tenure ended.
Third, he understood what you may call the “asusu” economic approach of saving for the rainy day. Peter Obi was the only governor in Nigeria who handed over a whooping sum of over N70bn to his successor. He served Anambra state with distinction and nobody could point to any corruption case linked to him.
Fourth, quality education was a top priority of his government. Many schools were built and others rehabilitated for conducive learning environment. The falling level of education improved as Anambra schools win laurel and are rated high not only in Nigeria but globally. Missionary schools were returned to the original owners. Recall that there have been agitations from the body of Christ for their school seized by government to be handed over to them. Peace returned in the education sector and huge amount saved as government do not have any business financing the expenditure of returned schools.
Nigeria is not in short supply of political leaders. What we lack are patriotic leaders and inclusive institutions to drive leadership processes and developmental agenda. The nation unfortunately is wrongly blessed with leaders deliberately promoting extractive institutions to suit their whims and caprices. These are leaders who on account of their personal aggrandizements design policies or sit on existing archaic ones to strangulate popular democratic and pluralistic views. Another missing link is choosing those aspiring to political offices from the prism of objectivity and track records. Have we not paid enough price for our primordial and ethnic tendencies towards electing leaders? The total absence of political leadership exhibited by President Buhari from 2015 till date and the general consequences of the lax on citizens should be avoided. Given the opportunity as president of Nigeria, Peter Obi will replicated his performances in Anambra and do much more.
Every election year, those who have nothing tangible to offer are elected leaders. Consequently, people are subjected to all forms of hardship as a result of lack of good leadership compass. At the end citizens are left to pay dearly for the choices they made. The wounds politicians inflicted on the nation led a former minister to confess that himself and others should have been serving jail terms for cheating the nation.
Obi’s clear understanding of the ugly state of the nation, what leadership is, the shape and structure government should take at this crisis stage and appropriate recommendations to a whole range of national issues are inspiring. His public support for general overhaul of the current governance structures is timely. It suits the kind of politics that will bring succor to citizens and Nigeria out of the woods. Grandparents turned youths have not shown us any philosophy or idea in place to drive government if elected. Come 2023, aspirants have to give citizens ideas of what their intentions are. It is not good enough to only say vote for me for the future of your children. Or help me to achieve my life-long ambition. Show us in concrete terms what drives your aspiration to lead. The bitter menu served Nigerians by the All Progressive Congress (APC) is enough reason to vote that man who sees inclusive governance as a priority and a way of service to country and humanity. Some of the old guards and crops of recycled leaders have fooled us for too long do not have a place again in our political history. Affliction shall not arise up the second time. Peter Gregory Obi is the president Nigeria needs.
Sunday Onyemaechi Eze,