When the famous Indian Philosopher and Writer, Jiddu Krishnamurti saw the speed at which the world of his time was canonizing abnormality on the dual altars of conventionality and ethics, he flagged a caveat: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” And, it was about the same time, that his compatriot, another renowned Indian sage and foremost nationalist, Mahatma Ghandi exhorted his followers thus: “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”
The verdicts of these two savant gurus of that south Asian country, found their respective meanings in former Anambra governor, Maazi Peter Obi, in present day Nigeria when vice is at all time competitive struggle to transmorgrify into virtue, and the society is in urgent need of men of resplendent pragmatism.
In and out of public office, he had shone inextinguishable light of quixotic generosity and platonic munificence. Simply put, Peter Obi is not your every day politician. He enfleshed everything Abraham Lincoln meant in his celebrated letter to his son’s teacher, where he posited that: “… though, all men are not true, but for every Scoundrel there is a hero, for every selfish politician, there is a dedicated leader.”
From March 2006 when he came into office on the heels of legal justice delivered at the appellate court in Enugu, till his exit in 2014, his tenures were marred by legislative incongruence and judicatory tussles, along with Anambra’s charged mise en scène of the time. Yet, he jettisoned being distracted by any of the odds.
Rather he remained calm, focused, determined, calculated and undettered. It wasn’t easy taking over Anambra in the post-Ngige/Ubas skirmish hassles. He understood the anonymous saying that: “the key is in accepting your thoughts, all of them, even the bad ones. Accept thoughts, but don’t become them.” He believed, for instance, that having a sad thought, even having a continual succession of sad thoughts, is not the same as being a sad person. You can walk through a storm and feel the wind but you know you are not the wind.
He could fittingly be described as the father of modern Anambra. He met the state in bricks and left it in gold. He paid a lot of sacrifices to enthrone the stability which the state currently enjoys in its polity, and roundly became a yardstick for measuring performance in the state thenceforth. One of the reasons his successor, Gov. Willie Obiano had hard times trying to impress Anambrarians was because Obi had raised the bar to insurmountable height, that it will take an unbending populist and economic innovator to match his track record.
Recall he took over when the state was in tumoil. It was a period Chinua Achebe referenced as reason for his refusal of national honours merit award, citing the reign of impunity in the Ubas-led destructive godfatherism in his home state. But Obi made the difference. His predecessor, Dr. Chris Ngige is a steeled gentleman. Despite the storm he faced, he was able to save for the rainy day in the state’s treasury, in that whereas he claimed to have inherited a paltry ₦35,000 in the coffers of the government as well as over ₦35 billion debt as governor in 2003, he was able to leave about ₦12.8 billion behind, by the time he left office in 2006. Obi was to grow this to over ₦75billion in both cash and asset domiciled in three banks. Today, the state is in gory of being penciled in the left-hand side of IMF ledger, due to debt incurred by the incumbent.
Since he left office in 2014, Obi’s large-heart followed him. As an accomplished business man, who was already a founder and CEO of business conglomerates, prior to his venture into politics, he donates readily and selflessly to humanity. He sponsors community development projects, aside hundreds that are beneficiaries of his educational fund. A staunch christian of Catholic leaning, Maazi Peter Obi’s vocation in the royal priesthood of the faithful was never hidden. He is one of the finest sons of Nigeria Catholic church. In my previous piece in this space on “Kobe Bryant as a shinning light to ‘Kennedy’ Catholics” I pointed out that Peter Obi was among few VIPs and celebrities whose catholic faith informs their virtuous life in both public and private spheres of life.
He is in politics to serve God and humanity. How is that possible in our environment you may ask? Well, the answer is in both his antecedents and precedents. With him, politics is not a dirty game, those who play it unwholesomely are. In him, what belongs to Caesar may well be used with what belongs to God to the greater glory of God (LK. 20:25). After all, both Caesar and his belongings were made by God. We have had Catholic men of saintly charaters like him in politics, but not in Nigeria. The examples of St. Louis IX, St. Louis XIV (both of France) and Julius Nyerere of Tanzania are rare in our shores.
The mother church notably recognized Obi in this regard, when in 2014, Pope Francis conferred on him, the Papal Knighthood of St. Sylvester (KSS), a title traditionally reserved for men above 55 years of age. But at 53, his exceptionality was irresistibly eloquent that at the instance of numerous testimonies, the Bishop of his home Diocese at Awka, Rt. Rev. Paulinus Ezeokafor had to take authority from the Vatican to confer it on him.
Three weeks ago, he was up at it again. He was at Nsukka on September 07, where he made a donation of ₦100,000,000 (One hundred million naira) for the upgrade of Bishop Shanahan Hospital School of Nursing and Midwifery to a College. The marvel is that this swift intervention was a response to a mere phone call from the hospital administrator, Rev. Fr. Gregory Onah, explaining how important the upgrade will be to the patients, the students and the society at large. Without hesitation, he obliged him!
This is in addition to a school bus he previously donated about eight years ago to the same school. The great St. Patrick’s College Obollo-Eke was in the past, a beneficiary of his generosity too. The tentacles of his selfless charity spans beyond the borders of Anambra. He is member, Board of Trustees, Ichakporoko Foundation, an NGO for the advancement of education and youth development, in honour of Late Chief Odo Abonyi of Ada Obollo Etiti, in the same Nsukka.
Nsukka is a 31-year old diocese that had been on a steady growth in terms of propagation of faith, infrastructural development and social impact commitment. She dedicated her hallowedly edified cathedral on November 30, last year, six years after transiting from the episcopacy of her pioneer Bishop, Rt. Rev. Dr. FEO Okobo to that of the incumbent, Bishop Godfrey Onah. But giving this health institute a facelift has been a tall project; something the diocese nurtured only in hope, until this Obi’s paradigmatical intervention.
This was one of the reasons why some pundits were begrudged the embarrassment he was subjected to, in Adoration Ministry Enugu, when he was hesitant in making public pronouncement of how much he was to donate for the Ministry’s 2018 Bazaar, in his capacity as the PDP vice presidential candidate in the 2019 election.
Deductively, Obi’s generosity is for the needy not the greedy. Since he lost out of 2019 election, he has been granting series of nterviews to many media houses, preaching the gospel of how to salvage our national economy to powers that cared to listen.
Obi showed he is a rare manager of emotions that goes with power and fame, in that while returning from that landmark visit to Nsukka, he met 12 girls students of Federal Government College Ezzamgbo whose vehicle had accident at an isolated portion of Enugu-Awka road, at a spot called Ugwunzu Oji-River, and asked his driver to stop by and pick them to their designation despite his tight schedule.
This brings to mind the tameness with which he managed his Deputy, Dame Virgy Etiaba (who cashed into his erroneous impeachment saga to become the first female substantive state governor in Africa) when she allegedly tried to suffocate all possible routes to his reinstatement into the office. He was placidly tranquil, and compassionate with her till they saw off their first tenure together. Obi is apparently a disciple of Charles Chaplin in his famous quote that: “you need power only when you want to do something harm; otherwise, love is enough to get everything done.”
He is a man meant for our time; a light to nations. May more his kind spring in our clime.
Columnist and a public affairs Analyst