Peter Obi: A prophet living his character

By Editor on 10/09/2021

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Sometime in April 2020, words went viral that Peter Obi, former Governor of Anambra State, had donated N1billion to a fund being put together by some Nigerian billionaires to rein-in the spread of the COVID-19, then just declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

He was supposed to be part of the consort of a local private sector effort to fight the pandemic in Nigeria, which was then spreading very fast, given the figures from the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

Whoever was the purveyor of that story, and whatever his motive, obviously was not conversant with the man, Peter Obi and (or) his tendencies or if he did, mainly wanted to brush the real Obi aside or apparently to play a prank, or wanted to be outright mischievous.

Perhaps, the intention was to insert Obi’s name among the likes of Aliko Dangote, Tony Elumelu, Abdulsamad Rabiu, Herbert Wigwe, Segun Agbaje, Jim Ovia and Femi Otedola, members of the exclusive Nigerian billionaire club, popular for dominating the corporate business and the banking sector like a colossus. Each of them, had by then, been credited to having donated humongous amounts, some up to N1billion Obi was credited with towards the effort.

A simple background check could have saved the purveyor such a huge error. Yes, Obi, a billionaire in his own right, reputed to be among the 8,000 richest men in the world and one of the richest in Africa and Nigeria alike, definitely qualified to be listed in that club. But that is probably where the comparison ends. He would never be associated with loud or outward display of that wealth. That was where the vendors of the story goofed big time.

So, it was therefore not surprising when the former governor, in a swift riposte, denied the report, even before the echoes had died down and whilst many users of the social media were still busy sharing it. Vintage Obi, you might say!

In a statement by his spokesman, Valentine Obienyem, Obi dismissed the rumours, saying: “I have not donated to the fund,” and went ahead to commend the donors to the endeavor, in which his name appeared as number 33 with N1billion ascribed to it.

Waxing philosophical as usual, the former governor ended by saying that the issue at hand was “so scary and of great importance to the world, especially our dear country, to be tainted by any manner of fake news.

“As a Nigerian, I am deeply worried about the situation in the world, especially what Nigeria and her citizens are going through. I had earlier made a case for the vulnerable and advised that their plight should be a priority in any decision on how to fight the pandemic.”

Obi, Vice Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the February 23, 2029, presidential election, went ahead to thank Nigerians that had in one way or the other contributed to the on-going efforts to check the spread of the virus and to bring relief to the victims.

He went ahead to thank those who donated according to their abilities, to tackle what he described as a global catastrophe, while assuring of his commitment to be part of the solution to the scourge by, among other things, making his own contribution in his own way.

That contribution, not only came swiftly, but “in his own way,” as he indicated. For no sooner after, he put together his own team for the same purpose. Headed by the indefatigable Stella Okunna, the first African professor of Mass Communication, who has been his one of his most trusted allies since she was appointed into his cabinet as a governor and off government, Obi had gone ahead to set up a compact team that played a major role in stifling the spread of the pandemic.  

The team, made up of professionals in all relevant fields, not went ahead to acquire medical supplies, crucial for prevention and fighting the COVID-19 virus, but physically visited hospitals and health institutions to personally deliver them directly.

The import of this move is not farfetched. In fact to say that Obi wears prudence like a badge is to say the least, an understatement. In anything he does from the food he eats to the dress he wears to the trip he makes – virtually everything, takes cue from there. If he told you that he refused to use a bullet-proof vehicle for his use, as governor, believe him. If he tells you that his convoy didn’t buy fuel unless he was in it so that he paid them directly, it’s not an exaggeration. If he tells you that he did not fly first class, there are witnesses from countless passengers that shared seats with him even as a governor. If says he had to shut lease out Anambra liaison offices in Abuja and elsewhere, don’t doubt. That is the vintage Obi.

However, if you mistake that for tightfistedness, as many people are wont, that would also be a huge error. Indeed, Obi from the look of things, probably spent more than N1billion he was said to have donated to the CALCOVID Nigeria effort, put together by those billionaires.

But the jury will be out comparing the two efforts, which one achieved the greater impact. At least, Nigerians bear witness as to how many warehouses containing the CACOVID items were broken into by irate youths to help themselves to some of the essentials supposedly acquired with the tens of billions of Naira garnered under the fund compared to Obi’s individual effort.

Yes! Nigerians bore witnesses to the mess politicians made of the distribution of palliatives, acquired with public money - how, in their heartlessness a whole estate with about 500 families would be supplied two bags of garri and 20 loaves of bread by the same politicians after claiming billions of Naira – or has anyone forgotten the video clip of children playing football with such loaves to hit back at the politicians, for mocking them with such items?

So, when news broke on Tuesday September 7, this year, just a few days ago that Obi doled out a whopping N100million towards the rehabilitation of the School of Nursing and Midwifery and Health Technology of Bishop Shanahan Specialist hospital, Nsukka, for a period of three years, it could only be a surprise to those who have not been following him or those believing the yarn that the former governor.

For those who do, this gesture is more or less routine, because no month passes without Obi carrying out such an intervention. What might be different this time is the amount involved and perhaps the publicity it has attracted. You can also be sure that the publicity aspect must have come from the institution and not from the former governor.

Presenting the cheque to the Proprietor of the Hospital and Catholic Bishop of Nsukka Diocese, Most Rev Godfrey Onah, at the hospital premises, Obi also stated the urgent need for more investment in Nigeria’s health sector, especially at the primary level, saying that nurses and midwives played very critical roles in healthcare delivery.

“We cannot talk about health, especially primary healthcare, which is the most critical, without talking about the contribution of nurses and midwives. Nurses and midwives account for over 50% of global health workforce. They play a very vital role in health promotion, disease prevention, delivery of primary and community care. They are key to the achievement of universal health coverage,” Obi explained.

Obi added that there is shortage of nurses and midwives, not just in Nigeria but globally, and that by 2030, more 10 million nurses will be needed in the global health sector. He said it is imperative, therefore, to set up and equip colleges of nursing sciences and schools of midwifery to train health professionals who will fill in the gap.

Apart from this gesture not being surprising, it also signifies the fact that Obi is practically putting his money where his mouth is. In his several treatises on economic recovery and growth in Nigeria, Obi had always seized every opportunity to elevate education and health to the centre and had shown this in practical times in Anambra State throughout his eight-year tenure.

It was under the governor that several health institutions were upgraded from low-rate health providers to high-grade entities that have been doing a lot to revolutionalise the sector in the state, including the Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH), Awka the star project in this regard. It was under Obi that Anambra, which fell to the bottom of the education sector rating at a point, through a deliberate policy of computerisation and funding among other measures, was catapulted to the zenith of the sector in Nigeria, where the state has continuously scored first in the West African School Examination (WAEC) and the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), examinations.

It is no longer news that Obi met all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) or that under him, Anambra enjoyed the best network of roads in Nigeria, connecting virtually all communities. It is also on record that the former governor, is probably the only governor outside his office that never had anything to do with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), or the courts as a result of corruption. Instead, it was the ex-governor, that made a compendium of his financial activities in the state and went to the Supreme Court to swear an affidavit thereto, a move which could see him sent to jail at any time it is found to be false. Of course, it might not be easy to forget the story about how Obi left the state on credit while existing, with bank deposits of N75billion, probably the only governor to do so in the history of Nigeria.

No doubt vision, capacity, ideas, integrity and above all empathy, what is now referred in modern times as emotional intelligence are the hallmark of leadership, without which, entities such as organisations and countries would run into trouble. The sufficient absence of these elements, has obviously led to what Nigeria is witnessing today.

But these are attributes the former governor has displayed since he made his debut in the political landscape of Nigeria in 2003, fresh from the boardrooms, as the chairman of Fidelity Bank Plc, the youngest to hold such a position in any bank in Nigeria. Added to these is also his knack for resilience and staying power, that saw him breaking new grounds.

Yes, it was Obi who in 2006, sacked a sitting governor, apparently the first to do so in Nigeria. This was after about three years of serious legal battle and it was the same Obi that rebounded from the ashes of impeachment handed him by the Anambra State House of Assembly, few months after taking office that led him through several months of another strenuous legal battle to reclaim the office. Yet again, it was the same Obi that broke another record by dismissing another governor from office, through his tenure interpretation victory at the Supreme Court, a landmark case that underscored an impactful development in Nigerian legal and political landscape.

Bishop Godfrey Onah, the Catholic Bishop of Nsukka as he wrapped up on the essence of the gesture, after receiving the cheque for the project, made a profound statement on the place of the former governor in Nigeria, in these words: “The Nigerian society gets the type of leaders we deserve. We tolerate corruption and that’s why only corrupt people succeed.

“Yes, everybody knows Peter Obi is an economist; yes, everybody knows that Peter Obi is practical, he has so many facts and he has statistics in his hands; he has ideas – ideas that will move this country forward. It will be a miracle if he is given the opportunity to use those ideas.

“But Peter Obi, your strength is not only in your ideas. You’re not the most intelligent person in Nigeria. Some others know better than you how to move this country forward. But there is something you have that they don’t have and it is called integrity. You strength is integrity and if a man has everything but lacks integrity, he has no character, he has no morality, he has no love.

“Once it comes to public office, this man is not depleted. He is whole. To be holy is to be entirely human without allowing distraction to reduce your holiness; so that the only thing that is lacking in you is the totality of being that only God can provide and no longer material things and no longer what material things can complete. This country doesn’t like integrity. But whatever that happens, Peter Obi, don’t you’re your integrity and don’t compromise it. Some people will see it and some people will benefit from it.”

Of course, the bishop is not alone in this assessment and assertions which clearly resonate around the former governor. But who is more overwhelmed by primordial sentiments? Who would rather cut his nose to spite his face? That’s the tragedy.




Posted on September, 10 2021

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