A few days day, I began reminiscing on the situation of leadership in Nigeria since independence. How the Nigeria we see today is a departure from that which was negotiated by the founding fathers of this great, but widely diverse, aggregation of nations. One event which helped to acutely capture the nature of Nigeria’s descent from glory was a 1959 shot of an activity scene at the University College Hospital, Ibadan(UCH). UCH, once a hub for global medical tourism, today cannot even attract medical tourists from West Africa, let alone the rest of Africa. A conceptual metaphor for Nigeria’s monumental derailing from the track of good leadership.
Clearly, Nigeria fell off, and it did ”real bad.” Apart from unwholesome leadership, what has served as the country’s bane of development is the absence or failure of succession plan initiatives that recognize and prepare future leaders to take the mantle of leadership of the various levels of governance in the country. This failure has been responsible for the near-pariah situation we are in. The most populous black nation in the world has long been denied the machinery that drives the vision, mission, and ideology of a nation.
Enter a man of vision, mission, focus, compassion, piety, and integrity, Peter Obi
Born in the commercial city of Onitsha in 1961, Peter Obi attended the famous Christ the King College, Onitsha, (CKC), and then moved on to The University of Nigeria, Nsukka where he studied philosophy, graduating with honours in 1984. He then
began his public career as a businessman. Peter Obi has always proudly identified himself as an ‘Onitsha-based trader.’
However, the truth of the matter is that he is actually a shrewd businessman with interests spanning banking, wholesale, and retail, emerging as the youngest chairman of a publicly-quoted bank when he took charge of Fidelity Bank. Obi launched out as an entrepreneur as a teenager in Christ the King College when he began to sell goods to his classmates. Being a man of vision, focus, empathy, compassion and a heart for the people, things have only remained brighter and brighter, along these paths, for this illustrious son of Anambra.
Prudent, Accountable, and Transparent: the people’s choice for 2023
Since public campaigns began in late September, Nigeria has been rocked by the release of three polls showing Mr. Obi well ahead of the two candidates for the main parties that have misruled Nigeria since the restoration of its democracy in 1999. In two of the polls, Mr. Obi led more than 15 percentage points over Bola Tinubu of the incumbent All Progressives Congress (APC) and Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the main opposition. What makes this even more astounding is that Mr. Obi is standing for the Labour Party, whose candidate at the previous presidential election in 2019 won just 5,074 votes out of 28m casts.
The very Germaine question to ask, at this juncture is, how has Peter Obi warmed himself up to Nigerians in this organic and seamless manner? The answer is quite straightforward, Nigerians can identify a genuine and authentic product when they see one. In fact, one of the ways of assessing the performance of governments in Nigeria and, indeed across the world, is to evaluate what the government has done and is doing with the collective resources of the citizens.
And, while the average political elite in Nigeria prides himself on white elephant projects execution, acquisition of private jets and other bogus material possessions, acquired with tax-payers’ money, Obi has been comfortable flying with the people. He fought like a wounded lion to defend the mandate he was given and buried his head in people-oriented programmes.
Little wonder the British Broadcasting
Corporation (BBC) titled one of the beautiful pieces they had on him in this manner: “Peter Obi, a man who carries his own suitcases, could be Nigeria’s next president.”
Anyone who has kept a keen interest in Obi’s antecedents and records, from his time as the Governor of Anambra State shouldn’t be surprised at this caption.
The Obi administration welcomed various businesses to construct facilities in Anambra State. The second-largest brewery in the world, SABMiller, is a prime example, having constructed its first Green Fields operation in the state. The administration of Obi backed and encouraged a number of such businesses that followed the SABMiller model, including Innoson Motor Manufacturing Company, from which Obi’s government purchased over 1,000 automobiles for official usage. Anambra became an oil-producing state during Obi’s tenure.
Management of funds
Under Peter Obi, Anambra State launched Sub-Sovereign Wealth Savings, the first of its type in Sub-Saharan Africa, making it the first state in Nigeria to do so. Peter Obi claimed that he left Anambra State
with investments worth $500 million in both local and foreign cash. This includes $156 million in bonds
denominated in dollars at a period when many other governors were leaving enormous debts. Anambra
was regarded as the least indebted and most financially stable state in Nigeria by the Nigerian Debt
Management Office (DMO). Peter Obi won praise for avoiding taking out loans to finance his ventures.
The government of Obi purchased and delivered nearly 30,000 computers to the state’s secondary schools, including 22,500 HP models. Over 500 secondary schools received Microsoft Academies under Peter Obi’s administration, the largest deployment of its kind in Africa, according to Mr. Ken Span, the head of Microsoft in Nigeria. More than 500 secondary schools in his country now have access to the internet.
When Peter Obi was governor of Anambra State, numerous ambassadors and high commissioners from illustrious nations, including the United States, Britain, Russia, the European Union, South Africa, Belgium, Israel, the Netherlands, and Canada, among others, paid the state their maiden visits. Organizations that were not initially present in Anambra State, such as UNDP, UNICEF, the World Bank, the European Union, etc., began cooperating with the state. Anambra has continuously been rated as
one of the states with the best commitment to good governance reforms and development partnerships.
Peter Obi’s administration established strategic alliances with churches in the health field. The symbiotic partnership gave Anambra State’s healthcare system a major boost. As the best-performing state in the South-East for immunisation, Obi’s government received a $1 million award from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The first state-owned teaching hospital, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu Teaching Hospital, was designed and constructed during the Obi administration from the ground up.
Under Obi, Anambra State began working closely with all government security agencies for the first time, including the Police, Army, Navy, Department of State Security, and Civil Defence, among others. Anambra State provided these agencies with a range of support, including the provision of more than 500 security vehicles. Abubakar Mohammed, the former IG of Police, praised Anambra State for not having experienced a bank heist in the final three years of Obi’s government due to the state’s amazing security development. Obi changed the local vigilante system such that neighbourhood watch organizations now collaborate
with the police and are closely supervised.
Youth and Employment
Obi revived the Anambra State Youth Re-Orientation & Empowerment Programme (ANSYREP), which gave grants and provided training to young and ambitious business owners. His Youth Employment Fund concept increased job growth and supported a number of burgeoning firms.
Peter Obi’s candidacy resonates beyond Nigeria
The fact that Peter Obi has emerged as Nigeria’s most preferred candidate is no longer news, what is novel is the level of traction his popularity is reaching beyond the shores of Nigeria. Recently, the Economist, an authoritative global news and analysis platform which offers fair-minded, fact-checked coverage of world politics, economics, business, science, and technology alluded to the position of millions of Nigerians this way:
“A wealthy businessman with a reputation for being frugal, Peter Obi has emerged as a powerful force ahead of Nigeria’s presidential election next February, energizing voters with messages that are amplified by an army of social media users.”
However, in the midst of the raves and wide acclaim, the man Peter Obi remains fixated on the ultimate goal. He understands the enormity of the tasks ahead and he’s primed to see this through by sustaining his humble and conservative disposition, which has remained his mantra from day 1.
- This is a case of Goliath and David,” says Peter Obi, while reacting to his unexpected lead in the race to become president of Africa’s most populous country. If you viewed this first statement with a pinch of salt, how about these more conservative, non-braggadocious words from the same man: “The big people are there, but allow this small person to do it. And I know I can do it.”
Chuks Iloegbunam, the author of The Promise of a New Era, a book which sufficiently beams the light on the enviable, president-worthiness of Peter Obi, aptly captures this unusual development thus: ‘The people rose with one voice, swearing that they were not followers of Peter Obi but advocates for a better Nigeria who see Mr. Obi’s candidacy as an instrument for actualizing their political objective. Soon posters appeared, bearing the message that “Peter Obi is not contesting for President of Nigeria. It is Nigerians that are contesting through Peter Obi.”’
Evidently, the man Peter Obi is that unusual politician who has so captured the imagination and devotion of not just Nigerian youths, but the generality of Nigerians at large.