As this former Governor celebrates his 56th birthday today, friends and associates have been eulogizing his great achievements.
His media aide, Valentine Obienyem who has been with the ex-governor for many years, took out time to eulogize him with this piece.
'Salute to icon of good governance
Today, the 19th day of July, 2017, the man regarded as one of the best in governance, at any tier in the annals of our country, turns 56. As usual, drums would be rolled out by some of his admirers who believe excellence ought to be celebrated.
They contend that if for nothing else, it is a means of promoting merit as role models in name and in deed. In a country where even imbeciles garbed in purple fall over one another seeking attention, it is about time the society set up a clear template for granting honour to whom it is due.
In another vein, beyond panegyrics by his enthusiasts, most people will just wish him a perfunctory ‘Happy Birthday’.
In this piece, I set out to re-examine, through the memories of his tenure, what good governance is all about and to encourage Nigerians to look up to him as the man who came into governance through entirely different route, with an entirely different mentality and left it as nobody has done in the history of governance in Nigeria.
For me, this is decent birthday present that would also instruct those in governance on the right way to go.
Born on July 19, 1961, Peter Gregory Obi started his life in the rustic city of Onitsha and obtained his initial formal education in Onitsha and Nsukka. He has since attended some of the best tertiary institutions in the world in his thirst for intellectual insemination to boost his competencies.
How shall we rank him? Which of us possesses so varied the knowledge to understand him adequately? As an experiment in perspective, let us see him through his dramatic entrance into government and what he did while there as distinct from business as usual.
Before him, news emanating from the state was not palatable at all. It was always stories of intrigues, squander mania, rape, and rapine. Visions and memories of the state tormented all persons of goodwill; an involuntary gloom penetrated our souls, chilling their imaginations.
The Bakassi group and their co-predators worsened the situation as they turned our dear state into a vast Golgotha of carnage, an arena for horror, where her children tore and destroyed one another with the clear conscience of nature.
Concerned like other decent people, Peter Obi developed an urge to turn these barbarisms into civilization and this was what compelled him to seek election into public office.
He campaigned vigorously and was seen as the best candidate for the job. In many respects, he was different: he was softened to tolerance by education and experiences as a top board-room man.
He relied on persuasion and effective marketing of his programme of action to garner support and votes. Alas, his opponents, hardened by the streets and subterfuge, stole his mandate.
Evidently, Almighty God always has a special interest in Peter Obi’s affairs; and for every indignity he suffered, he came out stronger and as a reference point for the country and Nigeria-watchers.
By regaining his stolen mandate through the courts, he became a locus classicus in that regard, not just from the point of law, but from establishing a commendable precedent as the first Nigerian to have done so.
A study of the circumstances that led to that feat will easily show that it was due largely to the grace of God and his perseverance and ability to remain focused.
A few months into his tenure, some renegades in the State House of Assembly led by Hon. Mike Belonwu, contrived his impeachment. It was not hidden that the impeachment process that came to its peak on the visit of the then President Olusegun Obasanjo, had some of its roots in the swelling resentment against his parsimony; how, rather than business as usual, he was using the resources of the state to work for the state and her people.
Consider one of the reasons why he was impeached: the House used to “add and share”; accusing him of re-building the burnt Government House with less than 50% of the actual money budgeted for that purpose. This may sound incredible, but it is true.
It was the mark of the rascality of the time that the House ended up impeaching him. Convinced of the rightness of his conduct in office, Peter Obi challenged the action of the House of Assembly in court; and set another record as the first state Governor to come back into the office from impeachment.
As the Governor, he had many challenges, but as customary with him, his usually calm and thoughtful temperament often saved him from unsavoury situations.
Despite his convictions that the condition of Anambra required early decisions and quick implementation of policies, Obi, in the freshman year of his government, submitted himself to robust debate over the state’s many problems. He started with a profound bow to planning by establishing the Ministry of Planning.
He did not have to rush into new projects - mostly unplanned – when there were many projects started by his predecessor which needed to be completed.
As a board-room guru, he subjected his decisions to the Executive Council [EXCO] for proper debate and consideration. He did this because he was the captain of the ship and was in control.
On Peter Obi’s capacity for work, the cerebral & forthright Professor Chinyere Okunna says: “I have never seen him tired, I never found his mind lacking in inspiration, even when weary in the body. Never did a man more wholly devote himself to the work in hand, nor better devote his time to what he had to do”.
He was yet to conclude his first term when elections were conducted. As far as everybody was concerned, that was his end. Dr. Andy Uba was already sworn in as the Governor before Peter Obi’s erudite lawyer succeeded in his tenure interpretation case. I recall that as soon as Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN mentioned that, Femi Falana, SAN picked up the gauntlet and turned the matter into a forensic debate.
One of the major challenges of his tenure was the issue of security. Though the entire South-East was having security challenges at the time he assumed office, the case of Anambra was horrendous as the State had little relationship with legitimate security agencies. In the first instance, he restored this strategic relationship with those agencies; supporting them as no other Government in the State has ever done, including donations of over 500 vehicles, among which were Armoured Personnel Carriers and Armoured patrol vehicles.
Easily one of the unsurpassed attainments of Peter Obi was in education. Here, he achieved another first on January 1, 2009, with his return of schools to their original owner-proprietors – Voluntary Agencies, including Churches – with commendable results. While the management of the schools was transferred to the agencies, the State Government retained the funding responsibilities, including capital projects, staff salaries and emoluments, and other recurrent expenditures.
Such was the impact of this momentous decision that Obi administration stabilized basic education in the State. Among other outcomes, Anambra State leaped from its usual 24th place of the 36 States in many external examinations to Number One in results of both the National Examination Council (NECO) and West African Examination Council (WAEC) examinations for three consecutive years.
Indeed, this revolutionary partnership and phenomenal achievement informed the World Bank-commissioned study group led by the renowned Professor Paul Collier of Oxford University.
Under the Obi tenure, Anambra State was the first in the Federation to procure and distribute over 30,000 computers to secondary schools.
Similarly, secondary schools in the state got over 700 buses, while boreholes were sunk and classroom blocks constructed in several schools in the 177 communities of the state.
Predictably, the achievements of Peter Obi as Governor elicited several authentic, verifiable commendations and awards. Among others, he won the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation US$1 million prize for the best-performing state in immunization in the South-East. With complementary funding from Government, he used the money to construct 10 Maternal and Child Care Centres across the State, particularly in rural communities, in partnership with the Churches.
One of the acts of Obi that nobody would wish away is his ability, against the convention, to clear debts owed pensioners running into over 37 billion Naira; his consistency in paying workers’ salaries; and commitment to paying contractors on certificates generated – and yet being able to leave in excess of N100 billion (including set-aside funds) in the state treasury for his successor.
This is one of the features that define him from others that seek the governance of the people. How he did it will one day become a topical issue in this country. Another marvel is that even with that huge savings, he still recorded more achievements than most others that owed hundreds of billions.
On her part, his wife, the oil behind the strong engine, Mrs. Margaret Obi is perplexed that what he suffered has not driven him to insanity. She asserted that her husband remains the person he used to be: “He still eats well and sleeps like a baby. He could go to sleep at will, at any hour and in any place wherever he needs repose.”
The man himself revealed that he keeps different affairs arranged in his head or memory as in a closet with several drawers: “When I wish to turn from business, I close the drawer that contains it, and open that which contains another. If I wish to sleep, I shut up all the drawers and I am soon asleep."
Rather than seek by what magic or inspiration Obi achieved all this and get close to him to achieve a fraction of his goodness by prestige imitation, they are busy running around the lunatic asylum.
When they discovered it would not lead them to anywhere, they resorted to propaganda and elevated it to a State industry, almost a monopoly.
As he turns 56 and is increasingly relevant because he has something to offer, may we raise our glasses and cling to his continued good health and pray to God to always lead him aright."