Ex Anambra Governor Peter Obi says Nigerians won't be able to take it if he exposes how much Governors earn.
Obi spoke at a policy dialogue session organized by Ripples Nigeria on Thursday, March 15, 2018 at the Wheatbaker Hotel in Ikoyi, Lagos.
The dialogue had as its theme: ‘Rebuilding Trust in a Divided Nigeria.’
“You all were shouting when you learnt that senators take home N13.5million monthly and N200million for constituency projects. If I tell you what Governors take home, you won’t be able to take it”, Obi said with a rigorous shake of the head.
“Tell us!” the audience yelled.
Again, Obi shook his head as he paced the podium, lips zipped for a minute.
He told his audience that an American lawmaker takes home a paltry N50million annually.
Obi who was head of Fidelity Bank before his foray into politics, also painted a disturbing picture of the waste culture in government circles.
“As Governor, my convoy wasn’t more than four vehicles. I didn’t understand why I had all those cars following me. So one day, I put an end to all of that. You have all these vehicles running around and creating confusion!
“There was a fuel dump in government house. And I asked them, what is the fuel dump for? And they said the fuel dump is a contingency plan for when there is petrol scarcity. Shut it down, I ordered. If there is petrol crisis, we’ll join the queues like everyone else.
“They also told me that they were going to buy bulletproof cars. Bulletproof cars for what? Anyone who wants to kill you, if you alight from that car, he’ll still kill you.
“And then you have all these motorbikes riding ahead of the convoy. If we don’t have the outriders ahead of the convoy, won’t the convoy get to its destination?”, he asked rhetorically and visibly irritated.
The former bank chief told the story of how he refused to hand car keys to his son, impressing it upon the young man to work harder and purchase his own car so he’ll appreciate the value of a car and avoid crashes.
Enumerating what else he did to eliminate official waste during his spell as Governor, Obi said; “I did not borrow one kobo as Governor. I have mentioned the banks. Go and find out from them if I’m lying.
“During my time, I asked them why the Governor of Anambra should have a house in Abuja. I shut the house and the idea down.
“When I first assumed office as Governor, I had this ambulance following my small convoy around with two Doctors and I asked why. 'In case there’s an accident', I was told. Well, if there’s an accident, I’ll be taken to a hospital like everyone else. Stop following me around!
"Those who know my house in Onitsha will tell you that even till this moment, I don’t have anyone manning the gates of my house. You can just drive in as a visitor. No one will kill you if you are doing the right thing.
Obi also lamented that the Nigerian system is tailor-made to frustrate anyone with the best of intentions.
“I keep telling people that if they bring the best leaders from the west here, they will fail. The problem with Nigeria isn’t not too young to rule or too old to rule. We just want people with capacity. We want creators of wealth not people who share money.
“Followership is even worse. We have become insanely complacent. A comedian joked the other day that we now have a situation where political leadership is now merging with comedy. We have lawmakers who are comedians. But governance should be serious business”, he said.
It isn’t the first time Peter Obi would be regaling an audience with tales of how prudent he was as Governor. He’s a regular face at seminars and talk-shops these days; espousing the virtues of frugality and parsimony.
They are those who wonder why he’s suddenly found his voice outside of the gleaming corridors of power.
“Even if we did it wrong yesterday, can’t we correct it today?”, he asks in his defense.
Potshots were also aimed at incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari. Obi doesn’t get why the incumbent is still blaming his predecessor for Nigeria’s woes.
“He campaigned to solve problems and he’s now telling us about the rot he met there. What were you expecting to meet there? That is why we elected you and you campaigned to fix problems, right?”
Soft spoken Obi oversaw affairs as Governor of Anambra State from March 17, 2006 to November 2, 2006; from February 9, 2007 to May 29, 2007; June 14, 2007; and from February 6, 2010 to March 17, 2014.
Legal battles punctuated all of his first term.