It was the incomparable sage and quintessential political leader Chief Obafemi Awolowo who in his autobiography, ”My Early Life” published in1968 made known his love for his wife, Chief Mrs Hannah Dideolu Awolowo (new Adelana) by describing her as a “jewel of inestimable value”.To arrive at that conclusion, Chief Awolowo had to consider a woman that has been as constant as the northern star even at the face of changing fortunes of life.
In adorning Peter Obi with a jewel garment, flowing from Chief Awolowo’s tradition, the writer had done so with the belief that the former governor of Anambra State has all the trappings of not just a jewel but a genuis when it comes to leadership. This incontrovertible claim ,the writer intends to justify with the records of performance when the man known as “Okwute the rock” bestrode the Government House Awka as a colossus, with his midas touch that saw Anambra becoming cynosure of all eyes.
As governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi set up the sub-sovereign wealth savings, a nolvety in sub sahara Africa.This noble economic safety valve was enunciated at a time his brother governors were leaving mountain of debts for their different states. For the records, the man nicknamed “aka gum” (one not given to frivolous spendings) ended up leaving the equivalent of $500 million dollars in investment as well as local and foreign currency, including $156 million dollars criminated bonds. This can only be done by a leader who believes in saving for the rainy day and not the set of rulers who are fixated in dissipating any available cash, be it excess crude account or bailout fund.
Under the watch of Peter Obi, Development partners such UNDP, UNICEF, the World Bank, DFD, the European Union all poured into Anambra to work with the state . Such a symbiosis with development partners was not possible before, until this quintessential leader arrived the scene. Anambra always came tops in the area of development partnership and commitment to reforms for good governance when Peter called the shots in Anambra State. How many governors in present day Nigeria have been able to gain international development partners confidence such as Peter Obi did ? What rather we see, is the reverse.
What could have motivated the Millennium Development Goals Office to confer former Governor Obi at one time as the best governor in the country for his wizardry in implementing MDGs programmes? The answer is simple; this leadership jewel sets out to excel in every thing he sets out to do and that he was recognized by Millennium Development Goals office while in office speaks volume of his leadership genuis.
This leadership jewel in spite of embarking on so many laudable projects never borrowed a dime from any bank or raised a bond that has put many states in bondage today. The financial engineering adopted by Peter Obi, prompted the Nigerian Debt management office (DMO) to have rated Anambra as the least indebted state in Nigeria. What do we see today are states accumulating debts that are higher than Mount Everest, and the country experiencing a debt over hang as a result of unbridled borrowing.
Under Peter Obi’s superintendence in Anambra State, the government won the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation one million dollars as the best state in immunisation in the South East, which he did not divert to spurious sources but rather with complementary funding from the government built 10 maternal and child care centers across the state, more especially in rural areas. With Obi, credible organizations were ready to do business or render assistance to Anambra State, but what do we see today, credible donors without credible recipients.
It is on record that Peter Obi’s government was the first to do poverty mapping in Nigeria as guide for the effective implementation of poverty alleviation strategies. For a man that read philosophy–a discipline that enables one to think, the writer is not taken aback that former Governor Obi was thinking of poverty alleviation many years before Nigeria was declared the poverty capital of the world. If only leaders can think like Obi, Nigeria would have not been in its sorry financial state.
Peter Obi, with his thinking cap on, undertook the aerial mapping of Awka, together with production of structure plans for Awka, the state capital, Onitsha and Nnewi. He understood what it meant to have a modern city and committed himself to that cause. With Peter, there is always cornucopia of business and development ideas.
Who could have forgotten that it was under former governor Obi that Anambra became listed as an oil producing state ? Obi the unassuming political leader did not bombard the media with propaganda as what he was doing as we see today with some governors spending state resources unnecessarily on publicity.
In recognition of former Governor Obi’s legendary leadership, a number of organizations gave him awards. In 2003 he was awarded the Silver Bird Man of the Year together with Babatunde Fashola, former governor of Lagos State. In 2014, the Champion newspaper bestowed on him the award of the Most Outstanding Igbo man of the decade. The Sun newspaper in 2007 gave him Man of the Year award. In 2011 he carted the Zik Leadership Prize .The list is inexhaustible, as many groups were competing to give him awards. Unlike other politicians who buy awards, Obi never solicited for the awards that came his way while in office.
When Abraham Lincoln opined, ”I will prepare and some day my chance will come “ it was as if he was talking to Peter Obi who actually have internalized this aphorism by equipping himself with knowledge from the best of schools in the world. At university of Nsukka, a university set up by the late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe to improve on the diginity of man , he walked away with a BA in philosophy.
Peter Obi, desirous of preparing more for leadership has attended the chief executive programme of the Lagos Business School. He equally had been in Harvard Business School in the United States for the “changing game’ programme.
At the London School of Economics, he took up a programme in financial management and businesse policy. At Oxford university, he attended the advance management and leadership programme.
With the chance of Peter Obi coming as predicted by Abraham Lincoln for whoever prepares, and taking into consideration his leadership that is signposted in Anambra and blue chips organizations in Nigeria ,the writer was beaten hollow when a few dissenting voices in the east raised eyebrow on the choice of this leadership jewel as the running mate of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the Peoples Democratic Party presidential candidate.
There were about four nominees jostling for the ticket and politics being a contest of power, it was expected that anyone of them could have enlisted the services of those that complained about lack of consultation in the selection of Obi as a way of rueing the lost of the chance of clinching the ticket. Like Achilles who changed his mind of not fighting after the death of Patroclus, the Igbo nation appeals to whoever is aggrieved with the choice of Peter Obi to put up the armour of battle and queue behind this inspiring leader of the 21st century as the 2019 general election gathers momentum.
Just like the last vice president from Igbo extraction Dr Alex Ekwueme, Peter Obi is cerebral, a great thinker, manager of resources, a study in simplicity, and integrity personified and without doubt comes with huge political capital to any ticket. For a greater Nigeria, a ticket with Peter Obi remains to a whole lot of minds the most exciting.
–Akunebu is a media consultant and author based in Abuja.