Saturday, 1st October 2022
Breaking News:

The Attractions of Peter Obi

By Kiikpoye K. Aaron
13 July 2022   |   4:05 am
A track record of stellar performance in Anambra State where he held sway as Governor, zero record of corruption in a country where politics and corruption are Siamese twins, uncanny prudence and financial discipline in a clime where profligacy


A track record of stellar performance in Anambra State where he held sway as Governor, zero record of corruption in a country where politics and corruption are Siamese twins, uncanny prudence and financial discipline in a clime where profligacy has been elevated to a high art, and clarity of ideas on the way out of Nigeria’s economic morass commend Peter Obi to many as the candidate of choice in the upcoming presidential election. While these are enough reasons for a Peter Obi candidacy to command the votes of right-thinking Nigerians who daily struggle with hardship they do not deserve, the real attractions of Peter Obi lie more in the contradictory realities of his life which has the potency to not just inspire an unintended ethical revolution but also serve as both the symbol and touchstone of a new public morality in a land where ethics and values have been severely compromised particularly by the ruling class.

Peter Obi’s life remains a textbook case of simplicity and humility hardly, if ever seen in Nigeria. Though born into affluence and himself a creator of wealth, he makes simplicity and humility primary values of life. A man who has risen to the top corporate ladder of blue-chip companies prefers to call himself a trader, which suggests some high level of ordinariness. His peers in Nigeria would prefer to be described as business mogul, business magnate or something more high sounding and convoluted. He owns and wears a wristwatch for the past 17 years. He has only two pairs of shoes costing less than $50 each. While this may seem austere, the logic cannot be faulted: the purpose of a wristwatch is to keep time so when not worn, whose time would it be keeping? The purpose of shoes is to protect the foot from harm so why put in so much into it? This is strange in a land where the rich flaunt their wealth. He carries his brief case all by himself while traveling like an Alan Greenspan of the United States. He did so even as a serving Governor.

It was this lifestyle that dictated a different way of managing public affairs as Governor of Anambra State. He shut down the sources of waste, drastically reduced the cost of governance and conducted the business of governance in far more transparent ways than any of his peers. More to the point, as Governor, he cut down the number of aides and the unwanted paraphernalia and entitlements that have wrongly been associated with a high office. He ran an open government to the point that even Senior Prefects of all public schools had his phone number and could directly communicate their concerns to him. By making openness a state policy, he was well able to feel the pulse of the people over whom he had the privilege to superintend. By his background, it would have been excusable if he doesn’t know the pain points of the poor. Ironically, he appreciates better the living conditions of the poor and actively seeks for ways and means to improve their lot. The result was that he left, at the end of his tenure, a far more robust treasury than Governors of oil producing states. This should sound like the 8th wonder of the world, given that Anambra State, on average, receives less than 10% of what the oil producing states get from the monthly distributable revenue.

Listening to Obi has jolted me into a re-evaluation of my personal sense of value. I had quite a lot of shoes and wristwatches some of which cost an arm and a leg to buy. I realized, however that I actively wear not more than six pairs. So what are the rest doing in my shoe rack? I have given them out. While I may not subscribe to owing only two pairs of shoes, I have at least realized the folly in owning more than I need and in consequence giving out the excess to other less privileged people and in consequence made them happy. If Peter Obi’s sense of discipline, bordering on the austere; his values, modesty and contentment could influence a fully grown adult like me, there is so much that his elevation to the highest position of leadership in the land could inspire ethical revolution among the younger generation.

In an era where the popular saying ‘education is scam’ is fast gaining the status of conventional wisdom for good reason, the Nigerian youth will learn in Obi that University education and indeed a commitment to continuous and lifelong learning as seen in Peter Obi’s resume, can be useful in inspiring good thinking. At a time when those who rule and some of those who aspire to rule tell bizarre tales, fit only for the marines, about their basic educational qualifications, an Obi presidency will rekindle hope on the value of education.

The best part is that Peter Obi is not telling us that he would cut the cost of governance if elected President. He is not telling us he will instil prudence and financial discipline in the management of the commonwealth. No. Campaign has not begun. We learnt about these from various speeches he delivered in several fora without election in focus. He was merely sharing experiences of what he has done in the past in one of the most difficult states to govern.

To be sure, as a democratically elected President in what ought to be a federation, he will not, stricto sensu, dictate to the 36 state governors on how to run the affairs of their states. But there is a sense in which state governors will have big moral burdens to discharge by a certain lifestyle if the President maintains a low-key lifestyle. With time, there is the likelihood that a Peter Obi Presidency will peter out the profligate tendencies of state governors, some of who behave like emperors superintending over a conquered people.

To be sure, Nigeria needs ethical and moral rebirth. His metaphoric poignancy of Nigeria as an asylum under the firm grip of lunatics and a motionless car with a knock-out engine tells it all. It would appear that Peter Obi is both the symbol and touchstone of the much-needed ethical revolution. We may achieve in him, what we have not been able to achieve from bureaucratic agencies saddled with the responsibility of ethical re-orientation set up by the Federal Government.

This would be better achieved by exemplary leadership of Peter Obi.

Aaron, PhD MNIM is a former director, College of Continuing Education, University of Port Harcourt, Nkpolu Oroworukwo, Port Harcourt.