Why Nigeria must clamour for Obi at this time

By Sunny Igboanugo on 10/10/2018

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Mr. Peter Obi, is an extremely wealthy man. Imagine what you would be counting to be listed among the 8,000 richest men in the world out of the 7.6billion population spread across the 176 countries. That will bring you to a closer reality as to his profile, in terms of personal wealth.

But, beyond personal acquisitions in terms of money, materials and investments, he is also an extremely informed person. No one needs be told or convinced about that equally. You have to listen to his public speeches if you have not been privileged to meet him privately or personally for any sort of interaction to have an idea.

There are so many tapes out there about such public engagements, a project, which he has taken up as a major job, since his exit as the first two-term, eight-year governor of Anambra State, more than four years ago, in justifying his perceived capacity and public rating.

And before anyone begins to think that the standing ovations which usually trail every of such outings are from purchased crowds like some theatre clappers, as you would have from many politicians in many cases, Obi has equally mesmerised many international audiences, where, from evidence, he is also in high demand.

But, in the case of his foreign audience, listening to great speeches is a kind of a tradition if not a fad, just like going to the stadium to watch football. So, they may have some reasons to find Obi’s speeches, quite exhilarating, especially, as a voice from Africa, he could as well be adding fresh perspectives to their own understanding and what they would want to learn.

But back home, it is a different kettle of fish. Both in content and context, Obi’s interrogation of the problems bedevilling Nigeria and solutions he has proffered, demand urgent response. That response must not come only in the ovation of an electrified audience, satiated by enchanting words, the content of those ideas and postulations must form the bedrock of an enduring solution to Nigeria’s socio-political and economic malaise.

Like Chinua Achebe concluded in his book, The Trouble with Nigeria, Obi locates the troubles of the nation, which has escalated to a crisis situation in recent decades to the question of leadership. He has minced few words in chastising the quality of leadership Nigerians have been saddled with over the years.

But, more pointedly, the former governor has never failed to cry out or show unrestrained abhorrence to lavishness and wastages in governance.

His message is simple and very explicit language – Nigeria has continued to lag behind those they were ahead of, not to talk about the ones they started the race with, because their leaders chose the least essential, the least enduring and the most bizarre over the most important, most sustainable and most consistent.

Incidentally, though he had never been anything less in his previous engagements, it took Obi’s historic appearance speech at The Platform, a policy and governance forum, organised by the Covenant Christian Centre to really break into national consciousness. The instant ovation his outing attracted at that event and the vibes it generated across the nation and the world thereafter, via traditional and new media, particularly the intensity with which the video clips spread across the social media even till date underscores how these message resonate with the people.

Yet, Obi has never relented. At the Claretian Institute of Philosophy, Maryland, Nekede, Imo State, during an international conference, where he spoke on the theme: Philosophy, Law and Politics, in May this year, the governor gave another graphic example of the Nigeria’s parlous situation.

Hear him: “Indonesia, with a population of 260 million people has a GDP of $1.0 trillion and per capita income of $3,800. Her life expectancy is 69 years while her literacy level is 93 per cent. Her HDI is 0.689 and ranked 113 in the world. She is classified as medium.

“Turkey, with a population of 80 million people, has a GDP of $880 billion and per capita income of $10,800. Her life expectancy is 76 years and literacy level of 97 per cent. Her HDI is 0.767 and ranked 71 in the world. She is classified as high.

“Now, our dear country Nigeria. With a population of about 190 million people, we have a GDP of $420 billion and per capita income $2,100. Our life expectancy is 53 years with literacy level of 55 per cent. Our HDI is 0.527 and ranked 152 in the world. We are classified as low!”

Again, he said: “By 1980, Nigeria had a GDP of 141 billion dollars, savings of 10.5 billion dollars and per capita income of 870 dollars…. compared with China that had a GDP of 341 billion dollars, 10 billion dollars in savings and per capita income of 193 dollars. Check the indices critically as we go to 2016 … where China has moved from 341 billion to 11 trillion dollars in GDP while Nigeria just crawled from 141 billion to 420 billion dollars! China also skyrocketed in savings from 10 billion to 3 trillion dollars while dear country that was above China moved from 10.5 billion to 30 billion dollars. China moved from per capita income of 193 to 9,000 dollars while Nigeria moved from 870 to 2,000 dollars. By comparison it’s pathetic and unacceptable!

“Let’s move to a smaller country like South Korea. In 1980, South Korea had 3 billion dollars in foreign reserves (savings). They have no oil but they moved from that to 400 billion dollars today. Remember our country moved from 10.5 to 30 billion dollars. It’s the same pathetic tale all over.”

Recently, the former governor, raised a greater alarm, warning that Nigeria’s economy was practically on life-support. After the public presentation of the book entitled Prime Witness, Oseloka Obaze, he told reporters:  “By 2008 Nigeria’s debt of 32 billion dollars was cancelled, every cent of it. Today, total debt of all our tiers of government is N22trillion, over 70 billion dollars! And we have nothing to show for it. The debt being 20 per cent of GDP is not a threat.

“If the money was used for production and genuine investments…then great, no threat whatsoever, but worrisome if used for other purposes. Today, our country is using 60 per cent of her earnings to service debts, and that is very worrisome.”

He was yet to appear on Channels Television, where he adumbrated on the same issue, warning again that the country was joking with economic gunpowder, by borrowing to support consumption instead of using it to expand infrastructure.

One of the amazing aspects of these outings is that the former governor, reels out all his statistics from his head without looking at any paper, which goes to show that they are matters that he is well ceased to.

Now, what readily comes into question is why should such a wealthy man be bothered? He could enjoy the best facility in the world, take holidays in the richest islands of South America, buy the most expensive yachts and cruise around the world or engage in any other opulent fancies of the rich. Yet, while snubbing this popular lifestyle, he would rather visit schools, churches, orphanages, hospitals and leaves lavish donations, without making noise.

He carries his own bags at airports, flies economy, shuns large convoys and generally lives a life of low-profile the same as you would have a Paul Kigama of Rwanda, Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and now John Magafuli, of the same country.

Obi’s lifestyle may look strange and out of place for an African big man, no less one that has tested power. Yet, it underscores the fact that shunning most of the excess luggage which people in his class indulge in, is not rocket science. It could be done.

In fact, when he tells anybody that cares to listen that he has only one personal house, which is located in Onitsha, and that people were free to seize any other one associated with him, when he wonders why someone would build and own 15 different houses or have buildings scattered in every part of the country, when he says he wears only one wristwatch or not more than two pairs of shoes, it evokes all manner of sentiments, including mockery.

But only recently, the entire social media was flooded with the images of Swiss President, Alain Berset photographed reading his notes on the pavement outside the United Nations headquarters in New York during the 73rd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meeting. Yet, some of the self-same people who celebrated those images, would find it strange to appreciate the same approach from an Obi.

But now, let us look at the benefits from what Obi left behind after eight years in office from officially-recognised figures from authorities that should know.

Anambra is among the least indebted states in Nigeria, if not the least. Yet, the state boasts of the best network of roads in the country. The same feat has also been performed in education. Not that he returned government schools to their initial owners, particularly the churches, he continued to fund them.

For instance, it was under him that a massive computerisation of schools in the state was embarked on, with full compliments of generators to support public power supply and provide same in remote areas without power, such that all the secondary schools are now connected to the Internet. No less than 750 school buses, were acquired and distributed to the schools, with each of the 600 of them receiving N5 million for creation of school testing rooms. The result was a quantum leap in the education profile of the state, to the extent that it has consistently been leading in all the measurement indices for high quality education. The five Anambra Girls from Regina Pacis Secondary School Onitsha, who won the Gold Medal in the at the World Technovation Challenge in the Silicon Valley in San Francisco, US, actually bears testimony to the growth of education in the state, as a result of Obi’s foundation.

You may have heard of the state-of-the-art Anambra State University Teaching Hospital (ASUTH), which bests many similar facilities owned by the Federal Government; you may also have heard of the South African Brewery (SAB) coming with the largest investment in sub-Saharan Africa and you may have also heard that not only that the state does not owe salaries, it actually introduce a social security system and that Obi paid all debts (over N37 billion) for salaries and pensions owed workers since1999.

But perhaps, the most enduring legacy that stands him out as a man who does what he preaches, is the quantum of raw cash in local and foreign currencies, running into hundreds of billions at a time his counterparts in other states leave behind huge debts that generations unborn might not be able to pay.

So, when this loud din across the country over who the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for next year’s presidential election, Atiku Abubakar should choose as a running mate and people continue to throw up Obi’s name against some other people, the ripe question should actually be, how many of these people actually know Obi? How many of them have gleaned into the profile of this man?

Do they know that like Atiku, Obi came into politics a self-made billionaire from sheer dint of hardwork and garnered experience enough to be the chairman of one of the most thriving banks in Nigeria today, leaving behind a structure that has kept the bank afloat when many others had gone under or tottering?

Do they know that Obi is probably one of the ex-governors today, if not the only one, who is not looking behind his shoulders for the almighty Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)?

I’m sure if those people could only take that critical look and measure it against what they could gain as individuals and what Nigerians stands to gain as a country, the may well begin a major campaign to force the former Anambra governor into Atiku’s hands and make it a condition for supporting him in the election.

In the first place, Obi, has made it clear that sensitising Nigerians to take their country back, is his major preoccupation at this period and may not even be pushing for an elective office. This being the case, the most important thing is to persuade him to take the job by the time Atiku is pressured to pick him.

In fact, Atiku-Obi combination, looks the surest way to waking the Nigerian giant.


Igboanugo, a journalist, wrote from Abuja    



Source Whirlwindnews.com

Posted on October, 10 2018

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