YESTERDAY, the Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi was 51, but he loathes celebrations, especially when they have epicurean dimension. He would rather preach to you on the futility of presenting to him a gold wrist watch worth millions of Naira when such an amount would equally buy some computers that when donated to schools, will help in moulding the young ones.
But since the world is not guided by his own thought process, many people are bound to celebrate him according to their preferences and fancies. In my own case, through this piece. As far as we can pry into his journey on earth since July 19, 1961, he was puffed out into the world, one can rightly observe that it has been a life where actions that ought to take place in one full life time are crowded into 51.
This eventful life started with good education at Christ theKingCollege,Onitsha and theUniversity ofNigeria. He was naturally born with many faculties and he may have acquired more as could be attested to by his wit and cleverness, a ready tongue and inexhaustible and exhausting vivacity.
We cannot here recount his achievements, which he stared recording during his days in primary school where he successfully formulated the famous egg theory, which, though beyond this piece, has to do with the recording of gains in egg business.
The climax of it being that at the age of 42, he won the gubernatorial election inAnambraState, but the victory was denied him. As if Providence has always had interest in his affairs, that denial of victories, which he had always fought and came out unhurt – indeed, triumphant, was the challenges he faced that made him to become a noted name in politics in diverse ways.
His fame was accentuated by the fact that Nigerians in similar circumstances either sold out or abandoned themselves to cynical pessimism. Thus, one can say that he is a man capable of taking in his strides the natural difficulties of life.
Obi was the first person, who, through pertinacity of will, recovered his stolen gubernatorial victory through the courts. It was from one victory to another victory he always pursued to correct obvious injustice. This was how he ended up being the first person to come back from impeachment, to go for tenure interpretation and to get a second term to govern our great State many think ungovernable.
Beyond his trials and triumphs, at 51 he is a life worthy of Homer as the herald of his achievements and the virtues he represents. Writing about him, one of the things that readily come to mind is the reward for hard work.
In his private life, he worked so hard to reach where he was, becoming the chairman of a bank before entering into public life. There is something about him that seems strange: he has the passion for business and making money and he has made a lot of it, yet he prefers the life of stoic simplicity.
As far as he is concerned, money and material acquisition are good but cannot become the epicentre of existence, only as an instrument to solving the problems of life. Thus, buying of private jet, jetties, yachts and houses in the choicest parts of the world and flaunting riches in a manner that is offensively conspicuous, do not appeal to him. However, the people he has helped through inconspicuous philanthropy are legion.
He believes that money is to solve problems and not to live in a manner inconsistent with rationality. Tell him about the need to have houses in the Maitamas and Ikoyis of Nigeria, and he will remind you that one of the richest men of all times in the World, Warren Buffett has been living in the same house and driving the same vehicle for donkey years. He has no useless taste to burden his life.
One annoying phenomenon among the Igbos is the misplacement of values. Today our pristine values have all been bastardised. Looking at our people you will ask where our love for excellence has gone. Igbos cherish excellence and are known to strive to achieve that in any of their chosen endeavours even if it means wearing themselves out .
That is why he strives to be dimgba
, the master wrestler; diochi
, the master wine tapper; dike,
the master of strength; di
this and di
that in many fields. Can we say that about the Igbos today?
Today things have all changed. Our people have jumped on the band wagon of those who want to record phenomenal successes through shortcuts punctuated by frauds. Today, kidnapping, 419 and other crimes, foreign to us are all here with us.
Today, rather than build public wealth and contribute to the development of the State, our people prefer easy access to the common kitty. Those in government no longer see governance as public trust and a vocation, a call to serve the people. This is the society Governor Obi met in 2006, amidst fiscal chaos and administrative indolence. Today, he has done a lot trying to restore the values of our people.
At first, when he became governor and in his resolve to change the mindset of the people, he turned himself into a preacher, but the people, accustomed to the eroding morals of the time, listened to him in sceptical apathy.
Undaunted, he continued. In the 51st year of his life and seven into his governorship, he can look at his people with happiness on the realisation that his words to them which appeared frozen are now thawing and its meanings are gradually permeating their subconscious.
Until Obi became the Governor, Anambra was a battlefield and the war plan was scripted by Bedlam. There is hardly any aspect of life in the State that the torch of confusion was not aglow. At a point, the entire State was burnt down. As anAbujabased Anambrarian at that time, hardly did any good news come out of the State. I recall how we greatly felt dejected reading stories of primitive tortures by the Bakassi group, the people hailed them because they were the lesser of the many evils in the State.
Though what we had was a de facto Governor, but it was injurious to our sense of pride that he was slapped and buffeted. We read stories of Okija and generally, rape competed with rapine for supremacy. As a result, the State collapsed.
As Obi turns 51, part of the achievements that should be credited to him is the restoration of the pride of Anambra people. You need to experience a grim situation where your pride is wounded to understand this. Today, we read of our Governor belonging to many Federal Committees, travelling with the President and parleying with development partners.
The other day, after a presentation at the World Bank 2012 Spring meeting onAnambraState, the Bank, impressed, sent some Oxford Professors and other experts to understudy what Obi is doing in the education sector in the State with the aim of presenting it as a model to other African countries. Today, Ambassadors and investors see Anambra as a place to be. To whom do we credit all this epochal liberation of Anambra? To Governor Obi, of course. At 51, this is his gift to Anambra State.
In spite of his achievements, he has not rested. He has continued to search for what will be of benefit to the State with a mind clear, inventive, restless. Like the old Julius Ceasar, counting nothing done if anything remains to be done. With this mindset, he is stimulating, facilitating and multiplying through visionary leadership, industrial and commercial activities in the State. .
Today, multinationals are building their facilities in the State as it has not witnessed in the past. It is a mark of Governor Obi’s vision that he identifies those things that will contribute to the expansion of the industrial base of the State and pursue them religiously. One commendable thing is that the state also invests in those businesses. Thus, from deficit on investment, he has, within 6 years, invested over 13 Billion Naira for the State in many businesses.
In terms of General development ofAnambraState, Obi has unarguably done better than others. In the health sector, Anambra now have accredited health institutions and a teaching hospital. In education, he was courageous to return missionary schools taken from them for 40 years with the grant of 6 Billion Naira. He may not be the most desirous for a developedAnambraState, but his vision is incomparable. Thus, he remains the only Governor that take the Millennium Development Goals into account in whatever he does.
But in spite of his giant strides he is more vilified by the people ofAnambraState. But this is not surprising. As Nicollo Machiavelli said “It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out nor more doubtful of success nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things; for the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order; this lukewarmness arising partly from the incredulity of mankind who does not truly believe in anything new until they actually have experienced of it. ”
We have the political class that benefitted from the old order, now they are not benefitting, they see anything happening in the State through negative prisms, the phenomenon has been aptly captured as Offodile Syndrome, that selfish urge in us to support only those things that feather our nest. Because of the governor’s good nature, they do this with a liberty which is unbridled license. When these people write, one is usually amused by their histrionics, confused by their digressions and appalled by their ungracious scurririty.
For the sake of those suffering from Offodile Syndrome, that is barbarians waiting for inroads into the State to destroy all what the Governor has built, friends, contrary to his protestations, encourage him to show interest in who comes after him. I cannot join the debate only to add that we must at all times guard against civilisation which normally takes centuries to build, but can be destroyed by barbarians in a day.
As our Governor is 51, we thank God for his life, while reminding ourselves that any descent into barbarism will be disastrous for us as a people.
VALENTINE OBIENYEM sent this piece from Awka Vanguard Nigeria