By Valentine Obienyem
Nigeria is crying for liberation. A lot of things go wrong in the country. Anambra was once like that but underwent a profound transformation from 2006 to 2014. In those years, the state witnessed an interregnum of peace and progress. At the end, the state was left with over N75 Billion and other surpluses amidst recording the highest development among all the states. Unfortunately, his successor ended up destroying everything that he built; proving that from civilization to barbarism only take years provided a barbarian lurking around the gate is offered a little inroad. To whom, more than any other one man, do we owe that precious and epochal liberation? To Mr. Peter Obi
As Obi turns 62 today, how do we rate him? How shall we, who fret at the pinpricks of private tribulations, understand a man who came far ahead of his time? I am perhaps among the most privileged to talk about him. The fact is that if we should subpoena even his most virulent critics to the judgment box of truth they will speak eloquently of him when hatred and subjectivity are cast aside.
Born on the 19th of July, 1961, he started early in life and at every age engaged in what ordinarily his mates were considered as too young to do. With a little modification, we can say of him as Achebe said of Chimamada, “he came fully mature.” As a pupil of primary school he was already a successful trader. In secondary school, his trading craft further blossomed and as an undergraduate was already bearing fruits.
With the same commitment with which he conquered every challenge he had faced, he entered politics and at once made his marks. If one cares to study his life as a model of growth and development, one would be happy to include unusual political achievements that really introduced new order to the country. This will be our focus today as we celebrate his 62nd year on earth – the boundless possibilities of man’s contributions to his society.
The Nigeria we all used to know was a place nobody had ever taken post-election litigation seriously. At the end of each election, those that were obviously cheated would threaten to bring down heavens only to later chicken out. They do this either out of promise by the crooked “winners” to carry them along or because they had been paid off using the resources of the state. However, when Obi felt cheated, he went to court and defied all odds and became the first Governor to ascend the throne through the arbitrament of the tribunals. Soon after Obi succeeded, he proved to Nigerians the infinite possibilities of our courts when approached with sense of duty, commitment and godliness.
His initial governance of Anambra State was perilous. Coming into Government with an entirely different orientation unknown to the “ekperima’s” of politics, he started by trying to upturn the old, entrenched system. It did not go well with the old, they ended up impeaching him. Undaunted, he fought the impeachment vigorously, trusting in the judicial process. Eventually he was returned. Again, he set the record that impeachment is not a death sentence, especially when you mess with the wrong person. I recall that momentous period in the history of Anambra State, when impunity was the order of the day and decency took a flight.
Added to his very nature, his peculiar experience in the state and the unusual challenges imposed on him the task of changing the psyche of the people to see politics for what it is supposed to be and not the congregation of gangsters. He succeeded because, under him, Anambra moved many notches up in the scale of human and infrastructural developments and became an exemplary state. As the Governor, he displayed abilities rarely combined: rugged zeal and administrative skill. He showed us the infinite possibilities of the state once it is rightly governed. Even at times he was drawn into controversies; he attacked ideas, not characters.
In 2009, when the time for election was approaching, Obi wrote to INEC informing them that constitutionally he was supposed to serve out his tenure, excluding the period Sen. Chris Ngige served wrongly. INEC not only refused, but went ahead to conduct an election. Again, Obi returned to court and successfully won, because the court agreed that he was constitutionally bound to complete his tenure. This was the reason Sen. Andy Ubah, the interrex King, lasted just seventeen days. This is the reason Anambra holds gubernatorial election on a different day. Soon, other States followed his footsteps, regained their states from usurpers and today hold elections on different days. This remains a precedent by Obi, showing the nation the infinite possibilities of one man to change a corrupt system.
Many years after he left office, he goes about like the Sophist of Socrates time, dishing out in full scale, words of political and economic wisdom that if imbibed by our leaders would restore the glory of the country. However, the president we had at that time, Gen. Mohammadu Buhari was impervious to good governance and reason which was why many people regarded him as a disaster. He is one of the many men of his time of whom it might be said that it would have been better for the country and humanity if they had never been born. His years were unmitigated disaster such that for once, noting the danger, Nigerians became united in the clamour for Obi to come on a rescue mission.
His involvement has exposed to us the true nature of man and has made some of us lose faith in humanity. One particular person and a class mate I had considered as a genuine activist was the most surprising. The election exposed him and his ilks as fake. It also exposed us to the antics of many Nigerians for what they really are. In some of the fora I belong to, it was distressing seeing human beings turning truth and our values topsy-turvy in the name of politics. What lessons are we teaching the young ones when we have failed at our ages to follow the example of the reasoner who is seeking truth, and not of the eristic who is contradicting for the sake of what Nigerians call “stomach infrastructure”? We can now speak or write vividly about some characters we encountered during electioneering for the simple reason of using them to teach Nigerians what to embrace and what to run away from. This is in line with actions associated with Obi always being didactic by their very nature.
Who remembers the group whose two members were shamefully named in the recent EU report on the 2023 election? They think that politics is about eloquence aimed at hair-splitting and quibbles of words. I once describe their tribe as that of the depraved who carry paunches of poison under their tongues; when they speak this venom mingle with their words and pollute all the surrounding air. Clearly they speak with their hopes and wishes rather than with their brains. The unfortunate sequel is that they usually end up overwhelming little minds without illuminating any mind. What of our Anambra brother? He is like an orange in their hand; one squeezes the orange, and throws away the peel. During the election, they all made themselves targets for public contumely where they will remain for the reminder of their years.
On the contrary, we also witnessed men, amidst the political decay, who preferred edifying ethics to those of their time. We are not ashamed to mention their names. We have our own Chimamanda Adichie, whose voice came when it was needed most; Prof. Okey IKechukwu, who knows how to make thoughts shine through words; Mr. Atedo Peterside, a worthy representative of ennobling expectations from elders; Prof. Pat Utomi, who always teaches us that to give life a meaning and chart a new course for a country like Nigeria, that Nigerians should strive to have a purpose larger than selves; Aisha Yesuf, is always ardent at escalating unjust instances on a bravely broadening scale; the young Ndi Kato reminds us of the ancient “Cato the Younger”, admired for his integrity and insistence that dictatorship must be resisted; Kenneth Okonkwo deliberately made himself seem fierce by his actions accentuated by a full jaw ready to masticate stupidity. Their speeches and releases are warm with love of freedom, democratic ideals, toleration, justice and reason.
The dynamics of the election also exposed us to the hypocrisy of some Nigerians. Here, I had a personal encounter. I have a good friend who I usually send my broadcast messages to. Recently, when I shared a particular message, he replied in words as shocking as they were revealing. Why must our people see things from ethnic prisms? Why must our people prefer their tribesmen for the governance of the state when it is clear to them that the man is wholly incapable of governance on account of age and infirmities? The “gragra” of strength we are witnessing is a case of a man using the last burst of his dwindling energy to deceive Nigerians and himself – it will not last.
Today Obi is at the Tribunal trying to regain the mandate, which, by popular acclaim, Nigerians gave to him. We hear side talks of the impossibility of removing a sitting president through the courts. Those saying this may have forgotten that he did it at the State level and could do it again. Today all eyes are on him and on the judiciary.
Showing the interest as they never did in the past, Nigerians have been following his case and are astonished at the sheer weight of evidence he brought to the table. It was clear that the All Progressives Congress (APC) deliberately rigged him out of the first position to the third position so that he would not go to court. You could even see the disappointment of his followers by incessant lamentations that a person that got third position went to court rather than resting in his house.
All hands must be a deck to stop the grand buffoonery that is the present Government founded on rigging. As the case at the Court of Appeal is gradually coming to the end, may I once again remind the Lord Justices to go beyond legalism and do the right things. Besides ennobling the judiciary, they would have written their names for ever in the hearts of Nigerians. Because they also live in the society, they are as aware of the nonsense that INEC did like the man next door. They should understand that continued acquaintance with the pervasive pertinacity of nonsense will destroy the society their children are part of. Buhari was very bad, we wanted him out and voted for a better man, Mr. Peter Obi. To allow the thieves of election to succeed is to ignore how Nigerians successfully delivered themselves from the foxes only for the judiciary to deliver us to the wolves.
As Obi turns 62, he offers us the opportunity to reflect about our lives and that of our country Nigeria. Things are really very bad and history beckons on him to salvage the country. May no institution be an obstacle towards this great re-birth. Having seen how far men could go for the sake of power and to thwart this re-birth, we must advise ourselves to continue to love and cherish our country, but must at all times keep our gunpowder dry within the laws of the land.