Home Opinion Give it to Peter Obi and Sleep Better, By Uju Okeahialam

Give it to Peter Obi and Sleep Better, By Uju Okeahialam

Peter Obi

In the piece, “The balance of Governance,” it was laid out what is needed for a united and better Nigeria, post-Buhari administration; and those who should not, in conscience, vie for the presidency in 2023. The conclusion was not predicated on the absence of qualified persons from that group able to give Nigeria good leadership, but on how the present APC government has made the people to be viewed by many other Nigerians. The work ended by projecting this piece with the intention of identifying a candidate who, while satisfying the balance of governance framework, can help move the country in a more positive direction; while, at the same time, remedying from the official level, the shame of corruption that has defined Nigeria globally.

Although this piece may be seen as an endorsement, but I do not have political weight to run anyone out. Moreover, I am not the first to identify this man and may not be the last. This piece is not the first you are reading about this man and will not be the last. While some have done so out of patriotism, there will be those for whom it will be a matter of closer affinity. Mine is the task of a political analyst and scholar, whose concern is not about the Nigerian-Contest-Practicality, but one who considers a choice as best of all in the context of a Nigeria marching towards a precipitous disintegration—and doing so from the balance of governance theoretical framework. Simply put, it is not about “who can win” from our already skewed and corrupt electoral landscape but who will be good for Nigeria while at the same time holding in balance the tensions that threaten our national cohesion.

The person in question is Mr. Peter Obi, and the person who dug him out for Nigeria is Prof. A.B.C. Nwosu when he was being consulted for the governorship position many years ago in Anambra State. Coincidentally, Mr. Obi fits the frame of the classical philosopher king and the person that Nigeria needs now if she wants to advance as a united and prosperous nation, able to take her rightful place in the comity of nations. Interestingly, he has a philosophy degree and exhibits the ascetism of someone whose drive has more to advantage the others than the self. Although many can claim the same background, what sets Mr. Obi apart is the fact that he has the capacity and has shown the capacity to be trusted to midwife a new Nigeria. That stock of capacity begins with the ability to grasp and to explain what the cogs on the wheel of the nation are; and then to articulate, demonstrate, and explain how the cogs can be removed.

To expatiate on the above position, it will be important to appreciate how the idea of capacity is understood. Capacity as used here is the body of endowments in a person, material and non-material, that can be applied for the creation of good outcomes. The sense here is to clarify that not all capacities are appropriate in whomever Nigeria should consider as her next president. For instance, an unqualified intellectual capacity can be confusing because just as one person can apply his to innovate a life-easing invention; another can apply his to hack and defraud the system. It is the same for all other forms of human capacity. In as much as the same person can exhibit both, at one time or the other, a true test of what one can do with his or her capacity is to evaluate one’s antecedents. Consequently, we can measure Mr. Obi’s capacities vis-à-vis those of the others in the search of who can be better for the Nigeria of our tomorrow by looking at what he used the trust of the people of Anambra to accomplish as their governor. This is because the tomorrow we imagine should be for the greater good of the people of Nigeria. Therefore, choosing the capacity of someone who had manipulated other people’s trust for their own cumulative advantage and those of their closer associates will be like driving the nail on the national casket.

Principally, the greater good of the Nigerian people will be about how to eschew corruption so that the resources of the nation can be used for the greater Nigerian population. And it is here that this work rates Mr. Obi higher than every other aspirant—apart from the fact that his choice is like killing two birds with one stone. It settles the issue raised in the earlier work on balance of governance, as well as giving Nigeria what they need to reduce drastically, if not obliterate totally, the endemic menace of corruption. And because this work does not want to indulge in the art of comparing Mr. Obi against each aspirant in the field, I accept been reminded that I am entitled to my opinion—which I am, and I do not write this to stifle anyone’s opinion either. However, if you are for another person it will be good for you to sincerely tell us how that person can be better than Mr. Obi. In this work the case of Mr. Obi’s capacity will be showcased from the mental, moral, and administrative perspectives.

Mr. Obi’s mental capacity will be assessed in the ability to grasp the enormity of what is involved in the making of the Nigeria of tomorrow. Listening to Mr. Obi’s presentation of his aims in seeking for the presidency and what he intends to accomplish with it, it is clear for every listener that he gets it. He gives graphic details that the state of the Nigerian union is not a crisis of how to share the national cake, but how to grow the national cake—since what is being depleted now is the IOU that the next generation is already saddled with. That is too sad, because no responsible parent celebrates by impoverishing the descendants coming after. Mr. Obi’s quest for president is therefore to help midwife the safe-delivery of a Nigeria that can stand at par with her international peers. He shows a mastery of why we failed because according to him the Nigerian leadership has for a long time continued to subsidize inefficiency instead of the engine and building-block of the society through education and peoples wellbeing. He breaks it down for all to understand that every national commitment must be viewed from an investment prism, that asks if this will add to the greater national wealth of tomorrow or its diminishment. Choosing someone else will be like choosing the prescription of a doctor who is unable to diagnose the patient’s disease—and it amounts to choosing death. So do we want Nigeria to die or to be raised up again? If your choice is the latter, Mr. Obi is it.

Mr. Obi’s moral capacity is not in doubt. This claim is not an effort to canonize him—something which his catholic upbringing must have taught him, that sainthood is not an honour to the living. The moral capacity ascribed to him includes his displayed understanding that public funds must be used for the public good and that private funds are not to show-off, to impress, or to intimidate others. Despite his personal wealth, it is on record that Mr. Obi’s lifestyle is simple and without ostentation. He still introduces himself as a trader. Despite the glamour that goes with the occupation of political office in Nigeria Mr. Obi, flew coach as a governor. He did not run a paralleled governor’s house in Abuja like most other governors who spend more time in Abuja than the states they were elected to govern. And we cannot easily forget the affront he faced at the Adoration Ground in Enugu—the saga that created the popular Igbo slogan, “Nwanna, iwaala oji (Brother have you broken kolanut). There he could not be cajoled into doing something for show or to buy support from anyone. In that capacity the nation can testify that he had a tab on the behaviour of his family. None can point to profligacies on the part of the wife or anyone who claims to be his child. Although there is a recent accusation of the string of his wealth stashed away in some financial safe-heaven, yet it is on record that there was no mention that he enriched himself from the peoples commonwealth. Failure to acknowledge this capacity in choosing the next president will be a continuation of one thief chasing down another. And then you ask, is he chasing to overtake that person or for them to share the loot? I hope we all recall that portion during the last vice-presidential debate where we were informed of the implications of leaving one’s store open in order to go chasing someone who stole from it.

If Nigeria wants to break the jinx that has bedeviled her for long, administrative capacity should not be set aside in choosing the next president. No one can say that the office of the president has room for “on the job training,” in as much as most who seek it have not been there before. Therefore, it is better to measure this capacity by considering what the people have done in the past, especially with regard to holding others’ trust. In Mr. Obi’s case, his administrative acumen as a trader is legendary—he knew the way to be rich without defrauding anyone. He rose just by hard work, harnessing endowed insights, and playing to the rules of the game. Similarly, he showed great administrative capacity in his position as a governor. He understood governance as creating the enabling environment for citizens to rise to the heights of their potentialities—about holding the peoples trust to galvanize and accomplish for the good of the people. Mr. Obi knew the two core bedrocks for this to happen as education and health-care of the citizens for them to play and compete in the enabling environment thus created. Of these two, Obi’s record as governor of Anambra state is there for all to see. He understood that whether it was a private or a public school and whether it was a private or a government hospital, they are all for Anambra citizens and serving the future and wellbeing of the Anambra polity. Consequently, he let his Midas touch to be felt in these sectors during his administration. Don’t we know the prize, as a nation, of leaders who run to another country for every aliment? Don’t we know the prize, as a nation, of leaders whose children are all studying abroad? I guess we do. Not to invest in the healthcare and education sector of any place are systemic acts of a sorting mechanism to impoverish and perpetuate generational inequality. Mr. Obi knew it and never wished it for Anambrarians; and I bait, he will not wish it for Nigerians.

And because it was about the administration of the peoples commonwealth, no governor left his/her state as solvent as Mr. Obi did when he handed over at the end of his tenure. He knew that Anambra is not just for the people of the day; so he served the people of the day while thinking about creating resources from which the people of tomorrow can spring forward. This is a capacity rarely displayed by most politicians who see political office as a springboard for self-enhancement, regardless of how much the future’s commonwealth is depleted today.

And you know another capacity that Mr. Obi has and can show? He can resist any cabal and he can break any monopoly. These monopolists and members of the cabal are wealthy because Nigeria shares a space with other poverty capitals. Their robustness comes because the nation is bleeding. Consequently, I do not see Mr. Obi’s preference discussed in the corridors of those who have captured Nigeria as part of their fiefdom. But if all of us who form the 99.9 per cent of the population want the bleeding to stop so that healing can begin, let us trumpet the name of Mr. Obi everywhere. This will make it easier for the 0.1 per cent not to see 2023 as a battle. Remember the battles they fan are not fought by them but by some of the 99.9 per cent, a number of whom will die so that they will live to continue firming up their positions.

If I have the clout to persuade Nigerians to make this choice easier I will do anything I am asked. Unfortunately, I don’t have it. However, I know of three people who can intervene to make this happen and save the Nigerian project. They are President Olusegun Obasanjo, President Goodluck Jonathan and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. If these can endorse Mr. Obi now before the water gets murkier, they will be saving Nigeria from imminent collapse. I think these three men have more to gain in a resurrected and united Nigeria than a disintegrated and buried Nigeria. The bell tolls for them before it will toll for us. If we give it to Mr. Peter Obi we will, before long, sleep better as a nation because he has the capacity and can be trusted by every member of the international community and institution who means well for Nigeria.

Uju Okeahialam, PhD, a Catholic priest, lives in Colorado, USA.

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