Archive for March 2014

Obi and some lessons in leadership

March 15, 2014

 Casmir Igbokwe

There was nothing in the hotel to indicate that an important person was around. But there he was, all alone, negotiating discounts at the front office desk of the hotel in Ikeja. There was no air around him; no show of bravado by security details; and no fawning display of loyalty by aides. That was Peter Obi, the Governor of Anambra State.

Obi has really impressed many Nigerians with his style of leadership. Before now, Anambra state had suffered monumental bad governance. The military administrators that ruled since the creation of the state in 1991 plundered its little resources. During his tenure as governor, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife described Anambra as being naked; he wanted to clothe it. He was still buying the clothes when he was shoved aside by the military.

The present democratic experiment ushered in Chinwoke Mbadinuju in 1999. He piloted the affairs of the state with hiccups. Some godfathers kept him on his toes. He kept on settling them until he had almost nothing to settle himself. Again, the nakedness of Anambra was almost getting to the stage of madness that has reached the market square – beyond redemption. Thus, the state that produced the likes of ex-Biafran leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu; the first President of Nigeria, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe; the former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku; the former Vice-President of Nigeria,  Dr Alex Ekwueme and many others, became the butt of jokes in many quarters.

Chris Ngige kicked Mbadinuju out in 2003. But he still had some godfathers to contend with. Chris Uba made life miserable for him. But like a stubborn fly that follows the corpse to the grave, Ngige dared his godfathers. He refused to mortgage the resources of the state. He became a marked man. At a point, he was even kidnapped to the chagrin of many Nigerians.

Apparently to woo people to his side, Ngige embarked on developmental projects. He built some infrastructure, especially roads. He also started paying civil servants and pensioners, which under Mbadinuju, was a luxury. People clapped for him. Unfortunately, his was a stolen mandate. Obi battled him in court for three years. He eventually won and became governor.

But the road to the Government House, Awka, is filled with stones. Obi has successfully marched on these stones. He is a rock himself. And upon that rock, God has built a solid foundation for the progress of Anambra State. 

His achievements are numerous. He constructed roads. He built bridges. He equipped hospitals. Most importantly, many public schools that hitherto begged for attention are now objects of attraction. The magic he performed was that he handed them over to churches and supported them financially. The change of ownership brought about some changes in the attitude of teachers – no more late coming; no more teaching and selling clothes and groundnuts. Discipline became the watchword in those schools.

The late Ikemba Nnewi wrote a book he called Because I am Involved. I wish to borrow from him to say because I am involved in Anambra; because I am a citizen of that state; and because I have witnessed and felt good governance in my state for the first time since its creation, I can conveniently say without equivocation that I am proud of Peter Obi.

No wonder, the management of Silverbird Communications honoured him with its Man of the Year award recently. He won the award with Governor Raji Fashola of Lagos State. Obi deserves it and even more.

What further amazes me about this man is his simplicity and humility. The noisy siren-blaring convoy that is associated with other governors (with the exception of Fashola) is not for him. Anambra is notorious for convoy menace. Some of its rich and influential citizens move with convoys that dwarf that of any state governor. Obi tactfully wooed them, just to engender peace and harmony in his state. So, they have left him alone, such that sanity now prevails in a state that used to be a hotbed of crises.

Besides, he does not believe in wearing gold wristwatches or designer suits. To him, that is not what makes a man. Those who wear such things, he once said, end up being the ones to draw people’s attention to them, as only a few people know how expensive the items are.

A number of people had testified seeing him fly economy class. Even when he comes down from the plane, he waits to carry his luggage like any other passenger. Many of his colleagues fly first class. Some even have private jets.

All over the states, we have first ladies competing with their spouses for governance. Obi told his wife to forget the office of the first lady as he was the only one elected to govern the state.

He has plugged the loopholes through which government workers siphon money from the state coffers. He closed down some state liaison offices that have been drainpipes on the resources of the state. He also stopped many aides from accompanying him to trips that yield undeserved allowances for them. The money he garnered through this means is what he has deployed in the service of the state. On top of that, he has left N75bn in the treasury for his successor.

The governor-elect, Willie Obiano, is stepping into a big shoe. He has no option but to collect the baton from Obi and complete the race. With his pedigree, I believe he is equal to the task.

The outgoing governor said he was through with politics. That shouldn’t be so. Nigeria needs his wealth of experience. If good people like him drop out, how will the nation get better? Even President Goodluck Jonathan recognised this fact when he told Obi recently that his services would be needed at the centre. Anambra was naked. He clothed it with designer suit. He denied himself of that same designer suit. That is what the country needs at this point in time – selfless service to the fatherland.

In this era of bad governance, Obi remains a beacon of hope for our lost generation.  Okwute Ndigbo, as you hand over the baton of leadership to Obiano on Monday, March 17, may God continue to bless you. I can now hold my head high anywhere and say, yes, I am from Anambra State.