By Chioma Gabriel
Great leadership usually starts with a willing heart, a positive attitude, and a desire to make a difference.Mac Anderson
Ordinarily, I shouldn’t be the one writing about the outgoing governor of Anambra state being an indigene of the state and a stakeholder. But on the other hand, I think I’m in the best position to write as the ‘son of the soil’.
I happen to be one of those who many have described as ‘lost in Lagos’ but the truth of the matter is that I never really got lost anywhere. I know my roots like the tip of my fingers but that was until a week ago when I really got lost in my home state.
I had attended the March 8th ‘ End of Tenure Event’ by the Anambra Elders Council to mark the end of Gov. Peter Obi’s tenure and that was when the unthinkable happened.
There were over fifteen newspaper Editors from Lagos and after boasting as an indigene, I realised I couldn’t point out the exact location of my father’s house when I got home.
Before anybody would misunderstand me, I was home in January 2012 and stayed for two weeks and so there’s no ‘Lagos Girl’ syndrome here.
What has actually happened is that the entire state capital and its environs have been transformed by the outgoing governor and the evidence of this performance litters everywhere.
I know a lot of people would prefer to remember his stinginess but the brotherly love Gov. Peter Obi’s showered on his people knew no bounds. It is this love that transformed Awka and its environs from a sub-urban town to a city comparable to other cities across Nigeria. And it is this transformation that caused the problem I encountered in the state. The transformation between 2012 and the present day is so overwhelming that village routes have become expressways!
Many politicians like President Jonathan talked about having no shoes in their youthful days but if he had been friends with Peter Obi then, perhaps the governor would have taught him how to sell eggs to survive in primary/secondary schools so as to be able to afford shoes; he would have taught him how to hawk on ever busy highways to eke out a living, pay his school fees and buy as many shoes as he would have wanted and in the university, he would have taught him how to be a student businessman who could afford the good things life. If Jonathan had known Peter Obi then, he would have also learnt to be conservative with funds; have only one wrist watch for 14 years and own a single belt since 1989 which will still be his only belt today.
What perhaps, Jonathan should do is appoint the out-going governor, a Managing/ Consulting Minister so that the 36 governors would consult him regularly on how to manage their states funds.
How many governors’ wives still cook for their husbands? Well, what Peter Obi is doing has rubbed off on his Akwa-Ibom state born wife who is one governor’s wife who still cooks for her husband and still serves him, leaving nothing to the imagination of any house-help!
In these days of private jets and political paraphernalia, here is one that flies commercial flights and even economy class without any entourage and nobody carries his bags! One cannot say for sure if his commissioners and aides are happy about this but we are used to governors’ entourage and to see one who travels all the time without one is not in the character of the Nigerian politician especially an elected office holder.
How often do elected office holders publicly give account of their stewardship at the end of their tenure? Has it ever happened anywhere in this country?
Perhaps, this is the first time a governor in this country will publicly give a report of how he governed his state at the end of his tenure.
This is not a biased write-up but I have a personal confession. I’ve never paid any attention to any governor in the state in the past, but I was converted by brotherly love showered on me in 2012 when I lost my dear mother.
I was one of those people who never believed their mothers would ever die until it happened to me. My first reaction was unbelief and then anger! Why would my mother die?
So, I set off from Lagos to Anambra state for the burial without any pomp and pageantry, still hoping that I would get home and be told that it was all a joke, that someone only tried to pull my leg to lure me home. I didn’t invite anybody because it was meant to be a family affair.
I had never seen Peter Obi before this time except on Television. It wasn’t really my business who was the governor because I’d concluded that Anambra could never be remedied.
But I was wrong!
On the eve of my mother’s funeral, a strange visitor came looking for me. He introduced himself as the Chief Protocol Officer of the state government and I wondered what business I had with anybody from the state government. He asked me to come outside that he wanted to show me something and briefly, I hoped a miracle was finally on the way; that my mother hadn’t really died.
A devil’s voice tried to remind me that ‘look, you are in Anambra state and you could be kidnapped’. But I couldn’t have been sired from a policeman’s loins for nothing. I followed the ‘stranger’ outside and was told he was sent by the governor to come and offer support for my mother’s funeral. I didn’t invite him but all the same, I gratefully thanked the governor through his Chief Protocol Officer.
The next day, another ‘stranger’ visited in the midst of events and asked to see me again. This one is a police officer who introduced himself as the Chief security Officer of the governor. Again, he said the governor sent him and I told him about the previous visitor. He said he has come to inform me that the governor was coming. It was then I began to wonder about the man I had never seen before and had never had any contact with or invited to the funeral but who was so brotherly. He must be an unusual governor. I decided to first inform family members and while we were talking, the governor landed. And for a man who hardly moved around with his entourage, Gov Peter obi attended my mother’s funeral with his Commissioners, Special Advisers and Aides of different categories. It was such an overwhelming brotherly love and he was the first Anambra governor that would impact positively on the life of individuals. He was not seeking another election and therefore his attendance couldn’t have been an electioneering strategy.
It is okay to describe him as stingy but would you blame a governor for reserving funds for his state and investing as much as he can in developmental projects in the state? People who have been to Anambra state before the tenure of this out-going governor can go back and see things for themselves.
Here was a governor that never borrowed money from international organisations or banks and who never sold bonds to raise money and yet, he left the state much better than he found it and left in the coffers of government, $150million and N27billion.
The account of his stewardship is in the public domain. It is not something reduced to reading in newspapers after he has left office and the man that will succeed him witnessed live, the presentation of this report.
Governor Obi’s leadership and public accountability to the people who elected him into office where he held forte for eight years will never be forgotten in a long time. He met Anambra State in a battered condition and is leaving it in prosperity. This is one testimony every school and hospital in the state could attest to. School prefects had the privilege of having his telephone number and contacting him when the need arose.
That was why he could trade a N150million meant for his 50th birthday bash organised by friends in Lagos for school computers for secondary schools or a brand new wrist watch offered as a birthday gift for three school buses.
In the next few hours, Governor Peter Obi would bow out gracefully after serving two terms, a feat he alone has been able to achieve in the politics of the state. As the clock ticks for the exit of this cat with nine lives from office, the issues in the politics of Anambra State, South-East Nigeria come to mind again.
The politics of Anambra state has been confounding since the dawn of democracy in 1999 but Peter Obi survived it all. He came. He saw. And he conquered.
His mates elsewhere by now would have been parading all manner of traditional and chieftaincy titles but Peter Obi is yet to get one. Even those freely given were turned down by him . He had once explained that it was only after his tenure that a chieftaincy title conferred on him would make meaning because titles acquired while in office may be products of sycophancy.
As he moves on to greatness and Mr Willie Obiano mounts the saddle, the indigenes of the state know Peter Obi will remain one of the greatest and that means Obiano should endeavour to double whatever the out-going governor did for the state.
Etre vous voir , Gov Peter Obi. Vous resterez aimé.
Bienvenue , Willie Obiano. J’espère que vous ne serez pas déçu .