M r. Peter Obi’s unique story in governance is the subject of many conversations. Tales of his unprecedented frugality in the utilization of government resources have been celebrated in the media space and in hush-hush discussions. The success of his eight-year stint as governor of Anambra State was imprinted in the development of infrastructure, education, and security across the state.
His politics has, however, been described in some quarters as bordering on innocence and lacking in the sophistication normally associated with political practitioners in his native Anambra State. His innocence nonetheless, Obi was able to vanquish those that previously held the state captive. Mr. Obi who foisted a successor in the person of Chief Willie Obiano is today fighting the same man in a battle to salvage the state from what he dubs the lies, deceits of the same Obiano.
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Sir, how is the campaign going?
Going on very well. Electioneering is tough, especially in our country where truth is in short supply.
As somebody who has gone through elections, I often tell people to restrict their promises during an election to what is realistic. In essence, I always advocate for respect for the truth.
I read Cicero’s Manual of electioneering written for his relative called Quintus. Cicero advised him to tell lies about his opponent and to even invent scandals – this is what I see in Anambra State.
I am at the centre of the campaign and every day they invent stories about me. They sponsored people to comment, N7 billion, and when it appeared it was not working the man in question started wondering to himself! You are left to wonder the extent people will go because of an election.
As some one campaigning for my party, I have restricted myself to the truth, and I will continue to do so. Every statement I make to buttress the need for a change in the governance of Anambra is the truth. All you hear me say about money I left; the accruals, total absence of projects, my savings, are all verifiable.
As the issue is becoming controversial, how much exactly did you leave?
There is nothing controversial about it. Some people are deliberately introducing controversy where none exists.
All my life, I have managed money. I started business early in life, right from my primary school. By the time I got to the university, I was already travelling outside the country for business. Even as a student, other students gave me money to hold for them, because they knew that with me, their money was secured.
Whether in business or government, my attitude to money remains essentially one- prudence.
Now to your question of how much I left. On the 17th of March, 2014, that I left office, I left a total of N25 billion cash; another N23,600,000,000 set aside to execute some projects already identified or to finish critical projects already on. It was part of the two- year salary for the last set of civil servants we recruited – we did so in order not to encumber the new governor. Ironically, because these funds were tied to specific projects like the Amawbia to Amansea road, the NYSC main office at Umuawulu/ Mbaukwu, the hotels, malls. We also had critical projects like the Three Arms Zone, which included Governor’s Lodge. We did not include them in our hand over notes.
So if you are talking about total naira I left, it is actually N48,600,000,000. I will give you the breakdown of all the banks. (Showed all the bank statements, account names, banks and certified bank statements.)
In dollar component, I left $156 million. We had $56 million in Fidelity Bank, $50 million in Access Bank and $50 million in Diamond Bank. Today, going by the current dollar rate, the accruals and others, the money is about N200 billion.
We laid a solid foundation for my successor to start strong. Let me give you an example, toward the end of our government; we decided to build the new three arms zone, comprising the lodge, legislative building, and the judiciary complex. We awarded the contract at N8 billion and paid N2 billion. We awarded and commenced some roads, paid mobilisation and left my predecessor to perform their flag-off.
We also did a lot of ground work in our relationship with the Federal Government in different ways. We, for instance, commenced the roadwork from the Head Bridge to Umunya, after obtaining the written permission of the Federal Government to pay us back. After that portion, we got the permission to do Amawbia junction to Amansea, which I started. Part of the plan was to do Amawbia Junction to Umunya until the entire Express is completed. We are not losing anything since we will be paid back.
There was also the dualisation of a road that we call ‘Three-Three’ (Onitsha to Otuocha Junction.) These were some of the roads we set aside money for, among other things.
The government claims you left a debt of N127 billion?
The day I left office, I did not have any unpaid certificate of work that had been executed. I did not have any certificate of supply that was delivered that was not paid for. As an accountant I expect him to know that contracts are not debts until executed. He was just trying to confuse the people through half-truths. Let him explain to the people that he included contracts yet to be executed.
When I became Governor in 2006, Dr. Chris Ngige awarded the reconstruction of Zik’s Avenue – the major road in Awka, and a lot of other roads. These were ongoing projects. Because he paid for all the certificates generated, I did not say, based on the contracts unexecuted, that he left me with debts. No contractor came to me saying Ngige owed him. Likewise, ask the governor to tell you how many contractors came to complain that Peter Obi owed them.
The biggest contractor we had when I was in office was RCC and IDC, go and ask them if I owed them. Our biggest supplier was Innoson, Coscharis, and HP. In each case, I paid them in advance. I bought over 1000 vehicles from Innoson and paid him at least six months to one year before he supplied me one; the same with HP.
As Governor, I had dedicated amount I shared among the contractors once allocations came. That was why, under me, work went on non-stop.
Immediately my predecessor was elected, I explained all these to him in the hope that if he got it right, Anambra State would be the ultimate beneficiary. I even took him to all the international partners working for us. Ironically, it was Mr. Oseloka Obaze, using his international contacts, that connected us to most of them. We went to the World Bank, DFID, UN, JICA, EU, UNDP. In fact, I explained to him our relationship with the UNDP, how, after I allowed them to use our Lodge as office after the attack on their office and how the state had benefitted much fold. Surprisingly, one of the first things he did was to issue UNDP with a quit notice.
I am trying to recall this to show you how well we meant for the success of the governor. Rather than face governance, he is peddling falsehoods against me, including the accusation I bequeathed debt to him. Ask the governor to give you the schedule of those debts.
What is happening shows the quality they’ve reduced governance to in my state today. It shouldn’t be. It’s like a situation where they say “my government was able to export vegetables worth $5 million.” Where was that vegetable produced? What was the refrigeration process? Where is the documentation process? It is like also saying “my government is exporting rice.”
You saw the president on October 1, thanking states that are producing rice, he did not even include Anambra State that is now, according to the governor, a net exporter of rice.
They say, “my government had the order to export 10 million tubers of yam,” but everybody knows that in Anambra State most of the yams we eat come from Benue and Taraba states.
I think what is happening is that in the absence of executed projects to use to campaign, as Cicero advised Quintus, they are inventing lies and dressing them as the truth. Have you asked yourself why all this controversy about the money I left now that there is an election?
Nigerians are surprised considering the vigorous campaign you did for him in 2013?
If you have interacted with human beings, you would have known enough of some of them to be shocked over what they do. I read Philosophy and I know about Blaise Paschal, who, in his book called Penses described man as a chimera, an animal in Greek mythology that had two heads, he is an angel in one and a brute in the other. Such contradiction is what we see among human beings.
Yes, I campaigned vigorously for him and everywhere I went with him, they asked me this question. I told them he would perform and if he did not, I would be the number one person to campaign against him.
How much of Obiano did you know before promoting his candidacy?
I met Obiano in the bank. I was a bank director and bank chairman. The relationship between a bank director/chairman and someone who works in a bank is not close. However, we knew each other. And I believe that if someone has risen to a certain level in life, there is at least minimum standard of behaviour you should expect from him.
How would you react to the claim by Obiano that you demanded N7.5 billion from him?
This is another regrettable lie. On 23rd December 2016, he came to my house for the first time after he became governor. He came with an ordained bishop, to plead for reconciliation and to ask for my support for his re-election bid. There, I asked him about the N7.5 billion (story of me asking him for N7.5 billion), and he said it did not come from him, that he only heard it from people.
Now he is the one saying it. I’m sure the bishop will be listening to us. And other people who have been in the same meeting with him and I where I have reiterated that I do not want any kobo from him will know that I have never, on my own honour, asked Obiano to pay me money. I have not even been paid my severance allowance since I left office, which I am entitled to. I just told you what I left in office. Nobody has ever left one dollar.
If I were desperate, I could have comfortably taken just $30 million, and it will remain $126 million. Nobody on earth will leave money and go and beg the person he left the money for to give him some.
Because I made it clear to him that I would support my party and perhaps being told that my support was critical, he now resorted to blackmail. He is doing violence to himself because Nigerians will be reading in between the lines and will know who to trust and who to deal with in the future. It is unfortunate.
Beyond the falsehoods, what other issues do you have with Obiano?
I don’t have any issue with Mr. Obiano. I have issues with Governor Obiano. What ever issue we have, I have forgiven him. But for Governor Obiano, he has turned governance into what it should not be. You’ve been reading wonderful things in the newspaper, but let Governor Obiano invite you to Anambra. When I was going for second tenure, I invited journalists three months to election and we toured all the projects we were doing and the investments we had attracted. Governor Obiano has attracted $7.8 billion worth of foreign investment, can you people come and inspect those yam fields where we are going to get 10 million yams, or the Ugu field, or the rice field, or where those investments are.
What role did you play towards the emergence of Obiano as governor?
I don’t want to go about how he emerged. He has emerged and did not perform, let somebody else try it. It’s just that in this country, so many people have emerged and they did not deliver. Even in the first world, people have emerged and they did not perform and they were asked to go.
Don’t you think he has the power of incumbency to his advantage?
I’m not going to rig the elections. I have never done it before. I am only going to tell Anambra people to ask for what Obiano did in the past four years as a basis for his re-election or being voted out. How many roads did he do? Let him tell you in which town he has completed two kilometers of road.
So let Obiano tell the people the one he did that requires him to come back. Let him say how many schools where he was able to give buses.
What we have today is that if you ask him about the roads constructed, he will say Peter Obi demanded this; ask him the school improved, he will say Peter Obi that. Ask him his manifesto; he will say Peter Obi only left “near cash.”
The matter of who provided security in Anambra is being contested, what can you say about that?
Whatever is good for the state gives me joy. The person that did it does not matter.
When Obiano was coming, I was the one who told him that we had put in so much energy on security and that we had done tremendous work which he could take advantage of by building on what we had done. I told him that the monies we were leaving, he could use them to start strong. For example, the Federal Government gave us $2 billion to fight erosion. I left it for him. Within his 100 days in office, he invited MD Abubakar, the then IG, to come and take control of 50 vehicles he said he bought for police. On that occasion, MD Abubakar told him that Anambra had done well in security, that under Peter Obi in five years, they never had any bank robbery, which was constant before I was there.
Go and read the interviews of security experts who knew about the Anambra situation when I was there. Their conclusion is that what is being enjoyed today in Anambra is built on a foundation laid by Peter Obi. I did not only buy over 600 vehicles for security agents; I bought Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC)and Armoured Patrol vehicles and other advanced security gadgets.
It was I who went to the late President Yar’adua to give me permission and support to fence the army barracks in Onitsha.
These are things I did in my first tenure. I came when the issue was so critical that criminals with known names were coming and operating. I fought them to a standstill. Even Evans said I was the one who chased him out of Onitsha. But what I told the security officials was that I did not want our success to become news. Because if you are doing the right thing, you don’t have to make noise. The people will feel the success.