Former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi is a man viewed differently by different people. The soft-spoken politician has been of tremendous help to ex-players of Rangers International Football Club of Enugu.
According to Sylvanus Okpala, a former Rangers player and beneficiary of the man’s magnanimity spoke with Jacob Ajom about His Excellency, Peter Obi. Excerpts:
You said Peter Obi has been a great benefactor of ex-Rangers players, can you explain further?
His Excellency, Peter Obi has been at the forefront of promoting sports in Nigeria. He has been a friend of ex-Rangers players. He has been a fan of Rangers International of Enugu from when he was younger and is still a fan of the club till date. His amazing support for ex-Rangers players has been tremendous. When he was the Governor of Anambra State and, even now that he is no longer governor.
He started paying ex-Rangers stipends every month. About a hundred of us or so; the number he could get. And he was paying not only for the Igbos who played for Rangers. Not only the Anambrarians who played for Rangers, everybody. You have some people who come from South West, some people from the North that played for Rangers whose names are there are all beneficiaries of Obi’s largess, some from Delta, Rivers, people from everywhere.
He has been of tremendous assistance to us, He provided us with an office in Enugu, gave us a brand new bus- that can take over twenty people.
These stipends you people receive, did he limit it to those who played for Rangers in a particular era or generally?
No. When the names were compiled, it was only those of us they could remember– then about one hundred of us. So it was those remembered names that were submitted that he started paying.
So, every Christmas he would give us a lot of things. Although Governor Willy Obiano came in and continued that policy and has not stopped till date. They don’t care where you come from.
Obi gave us a lot of exposure and recognition. During his days as governor, he invited us to anything he was doing. On one occasion, we had to sleep over, when we couldn’t go back. He sent us to one hotel. I think that was when he inaugurated Onitsha stadium. I can recall one amazing thing that made me laugh. When we got to the hotel, we were allocated a room each.
We were entitled to dinner and breakfast but we were instructed that if one took tea one would pay, you drink wine you pay. One was only entitled to water and soft drinks. We ate, slept and left the following morning. We were given packages in the morning as we were ready to go. Every Christmas Obi used to give us wine and other packages. We never demanded for this but he did this out of his own will.
I don’t think he was doing it for us alone. I believe he did the same for others too. He may not like what I am saying but I feel, for him to continue doing what he has been doing for us deserves commendation. His kindness is overwhelming.
Before I forget, when we were leaving the hotel on that occasion, the manager of the hotel asked us, ‘what kind of love does the governor have for you people?’. He recalled that on many occasions Obi had asked people to go there and sleep without offering them the luxury of food. If he gave you accommodation and you ate the food you pay for your food. He said we were special to the governor. That is the hallmark of one who knows how to manage resources.
Even when any one of us loses a brother, sister or any relation or you are doing anything and he hears about it, he would appear. He is too kind to us.
This Christmas again, I was here when I was called and was told he has given each and every one of us over a hundred of us a good amount of money for our Christmas.
Obi is a nationalist. If you knew him when he was governor, his convoy never used a siren, you hardly saw a motorcade as all you would see was Obi, a support car, a security van and maybe an ambulance. There was hardly a time you saw his security men pushing people away from getting close to him.
He has always been a simple man and he took that to governance. I had met him at several airports across the country; Lagos, Enugu, Owerri airports, you would see him carrying his bag and would choose to sit in the economy class and not business class that his contemporaries would want to be. He remains very humble and a very nice human being.”