Peter Obi

By Tony Nwankwo

Chief (Dr.) Sylvanus Olisanye Ebigwei (MON) is a dental surgeon. A member of the Ime-Obi Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo and a former President, Aka Ikenga, the socio-political Igbo think-tank group. He is the Iyasei of Okpanam Kingdom, Delta State. In this interview, he speaks on the state of the nation and the position of Ndi Igbo in it. Excerpts:

Prof. Chukwuma Soludo is now the elected governor of Anambra State. With all the hype, what do you expect?

I can say the victory of Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, as governor of Anambra State is one of the milestones in the political equation of Anambra people. There is no gainsaying that Anambra people are sophisticated, they are highly industrious, highly educated and they have a lot of manpower in terms of human capacity and they have financial resources and muscles.

Fortunately, their leaders have done very well and graphically, from one elected governor to the other, Anambra has added value to what the previous governor had done. Dr. Chris Ngige did a lot for Anambra in road construction, in cleaning up Onitsha, especially the head bridge.

Ngige came and the head bridge was cleaned up with some other areas of Onitsha. He equally added value to the road network of Anambra State Peter Obi came and introduced his own tight-fisted policy concentrating on human capacity building through education. All the dilapidated schools in Anambra, Peter Obi was able to revive them. He did this through a very good administrative approach, giving money to the people who own the schools to add to their own.

Take for example, CKC Onitsha and some others, instead of bringing his own contractors to handle the developments and re-engineering of the schools, he gave the money to the missions and the bishops of Anglican schools, Catholic schools and other schools of faith and these produced results. Instead of these clergymen squandering the money or inflating the contracts, they rather took money from their own missions, added to what Peter Obi had given them.

And today, its a success story all over. So, you can see the type of management he brought in. He built in into what was there in order to achieve. He didn’t come to start from the scratch. And he used the human capital within the environment to enhance the environment. He never relied on contractors who would inflate contracts, what will cost N10m they say its N100m.

He was able to manage the Anambra resources to full success. And also, as a person, he introduced a tight-fisted approach to the work places. He reduced the number of vehicles in his entourage, his number of aides, and so on. He saved money. At the end, he saved billions for the state. Governor Obiano tried, because leadership is about leaving legacies.

No matter what we say about Obiano, he left a lasting legacy, the beautiful airport in Umueri, the Anambra Airport is a masterpiece, a huge success. And he did it within a short period. So, whatever you say about him, he left a legacy. Prof. Charles Soludo came with a bang, visiting places, because without visiting those places, he will not know what to do. He has already studied what Anambra is all about, the economic situation, already he knows as a chess player, what he has to do to carry Anambra to the next level. I believe he will succeed. I believe too, prudent financial management is the key to the success in political leadership. If you are not prudent enough in managing resources, there is no way you can get it right. He has started: Akwete, Innoson Motors.

Imagine if government concentrates in buying all motors from Innoson Motors, Innoson Motors will not be the same again. Nnewi and Anambra will never be the same again. And I believe he is going to dabble into agriculture. He has been governor of Central Bank, he knows what can be the derivatives of any given community. I am sure he is equally going to encourage the artisans, the multiple artisans who are producing things in the state without government support. He is going to help the clean up of various places in Anambra.

I am also convinced he is going to do something on IPOB which he has already started to do because IPOB policy now, are not mandating their members to do this Monday sit at home. IPOB is no longer supporting that move, because it hurts the economy of the South-East. I believe Soludo will succeed.

The support for Peter Obi on the Presidency 2023 is gaining momentum. What do you say?

One school of thought says that if someone like Peter Obi is allowed to handle Nigeria, give him eight years, Nigeria will move on developmental index. Peter Obi is a young man but highly intelligent, his administrative prowess is excellent. His capacity to reason, his capacity to manage resources cannot be surpassed Look at the Nigerian environment today, the question arises, what are the challenges, and how can we solve these challenges. Let me start from the issue of economy, Nigeria has regressed from being the fastest growing economy in Africa and the whole world to a level where economically one can’t be reckoned with anymore. I believe Peter Obi knows this, and I believe he knows what to do to turn the table. He is a very good businessman.

His financial management cannot be surpassed. He is very prudent in managing resources. Look at today, billions of billions of Naira are being wasted on daily basis on something that are not reasonably enhancing the economic development of this country. People like Peter Obi knows what to do. Take the Petroleum industry for example. Everybody today is suffering from scarcity of petrol.

Diesel is selling at N1,000 per litre, petrol is over N200 per litre. Is it right in an oil producing country? No. It is an aberration. Somebody prudent enough to manage resources will know that importation of fuel from outside is highly detrimental to the economic emancipation of the country. Trillions of Naira are being used to what they call subsidy. Why subsidy?

Why that kind of money? I put myself in the mindset of Peter Obi, from what I have been seeing, Peter Obi will rather use that subsidy to develop the petroleum industry locally, so that we don’t have to be depending on outsiders to import fuel and pay subsidy. We have about two to four refineries in the country today, and every year, billions of Naira are budgeted for those refineries, but the refineries are not producing any form of fuel. So what are we using the budget, to maintain a dead industry? To me this is an economic waste.

And I believe that somebody like Peter Obi will never allow such economic waste. From what I know about this country, the economy is on the downward trend. Out of the avalanche and litany of people who are trying to contest the Presidency, the people will vote those who will manage our economy and not those who will use our Nigerian economy and resources to massage their political egos.

I believe in people like Peter Obi, who knows how to manage resources. That is the type of people we need to do the right thing. I don’t care from where he comes from. Again, he is a man without blemish. I have never heard his name in EFCC circle, or for embezzling money.

He has the capacity to turn Nigeria around. Secondly, the issue of security that is bedeviling this nation, it is a complete anomaly. Nigerian security services, are highly respected in international circles, because of their prowess, because of their capacity to bring military solutions when necessary.

That is why the United Nations normally appoint Nigerian military leaders to help in military interventions Sierra Leone, Liberia, Europe, for instance. It all started during the time of General Aguiyi Ironsi, during the war in the Congo. He was appointed by the Secretary General of the United Nations to head the International Military Command in the Congo, when Maurice Lumumba and others were charged. During the celebrated six Belgium miners, who were kidnapped in Katanga, they were rescued by Nigerian solders, headed by a brigade commanded by Samuel Ogbemudia from Nigeria.

They raided the hide-out, freed the hostages, and no single soul was lost. That was in the 60s. From that period, we have always been respected. But it becomes an anomaly what has happened to our security forces today, that even within our own doors, we cannot handle our security challenges. Something is wrong somewhere.

Nigerian Armed Forces are deadly, you don’t joke with it. But everybody is surprised that they cannot contain the militants, they cannot contain the so-called bandits now terrorists, that they are even getting into the heart of Nigeria, Abuja, to go and kidnap and kill people. And nobody is being arrested. About 40 to 100 motorcycles will leave a spot, raid a whole village with AK47s, you mount on 100 motorcycles, carrying their instruments of destruction, raid a whole community, kidnap them, carry them at the back of motorcycles and vamoose into the bush and nobody challenges them. Why is it that they will drive 100 kilometers, 50 kilometers, 80 kilometers, go into a community to raid, no single checkpoint to challenge them. Why? But travel from Lagos here to Benin, you get more than 20 to 50 checkpoints of various security forces.

We cannot understand why? Sincerely, we have heard the Inspector General of Police tell them to leave the roads. They will leave after sometimes they will bring themselves back. So, I think that somebody like Peter Obi, if he gets into office, I am sure, he is going to set up a high powered military – civilian – legal committee to look into these security matters and use whatever solution that may be necessary, because what is happening now is unbelievable.

You just replayed what Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said about Peter Obi. But there are those who said some are benefiting from this banditry and terrorism acts?

It is only a devil or somebody with devilish mind that can be benefiting from what is happening in Nigeria today. I don’t think anybody is benefiting, because those who are benefiting cannot be living in Nigeria. Can you imagine the safest route for anybody to be traveling between Abuja and Kaduna is the rail, if you are traveling on the rails now you are an endangered specie. They are blowing up railway lines and ransacking coaches, killing people, kidnapping people, stealing their properties.

You are a member of Ime Obi Ohanaeze, and the house of the President of Ohanaeze, Prof. Obiozor was recently bombed. What was your reaction?

It was a dastardly act. It was a condemnable act. An act carried out by primitive minds, criminals. Chief Obiozor is a diplomat, a prominent person. Very eloquent, very good control of English language. The way and manner he formulates issues, and for a group of people to wake up one day and decide to bomb his house. What was his offense? He is not a military man, not a politician, he has not contested any elections, he stands in nobody’s way.

To me, its suspect, those who carried it out. I believe the intelligence officers should look into the problem. Since he got into office, he has not stepped on any toes. He has not abused IPOB and I know that during the trial of Nnamdi Kanu, Prof Obiozor, the President General of Ohanaeze Worldwide, sent him lawyers. They have Ohanaeze lawyers defending Nnamdi Kanu. So how can such a man defending Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of IPOB, how can they turn around to destroy his house? Those who did it, I think there is a problem there. So some of us believe that its not done by local people. What has Obiozor done to anybody that an Igbo man will wake up to go and destroy his property. I think that has to be looked into.

Is there any remedy from where he can rebuild his property?

No, there is no provision for that, but it is left for the governments of the South-East, because Obiozor now is the mouth piece of Ndigbo Worldwide. So, it is within the governments in Igbo speaking areas. We had a process, but the only problem we had was implementation. We had an idea during our time that every Igbo man, an adult pay N1,000 a year, whether you are in the moon, in Jerico, Jerusalem or Sambisa, a thousand Naira every adult. Lets assume N1,000, even monthly. The Igbo race will be such that nobody will surpass us.

When that money is judiciously administered, we can easily use it to do a lot. Our aim is not for Ndigbo alone, we need to do a lot, not to be depending on government, but to be depending on ourselves. Let every Igbo state be so independent of the federal coffers for the benefit of our children. We have the resources, agriculture, we have arable lands. We do not need to be importing things, we develop industries, the various governments will set out industrial developments, set out industrial clusters all over Igbo land, with very good network of roads.

We would have good academic institutions. Don’t go to school where people will depend on cut-off marks, no. Cut off marks destroy the mental capacity of children. So what we need is education, industrial development and agriculture. If any of the states can tap on any of these three things, nobody is going to surpass us. Teach the children how to be self-sufficient. A level of education curriculum we should be having, not the type when you get the certificate and there is nothing upstairs.

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