By Chuks Iloegbunam  

From yesterday, this concludes the narrative on Peter Obi, some remarkable moments when he served as governor of Anambra State and what makes him tick and unique as a leader

You would dobale for them. After the genuflection, you would ask if they wouldn’t use a soft drink seeing that the weather was rather hot. It may, in fact, be chilly. You would ask about their wives and children even though a careful look already told you that the customer’s youthfulness suggested that he was unmarried.

All these things you would do because you wanted the customer to part with his money and leave with the ware you were anxious to sell. That is all what the “Sirs” boil down to. I will give a good example of this attribute while discussing some of Governor Obi’s achievements. 

 Peter Obi carried his reverence of people into other areas. After I took a single honours degree in English from the University of Ife (now the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife), I came out convinced that I had “finished” the language. I had been taught by the titans – people like Professor Gerald Moore, Professor Bisi Afolayan, the semanticist, and Professor Biodun Jeyifo, the Marxist literary critic. There were others, of course. But when I became a foundation staff at The Guardian in Lagos, past masters in language use taught me that all I had was a B. A. for Begin Again.

People like Chinweizu, Dr. Stanley Macebuh, Professor Onwuchekwa Jemie, Professor Femi Osofisan and Eddie Iroh, the accomplished novelist and TV film producer, who at the time was not even a graduate taught me to place my feet on the ground. There was a big difference between what was learnt in the university and what struck the right chords in the minds of newspaper readers. I started paying especial attention to what in linguistics is known as Register. 

 When I became a political appointee, my language teacher became Peter Obi, of all people. Let me give a little background. While we were outside government, most of what I wrote for Peter passed. All through the years we argued his mandate in court, I wrote at least 95 per cent of his official political communication. While I served in his government, I also wrote at least 95 per cent of his speeches and his official letters. That is why when people who won’t recognise Peter even if he bumped into them write nonsense about him, I spend a good deal of time lamenting the pettiness of humankind. 

 To continue with the narrative. Since I was Chief of Staff and there was a competent Press Secretary, and a competent speechwriter inherited from Dr. Ngige, I thought I had written the last for Mr. Obi. One morning I introduced the matter of Leo Nnoli to the Governor, mentioning that he had been speechwriter to both Governors Chinwoke Mbadinuju and Chris Ngige.

I had in my hand samples of speeches he had written for the ex-Governors. Mr. Obi was not in the least interested. Not that he doubted Nnoli’s competence. But he argued that I had been with him for many years and, if he as much as winked, I would know what to put down on paper. He asked why I wanted him to take on a new speechwriter who would spend valuable time trying to master his predilections. That ended the matter.

The speechwriter was redeployed. A couple of years later, Dr. Nnoli transferred his services to the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, where he became a lecturer in History. He had an assistant, Ifeanyi Njelita, who had earned a degree in English from Unizik. Mr. Njelita requested that I post him to the Protocol Department. I obliged. He excelled there and rose in rank until his retirement in 2021. 

 I was back to taking tutorials on how to write. But a preliminary problem arose. Governor Obi was going to travel to the United Kingdom. He asked me to draft a letter informing President Obasanjo of the trip. I couldn’t understand. 

“Sir, you don’t need to inform him that you are travelling.” 

“Is there anywhere the Constitution so says?” Since the Constitution said nothing of the sort, I did a draft as instructed. Once he sighted the draft, the Governor quarrelled with my opening sentence, which ran something like this: “Your Excellency, this is to inform you that I will be travelling…”  “That’s not how to address the President. Put ‘humbly’ there! Say: ‘This is to humbly inform you that…’” General Obasanjo is still alive and well and will confirm that he received letters regularly from Governor Obi that were replete with verbs like Please, Appeal, Plead. The President got told each time my Governor travelled. He got appealed to every time there was something Mr. Obi thought he should attend to. 

 It is the same politeness that Peter Obi is exhibiting in the run up to the 2023 presidential ballot. It is not affectation; it has been his style from time “Imo River”! He has not abused any presidential candidate or anybody else for that matter. And he will not. When Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu went to campaign for Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun State who was seeking reelection, he told his listeners that: “Some people call themselves Labour. They will be in labour to the death.” 

 A few days later, Peter Obi arrived Osogbo, the Osun State capital, to address the supporters of the Labour Party gubernatorial candidate, Mr. Lasun Yusuff. He found it necessary to respond to Tinubu’s death wish to Labour partisans. He said: “I listened to our chairman when he said that somebody said ‘they can labour till death’. When they show you hatred, Labour Party will show them love. There is dignity in labour.” He spoke without recrimination. He addressed Labour supporters with maturity. He acted like a lodestar for the movement of national politics. 

 Even when Atiku Abubakar emerged as the PDP presidential candidate, Mr. Obi didn’t behave as though a mortal enemy had sprung up to contend with him in the presidential ballot. He sent Atiku a congratulatory message from which a vital lesson in moderation could be learned. He tweeted: “On behalf of my family, I sincerely congratulate my leader and dear elder brother, H. E. @atiku, on his emergence as the 2023 presidential flag bearer of the @OfficialPDPNig. I pray that Almighty God who sees your goodness will continue to bless you now and always. – PO.” That was on May 29, 2022. 

Even when Tinubu exhibited an unwarranted sense of entitlement by publicly declaring in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, that it was his turn to be the President of Nigeria – the controversial emi lo kan – Peter Obi responded to a TV interviewer’s question in the following vein: it is not the turn of anyone to become the President of Nigeria. Rather, it is the turn of Nigerians to reclaim their country from vast misrule and misery. It was because he desired to focus on the real issues that he appealed to his followers to leave him with the task of responding to any presidential candidate that referred to him or his viewpoints. 

But Obi’s traducers will not let up. Recently it trended on the social media what their plan against Peter Obi was – to sell the lie that he was a liar, to sell the lie that he achieved nothing in Anambra State, to sell the lie that he was an IPOB leader, to sell every lie against an innocent man, both sellable and unsellable – all in the name of partisan politics. But the evil schemes have invariably come to grief. Oftentimes, the exposition of their lies lies embedded within the sentences of the traducers’ utterances. 

According to the report, the total value of non-oil exports in the first half of the year, January to June 2022, was about $2.60 billion up 62.37 per cent from the respective $1.60 billion and $981.44 million recorded in the first halves of 2021 and 2020. This rebound should be sustained through giving of more incentives to exporters and targeted financing for export infrastructure. The Export4Survival campaign by the NEPC introduced in February, should be sustained to raise public knowledge on opportunities in the industry and to emphasise the advantages of exporting Nigerian goods and services to boost our GDP and shared prosperity”, the LCCI President said.

In the same vein, the Chairman, Export Group of LCCI, Mrs. Bosun Solarin, who gave further insights into the discourse, admitted that the symposium was timely and coming up when Nigeria was in dire need of foreign exchange, and that the world was earnestly waiting to see the effective take-off of AfCFTA that is capable of elevating 30 million people out of abject poverty and generating market hub that would connect 1.3 billion people from 55 countries with US$3.4tn aggregate Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

She said the actualisation of the benefits of the legislation remains elusive without effective distribution channel in which logistics play an indispensable role of bridging the gap between the dreams and realities of AfCFTA. Mrs. Solarin informed that the presence of experts in the logistics industry, and captains of export business would make it possible do a critical examination of the role of logistics in AfCFTA from trajectories with insightful contributions for all participants. The chairman, while reiterating the fact that reliable transportation was critical to trade and development, tasked relevant stakeholders to put in place policies that would make Nigeria’s export very competitive. 

In summary, what we need to put in place to make AfCTA impactful include tapping from several programmes and opportunities at the regional, continental and international levels that exporters can benefit from such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) as well as Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS); exporting of primary products to the global community with value addition; need for regulatory agencies to strengthen the means of communication, to close the information gap between the agencies and players; incorporation of communication plan and strategy for feedback and continuous interactions; promotion of digitisation and automation of processes and procedures; creation of more awareness; building of capacity of the public sector trade regulators; embracing Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model;  putting in place effective distribution channel whereby logistics play an indispensable role of bridging the gap between the dreams and realities of AfCFTA, among others.

Iloegbunam, an author, wrote via:[email protected]

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