Peter Obi was the last serving governor of Anambra State. He probably has done well running the state. And it so happened Willy Obiano, a former banker, succeeded him. By one account it was Obi himself who facilitated this.
Obiano, it appears, shares many other things in common with Obi. It has been stated, for instance, that both were generational peers in their secondary school days. And Obiano, an accountant, rose to be a playmaker in a bank where Obi was said to hold substantial equity. The equity was so much that Obi was at a time a chairman of the said bank. These points of their being chummy and play pals are important as we shall show latter.
It wasn’t an eternity before there were alleged cracks between the clubby former schoolboys and financial former joint stakeholders, if not placeholders. But all these would not have mattered if Obi had kept his peace.
For reasons that are difficult to fathom, Obi, a governor emeritus, got his PR schedules blotting. And what happened? Suddenly, Obi washed up in Lagos and all over the airwaves. He was raking the waves, a favourite speechmaker. Apparently confounding the approbation of the streets with political capital, Obi went nuclear. He went on to some disingenuous claims.
He began to bullishly market the impression that he was a sparse and Spartan fellow, yet a politician, a Nigerian politician. That was an unlikely proposition. Politicians by nature are flamboyant kids. They are loud. And it costs money to be heard or seen, especially in apposite circles.
If Obi had stopped at self-promotion it would have been fun enough. But he was throwing broadsides at the serving governor[s], and even at his erstwhile governor-colleagues. That is to say, while he was inflating himself, he was deflating the incumbents and colleagues. At a point, the possibility looked real that Obi was the spotless lone wolf in the jungle. The rest were vultures. And I feared for Obi. Politicians live on nothing else than applause. It is just that Obiano, like Obi, would prefer to fast and die than live in obscurity. Publicity is the only sunshine politicians bask in.
So politicians take it as fratricidal for a mate to want to deflate their balloons of ego. Thus for informed observers it was indicated that Obiano had a duty to fire at Obi or be gunned dead himself. And he did. His aides were fierce and went after Obi. And the matter got nasty. And election time came and it is time for MADness.
Now, there are several issues at stake, so let us take things one by one. Obi’s claims of being Spartan and sparse are completely without meaning. Being Spartan does not, against Obi’s presumptions, suggest good governance or high moral credentials. We are not saying Obi did not do well as governor. We are only saying that the way a man lives, a la luxury, has no governance effects. This is so long as he finances it. A John F. Kennedy [and wife], for instance, who was a legatee to a large family/personal fortune, lived large. And Americans did not begrudge him. It is instructive that, historically, he was one of the great American Presidents. Locally, former President Umaru Yar’Adua and former Governor Sherrif were mightily rich and said so. No Nigerian bore them resentment.
And it so happened that Obi owns [he said so himself] a Shangri-la property in Ikoyi. And it was an ultra-luxury pad in the controversial Ikoyigate mansion. When I say Shangri-la property, I mean exactly that. One of the listed contractors who delivered the project, the Shangri-la property, is known to this correspondent. He said that interior décor, for instance, was handled by a specialist high street firm based in Hong Kong. The team routinely flied in to do stuff.
That is to say, even if Obi wears flea market watches as he suggests, his taste for luxury pads and finishing will cost 10 heavens. That is, the self-spun thesis that he is Spartan flies at the face of evidence. What Obi lives is a lifestyle. Some American billionaires also share in those. A few own private jets but wear electronic watches rich kids won’t take. For example: Goldman Sachs CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, worth $1 billion plus, rocks a Swatch watch of less than $500.
It is just a lifestyle. There is nothing to recommend or censure in it. But one shouldn’t indict Obi of hypocrisy in this. Let us just say it is a question of unknowing. He is selling a product – personality merchandising – he is not exactly seized off.
Interestingly too, Obi was campaigning that he was Mr. Clean, perhaps a Saint Obi. He might as well be. But trust politicians. They have genius for stirring up calm waters. And Chief Ifeanyi Ubah, a maverick billionaire and a PDP co-traveller with Obi, lobbed the first heavy stone. He hit Obi and may have shattered Obi’s diamond visage. Ubah claimed openly that Obi was interested in ‘’dethroning’’ Obiano and inaugurating Oseloka Obaze because he wanted to finagle N7 billion out of Anambra State’s treasury.
According to Ubah, the game is that the presumptive PDP governor, an Obi nominee, would next open the illicit cash faucet for Obi to drain away. I heard Ubah myself on Channels Television but, because of Ubah’s controversial profile, I dismissed the matter.
However, Anambra State officials issued a statement echoing similar sentiments. To spruce things up, one Chief Ulasi, ostensibly a neutral third party, added his voice, affirming the 7 billion naira-gate saga. It is now clear the balance of evidence is against Obi. But thank God these bits of evidence are not under oath. So they may be taken as political njakiri. But one remembers George Orwell. Every saint, the sage said, must be thought guilty until he proves himself innocent. Obi has apparently leaped, unaided, into a boiling cauldron.
Anyway, nothing these men have said is proof Obi is a finagler who wants to reap off Anambra State government billions he never sowed. But like we said, image is everything for politicians. It is likely that, if Obi had a saintly image at all, these combination punches have floored it. In fact, he might be taken to be down on the canvass, and counting out. To worsen his case, his former commissioner, Martins Uzodike, came with a lame explanation. According to him, a governor who left N75 billion, could have, if he wanted, simply squirrelled N7 billion out for himself. Really? Is he saying that Obi ran a government in which he could do “things’’?
Our point is this. These matters are completely avoidable for Obi, if he knew what personal PR he should be pursuing, as a menopausal politician. His projection of himself as a lone clean wolf was bound to backfire. The reasons are as follows:
Politics, like soccer, is a team game. In soccer, it is said that if you want to play solo, you go and buy yourself a racket. In politics, it may now be said, if you want to play the lone clean wolf, you go and found yourself a religion. In religions, you need mad specialists or specialist madmen, who by definition are lonely, if loony, fellas.
In politics, if for any reason you give the impression that you are extraordinary or do not need your teammates, then you are finished. They would simply play against you. It happened to Yekini. Yekini scored the opening goal for Nigeria in a FIFA World Cup and celebrated alone. His colleagues thought one goal was enough for him. And they never played for him to score again in his life. So in group games the winning genius is to stay anonymous or pretend to be. You can never opt to play celebrity to your peers. They won’t take it.
I guess Obi may have, like many Nigerians, misread the Buhari phenomenon. It is alleged that Buhari was elected on the basis of being Mr. Clean. That is bunkum. Buhari as a person might have been as alleged, Mr. Clean, but that image had absolutely nothing to do with his election. Buhari’s election was a tribal or regional alliance. The dominant South-West faction hated Jonathan and wanted him out. Their game, I guess, was to prove they were Lord of the Manor. The North wanted power. Their game was that they were born to rule. Thus the convenient façade was manufactured that Buhari was Mr. Clean. It was upon this manufacture that they fooled the branch of the West, who thought they were in the game together. In the end, the rest of the country, including their alliance partners, the South-West, became the hunted. Only the North was Mr. Hunter, tribalism, sectionalisms, nepotisms and all that jazz.
If Obi intends to sell himself as Mr. Clean, let him be sure that his peers won’t elect him. That is why there are party primaries. A key purpose of primaries is to make sure politics is and remains a team sport. If you are eliminated there you can’t go any further. Or if you do you may need to sweat blood.
In all this, one thing emerges. It is that Obi ran or was running a sectarian governance. Ulasi accused him of dividing Anambra ecclesiastically. I have no evidence of that. But I take note. However, it appears there is a collusion of old boys and their gals at work and play. Whether it is happenstance or engineered, this is time to warn that governance is about inclusion.
Now this. Obi, Obiano, Obaze, Uzodike all have said that they belonged to same secondary school alumni. Uzodike, also in a Channels interview, claimed that he ran for governor in one incarnation. What it means is that their alumni will rule the state back-to-back for a thousand years, allegorically. And in another interview with Channels, Oseloka stated openly that the Obis, the Ekwuemes and the Obazes have been family friends for about 40 odd years. A Ms Onyemelukwe, who is actually [nee] a Ms Ekwueme, is a Deputy Governor candidate of the PDP/Oseloka ticket. Great. But politics is not a club to reconnect family reunions. They should consciously open up the state to more families and more schools. While there is nothing wrong with alumni donating a mafia to run state shops, as happens in Britain, America, etc, one thing is important. It is that the alumni at play are the university end of things, not the kindergarten or post-kindergarten beats. Kindergarten and post-kindergarten are necessarily regional, locale specific. However, the university alumni, especially if Ivy League, is a magnet for diversity, for country/state inclusivity and pool of talents.
So it is incestuous to have power conveyed from one family chummy to another kindergarten pal. Part of restructuring is in opening up the states to a diversity of peoples and ideas. It is not in alumni or family clubbishness. It is this clannishness that is getting overheated and is now boiling over. It is all in a cauldron flinted by Saint Obi.