Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State, on Tuesday, unveiled a 46-feet statue of Nigeria’s symbol of democracy and adjudged winner of the June 12, 1993 Presidential Election, Bashorun Moshood Kasimawo Olawale Abiola (MKO), expressing optimism that the monument would forever crystallise what he stood for in his lifetime. Governor Ambode, who spoke at the unveiling…
Peter Obi is a successful businessman. So many people also are. In Onitsha, for instance, I am told there are a million and more millionaires milling around and about. So being a successful businessman is not a particularly distinguished or distinguishing achievement. There are just too many of the kind. For instance, I can recall now as follows. While I was out in France, there was a saying. If my memories don’t fail me, it goes: “if you think you are a genius, invent a new thesis in sociology or a new function in mathematics.” The moral is that these are really the distinguished and distinguishing achievements. And they are so rare.
Thus the rest of us are taken for what we are: typical folks, regular Joes. Nothing particularly distinguishes us. Yes, we can hire public relations gurus, even win votes but, the truth is, to be smart is a rare phenomenon. It is so rare that we never have enough of Einsteins, Aristotles or Achebes. These men are the real jewels. The rest of us are costume assets and jewelry to match.
But having the humility to know this and the courage to practice it is even rarer than being an Achebe. Thus one sees regular men, for example, mere billionaires, thinking that they know more than the hedgehog. That they know, not even one, but many big things.
Perhaps, it is not really Obi’s fault. He is an innocent beneficiary of a warped sense of values by the Nigerian people. Nigeria is the only country where coup-makers, bandits who broke into and stole national powers, are beatified as national icons. This is the only country where one is taken as wise as his cash balances are high. Thus it is difficult to find a rich Nigerian who is not as self-deluded as his bank balances. This is definitely not what you get in Israel, in America and in Europe. In those places, they all read and believe in Psalm 131. They are never haughty, especially over matters that are beyond them. Out there, businessmen are bothered with just earning their slots in the market plazas. They don’t stray into things, big things. Small, little kobo profits, adding up a billion times is just enough for them and marvelous in the sight of the Lord.
But what did we get with Nigeria’s rich, say an Obi? But first the following: We have nothing for or against Obi as a person or a governor. Our interest in Obi is just that he serves as a working dummy or model, to question our governance and other patterns. Why Obi? Obi fits the bill. This is especially in the light of his TED-like speeches at the Platform and other public forums. After governance, Obi was not just content being a politician. Obi added, via his speeches, the careers and roles of a moralist, even a political and financial theorist.
The immediate thing I got from Obi’s Platform speeches were as follows: Obi may have been a successful, okay, not successful but well-achieved governor. The point of difference would soon be clear. In his Platform speech, Obi asserted that he contracted Coscharis and Zinox, etc., companies to deliver cars and computers etc. And he claimed – believably too – that he knew where to get them if they defaulted in delivering on their briefs, etc. Repeat, he, Obi, not the Anambra State Government, knew where to get them. And as it happened, the contractor-billionaires delivered. And we can assume immediately that Obi never asked for or took any gratifications off them. As great as this is, it is obviously in contradiction of best practice administrative procedures.
While we commend Obi’s genius for delivering governmental achievement, it is obvious he failed in governance issues. A governor should never dominate or personalise procurement processes. Those processes must be independent of his person. That is, the guarantees must not be because of him as a person or the persons he knows. However Obi breached this time-tested order as he confessed in his Platform speeches, etc. He, not Anambra State, knew where to get them, if they defaulted.
The real issue in this is that Obi’s manner of governance alienates. It is thus likely that Obi had no lieutenants or didn’t care if he had. Why? He worked practically alone. And in working alone while in government, it follows he will have less lieutenants after he has left governance. This style of working is comparable to what happens to the Azikiwe, Awolowo, and Bello of old, and the new politicians. It might be said that Obi and the statue-hugging governor typify the new politicians. They work alone, deluded perhaps they are geniuses?
Anyway, the danger in their ways and means is captured by an old Chinese saying. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far go in a company.” We need ourselves. And going as a company is what it means to run governance. This must be distinguished from mere personal achievement, no matter how solid.
The implication of this is that, unlike Azikiwe, Awolowo and Bello, Obi is a transactional, not relationship, dude. That is in political terms. Of course, it wouldn’t have bothered us if he runs his group of businesses in whatever manners. We are bothered because government is our joint business, we are all equity holders, one the equal of another.
Next, Obi made the mistake of thinking and believing otherwise. That is, Obi believed, still believes, he is not a transactional guy. Or perhaps he thought that his personal achievements qualifies him as a relationship guru. And he became evangelical with his beliefs. To prove it, he stumped the earth promising a fight to finish against his alleged godson, Willie Obiano. It looked funny for informed observers. The point is simple. There is a vast distance between the Platform-Lagos TV audiences and Anambra voters. Obi, perhaps, never understood this. He believed the one was the other or would lead to it. Anyway, we had betted Obi would fail and he did. Lagos Platformers and such audiences are too far away. They don’t and can’t vote in Anambra State.
As the Lagos Platformers failed to save him, as Obi went transactional while he should have been relational, there were other issues. The other issue is that Obi succeeded in thinking himself a particularly gifted person, perhaps a genius. That is the feel one gets from the Platform speeches. Obi wanted a self-portrait of himself, a Messi, alongside others, who at best are mere utility players. In the political field? Babu. And we warned.
Well, we will end with this wise word from a fellow businessman, “We win more by trying not to be stupid than by trying to be smart.” (Charles Munger.)
Munger is a billionaire kid, and partner of Warren Buffett. He is probably as wise and wily as Buffett. But certainly not as rich. Well, things happen. The point Munger is emphasising is that only few people are really smart, so only they can act smart. The rest of us may only play-act we are smart. The rest of us, like Obi, like Munger, like Buffet, like this correspondent, are just regular journeymen. You see the American businessman? A Munger is as humble as steard. He reads Psalm 131. Does Obi? Or any of the billionaire Nigerian businessmen and politicians? And, by the way, if any politician thinks himself a genius, why is he in the artisanal business of begging for votes? Can’t he invent a new mathematical function or sociological thesis? If not, how is he then a genus apart? Ahiazuwa.
Lessons for the winner
Well we didn’t quite join in congratulating Obiano. Why should we? No, it is not that we envied him his well-deserved win at the polls, it is that we had predicted he would win. Following is an excerpt from our Turf Game online.
‘’Some while ago, I was consulted on the likely outcome of the election. And for me then and now it remains a given. It is Willie Obiano. The points are as follows. Obiano, as incumbent, has to lose the election to be beaten, for the opposition to win… If this is understood then it can be taken as a no-brainer that the average politician in Anambra, whatever his party, roots for Obiano. Okay let us repeat. Obiano is the popular choice of nearly all political operators in Anambra today, whatever their parties.’’ The countdowns begin,” The Sun, November 15, 2017.
So, Obiano winning his second term came as no surprise to us. And he deserves it. We wish him and his hardworking team, the best for Ndi Anambra, Ndi Igbo and Ndi Nigeria. Ahiazuwa.
For Alex Ekwueme
We at The Turf Game join millions of heartbroken citizens to mourn the passage of a colossus. Dr. Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme. Ekwueme was certainly one of the greatest men and minds of his generation. He was as distinguished a businessman as he was a scholar and a politician. And, most importantly, as a gentleman. He never was heard using expletives or swear words, even at the most vicious provocation. Such a sense of culture, of an elevated sense of man as a near divine being, is rare even in the best of times. But it came natural to Ekwueme. Ekwueme was so singular a fellow. We plead and commend his soul to the care of the Lord.
Ekwueme, odogwu nwoke, nmawu ijele anaa nmuo. Nwoke oma jebe, emesia na anyi ga afu na Obi Chukwu.