Last week, the former governor of this state, Sir Peter Obi was celebrated on this page. Today, I bring you the concluding part of that article which of course, will not be complete without his citation. Please, join me as I continue in my celebration of this wonderful leader per excellence. I call him 'the man who saw tomorrow'. He is a trail blazer, statesman and the leader of leaders. He is a king maker, economist, business mogul and my most admired man in government. Yes. A lot of people say he is stingy and it really gets to me. He is stingy and yet donates millions of his personal money to different sectors in the country and on the international stage? How much has he spent on certain sectors in this country since he left governance, with particular reference to the education sector? I remember on his 50th birthday when he decided to give a million naira each to fifty schools. I know I counted about twenty schools here in Anambra state, before I stopped. I was particularly touched because a lot of people in his shoes would rather throw lavish parties that will add zero value to the lives of Anambrarians. And yet he is stingy? Because he refuses to be wasteful?? Please, I very humbly refuse to use the word stingy in place of the word prudent!!! So readers, join me as I celebrate a worthy son of this state. God bless you all as you read the concluding part of this article as captured by his media aide, Val Obienyem…
Easily one of the unsurpassed attainments of Peter Obi was in education. Here, he achieved another first on January 1, 2009, with his return of schools to their original owner-proprietors – Voluntary Agencies, including Churches – with commendable results. While the management of the schools was transferred to the agencies, the State Government retained the funding responsibilities, including capital projects, staff salaries and emoluments, and other recurrent expenditures. Such was the impact of this momentous decision that Obi administration stabilized basic education in the State. Among other outcomes, Anambra State leaped from its usual 24th place of the 36 States in many external examinations to Number One in results of both the National Examination Council [NECO] and West African Examination Council [WAEC] examinations for three consecutive years. Indeed, this revolutionary partnership and phenomenal achievement informed the World Bank-commissioned study group led by the renowned Professor Paul Collier of Oxford University.
Under the Obi tenure, Anambra State was the first in the Federation to procure and distribute over 30,000 computers to secondary schools. These included 22,500 from HP, which the Managing Director HP (Africa and Middle-East) described as their largest such procurement in the Middle-East and Africa. In the same vein, Internet access was provided to more than 500 secondary schools, which the CEO of Galaxy Backbone then (Mr. Gerald Ilukwe) characterized as incomparable to any other in the country. Microsoft Academies were also established in those secondary schools – a project the then Head of Microsoft in Nigeria (Mr. Ken Span) described as the biggest of such in Africa to date.
Similarly, secondary schools in the State got over 700 buses, while bore-holes were sunk and classroom blocks constructed in several schools in the 177 communities of the State.
Having determined that the partnership with the voluntary agencies/Churches was working, he steadily extended the formula to other critical sectors. In the health sector, for instance, the symbiotic relationship resulted in a tremendous boost to health care delivery across the State with investments of grants, structures and supplies to the tune of several billions of Naira. Among the beneficiary-organizations – whose transformation made positive impacts on the sector – are: Iyienu Hospital, Ogidi; Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Ihiala; St. Charles Borromeo Hospital, Onitsha; Diocesan Hospital , Amichi; Holy Rosary Hospital, Waterside, Onitsha; and St. Joseph Hospital, Adazi-Nnukwu. The Obi administration also constructed the Joseph Nwilo Heart Centre at St. Joseph's Hospital, Adazi-Nnukwu, where heart operations are now being performed satisfactorily.
The grooming of health-care professionals similarly received serious attention. By the end of Peter Obi's tenure in 2014, over 12 health institutions, including two hospitals, had secured accreditation for their courses and programmes. Interestingly, prior to his assumption of office in 2006, no health institution in Anambra State was duly accredited.
Predictably, the achievements of Peter Obi as Governor elicited several authentic, verifiable commendations and awards. Among others, he won the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation US$1 million prize for best-performing State in immunization in the South-East. With complementary funding from Government, he used the money to construct 10 Maternal and Child Care Centres across the State, particularly in rural communities, in partnership with the Churches.
One of the acts of Obi that nobody would wish away is his ability, against the convention, to clear debts owed pensioners running into over 37 billion Naira; his consistency in paying workers' salaries; and commitment to paying contractors on certificates generated – and yet being able to leave in excess of N100 billion [including set-aside funds] in the State treasury for his successor. This is one of the features that define him from others that seek the governance of the people. How he did it will one day become a topical issue in this country. Another marvel is that even with that huge savings, he still recorded more achievements than most others that owed hundreds of billions.
Commenting on Peter Obi inclination to hard-work, one of his Commissioners, Chief Joe Martins Uzodike noted that “Mr. Peter Obi wore himself out as he did others; the engine was too strong for the body. He crowded a life-time of events into twenty years because he compressed a week into a day. He came to his desk about 7am. It is only those not in Nigeria that would not appreciate what he did for Anambra State and how he is sadly being repaid today. But like his other travails, he takes them with equanimity”.
On her part, his wife, the oil behind the strong engine, Mrs. Margaret Obi is perplexed that what he suffered has not driven him to insanity. She asserted that her husband remains the person he used to be: “He still eats well and sleeps like a baby. He could go to sleep at will, at any hour and in any place wherever he needs repose”.
The man himself revealed that he keeps different affairs arranged in his head or memory as in a closet with several drawers: “When I wish to turn from business, I close the drawer that contains it, and open that which contains another. If I wish to sleep, I shut up all the drawers and I am soon asleep”.
Rather than seek by what magic or inspiration Obi achieved all this and get close to him to achieve a fraction of his goodness by prestige imitation, they are busy running round the lunatic asylum. When they discovered it would not lead them to anywhere, they resorted to propaganda and elevated it to a State industry, almost a monopoly.
As he turns 56 and is increasingly relevant because he has something to offer, may we raise our glasses and cling to his continued good health and pray to God to always lead him aright.
Citation of Sir Peter Gregory Obi
His Excellency, Mr. Peter Obi, former Governor of Anambra State was born on the 19th of July, 1961 at Onitsha in Anambra State.
In 1980, he gained admission into the University of Nigeria, Nsukka where he read Philosophy and graduated with a B.A. (Hons.) in 1984. As a trained philosopher, he has very broad perspectives on issues.
No sooner did he graduate than he plunged headlong into business. With extensive management training at some of the best global institutions, and hard work, he became immensely successful in business. These institutions include Lagos Business School, Nigeria; where he underwent the Chief Executive Programme; Harvard Business School, Boston, USA for the mid to mid programme; London School of Economics for the Financial Management/Business Policy Programme; Columbia Business School, USA where he studied Marketing Management. Others are Kellog Graduate School of Management USA where he did an Advanced Executive Programme and Institute for Management Development (IMD), Switzerland for a Senior Executive Forum.
Before entering into politics, his vast training in business courses led him to attain heights as Chairman, Fidelity Bank Plc; Chairman, Guardian Express Mortgage Bank Ltd; Director, Guardian Express Bank Ltd; Chairman, Future View Security Ltd; Chairman, Paymaster Nigeria Ltd; Chairman, Next International (Nig.) Ltd; Director, Chams Nigeria Ltd; Director, Card Centre Limited.
He also belongs to many professional associations, which include Nigerian Economic Summit Group; Commonwealth Business Council. He is also a Member of West African Business Committee (WABC); Member of British Institute of Directors (BIOD); and member of Nigerian – South African Chamber of Commerce (NSACC). He is a Fellow of the Nigerian Chartered Institute of Bankers
He went into politics with a considerable amount of resources at his disposal and contested the gubernatorial elections in Anambra State in 2003. Although he won, he was rigged out. Undaunted, he embarked on a near three-year legal battle to regain his mandate, which he did. Barely eight months into his administration, he was unconstitutionally impeached and had to fight again to be reinstated, and further battled and won an extension of his tenure beyond the general elections in 2007.
Governor Obi has embarked on integrated development of his state, with a holistic approach developing all sectors simultaneously. He has brought his private sector experience to bear on the development process in Anambra.
During his tenure as a Governor, Anambra State was no longer a pariah State that was scorned and laughed at. For the first time, Ambassadors of such countries as USA, Britain, Russia, European Union, South Africa, Belgium, Israel, Dutch, Canada, Venezuela, Ghana, among others, visited the State. Among his many tangible achievements was the payment of all outstanding pensions and gratuities in the State since 1999 (over N35Billion); He attracted big, fortune 500 companies to Anambra State, some of which are SABmiller, Distel and GlaxoSmithKline, Neimeth Pharmaceuticals, among others.
One of his greatest legacies in Anambra State was the return of schools to the Church and his continued funding of those schools to the tune of billions of Naira till he left office as the Governor of Anambra State.
Added to the buses, computers, generators, Internet facilities, Library facilities, Sports facilities, among many other infrastructure he made available to the schools in the State, Anambra State now come first in major external examinations, such as WAEC and NECO.
He also supported higher institutions in the State from which our school benefitted; he gave us N100m and pilots vehicles for security.
Additionally, he partnered with the Church in the improvement of infrastructure in the State in many sectors, one of the most glaring being in the area of healthcare delivery. Because of this partnership, major Church-owned hospitals and health institutions were rehabilitated beyond compare.
Obi also excels in inconspicuous philanthropy. He has assisted a great deal in bringing succor to the poor, building of Churches, scholarship awards, among others without making noise about them.
As the governor of Anambra State for eight years, not only the Church, but all men of goodwill are happy at the monumental turnaround of the State under him. Today Anambrarians are all proud of their State.
Many of his major achievements are intangibles, for example, the liquidation of arrears of pension owned State workers since 1999 to the tune of over 35 Billion Naira and the changing of the psyche of the people of the State.
Under Obi, Governance was almost brought down from its Olympian heights to the level were everybody felt the Government. He recognized that governance is all about serving God through serving the people and he lived this out throughout the period he was the Governor.
What more can I say? Happy Birthday, Odogwu Nwoke!!!