Old things have passed away: Former Anambra gov, Peter Obi (left) and his successor, Willie Obiano. Things have fallen apart.
Former Anambra State governor, Peter Obi, has finally broken the ice on his relationship with his successor, Willie Obiano, in an interview made available to Fides.
Sir, how is the campaign going?
Going on very well. Electioneering is tough, especially in our country where truth is in short supply.
As somebody who has gone through elections, I often tell people to restrict their promises during election to what is realistic. In essence I always advocate for respect for the truth.
I read Cicero's ''Manual of Electioneering'' written for his relation called Quintus. Cicero advised him to tell lies about his opponent and to even invent scandals - this is what I see in Anambra State.
I am at the centre of the campaign - campaigning for the PDP candidate. Every day, they invent stories about me. They sponsored people to make comments about 7 billion Naira, when it appeared it was not working, the man in question said it himself. You are left to wonder the extent people will go because of election.
As someone campaigning for my party, I have restricted myself to the truth and I will continue to do so. Every statement I make to buttress the need for a change in the governance of Anambra is the truth. All you hear me say about the money I left, the accruals, total absence of projects, my savings, are all verifiable.
Sir, you mentioned the money you left. As the issue is becoming controversial, could you tell us all about that?
There is nothing controversial about it. Some people are deliberately introducing controversy where none exists.
All my life, I have managed money. I started business early in life, right from my primary school. By the time I got to the university, I was already travelling outside the country for business. Even as a student, other students gave me money to hold for them, because they knew that with me, their money was secure.
Whether in business or government, my attitude to money remains essentially one: prudence.
Now to your question of how much I left. On the 17th of March, 2014 that I left office, I left a total of N25 billion cash in different banks; another N23,600,000,000, normally called set aside funds to execute some projects already identified, or to finish critical projects already on. It was part of the two-year salary for the last set of civil servants we recruited - we did so in order not to encumber the new governor. Ironically, because these funds were tied to specific projects like the Amawbia to Amansea, NYSC Main Office at Umuawulu/Mbaukwu, the hotels and malls. We also had critical projects like the Three Arms Zone, which included Governor's Lodge. We did not include them in our hand over note.
So if you are talking about the total Naira I left, it is actually money: N48, 600,000,000. I will give you the breakdown of all the banks. (He produces documents showing all the banks, account names, banks and certified bank statements.)
In dollar component, I left $156 million. We had $56 million in Fidelity Bank; $50 million in Access Bank and $50 in Diamond Bank. Today, going by current dollar rate, the accruals and others, the money is about 200 billion Naira.
And these are not money that were left in foreign banks. Journalists should verify this. That's why I laugh whenever they try to tell plain lies.
We laid a solid foundation for my successor to start strongly. Let me give you an example: towards the end of our government, we decided to build the new three arms zone, comprising the lodge, legislative building and the judiciary. We awarded the contract at 8 billion, and paid 2 billion Naira. We awarded and commenced some roads, paid mobilisation and left my predecessor to perform their flag-off.
We also did a lot of ground work in our relationship with the Federal Government in different ways. We, for instance, commenced the road work from Head Bridge to Umunya, after obtaining the written permission of the Federal Government to pay us back. After that portion, we got the permission to do Amawbia Junction to Amansea, which I started. Part of the plan was to do Amawbia Junction to Umunya and the entire express is completed. We are not losing anything since we will be paid back.
There is also the dualization of a road that we call 'Three-Three' (Onitsha to Otuocha Junction.) These were some of the roads we set aside money for, among other things.
Sir one of the things your successor said is that you left him a debt of 127 billion Naira, how true is that?
The day I left office, I did not have any unpaid certificate of work that had been executed. I did not have any certificate of supply that was delivered and was not paid for. As an accountant, I expect him to know that contracts are not debt until executed. Let him explain to the people that he included contracts yet to be executed.
When I became Governor in 2006, Dr. Chris Ngige had awarded the reconstruction of Zik's Avenue – the major road in Awka; and a lot of other roads. These were ongoing projects. Because he paid for all the certificates generated, I did not say, based on the contracts unexecuted, that he left me with debts. No contractor came to me that Ngige was owing him. Likewise, ask the (present) governor to tell you how many contractors that came to complain that Peter Obi owed them.
The biggest contractors we had when I was in office were RCC and IDC; go and ask them if I owed them. Our biggest supplier was Innoson, Coscharis and HP. In each case, I paid them in advance. I bought over 1000 vehicles from Innoson and paid him at least six months to one year (ahead) before he supplied me one; the same with HP.
As governor, I had a dedicated amount I shared among contractors once allocation came. That was why, under me, work went on non-stop.
Immediately my predecessor was elected, I explained all this to him in the hope that if he got it right, Anambra State would be the ultimate beneficiary. I even took him to all the international partners working for us. Ironically, it was Mr. Oseloka Obaze, using his international contacts, that connected us to most of them. We went to the World Bank, DFID, UN, JICA, EU, UNDP. In fact I explained to him our relationship with the UNDP, how I allowed them to use our Lodge as office after the attack on their office and how the state had benefitted many fold. Surprisingly, one of the first things he did was to issue UNDP with a quit notice.
I am trying to recall all this to show you how well we meant for the success of the governor. Rather than face governance, he is peddling falsehood against me, including the accusation that I bequeathed debt to him. Ask the governor to give you the schedule of those debts.
What is happening shows the quality they've reduced governance to in my state today. It shouldn't be. It's like a situation where they say their government was able to export vegetables worth $5 million. Where was that vegetable produced? What was the refrigeration process? Where is the documentation process? It is like my government saying they are exporting rice? You saw the president on October 1, thanking states that are producing rice, he did not even include Anambra State that is now, according to the Governor, a net exporter of rice. They say they had an order to export ten million tubers of yam, but everybody knows that in Anambra State, most of the yams we eat come from Benue and Taraba States.
I think what is happening is that in the absence of executed projects to use to campaign, as Cicero advised Quintus, they are inventing lies and dressing them as truths. Have you asked yourself why all this controversy about the money I left now that there is an election?
Nigerians are surprised at what is happening today, considering the vigorous campaign you did for him in 2013?
If you have interacted with human beings, you would have known enough of some of them to be shocked over what they do. I read Philosophy and I know about Blaise Paschal, who, in his book called ''Penses'', described man as a chimera, an animal in Greek Mythology that has two heads. He is an angel in one and a brute in the other. Such contradiction is what we see among human beings.
Yes, I campaigned vigorously for him and everywhere I went with him, they asked me this question. I told them he would perform and if he did not, I would be the number one person to campaign against him.
How much of Obiano did you know before promoting his candidacy?
I met Obiano in the bank. I was a bank director and bank chairman. The relationship between a bank director/chairman and someone who works in a bank is not close. However, we knew each other. And I believe that if someone has risen to a certain level in life, there is at least a minimum standard of behaviour you can expect from him. For example, when I went in there, I was looking at where I was coming from and the things I wouldn't do. When I was being impeached, I remember some prominent Anambra people were telling me to do some things, but I declined. I don't want to do things that in future I will regret.
Sir, how would you react to the claim by Obiano that you demanded 7.5 billion from him?
This is another regrettable lie. On 23rd December, 2016, he came to my house for the first time since he became governor. He came with an ordained bishop to plead for reconciliation and to ask for my support for his re-election bid. There, I asked him about the 7.5 billion and he said it did not come from him, that he only heard it from people. Now he is the one saying it. I'm sure the bishop will be listening to us. And other people who have been in the same meeting with him and I where I have reiterated that I do not want any kobo from him, will know that I have never, on my own honour, asked Obiano to pay me money. I have not even been paid my severance allowance since I left office, which I am entitled to. I just told you what I left in office. Nobody has ever left one dollar. If I was desperate, I could have comfortably taken just $30 million and it will remain $126 million. Nobody on earth will leave money and go and beg the person he left the money for to give him some.
Because I made it clear to him that I would support my party, and perhaps being told that my support was critical, they have now resorted to blackmail. They are doing violence to themselves because Nigerians will be reading in between the lines and will know who to trust and who to deal with in future. It is unfortunate.
Beyond the alleged falsehoods, what other issues do you have with Obiano?
I don't have any issue with Mr. Obiano. I have issues with Governor Obiano. Whatever issues we have, I have forgiven him. But for Governor Obiano, he has turned governance into what it should not be. You've been reading wonderful things in the newspapers, but let Governor Obiano invite you to Anambra. When I was going for second tenure, I invited journalists three months to election and we toured all the projects we were doing and the investments we had attracted. Governor Obiano has attracted $7.8 billion worth of foreign investment, can you people come and inspect those yam fields where we are going to get 10 million yams, or the Ugu field, or the rice field, or where those investments are?
New alliances: Fmr Vice President, Alex Ekwueme, is flanked on his right by Obi and on his left by Obaze.
What role did you play towards the emergence of Obiano?
I don't want to go about how he emerged. He has emerged and did not perform, let somebody else try it. It's just that in this country, so many people have emerged and they did not deliver. Even in the first world, people have emerged and they did not perform and they were asked to go.
Don't you think he has the Power of Incumbency to his advantage?
I'm not going to rig the elections. I have never done it before. I am only going to tell Anambra people to ask for what Obiano did in the past four years as a basis for his re-election or being voted out. How many roads did he do? Even in his own senatorial zone, in a local government called Ayamelum, in my first tenure, I constructed 43 kilometres of road. Today, a town called Umumbo, you can't go there. After Ayamelum is his own local government where I constructed lots of roads. I did Nsugbe Road. I also did Nkwele Ezunaka Bypass. Apart from Aguleri, his own town, let him tell you which town he has successfully completed two kilometres of road. In another local government in the same north, the next local government is Anambra West, I started reconstruction of Anam to Mmiata in my first tenure. If you leave Anambra West, the next local government is Oyi. There, I did Awkuzu and many other roads. The next one is Onitsha North. In my first tenure, I did Awka Road, New Market, Old Market, Enugu Road, Marine, New Cemetery, and Uguta Roads; I can go on and on. In Onitsha South, the next one, I did Sokoto, Creek Road, Uga, Haruna, Port Harcourt Road, and then constructed Head Bridge to Upper Iweka, all in in my first tenure. From there you enter a local government called Ogbaru; I constructed the Harbour Industrial Estate where you have all our industries. One can go on and on.
Apart from roads, in education, I returned schools to the Church and if you go there, most of the schools have two buses. I gave them one in the first tenure and one in the second tenure. And this cut across schools around there. You can go and verify. I also provided them with computers, boreholes, Internet connectivity, generators, among others.
So, let Obiano tell the people the one he did that requires him to come back. Let him say how many schools that he was able to give buses.
What we have today is that if you ask him the roads he constructed, he will answer Peter Obi demanded this; ask him the school improved, he will say Peter Obi that. Ask him his manifesto, he will say Peter Obi only left "near cash."
How would you assess the APC candidate?
I'm not in APC. APC has a candidate who I believe is doing his own bit of campaigning. We have a candidate whom I have worked with and know very well and I am supporting him.
Sir, who provided security in Anambra is being contested, what can you say about that?
Whatever is good for the State gives me joy. As far as I am concerned, the person that did it does not matter.
When Obiano was coming in, it was me who told him that we had put in so much energy on the security issue, and that we had done tremendous work which he could take advantage of by building on what we had done. I told him that the monies we were leaving, he could use them to start strong. For example, the federal government gave us $2 billion to fight erosion. I left it for him. Within his 100 days in office, he invited MD Abubakar, the then IG, to come and take control of 50 vehicles he said he bought for police. On that occasion, MD Abubakar told him that Anambra had done well in security, that under Peter Obi in five years, they'd never had any bank robbery, which was constant when I was there. Go and ask people like the Archbishop of the Methodist Church in Umuahia about security when I came. When I came on board, Onitsha was taken over. Go and read the interviews of Commissioner Bello who came with me when I arrived. He decided to bring in the best team. They came to Lagos here and took Haruna, who was then DC operations, took Bello who was then next in line, to Anambra. That's where we started. Go and read the interviews of security experts who knew about the Anambra situation when I was there. Their conclusion is that what is being enjoyed today in Anambra is built on a foundation laid by Peter Obi. I did not only buy over 600 vehicles for security agents, I bought Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) and Armoured Patrol vehicles and other advanced security gadgets.
It was me that went to the late Yar'Adua to give me permission and support to fence the Army Barracks in Onitsha. These are things I did in my first tenure. I came when the issue was so critical that criminals with known names were coming and operating. I fought them to a standstill. Even Evans said I was the one who chased him out of Onitsha. But what I told the security officials was that I did not want our success to become news. Because, if you are doing the right thing, you don't have to make noise. The people will feel the success.