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No one can undo the legacy of former Anambra State governor, Mr. Peter Obi, writes Agusiobo Oby
On the 1st of October, 2016, the immediate past Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi was among the speakers at The Platform, an annual event organised by the Covenant Church, in Iganmu, Lagos. Having served as a Permanent Secretary in the state, it was a pleasure for me to listen to him, as several other Nigerians did.
In his characteristic manner, he spoke extempore and with candour. Indeed, he has been consistent in his focus on prudent management of public resources since his advent into politics. As has been widely reported, his presentation hit the information highway with a resounding note of a new code of conduct for the political class.
As commendations have come from within and outside the country, a discordant flurry of tirades emerged from a particular source, which is very uncomfortable with any mention of Peter Obi.
However, the hard fact is that the man simply spoke about his tenure in governance, with main reference to resource management for optimum results, which he achieved in grand style. The unfolding vista is one of a model for public service towards the meaningful development of our society. The salient points of his presentation at The Platform are unambiguous:
He had a word for the youth: “To you young people, take back your Country…it is your future they are toying with”.
On the varied ways he reduced the cost of governance, provided services to the people and generated savings now valued at over N180 billion: “I reduced my convoy to 5 vehicles and you cannot buy fuel unless I am in the car. If I sleep in a hotel and have to pay N250k a night, I will be awake all night … feeling like I was robbed. I had to stop the Presidential Lodge in Anambra – a project awarded at N400 million. I had to close down State House (Governor’s Lodge) in Lagos and Abuja, because I felt we don’t need them even when other states had.
“When they said President Olusegun Obasanjo was coming, I went to borrow the kind of cars they wanted from a neigbouring state instead of spending millions to buy one. Since they said he must sleep over, I asked my wife to pack out of our bedroom. We went opposite to lodge in a hotel for the week … we paid N30,000 instead of N100,000.”
On how he was able to buy vehicles for senior civil servants, he said “I used the N150 million budgeted for two bullet-proof cars to buy almost 50 Peugeot cars at N3 million each … gave 17 to Judges, 18 to Permanent Secretaries (whom I discovered did not have cars) and kept 10 for Government House. I used one as Governor in my first tenure.”
On the manner he restructured his security architecture to save money for the state, hear him: “Instead of paying N30,000 for each security personnel per night in Abuja, I told the Inspector-General of Police to give me Police whenever I am in Abuja … I travelled alone. The 15 drivers lodged in Abuja State House, who come to airport to cause confusion, I asked to go and kept only 3 – the others to go back to Awka or look for job in Abuja … I asked the cook to go back to Awka”.
Obi also spoke on his guiding principle on relationship with the elite of the state: “You know there are many big men in Anambra State, so when they want to see me, I say to them ‘I will come to you instead”.
Dwelling on the penchant of many people in authority to promote Epicurean life-style, he released the thunder: “Government Lodge is neither a tavern nor a beer palour.”
In being able to provide enduring social services, he exhibited the true fear of God and treated the Church as partners-in-progress. The outcomes attracted tremendous accolades and goodwill for the State: “We handed schools back to Churches and by 2013, we were number one in WAEC. We worked with the Church and were able to rebuild the healthcare sector such that from a state without any accredited health institution, we got accreditation for 12 health institutions before I left, including building a brand new teaching hospital in the state”.
If majority of those in authority had adopted prudent management of available resources like the Obi administration bequeathed to Anambra State, Nigeria would not have been so hard-hit by the current recession.
We cannot deny Peter Obi the moral authority to assert that: “The only way out of recession is to spend for growth. You can only spend for growth either from savings or from borrowing. The question is: ‘what are you borrowing for? Are you borrowing for consumption or for production?’ When you borrow for consumption, you are heading for disaster”.
Peter Obi’s parting shot was succinct, with a sobering effect on men and women of goodwill: “I beg you to participate more in politics, the society we help them abuse today will take its revenge tomorrow”.
In a span of three weeks or so, the said flurry of discordant tirades has appeared in some media. Included here are Olawale Olaleye’s Peter Obi’s Basket Ideology (THISDAY, October 7, 2016); Udodi Amalunwaeze’s What’s Peter Obi’s Legacy (THISDAY, October 21); John Chuks Onuanyim’s Beyond the Prudency Claim (New Telegraph, October 25) and David-Chyddy Eleke’s Obi’s Ideology and the Debate After (THISDAY, October 26).
They all took their bearing from the infantile press release of one Mr. Ben Obi (self-styled Mbuze Agulu), who should not be confused with the accomplished Senator Ben Obi.
Olawale Olaleye and Others referred to the said Ben Obi as the former Special Assistant to Mr. Peter Obi, but he is the incumbent Senior Special Assistant to Governor Willie Obiano on Inter-Party Relations. Even as over 95 per cent of those connected to Peter Obi were relieved of their public appointments, SSA Ben Obi and a few others were retained clearly for hatchet jobs and nuisance value.
Among his blustering claims in the press release are that Peter Obi was owing contractors; increased funding for Government House kitchen from N2 million to N7 million; sacked all the cooks & employed over 30 replacements from Awka Ibom State; used beverages as gifts; built a Helipad in Government House; travelled by Helicopter; repatriated N250 million to Lagos State under the guise of Legacy Motors; and received – but did not distribute – campaign funds from the then NSA, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd.).
Mbuze SSA Ben Obi’s Government-issue press release also accused Peter Obi of having a love child, while his sister (a Revd. Sister) was allegedly dismissed by her congregation that prompted her to relocate to Congo. This piece of inanity was published in Sun, Vanguard and Punch even as Anambra State Broadcasting Service made a song of it.
In the first instance, it is appalling that such infantile invectives could be approved as a Government press release. A look at the claims across board gives the impression that some persons were high on some hard stuff or the other: How many kitchens did State Government House under Obi had and how would 30 cooks fit in? Investigation of the funds allocated to Colonel Dasuki is on-going and Peter Obi is very much around.
As senior civil servants, I and my colleagues were in Government House quite a number of times, and if there was a helipad in the premises, it must have disappeared each time we showed up. What I recall is that the Obi administration engaged the use of a Nigerian Army Helicopter to reach the areas most affected by the devastating floods of 2012, including Ogbaru, Anambra East & Anambra West LGAs. Obi’s Siter (Rev.), contrary to their lies, is still with her congregation and was never disciplined for any reason. The hard-working Rev. Sister, going by her achievements on education sector, was once sent on routine transfers to Zambia and Cameroon to set up schools in those countries. She has never been to Congo.
Udodi Amalunwaeze’s What’s Peter Obi’s Legacy reeked of incongruity: “Peter Obi did not build a Stadium and university; the roads and State Secretariat he constructed are falling apart; he did not leave over N75 billion in the coffers, but the Dollar savings are intact. Obiano paid billions on inherited projects,” and so on and so forth.
By his own admission, Peter Obi built roads and a State Secretariat, started projects and bequeathed Dollar savings. Again, does Amalunwaeze know that Anambra State was adjudged to have the best road network in the country during Peter Obi’s tenure? Does he also realise that roads have a life-span and should be maintained, failure of which they would ‘fall apart’?
As part of Government, I knew that Anambra contractors were required to maintain any roads they built that deteriorated before five years. I understand the task is no longer possible as contractors are owed billions of Naira.
The Obi administration built the first Secretariat for the state, accommodating some 90 per cent of the State Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). Before then, they were operating from rented buildings at an annual cost of over N50 million per annum. As at today, the Secretariat is functional and is serving the state.
It was Obi that attracted the federal government to start building the Federal Secretariat in the areas. Not far from the area is the Federal High Court, which Obi attracted to the state. What should be the concern of Anambra people today is whether projects are still being attracted to the state and their names.
Coming from a government source, it is wrong to lead a people by propaganda and deceit. The Obi administration made its savings public and named the lodgment banks. Over the two years in the Obiano tenure, none of the bank has issued a Disclaimer.
It is also imperative to confirm that the Dollar components of the savings are intact, as SSA Ben Obi and their hatchet writers were made to state. It is interesting that many newspapers published the sale of parts of the savings. I am aware the state government did not refute the publications as should have been the case if they lied.
Government is in perpetuity and always inheriting projects – especially people-oriented ones – it is not an issue of dire concern. The Obi administration had a practice of paying contractors with certificates of job completion and maintained that policy throughout his tenure. As at today, no contractor with such certificate has come up to state that the Obi administration did not pay him/her. Meanwhile, the present Government has been variously challenged to publish certificates Obi did not pay for.
On the Obi administration’s assumption of office, Anambra State Government did not possess a sports centre worth its name. The administration initiated and completed mini-stadia in Onitsha North and Onitsha South LGAs, and commenced the construction of a stadium in Awka, which has been abandoned by his successor.
I really do not understand what the writer means when he wrote that Obi did not build a stadium and University. When Obi became Governor, Anambra had no single playing ground, it was Obi who started and completed the two mini stadia at Onitsha North and South. The one he started at Awka is now abandoned.
He did not have to build a new University because he met an existing, struggling one and it is on record that the structures he built in those universities are more than what previous governments built put together. One of his last acts was the presentation of 5 Billion Naira to the University for Continued Development out of which 3 Billion was the grant he attracted through his friendship with the federal government.
On Uli campus of the University, he was the one that built the Engineering workshop; Block 1 and 2 of the Faculty of Engineering and the Environmental Sciences; Department of Geology building; Department of Anatomy; E-learning and staff centre; Department of Architecture; Laboratories. He did the roads to both campuses of the University at Uli and Igbariam, as well as the road to Nwafor Orizu College of Education, Nsugbe.
He fenced the massive Igbariam campus and started its permanent development and built about 9 major buildings there including the Faculty of Law, Administrative Block, Mass Communication Complex, Admin/Marketing Block of the Department of Business Administration, Faculty of Agriculture, Hostels, Faculty of Management Sciences (ongoing). Obi also attracted the building of the Auditorium and 250 CBN sponsored Male Hostel and another 250 Bed Hostels for female. He did internal roads of the place as it is now.
At Nwafor Orizu, Obi did the Department of English and Literary studies, School Auditorium, Staff offices, and a new Student’s Hostel. He also renovated all the old buildings in the school. Obi build 10 new building at the School of Agriculture, Mgbakwu. Realising that privately owned higher institutions in the state trains the people, he provided them with various sums of money for specific projects. Thus, Madonna University, Paul University, Tansian University, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, received 100 Million naira each as well as buses and security vehicles.
In Primary and secondary school levels, he performed beyond comparison. His return of school to the Church and release of Billions of Naira to them for the rehabilitation of the schools has been adjudged by the World Bank as a functional model. Before him, Anambra came 26th in external examination among other states, by the time he left Anambra came 1st for three consecutive years. In the past two years, it has starting sliding again. He also provided computers, generators, Internet connectivity, Microsoft academies, sick bays, buses, libraries in all the schools in the State.
Mr. Udodi also talked about Obi’s roads being substandard. Whoever has been to Anambra should pry Old Nkpor-Awka road, Head Bridge to New Parts, Ukwulu road, Awkuzu-University Road, Nkwele Ezunaka road, Obeledu-Igboukwu road, Mmili John, among others and the person will discover that they were built according to the highest standards. Some road are of less quality because the business.
In any case roads built by Obi are all guaranteed for at least five years, during which it failed, the contractor would maintain it’ I understand most of them do not do it now alleging that that the Governor is owing them so much to fulfill that part of their contracts. In any case, roads are continuously being maintained all over the world.
Since creation, Anambra State had no State Secretariat and Obi built one. Before them, Ministries in the state had offices in different parts of the state and annual rent was over 50 Million. Today, 90% of ministries are quartered there and somebody’s compliment is that the building is falling apart. Even the on-going Federal Secretariat was attracted by Obi to the state, as well as the Federal High Court that is close by.
In the write up by Wale Olalaye, he spent time on security in Anambra State. It is only those not in the state that may not know that Obi was the one who laid the foundation of security we are enjoying in the state today. He provided over 600 Vehicles to security agencies, fenced the Barracks at Onitsha, attracted the Naval outpost at Odekpe and gave them money to take off, paid vigilante in all the communities in Anambra State, bought security vehicles for all the communities and some institutions. He started the demolition of kidnappers’ den.
By the time he left, Anambra State did not experience any bank robbery for 5 years. Obi did so well for Anambra State and that is universally acknowledged. To write otherwise because one has been suborned is to do grievous harm to Anambra State and humanity.
-Oby, a retired Permanent Secretary, wrote from Anambra