A former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi said his decision to throw his weight behind the candidature of Oseloka Obaze of the Peoples Democratic Party against his former ally Willie Obiano stemmed from the fact that the incumbent governor has not performed creditably on the job. He spoke to Politics Editors in Lagos. Tobi Soniyi was there and presents the excerpts:
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’s candidate. Everyday, they invent stories about me. They sponsored people to make comment about N7 billion, when it appeared it was not working, the man in question said it to himself. You are left to wonder the extent people will go because of election.
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 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 secured.
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 and 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 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, malls. We also had critical projects like the Three Arms Zone, which included Governors Lodge. we did not include them in our hand over note.
So if you are talking about total naira I left, it is actually money N48,600,000,000. I will give you the breakdown of all the banks.
In US dollar component, I left $156 million. We had it $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 N200 billion. 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 strong. Let me give you an example, toward 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 N8 billion, and paid N2 billion. 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 roadwork 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 dualisation 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 N127 billion 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 that was not paid for. As an accountant I expect him to know that contracts are not debt until executed. He was just trying to confuse the people through half truths. 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 governor to tell you how many contractors that came to complain that Peter Obi was owing 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 were 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 before he supplied me one; the same with HP.
As governor, I had 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 these 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, after I allowed them to use our Lodge as office after the attack on their office and how the state had benefited many folds. 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 falsehoods against me, including the accusation I bequeathed debt to him. Ask the governor to give you the schedule of those debts.
What is happening show the quality they’ve reduced governance to in my state today. It shouldn’t be. It’s like a situation where they say my 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 fovernor, a net exporter of rice. My government say they had 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.
In the absence of executed projects to use to campaign, as Cicero advised Quintus, they are inventing lies and dressing them as truth.
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 had 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.
Sir, how would you react to the claim by Obiano that you demanded N7.5 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 N7.5 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, he now resorted to blackmail. He is doing violence to himself because Nigerians will be reading in between lines and will know who to trust and who to deal with in future. It is unfortunate.
Beyond the falsehoods, what other issues do you have with Obiano?
I don’t have any issue with Mr. Obiano. I have issues with Governor Obiano. What ever issue 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 newspaper, 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.
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?
Nobody on earth will leave money and go and beg the person he left the money for to give him some.