Nigeria, Awolowo, Peter Obi and 2023

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Peter Obi

Shadrach Alawode highlights the sterling qualities of the former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi

Nations that seek to be great must deliberately choose great men as leaders, otherwise, society stagnates or even worse, regresses. Greatness is about changing history. To be great is to have the most impact on the most number of people. To influence others positively. To cause a radical change for good.

I know the word ‘great’ is such a bastardized and jaded cliché nowadays. However, regardless of its terrible perversion, greatness is recognized when seen. Nobody can mistake an elephant for a rat. Only great men build great nations, for you cannot give what you don’t have. As the leaders are, so their nation and people. The collective spiritual, moral, economic and physical state of a nation is a reflection of the specie of its leadership.
All the great nations on earth today, at certain critical junctures in their existence have had the intervention of great men with extraordinary leadership skills and talents. America had George Washington, its first chosen president, who like David, assembled perhaps, the most capable, intellectually gifted and visionary group of men ever, in one cabinet, as his lieutenants. They’re called the Founding Fathers of America. Their creation is here to behold 245-years afterward and still counting.

Modern-day nation Israel had David Ben Gurion as its first Prime Minister. Turkey had Mustafa Kemal Attaturk. China had Mao Zedong. Britain had Thomas Cromwell, William Shakespeare, Winston Churchill, etc. South Africa had Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, and Nelson Mandela. Singapore had Lee Kuan Yew. North Korea had Kim ll Sung. South Korea had Park Chung Hee. Russia had Boris Yeltsin. I could go on and on. All these men had one thing in common; they built great nations.

Nigeria, at the outset, also had Ahmadu Bello, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo. Of Awolowo, Dim Chukwuemeka Ojukwu described him as “the best president Nigeria never had.” Among his peers and in his generation, Awolowo was simply incomparable as a social thinker and development strategist. He was a capable and competent leader and manager of men and resources. Tragically, however, the ‘gods’ of the land, ensured he never fulfilled his historic destiny. And generations of Nigerians are still paying the price for that tragedy.
But there is now another man. His name is Peter Obi.

I greatly admire Babatunde Raji Fashola. I also used to admire Nasir El Rufai (until he became Governor). But Peter Obi is in a class alone. I supported Atiku Abubakar in the 2019 elections essentially because he chose Peter Obi as running mate. Five key factors, among others, stand him out from the pack.

Personal Discipline – his personal lifestyle exemplifies the definition of discipline; His dress sense. His family, wife and children. His involvement in the financial sector as a director and chairman of a major bank. His exemplary record as governor of Anambra state. His comportment since leaving office. And so forth.

Leadership: I am here referring to demonstrable capacity to lead people and manage resources. I am speaking about ‘being there, done that’ What most of those who threw their hats into the presidential contest in 2019 had were mere fantasies. Most of these, otherwise decent and well-meaning Nigerians, had little or no verifiable experience in governance, not even at the local government level, yet aspired to be president. Mr. Obi has been governor of Anambra state and his stewardship remains the new watermark in transformational leadership and governance in Nigeria.

Intellect: He is brilliant without being academic (which can be boring), possesses a sound grasp of global finance, economy and governance. He is articulate and eloquent. It was the video of a speech he gave at the Platform in 2016 that I first gleaned of his stewardship as governor. Transformational leadership isn’t rocket science, except those who pretend it is so. Subsequent interventions at major fora, especially at the 2019 Vice Presidential debates sealed it for me.

Strong Moral Anchor: He is a man with a strong, almost steel-cast, moral convictions. Behind his humble persona and high-pitched voice is a fiercely principled man with a mind of steel. Mr. Obi’s rebuff of entreaties to pillage Anambra’s state’s resources as is the standard practice in that state and Nigeria’s governance manual, is still a reference for aspiring political leaders.

Team Builder: one of the defining attributes of great men is their ability to build great teams. Whatever their assignment, they proceed to identify and woo equally capable men such as themselves in their team. The reason why great men usually accomplish unimaginable feats that defy logic is in the quality and character of their team. A leader with team members who flatter and cajole is a failure from the start. In Anambra, Peter Obi assembled a team of capable men and women with a focus on the job and not publicity and showmanship!

There are many excellent and brilliant Nigerians, but to my mind, in terms of political leadership and governance that is guaranteed to cause maximum and lasting impact, none compares with Peter Obi in my estimation. I also believe it is fair and just to allow the Igbos produce the president in 2023. Among that ethnic group and at this critical historic juncture, Igbo’s best material is Peter Obi and they all must rally round and support him. Just imagine a Peter Obi/Babatunde Fashola Presidential pairing.

*Alawode writes from Abuja