AN ENCOUNTER WITH
GOVERNOR PETER OBI
The journey Agulu begun with a distress call from Mrs. Anulika Obienyem.
I have known her from my hay days in Abuja and she has been a faithful
friend. The message from the call was simple, “my father-in-law is dead.
We had to bury him immediately according to his wish.” I was dumbfounded
that the Igbo man could bury his deceased relation in record time. To
confirm this sad story, I got a call from Valentine Obienyem, Special
Assistant on Media and Publicity to Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State.
I have known Val. for over ten years, as far back as in our
undergraduate days in Lagos State University and a fraternal friendship
is still blossoming over since. I cancelled all my engagements to make
sure that I attend the final burial rites of his father, Ozo Bonaventure
Obienyem, who died at the age of 78. Apart from Val. being a reliable
friend in the university, my first child was actually conceived in his
house at Lugbe, Abuja.
Having put my relationship with Val in perspective; let me regale you
with the journey to his father’s burial that ended up in an
unforgettable encounter with the democratic phenomenon of Nigeria’s
democratic experience, Mr. Peter Obi.
I took off from Abuja my economic exiled base to Biafra (South East
Nigeria) and anchored in Owerri. The conversation in the bus was centred
on the marginalization of the Igbos in Nigeria, despite the”no victor no
vanquished” declaration by the Gowon administration at the end of the
30- month civil war. As an after thought, the passengers zoomed in on
the non-performance of the South-East governors. While these arguments
raged, all the passengers were in agreement that the Amanbra State
governor is in a class of his own and a trail blazer in the enforcement
of rule of law, firm belief in the due process and integrated approach
to development. Why wont he, I belched, after all it was the judiciary
that restored his stolen mandate. It should be remembered that Governor
Peter Obi ran through the judiciary gauntlet to reclaim his mandate
stolen by Dr. Chris Ngige of the PDP, after the former had spent 3 years
in office. Ever since Peter Obi regained his mandate, he has stuck to the rule of law and due process, with little regards to whose ox is
gored. Despite these pass mark given to Peter Obi in the bus, I still
remained a doubting Thomas. My pinch-of-salt faith in the accolades
showered on Peter Obi, sprang from the numerous newspaper advertorials by
governors, brandishing what they have done during the past one year. Yet
in their states, there is nothing to show for it. The dividends of
democracy and good governance to their people are on the pages of
newspapers and the crafty imagination of their image makers.
As though one passenger read my mind, I was reminded that the on going
stalemate with the PDP dominated state House of Assembly is nothing but
the governor’s stubbornness that the interest of the Anambra people must
prevail against party and selfish interest. With great skepticism about
reports from bush telegrams and Nigerian arm chair investigative
journalists, over the super performances of the governors, I proceeded
to Agulu via Ideato North.
To my greatest shock, the road from Urualla is as smooth as the
Abuja-Keffi road. When I passed my Alma Mater, St. John Chrysostom
Seminary Osina, pride swelled up to a bursting point in me. It was in
this school, under steady hands of Rev. Sam Ilo that my faith was
shaped. It was also there that my first baptism of rebellion was born. I
protested the forceful banning of vernacular by Mazi C.C. our form
master in Class 2B. I still have fresh memories of my brief stay in that
Akokwa to Ekwulobia was a pleasure to travel on and once in a long time,
I was proud of the South East roads. Another interesting observation was
the absence of bill boards advertising the governor. A trip round other
South-East states, in fact the whole federation, you will have the faces
of their governors welcoming you to squalor, unemployment and
insecurity. But that was not the case in Anambra. As we cruised across
the boarder of Imo and Anambra, no nuisance bill board was welcoming me
to Anambra. I started feeling there is something different about the
state. But my pride knew no bound when I got to Obe Village, Agulu, the
venue and Val’s village. There was electricity, which I understand has
been their since the seventies. One could feel the fresh air exhuming
from the green trees and virgin vegetation.
I was minding my beer, discussing Barack Obama’s half chance in
November, reinterpretation of Andy Uba’s empty mandate and the failure
of the opposition parties to challenge the foisting of Rotimi Amaechi at
the Rivers State Election Tribunal with Barrister Emeka Ikedigwe that I
paid no attention when the Governor’s presence was announced by the
master of ceremony. But when Peter Obi appeared, with little fanfare, my
pride did a somersault and at once I longed to be a governor in the
shoes of Peter Obi.
Peter Obi came with the most skeletal security out-fit I have seen in
modern times. Coming from Abuja, where a common minister intimidates
road users, it was a cultural shock for me to see a governor at close
range and his security details were not over -zealous, not wearing
Abacha-like goggles and scaring electorates. I cannot remember the last
time I was this at ease in the presence of security men.
To crown it all, Peter Obi ate in public glare. No special venue was
arranged for him to eat. This simplicity touched me that I could not
help but think, how better Nigeria will be if all governors will borrow
a leaf from Peter Obi, make themselves accessible and not build wall of
Jericho with Policemen around the governor. You may also wish to know
that the convoy used by Peter Obi had about four cars; there was no
dispatch rider or a lorry load of Mobile Policemen. The siren was not at
The governor mixed well with the people and was accessible to all who
wanted to chip a word into his ever listening ears. With a wide smile
and gentle voice the governor nodded to the praise singers and
cheerfully made himself available to all and sundry.
Despite the chants by praise singers, the governor did not spray money!
An assistant neatly thrust wads of Naira into the waiting hands of the
lead singer. I was taken aback, seeing this civilized behaviour. When I
become a governor or occupy any post, Peter Obi’s calm, humility, will
be a challenge to emulate.
I had to rouse myself from this spell and look for an Achilles’ hill of
this bewitching governor. Eureka! The roads. The road from Agulu to Obe,
needs a facelift. Though motorable, the gully erosion eating up the road
requires urgent attention. Apart from the Obe road, a good number of
tributaries off the Ekwulobia-Awka express road, need rehabilitation.
Toeing the foot step of Oga, the Commissioners that graced the occasion
where inconspicuous and moved around like “ordinary” citizens, which
made the people to see in them a true representative of the people. As I
write this, I am still dumb founded by this humility of Governor Peter
In order to find out if this was a fluke or his true nature, I engaged
Val in a tête-à-tête. But Val’s eulogy was too good to be true and I
dismissed it as a servant trying to justify his pay. What do I do? I
went into the field to find out an independent and unbiased report. The
people agreed with Val’s submission on the governor, that many of his
opponents think him weak because of his unusual humility; the governor
is indeed the rock of integrity and uncompromising believer in due
Public office holders should borrow a leaf from the tree of humility of
Governor Peter Obi. They should learn like him to make the people the
centre of their policies by seeking the entitlement of the people at all
times and not those of those in power already.
By Che Oyinatumba.
Che Oyinatumba, Abuja