OBI DESERVES THE ZIK PRIZE
I read with disappointment the offensive reaction of an unknown Igbo group to the Zik Prize for Leadership recently conferred on Anambra State Governor, Peter Obi as published in some national dailies. The story, 'Obi unworthy of Zik award' ascribed to a half anonymous Prince Orjiako, abused the Governor under the pretext of commenting on the said award.
Why didn't the author of the press statement provide his full names for possible identification of his person? Orjiako is a common name in Igboland; Prince is not a name but a casual title. No other information is provided for authenticating the identity of this pseudo analyst who spares no punches in trying to knock down the award.
For the avoidance of doubt, let us consider what was presented as the basis of Obi's supposed unsuitability for the Zik Prize. 'Ordinarily, nobody would have bothered about Peter Obi and his dead-on-arrival 2015 vice presidential ambition, which is now pushing him into doing all sorts of things, including the abomination of acquiring a Zik award, but it is important to buttress that Peter Obi is not worthy of a Zik award. Obi has never hidden his hatred, lack of respect and opposition to Zik, even in his grave….
Obi has never spoken up or led any action to ensure the completion of the abandoned Zik's mausoleum.'
It is easy enough to see that the above is irrelevant to the considerations for the award of the prize. The above criticism is trite and petty. It indicates the frustrations of someone suffering sleeplessness over another's successes. But the problem goes beyond narrow-mindedness. The criticism is founded on falsehood and distortions.
Governor Peter Obi has never spoken of a vice presidential ambition or indeed about any other political ambition after his governorship assignment. He is presently busy meeting the challenges of good governance in Anambra State. He has not said or done anything to suggest a future political interest. Some of his friends and associates even say that Obi would return to the private sector when he completes his tenure in 2014. The far-fetched reference to a vice presidential ambition is obviously an attempt to embarrass the Governor. This scheme is betrayed by the spiteful accusation and choice of language in the statement 'which is now pushing him into doing all sorts of things, including the abomination of acquiring the Zik Prize.'
Obi has received honours and awards from reputable organizations since 2007. Was he nursing a senatorial or presidential ambition then? Peter Obi, I dare say, has rejected honours more than any other Governor in Nigeria today. As the saying goes, there are awards and there are awards. The Anambra first citizen would prefer that all recognitions for him be deferred to the end of his tenure to avoid distractions from the task at hand and the imputation of motives into the honours. But his leadership accomplishments follow him wherever he goes and there is no hiding place for him. Rejecting every award might portray him as proud and aloof so in the case of more credible bodies, he is compelled to make exceptions to the rule.
The contention that 'Peter Obi is not worthy of a Zik award' underscores the huge ignorance about the concept of the award or the mischief behind the opposition. Did the shadowy critic of the conferment care to read the citation upon which the merits of the award were eloquently highlighted? In any case, the purport of the Zik Prize in Leadership ought to be self explanatory. It seeks to elevate the quality of leadership in Africa by recognizing those who have demonstrated vision, service and integrity in leadership.
The award represents an effort to encourage statesmanship in and out of public office. That is why the award went to outstanding leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Julius Nyerere, Salim Ahmed Salim, Sam Nujoma and Jerry Rawlings in the past. They were not honoured for declaring that they loved the late Nnamdi Azikiwe or for going to sweep his compound at Onitsha every morning.
Obi's exploits in Anambra, and at regional and national levels are too well known to be recounted here. But suffice it to say that this is a man who brought Anambra back from the brink of a failed state to one of the most peaceful, stable and fastest developing states in Nigeria today. For the past five years he has headed the South-East Governors' Forum to the satisfaction of his brother-governors. In clear expression of wider confidence in his abilities, Obi had gone on to become vice chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum and economic adviser to the President.
In the face of Obi's qualification for the Prize, the proponents of the report then resorted to the lie that he 'has never hidden his hatred, lack of respect and opposition to Zik, even in his grave.' Why are we not given instances of this? The intensifier, even in his grave, implies that this ill feeling for Zik started before his death. Yet, Obi came into politics only in 2002 by which time the great Zik had long departed.
Was it then as a student that Obi was engaged in this cold war with Zik? Governor Obi as someone who understands the essence of leadership has never failed to pay compliment to Zik as one of Nigeria's founding fathers. Whenever he sees need to illustrate Anambra's gift of human resources, the Governor would mention Zik first. And to be sure, Zik was honoured at the celebration of the state's 20th anniversary in August 2011.
It is also not true that Governor Obi has been unconcerned about the completion of Zik's mausoleum.
This is a federal government project but through memos and physical representations the Governor has severally pleaded for reactivation of the project. It is on record that it was through the Governor's persistent engagement with the federal authorities that contract was recently awarded for the rehabilitation of Boromeo - Bridgehead road that passes in front of Zik's residence.
Afuba writes from Nimo.