A man who came far ahead of his generation.
One of the most touching speeches Chief Peter Obi, CON, ever made was at a gathering of Ndi Igbo at a secluded conference hall somewhere in Kofo Abayomi Crescent in Victoria Island, Lagos.
When the first rumour of his dumping APGA for PDP became so rife that it was almost a 'known secret', representatives of all Igbo communities in Lagos organized a meeting to hear from the 'horse's mouth'. Prof Anya I. Anya was the chairman of that occasion that had a very select few. My colleague, Chukwuka Emelionwu(Kasvid) and I were privileged to be amongst the 33 people that put their names on the attendance roster.
Okwute Ndi Igbo flew in from Abuja after a meeting and entered the hall in company of then BOT Chairman of APGA, Dr. Tim Menakaya, Chief Okey Ezibe and few others. Of course, the indefatigable media aide, Val Obienyem and ever present protocol lady we simply call Ngozi were with His Excellency.
The hall was so structured to need that Okwute needed no microphone for his address. He entertained questions from whomever had any, lumped them together and set out for an unforgettable series of responses.
First, he made it clear that he was not leaving APGA for any other party, which was the main focus of the enquiries. He sounded it loud and clear again that he was done with seeking political mandates once he was done with Anambra State governance. He said running the affairs of Anambra was like shaving a widely awake bearded hungry lion with bare hands. While we all chuckled, he added that whoever could go through such ordeal for eight grueling years needed a good rest and he wasn't going to be an exception.
He then went into the thrust of his eloquent speech. He called on Igbos to understand modern Nigerian politics for their own good. He educated that any South Easterner's political party must henceforth be Igbo's Welfare Party … where the sole objective must be the general good of Igbo tribe. He said though it is normal to seek political mandates via different party platforms that once electioneering was over, all the winners and losers must henceforth join hands for the good of the region. He sighted an example where the President needed his advice, as the then Chairman of South East Governor's Forum, on a very important committee about to be set up for a very urgent assignment. The committee must be headed by a South East senator. Chief Obi informed he didn't waste time to tell the President to use Dr Chris Ngige.
A huge silence epitomized the surprise from listeners, knowing fully the 'war' he went through with same white-bearded senator during his gubernatorial re-election that same Ngige extended to the courts. Seeing the shocked faces, Obi grinned and continued…he said, yes…that of all then serving South East senators that Onwa was the most experienced and capable of handling such important committee. That whatever he went through with him didn't stop him from presenting one who stood the best chance to not only do a good job for country but also represent his zone well in the circumstances.
While applause followed his humble explanation, he continued. He said that since we had a president, who was a very committed man that was interested in not denying any zone their due that the Igbos must be united in their demands such that when an opportunity to grab our due called, bickering wouldn't disrupt or even deny such chance. He warned that carrying over electioneering feuds had countlessly denied Ndi Igbo of their due share in a country they contribute no less than any other political zone to build.
He paused to point out that his interest had never been to challenge or attempt to deny any zone their due share but has always focused on making certain that whatever was due his own zone and state were not denied them. He said if the FG approves a groundnut brewery in Kano that he wouldn't blink to ask that a palm kernel brewery be equally approved in Umuahia or a cassava brewery be approved in Ozubulu. But that he would always raise an eyebrow when the FG contemplates setting up a cassava company in Maiduguri and won't hesitate to call it a waste to set up a groundnut farm in Enugu.
He lectured that as long as no Igbo son or daughter is committing any crime or constitutional wrong that it is very important that we ask of our own share at every table. He said, he never believed in firing shots or unnecessarily engineering quarrels or name-callings to get his demands across but that at all meetings in Abuja that he always presented his case with well-articulated dialogue of facts and reason. He cited an example where he made a case to the President via the committee that Nigeria would be setting a wrong example if the FG imported thousands of vehicles via SURE-P to ease transport when INNOSON Motors manufactured very good buses in Nigeria. How then could the President urge Nigerians to patronize their own? How then would investors think Nigeria? He informed that this intervention prompted the President's approval to go for Innoson Motors. There were many cases he mentioned as well.
He lamented that some Igbo sons and daughters that do get the chance at the centre go the unfortunate side of self aggrandisement when, in fact, their vigorous pursuit should be what is due their political zone. He strongly called that the sitting president needed Igbo support since he is the first president who has never denied the South East their due instead of the premature call to challenge for Igbo presidency when the man's tenure has not elapsed. There were many glaring truths he uncovered in this regard.
Today, almost three and a half years after, I've observed Chief Obi closely and he's yet to deviate from those solid stances and promises. He may not have gone into retirement yet as he wished but I'm sure he is being strongly prevailed to hang on. He's still a member of the Presidential Committee on Finance and Economic planning. He is still daily invited for speeches, lectures at forums signifying nation building and the Igbo agenda. He is still invited to present papers on ways forward in Nigeria's Education sector. He will still be invited when it's time to call on Infrastructure, Commerce and Industry, Road Networking, Health, Politics Without Bitterness and of course invited daily to speak on PRUDENCE and SELF DISCIPLINE in all spheres of governance.
So, if this man, who has not been called names by anyone outside some mischief makers in Anambra since he left office, is being sought after from all corners to impact on his astounding knowledge while he served Anambra State, why is the same state he served selflessly seemingly not making any effort to tap from same man? A case of a prophet not revered in his very home? Probably.