Former Anambra State governor, Peter Obi is currently waging a political battle. Some people are pelting him with some allegations. Curiously, the missiles are coming from some members of his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and, of course, other parties in the state. In this interview with IHEANACHO NWOSU in Abuja, the former governor spoke on the ripples that have trailed the recent PDP governorship primaries in the state, the proscription of IPOB, his aspiration and other touchy national issues.
Some allegations were recently raised against you, including an alleged demand for billions of naira from Governor Obiano that you influenced the last PDP guber primaries in Anambra State. Part of the allegation is that you are desperate to have your own man as governor. How true are these claims?
Three days ago when you reached me about the possibility of this interview, the event you referred to had not taken place. I say this as a way of saying, look, if the event is why you sought for this interview, I would have declined, because I have made up my mind on certain things.
Ordinarily, I don’t react to comments people make, especially those made out of ulterior motives. I do not return evil for evil, rather I cling to my rosary praying for God’s love on all of us.
Having asked the question, let me tell you about an encounter I recently had. About two weeks ago, two persons came to me and said that they had just come out of a meeting where it was discussed that for the upcoming elections in Anambra State, they will come out aggressively to attack my integrity and make it impossible for me to campaign for the candidate of my party. I asked them how it would happen. They said they didn’t know but they had what it took to bring people to the media to shred my character before Nigerians through blackmail and lies. I thanked them and said that when they come, we will see it.
After a week, I started hearing on local radio in Anambra State, people being put on radio owned by the state government to call me names and associate my name with things I do not even dream of doing in my sleep.
The other day, one reporter quoted me as saying that I would fight the election with the last pint of my blood, when even in the height of normal human rage, I cannot use such a term. Suddenly, this issue of seven billion is being bandied about. I joined the PDP in October 2014. That is three years ago, so, at what point did I start demanding this money since they said it was the reason while I joined the PDP? Are they saying that if this money was paid to me, I won’t campaign for the PDP or what?
You are all educated and discerning, so let us look at issues critically; whether anybody likes it or not, it is on record in this country and I can prove it with bank documents and statements that I left over N25 billion in local investment for Anambra State; over N25 billion in cash in the banks, and 156 million dollars in the banks in Nigeria. So, I ask the question – do you think anyone can leave such money and turn around to beg the person he handed over to give him N7 billion? I would have taken it first, give them the balance and still be in good shape. Let me use the dollars as example, nobody had ever left one dollar in any state in Nigeria. I left 156 million dollars; 30 million dollars alone is over N7 billion. If I had taken chances and left $120 million, I will still be a champion. Let it be on record that the money, with its accruals, is today about N200 billion.
You could even sense it yourself that it is sheer blackmail. I am a Christian and I am not supposed to swear, but I can put my hand on any form of ecclesiastically prescribed oath and say that I have never discussed with anybody to be paid any amount. I have never done that and I will never do that. At this stage of my life, I cannot support anybody for political and personal benefit, I have passed that stage and to do so is to abuse the grace of God in my life.
I did not go into politics wretched; I was already a director in three financial institutions, a director in four other major companies; all by the virtue of my investments. I was also running a successful family business. Going into politics made me poorer but I won’t question anything because that is where God wants me to be. The joy of rendering fruitful service to the people cannot be quantified in naira and kobo. For me, all I want is for us to have a better society; caring for the poor and the people.
Concerning the PDP primaries, you were …
(Cuts in) I’m not a member of PDP Caretaker Committee in the State. I’ m not a delegate to the primaries. So, I wonder how this came about. There were delegates that voted. Those delegates are not my brothers and sisters. The best thing to do now is to avoid distractions the opposition is deliberately planting amongst us in order to have competitive advantage over us. I wish all PDP members realise this.
They say the person served as your SSG and therefore, your stooge was the one that emerged
In any election, you must support one person or the other based on his proven and inherent potentials. I do so based on that criteria and not for transaction. I must have a cogent and convincing reason in my own case to support anybody. Yes, anybody can talk about Oseloka Obaze. I can tell you that for me, people said my government did well; one of those that made it possible was Oseloka Obaze. Because of people like him, we were number one in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs in this country. If this country had followed the MDGs guidelines, we won’t be where we are today. In the year the MDGs started, China’s GDP was $1 trillion. By the time MDGs was completed after 15 years, China’s GDP had gone to about $12 trillion because China mainstreamed all the MDGs goals into their agenda and followed them strictly, and was able to pull 439 million people out of poverty.
Our country is among the countries where the opposite happened. Rather than more people going out of poverty, more people became impoverished, because they didn’t follow it strictly. In Anambra State, we started late. We started in 2008. But I can tell you by the time we left office in 2013, we were number one in the country in the implementation of MDGs and it helped us a lot. We followed the goals strictly. We were the first to do poverty mapping, which made us to know that one of the major things we needed to eradicate poverty was to have road access. This made us to construct roads to the hinterlands. Go to Anambra State and you will see roads everywhere in the rural areas.
Today, the world has moved on from Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs. China again adopted it and mainstreamed it into their development programmes and has said by the year 2030, they will double their GDP, they will double their per capita. In fact, for China, by the year 2025, five years before the end, they would have pulled another 20 million out of poverty.
Are there conditions by other PDP members to support the campaign?
I’m not talking about conditions. I visited them. There is no other condition because we now have a candidate. I visited Ifeanyi Uba. I visited every other candidate, not just him. I visited John Emeka, everybody. I’ve gone to see them and I told them, let’s come together as a family. I’m not contesting election to be governor. I want the good and success of the PDP not just in Anambra State but in Nigeria. And for Anambra, let us use Oseloka Obaze as a springboard.
There are claims that you are trying to impose a running mate, whereas some people like Ifeanyi Ubah feel …
(Cuts in) I am not comfortable when people’s names are mentioned in an interview like this, otherwise the interview becomes personalized. Let me tell you, I’ve never one day spoken to anybody about anybody being the running mate. Never! In fact, the party Chairman in the State, Prof ABC Nwosu told me personally that since the candidate is somebody who joined with me, because these are some of the contentious issues, that we just joined; I now said to them, PSG has just signed Neymar; they are paying him 10 times what they used to pay people who have been there playing for years. They want to win and this should be the spirit among party members that want victory. They said they wanted the deputy to come from the original people, all my interest is that it should be a person that will add value to the people. Obaze is not somebody we should associate imposition with, because he has a mind of his own and above all, he has rich experiential pedigree punctuated with character and integrity. He has everything needed to drive the process of governance.
How can somebody question the choice of Ekwueme’s daughter as the deputy? Look at her CV and you will know that her choice was after careful and painstaking search. How can somebody say I imposed her when her father was the founding father and chairman of the party?
Ifeanyi Ubah recently gave a notice to go to court, alleging that the primary was a sham, a deceit…
I don’t want to go back to that issue. You can agree with me that the primary was the best the PDP had organized in the State. What the PDP needs now is for everybody to come together as one united family for us to win the election.
Is it because Nigeria is not doing well that you said you want to be Vice President?
You are talking about aspirations that are not there, which is part of well-planned issues to blackmail me. What I want is a good Nigeria. You don’t need to have a post to speak about a good Nigeria. I go around because I know that we can be better. I know we can reduce the cost of governance that is unacceptable. That is because I’ve been a governor. As a governor, rather than stay in hotels where people pay over N500, 000 per night, I stayed in hotels where I would pay less than 50,000. Rather than have a convoy of 20, I had five. Rather than maintain over 10 guest houses, I closed them down and restricted myself to the Lodge. Rather than travel on chartered planes, I flew even economy class most of the times. These are cost-saving measures that we deliberately introduced to keep government going.
Sir, the raging issue in Nigeria today is IPOB, what…
(Cuts in) Irrespective of whatever the Federal Government has said about IPOB, my position has remained constant – agitation in Nigeria is nationwide. It is all over the country, not just from one side of the country. The reason is very simple: there are millions of young people in their productive ages doing nothing. When you don’t know where the next meal will come from, you are a free agent, you can become anything. The reason why you people are here is because you know where the next meal will come from.
What you see today is the cumulative effect of leadership failure over the years in the country. That is one of the consequences and it’s not going to be solved by what we are doing today. You can quote me anywhere. We have to sit down, dialogue with those who are agitating and start looking at meaningful solutions that can give them hope. Once a country makes her people to develop a sense of hopelessness, the people will agitate a lot.
I gave you an instance of China. In 1980, the GDP of China was $341billion. The GDP of Nigeria, your country was $143 billion. So, you can say that China was twice bigger than Nigeria. In terms of savings, Nigeria had in 1980 $10.5 billion and China had $10 billion. In terms of per capita, Nigeria was $870; China was $193. Today, China’s GDP is $12 trillion; thirty times bigger than ours. China’s savings that was $10 billion is now $3 trillion. Somebody you were four times better than before has moved miles ahead of you, that is our crisis today. That is why the agitation is ongoing. It’s a simple thing. It’s the economy.
I can go on and on and show you. South Korea’s savings alone was $3 billion when we had $10.5 billion. Today, they have $365 billion and we have $30 billion. I can go on and show you Indonesia, Thailand. Thailand was $5 billion when we had $10 billion. So, why don’t we take the right steps and do the right things? The cost of our governance is unacceptable. When you talk about restructuring, they will say no, no, no, America has 50 States. You can’t compare us with America. That is a disaster. One State in America called California has a GDP of $2.6 trillion, six times Nigeria. Per capita is $50,000. We are not even investing in the future. The future is education.
Somebody asked me why I saved in dollars. It was clearly because of two things. We studied what China was able to do by attracting investors. China is investing and supporting manufacturing. That sector is driving 40% of their GDP. And regions within China did these. Every region was busy doing the right thing.
In Anambra, we invested about $20 million dollars in one company.