The piece signed by Joe Martin Uzodike, published on the back page of The Sun of Friday, January 17, as a rejoinder to the article on Monday, January 13, by Donatus Ikem Nwabugwu, captioned “Peter Obi and the Rest of Us,” and the one by Israel Chinedu two days later with the same title, did him no good. Uzodike did tremendous violence to his reputation. The title should have been, ‘A Comedy of Errors.’
Uzodike claimed that the terms, “near cash” and “cash” used commonly by economists, accountants and the others in the finance world is a “neologism.” The great Professor Chinua Achebe would refer to this claim as combative ignorance trumpeting its own values. Neologism refers to a word formed from two separate words. An example is glocalism or glocalisation. This is a word formed from combining the word, “globalism” or “globalisation,” and the word, “localism” or “localisation.”
Quite a number of Nigerian pen-pushers are language challenged. But one never knew that the intellectual and language challenge had got to a catastrophic level until one read Martin Uzodike. Referring to the two articles on Peter Obi’s callousness as demonstrated by his blunt refusal to pay the Anambra State Water Corporation staff for the eight years he was governor, Uzodike wrote, among other things: “Indeed, their style gives no credit to the pen profession; it being the equivalent of going round the asylum.” This is what the French call patois, that is, the language of uneducated people. It is devoid of elegance and English grammar.
No wonder, he claims that the author of “Peter Obi and the Rest of Us,” Donatus Ikem Nwabugwu, Jnr, is the same person as Israel Chinedu, the ex-bank manager who wrote the follow-up article two days later. Yet, there are unmistakable disagreements between the two writers. Anyone who reads the two articles and comes to the same conclusion as Uzodike must be a pathetic student of stylistics.
Uzodike extols Peter Obi for the blatant refusal to pay workers of the Anambra State Water Corporation for even one month in eight years. His argument that the water corporation should be self-sustaining and, therefore, not entitled to subventions is miserable. Has there been any state or even region in Nigeria’s history where the water corporation has ever been self-financing? Was the Anambra Broadcasting Service not dependent on subventions when Uzodike was the Information Commissioner under Obi? Why should the water corporation be discriminated against? Because it was not a propaganda machine for Obi!
Not even the reports of the death of some 355 water corporation staff members out of extreme hunger could move Uzodike or his master, Peter Obi, to apologise for man’s inhumanity to man at the corporation. Not certainly the case of Pius Nwabugwu, the hardworking, patriotic and brilliant hydrologist who left the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, where he could have been the Group Managing Director or Group Executive Director, for the Anambra State Water Corporation, only to die without salary for several years! What manner of Christian is Peter Obi, to say nothing about the court jesters around him? Sure, they have never known the meaning of mea culpa, nor have they heard of what social science researchers call authentic leadership, the leadership approach or style, which sees people or leaders admit their errors and apologise for them.
Uzodike obviously considers Obi a god. By insisting that his master is infallible, Uzodike has deepened the public belief that Peter Obi is callous, inhuman.
Values like honesty are a scarce commodity in the Peter Obi circle. This is why Uzodike has the temerity to claim that the National Industrial Court award against the Anambra State government for the callous treatment of the water corporation staff took place under Governor Willie Obiano. When the Industrial Arbitration Panel berated the state government for its wickedness, it was during the Obi government. In fact, the government appealed against the panel’s decision and went to the National Industrial Court, which decried the government’s action in very strong language. This was in 2013, that is, a whole year before Gov. Obiano assumed office. Obi refused to comply with the judicial order, but Obiano paid the N1.9 billion. Anambra people know who is law-abiding and caring between Obi and Obiano.
If integrity had mattered to Obi and his praise-singers, Uzodike would not have claimed that the ex-governor excelled in getting accreditations for higher institutions in Anambra State. Obi established the state teaching hospital at Amaku, Awka, in 2012, but the Medical and Dental Registration Council of Nigeria could not recognise it because it was substandard. Medical students were known as professional students because no one knew when they would ever graduate. But within two years of being in the saddle, Obiano not only got the teaching hospital recognised but also got it accredited for training medical consultants.
It beats the imagination how Obi and his circle make certain claims, even when it is absolutely unnecessary to make the claims. During a public lecture of the Covenant Christian Centre in Lagos, Obi claimed right before television networks that he had been wearing one wristwatch for 14 years, to prove that he was a modest person. A few minutes later, Nigerians began to show pictures of Obi wearing different watches in one year! During the debate last year, when he was Atiku Abubakar’s presidential running mate in the 2019 presidential vote, Obi parroted all manner of figures to make him look like a researcher. The media, led by Simon Kolawole’s The Cable, showed that these were bogus figures. But this development couldn’t stop Obi from more fantastic claims. Up to this day he says at the drop of the hat that Jack Ma’s Alibaba earned $25 billion in 2011, whereas the event took place in September 2014 when the Chinese technology firm’s shares were traded on the New York Exchange for the first time. Obi doesn’t know the value increased to $450 billion two years later.
Long after even Obi himself substantially amended his claim of leaving N75 billion for his predecessor, Uzodike is still intoning the news of his master bequeathing this phantom amount to Obiano. Neither honesty nor self-esteem appears to matter so much to this ventriloquist, whom Professor Wole Soyinka would describe as an incoherent megaphone.
Someone should tell Peter Obi and his vuvuzela that integrity, honesty, honour, and compassion for the distressed, like the Anambra State Water Corporation, matter in leadership.
•Okolie is a sociologist and businessman based in Anambra and Lagos states