One of the first things President Muhammadu Buhari did on becoming our leader was to remove our eminent subject this time round as the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for political reasons—not out of incapacity or incompetency of today’s celebrator. It took five years to get a replacement. It is confirmatory of the convoluted democracy we practise here.
When he was the governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi used to hold regular meetings in Lagos with a select group of very senior and distinguished journalists to exchange ideas on our country’s general narratives, the political architecture, the democratic chemistry and the need for proper articulation of national trajectories. The sessions were informal amid banter and immeasurably productive.
Years after leaving office, the meeting still holds infrequently, at least quarterly. I must point out that no other governor or former governor engineers this kind of parley. Obi’s profound and inimitable commitment to this initiative of his is still, for me, a subject for politico-sociological enquiry at the opportune time. I recollect Obi introducing his anointed successor, Chief Willie Obiano, to us and the last interface we all had with Chief Obiano shortly before his predictable election. The rest of the issues are beyond this celebratory intervention.
At the last of the aforesaid gatherings, I was blacklisted for declaring on two occasions in my column that President Buhari will defeat the PDP presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar in the February presidential poll based on my convictions. Because of that, some aides of Okute felt I should no longer be in the “redemption team” as my loyalty/beliefs and political subscriptions were now suspect! For me, that was too pedestrian and demonstrative of political immaturity devoid of sagacity—at that optimal level.
I had to brush that experience aside to do this befitting tribute because I know full well that Obi is a good man by all ramifications irrespective of what a few amnesic fellows in Anambra State will say in misguided dehumanization, demonization and calumniation of their benefactor.
Even in his capacity as the vice-presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the last election, we still met from time to time to aggregate views on the national polls and the need for alertness, voter mobilization, participation and monitoring, among other critical national and international issues.
This is an unusual birthday tribute to the former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Gregory Onwubuasi Obi, who, today, July 19, 2019, clocks 58 years. The unusualness of this commemoration is because the former Chairman of Fidelity Bank PLC is always in the news for very good reasons unlike his ex- colleagues! He even enjoys more popularity and recognition than most of his peers and even serving governors.
Sometime ago, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in her capacity as a respected global employee at the helm of the World Bank, declared Obi as the most prudent governor in Nigeria. For me, I was not astonished by this unprecedented recognition largely because of Obi’s quintessential pedigree in profound local and international economic management. The only aspect of the endorsement that astounded me was my discovery of the poor treatment of this testimonial by Obi’s media aides. The robust confirmation should have been lavishly celebrated in the media and leveraged for subsequent reputational mileage.
A strong advocate of national equity for the South East, Obi has a passion for fairness to the Igbo sub-nation in the federal management of our national patrimony. This he keeps pursuing without hullabaloo. His mediatory affinity with ex-President Goodluck Jonathan remedied so many things for South Easterners. No other past or serving governor from that zone has accomplished so much in the evolving liberation of ‘my people’ from national marginalization as Obi.
He may not be loquacious or slavish to the media like most of his political peers, but his transformative achievements buttress his foray into governance. For me, that is what matters most when you are not an empty drum. Anytime Obi travelled abroad to explore partnership for the development of Anambra, critics insinuated that he had gone to pursue his flourishing international businesses! In contradistinction, there are visible fruits of such trips in the state.
I think it is difficult to govern Anambra State more than any other state for so many reasons and particularly because of its syncretic nature. This explains the inherent misperceptions of Obi.
As the helmsman in Anambra not too long ago, Obi bagged the best performing governor award in the eradication of polio in the South East from Bill Gates & Melinda Foundation. The state had remained polio-free ever since. Obviously, this is not one of those common awards subject to commerce. It is another testament to the man who savours youth empowerment and the betterment of his people.
Overall, Obi left indelible marks on healthcare, educational regeneration (especially computerization), provision of general social infrastructure (particularly roads), sports development, Igbo renaissance and rehabilitation of ex-Biafran soldiers, among other inimitable legacies.
Obi was born on 19 July, 1961, in Onitsha, where his father had already established a successful business. He was somewhat precocious, because he was well ahead of his peers in so many respects. In 1980, he gained admission into the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he read philosophy, graduating B.A (Hons) in 1984. No doubt, the course may have contributed in shaping his broad perspectives on issues. It may have also contributed in shaping his character in a way that makes him to subject issues to critical analyses.
It would appear that the business blood in his family also runs in him, for as soon as he finished his education, he delved into that enterprise where he distinguished himself a few years later. Climbing the rungs of business with impressive speed, he became the chairman of Next International Nigeria Ltd.
With the success of Next International, Obi’s business empire blossomed like a watered rose. As he diversified in his business, he became the chairman and director of Guardian Express Mortgage Bank Ltd, Guardian Express Bank PLC, Future View Securities Ltd, Paymaster Nigeria Ltd, Chams Nigeria Ltd, Data Corp Ltd and Card Centre Ltd.
Recognizing the dynamic nature of the business world, Obi tried, now and then, to upgrade his knowledge and expand his managerial ability. Thus, at various times, he took top executive programmes and financial management courses at Lagos Business School, Nigeria; London School of Economics; Columbia Business School, New York; Harvard Business School, Boston; Kellogg Graduate School of Management, USA and Institute for Management Development, Switzerland.
Obi belongs to different professional associations and organizations, some of which are: Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG); Nigeria Chartered Institute of Bankers; Commonwealth Business Council (CBC); West African Business Committee (WABC); British Institute of Directors (IoD); British Nigeria Business Council (BNBC) and Nigerian South African Chamber of Commerce (NSACC).