By next Monday, Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State will cease to be the Chief Executive of the state. Another man, his anointed, Wllie Maduabuchi Obiano will take over.
Obi is an unlikely character in the political arena. He is not the typical Nigerian politician. Having done impressively well in his corporate business, delving into partisan politics, many had thought, would be a standing diversion for him, and worse still, a means by which his name and integrity could be despoiled. Eight years after, Obi is marching out of the Government House Awka , not only with his head high, but with his banner of honour undented.
Many such chief executives leave office with trailer loads of controversies trailing them. Some of the former governors have had tons of cases to answer either in the regular courts or with anti-graft agencies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) or ICPC. And for about seven years, some former governors indicted for all kinds of financial malfeasance, have been using parts of their stolen money to be servicing the truncation of their trials.
This is not likely to be the case with with Obi.
What had separated Obi from the crowd of gubernatorial rogues is the attitude to money. It is generally believed that Governor Obi is a stingy man. He is miserly both with his personal money and with government money. Those who know him closely say he is an unrepentant ascetic.
For his eight years in office, I visited the Awka Government House just onceâ€”some five years ago. At the time, the sparse pieces of furniture were as ordinary as Onitsha carpentry products. Nothing was exotic.
And for not â€œsharing the moneyâ€ the people, politicians of chop-I-chop brigade, hate him for that.
Not for Obi, the allures and splendour of epicurean life associated with most governors. I am told that whenever he comes to his house in Festac Town, Lagos, he walks to the neighbourhood Catholic church, siren-free and without the coterie of wide-chested aides. I never saw him in agbada outfit, the signature outfit for politicians, for instance. It does not mean that those who wear agbada are vain or epicureans. Too often, Obi was satisfied with his simply made, unembroidered Ankara dress code.
Despite his enormous wealth, I hear that long before he became governor, he stuck to his Peugeot 505 Evolution model car. I have encountered him a couple of times in international flights; he carried his bags alone. He queued on the line like, we â€œordinary peopleâ€. He does not operate with any airs, and the portrait of a pious lamb is perfected with his feminine, near-whistling voice. So much on his persona.
As a governor, Obi had attempted to retool the state and make it even more viable.
Although many agree that he grew the infrastructure development of the state, his ability to create jobs for the teeming youths of the state was low. Very low. His entrepreneurial creativity in government was poor.
Obiâ€™s obsession for saving up money looked so high. He seemed to have suddenly realized that he had saved up so much money in the treasury and would be handing all of that over to his successor. So he suddenly got very generous, donating millions and Billions of Naira to groups, churches, schools etc. A latter-day â€œDonatusâ€! As a politician, Obi has shown his inclination to stay with the tide. I am sure it has nothing to do with his ideological drive, but sheer political expediency.
Ordinarily, the ethos of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) should be parallel to that of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). If the founder of the party, late Dim Chukwuemeka Ojukwu was an anti-establishmentarian, I do not see how his political household will blend so well with the establishment, as Obi now portrays the APGA.
Without disguise, the APGA is derisively described as the younger cousin of the PDP. Little wonder the APGA had never bothered about capturing power at the centre. That inclination to associate with the centre, has thus governed Obiâ€™s political persuasions, including aligning with the Jonah Jang-faction of the Nigeria Governorsâ€™ Forum (NGF).
Malleable as he seems, I was thrilled by the decisiveness of his actions against the menace of kidnapping in the state. At a time, Anambra became the headquarters of Kidnapping in the country, until Obi moved in with the bulldozers, pulling down houses and hotels where kidnappers were caught. And that was it. The scourge was mitigated.
Above all, Obiâ€™s faith in the Nigerian judiciary had become a reference point in the nation;â€™s democratic history. Here was a man who had won an election, but got maneuvered out of office by smarter â€œpolitrictiansâ€ . He went to court to challenge it. He won the case and got back into office. But not long after, the political Pharisees of the state ganged up against him again and got the lawmakers to impeach him. And then the argument of his tenure having been â€œtimed outâ€ arose. And so for three years, he was going back â€“and-fro the court houses battling to get back his nandate.
A court threw him out of office, and then he headed back to the court. Even when it looked like all the odds were stacked against him, Obi remained calm, believing that justice would come his way. It did. And today, the rest is history.
As he rides out of the Government House in a blaze of glory and honour, Obi would however be living behind the burden of suspicion and discord still weighing down the APGA. It has been rumoured that Obi would soon start working with the Presidency, although it has been denied.
And if that happens, it will be safe to predict that the Nunc Dimitis of the APGA would soon be sung.
But what counts ultimately is the graduating testimonial which Obi is bringing along with him into the rest of society. We can only wish him well in his next moves.