After eight glorious years in the saddle as governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi took a bow on Monday, March 17, 2014, and handed the baton to Chief Willie Obiano at a colourful ceremony in Awka, the state capital. In spite of his tortuous experience in office, Obi’s tenure in the state is historical as he bequeaths Anambra State an enduring legacy that will become the reference point of governance in Nigeria. The ambience and conviviality of the handover event was unprecedented in Anambra State’s history. Indeed, the event lived up to Mr. Obi’s mantra of finishing strong. Anambrans were full of eulogy for a man who is the epitome of true leadership and good governance. Little wonder he left a princely N75 billion in cash and assets. This feat sounds incredible in a country where profligacy in the nation’s corridors of power is a pop culture, and where it is difficult to draw the border line between public wealth and personal estate. The N75 billion included N25 billion local investment portfolio; bank balances of N11.5 billion as at March 14, 2014; Federal Government’s approved refund of N10 billion; and US$155 million (N26 billion) in foreign currency investment.
The accolades that greeted Obi’s spectacular feat are eloquent attestation of Nigerians recognition of excellence. In Nigeria, democracy evokes contrasting imageries for most Nigerians. On the one hand, many that are fortunate to occupy top elective and appointive political positions are envied for the rare opportunity this offered them to improve their material positions in life. The popular imagination is that the call to service comes with the opportunity for self aggrandizement. The concomitant result of this development is that political leaders are distrusted by the people. On the other hand, the exemplary conduct of some of our political office holders has won them public trust and accolades. Nigerians sing their praises and hold them in high esteem. One of such rare species of politicians is Mr. Peter Obi.
With leaders like him, there are rays of hope that Nigeria might not after all be completely doomed. It is not surprising that encomiums have been pouring on him from across the nation’s political and geopolitical divides for his transparency in office, accountability and exemplary leadership in the eight years he ruled Anambra State, a state that hitherto had become a byword for political brigandage. Chief Emeka Anyoku, the former Secretary General of the Commonwealth scored him high in all parameters of good governance. And for the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Obi is a role model, hinting that the Dr. Goodluck Jonathan administration would adopt his education policy. We agree with the business magnate, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, who noted that no state had saved so much money and made such investments in addition to mass infrastructural development, the way Obi had done.
It is obvious that Obi was very cognisant of the verdict of history as he traversed the eight years journey in the state. Many of the country’s political leaders have many things to learn from this. But the snag in his success story is if the new administration in the state would sustain the momentum and take the state to the next level. If it does, the painstaking search of a successor would have been worth it. The pressure on Governor Obiano to perform and surpass his predecessor would be enormous. He needs to have the savvy and strong nerves of Mr. Obi to hit the ground running.
It is very unfortunate that Nigeria is one polity where all manner of invidious forces and permutations other than ability come into play in deciding candidates for the topmost political positions, which is why many brilliant and focused past leaders, especially governors, go back to the Senate to escape the boredom of inaction. Nigerians would have wished that a man like Obi would be in reckoning for the highest political office in the land. But whatever the case may be, one thing is clear, the nation has serious need for the likes of Mr. Peter Obi. He is too young to retire.