By Anayo Agu
The pursuit of greatness, though a joyful trouble, is always a costly venture. It is one of humanity’s most enduring aspirations and legacies. It is not a desire in the hearts of some gifted individuals or the exclusive preserves of some advanced nations. Both science and theology teach that anyone and any nation can aspire to greatness because greatness is about service. It is a choice to make a difference, and to offer a helping hand in making the world a better place.
Almost all great achievements the world has ever known began as a fantasy. Many were even classified as blasphemies, Examples abound – the earth revolving around the sun, a flying machine, and a moon shot, to mention just a few. Even when Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum was sharing his vision of how he wanted to build Dubai, it sounded like fantasy and his fellow Arab leaders lampooned him, saying he was deceiving his people. But we all are today witness to the reality his fantasy has become. Greatness begins with a clear vision of the future, a sober reflection on the opportunity cost of such a herculean pursuit, and finally a blueprint to make the envisioned future a present fact. The scripture asks in Luke 14:28-30, “Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it?” So as the Governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Peter Ndubuisi Mbah, “Thinks Big” for Enugu State and promises to do things radically, differently, let’s take some minutes to appreciatively review his blueprint.
It is no longer news that Mbah pledges in his manifesto, to holistically transform the economy of Enugu State, to officially install engaged governance mechanisms to enhance citizens participation in policy design and implementation, to make transparency and accountability the hallmark of governance, and to build a multimodal transportation system to make Enugu State one of the three frontline states in Nigeria with an annual gross domestic product (GDP) projected to jump from $4.4 billion to $30 billion by 2031. Without a doubt, these are audacious commitments, perhaps, the most “outlandish” and sophisticated ever in the history of the state.
The good news is that his blueprint clearly explains how he intends to perform the miracle. The “how” is always the critical thing about blueprint. Without the “how” it is just somebody’s sweet dream that could easily become everyone’s nightmare. His opponents have cast aspersions on the vision for being outlandish, and some have hurled innuendoes at him. To give them benefit of the doubt one would say that they just want a reassurance that Mbah has the capacity to make good his word. As a starting point one must admit that it takes extraordinary resourcefulness and leadership to pioneer the establishment of an offshore intake/offtake storage terminal valued about $1 billion dollars, which his firm, Pinnacle Oil& Gas led a consortium of banks to build. The investment is three times Enugu State budget in 2022. There can never be a better proof of capacity and competence than that.
In his manifesto, Mbah placed a lot of emphasis on integrated and mutually re-enforcing reforms aimed at unleashing the huge potential of the private sector and entrepreneurship in Enugu State. He also reiterated severally his firm belief that money will inevitably overflow the state treasury if all the wasting assets of the state are effectively and efficiently harnessed.
The assets include the youthful population, the abundant natural resources, and the strategic location of the state as a trading hub as well as its free trade zones; the huge revenue opportunities tourism, hospitality, and entertainment present. These wasting assets would become realizable commercial opportunities once appropriate infrastructures are put in the right places devoid of petty political considerations. Therefore, the most compelling necessity at this time isn’t money. Rather, it is the clarity of purpose; the competence and the capacity to imagine a new model of reality and the courage to relentlessly pursue its benefits no matter the obstacles. By his track records, Mbah embodies the attributes, especially the expertise to lay out strategies to convert potential opportunities into bankable projects. And to ensure that when revenues are switched on from multiples sources, that agents of government have the integrity, the competence and the accountability to judiciously utilize the resources for the common good.
According to an example used by the Cambridge Dictionary, “In contemporary economies, the most important assets are immaterial: Blueprints and production methods are often much more costly and valuable than machinery and land. The reason is that everything begins with an intention, and everything is created twice. First, everything is created as an image in the mind, and second as a tangible commodity or value.
Without a clear intention captured in a detailed blueprint, an economic agenda is just an accident waiting to occur. In essence, a blueprint is the wisdom that guides development and directs all energy towards the leader’s vision and mission. It is a critical differentiator in business and in politics. According to M. Gabriel Tarde, a French Sociologist and Criminologist, only about 1% of any given population has the mental ability to articulate inventive ideas in their brains and to subsequently put them on paper. Just 1%!
Enugu State is not usually associated with landmark projects such as sky scrapers, a network of flyovers extending to some 5-10 kilometres, a monorail, or an explosive revenue growth exceeding twenty digits such as a jump from $4.4 billion dollars to $30 billion dollars in eight years. That might explain the cynicisms, doubts and dismissive attitudes of many a critic, particularly from the opposition parties that have greeted Dr. Mbah’s manifesto since it was unveiled on October 13, 2022 at the Godfrey Okoye University. Some of the critics quickly dismissed his goals and aspirations as supremely utopian. Others scoffed and tagged many of his revolutionary propositions as “building castles in the air.”
Rather than deride his optimism and ridicule his proposed reforms, I sincerely urge other candidates to offer superior blueprints. As I earlier highlighted, every revolutionary breakthrough the world has ever enjoyed began as a fantasy, a castle in the air, a walk by faith, and an entrepreneurial mindset. To the doubting Thomas, Helen Keller, deaf and dumb, but unstoppable, said, “No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed an uncharted land or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.” In our experience, as recent as 2001, pessimism almost aborted the initial efforts to launch mobile telephony. Most Nigerians, perhaps including you, never gave it a chance. The chief culprit, our public behemoth, NITEL Ltd, died as a result.
According to William James, considered the father of American psychology, there are three rules to follow if you want to change your life, or if you desire to lead the transformation of a society. The three steps are: Start immediately. Do it flamboyantly, and no exceptions. These measures not only provide a sense of emergency, they create an air of drama and demand a certain level of commitment that is necessary to fracture the bondage of the status quo. Mbah’s choice of Godfrey Okoye University for the unveiling of his manifesto rather than doing it at Okpara Square where such political events are traditionally held was bold and assertive. The university, a citadel of learning, of enquiry, and of innovation, offered him a unique opportunity, among other things, to:
- Engage the public and party members – radically, differently.
- Identify with the youths and the academia that are clamoring for and are vehemently insistent on change in our body politic, and in our governance processes.
- Showcase his unflinching support, first as a private citizen and long before his interest in the gubernatorial race, to the educational sector.
Contrary to the expectations of most political pundits, the presentation was outstanding. The marmot crowd that witnessed the unveiling was exhilarating, and self-fulfilling to him. In light of that very successful event, let’s now look at his blueprint in order to fact-check the five key components that makeup a robust, political game plan:
- Vision – answers the question, “Where are we going?” Mbah promises to make Enugu a digital state, one of the top 3 states in Nigeria in terms of Gross Domestic Product which he projects to shoot from $4.4 billion to $30 billion by 2031, and achieve a zero percent rate in the poverty headcount index. His vision is bold and crystal clear.
- Mission – answers the question, “Why are we undertaking this journey? Mbah believes that Enugu State needs a leader with a good head and a compassionate heart, a change maker with a demonstrable track record of breakthrough performance, someone whose experience and commitment to the general good can be trusted. His mission is precise.
- Values – answer the question, “How will we get there?” In other words, how will we accomplish our strategic objectives in accordance with the rule of law and the tenets of democracy? Mbah believes that Enugu State has enormous human and natural resources, and proposes to deliver quality, people-focused governance by making the State the preferred destination for investment, business, tourism and living. He pledges engaged governance, transparency and accountability, and a transformational leadership. He commits to relentless pursuit of integrated sector-based productivity growth focusing on agriculture, energy and mineral resources, creative industry, ICT and tourism. His values are in sync with moral and extant laws.
- Primary aims or goals – provide the benchmarks to answer the question, “Are we making progress, or retrogressing?” They provide markers for the electorates to hold him accountable on his commitments. Mbah’s overarching goal is to handover a truly modernized state with all the facilities that make for a good life. He intends to achieve this feat by leapfrogging Enugu’s GDP from $4.4 billion to $30 billion, maintain peace and security, instigating inclusive economic development, and ensuring sustainable prosperity for all citizens. His primary aims target the bull’s eye, the needs of the hour.
- Strategic objectives – measure the degree of alignment of proposed solutions to the perceived needs of the electorate and the larger society, particularly what constitutes the hallmarks of good government in the minds of the citizens. Mbah’s strategic objectives and key indicators are game changers: poverty eradication/zero hunger; ease of doing business, access to funds by SMEs, and the level of human capital development.
In conclusion, here are my parting warnings and free advice. Mbah has started strong. How someone begins a venture says a lot about how he intends to finish it. Given his experience, and considering that states like Lagos and Rivers have shown glimpses of the quantum leaps he contemplates for Enugu State, there is no doubt that he intends to finish strong. As we wait for the campaign trains to start arriving, however, I must encourage him to avoid the temptation to underrate his opponents, who are propelled and arguably favored by the wind of change blowing across Nigeria. According to Bishop Godfrey Igwebuike Onah, suffering under APC government has united all of us in a desperate search for leaders, not parties, who understand the basic rudiments of good governance and the tenets of democracy.
Today the biggest obstacle in Mbah’s way and the looming threat his party, the PDP faces, is PDP itself. Unless wisdom prevails sooner than later, the Chief Michael Otedola phenomenon in Lagos State may be reenacted in traditional PDP states during the 2023 elections. Otedola, an unpopular candidate of the National Republican Convention (NRC), by default, won the governorship election in Lagos State in December 1991. Because the two warring groups in the leading opposition party, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) led by Chief Dapo Sarumi and Professor Femi Agbalajobi, selfishly chose to fight to the death. And their party, the SDP, lost an election it could have conveniently won with wide margins. As the saying goes, whom the gods want to destroy, they first make mad.