Seeing Peter Obi through the prisms of his younger brother

Posted by News Express | 10 June 2022 | 1,159 times

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•Labour Party 2023 Presidential Candidate Peter Obi

 

By VALENTINE OBIENYEM

I knew Mr. Peter Obi’s younger brother long before I met Mr. Peter Obi.  Mr. Fabian Obi (later a Rev. Father) was our teacher in 1984 at Akpu Seminary. As a senior teacher (auxiliary),  and because he was bubbling with scholarship, vitality, discipline and great character, students ran away from him because he took every opportunity to inoculate us with every virtue. I have seldom met a man so intensely absorbed in the responsibilities of his position – Auxiliary. 

Knowing that as small as we were, our thoughts were mostly on what to eat and pranks to play, he would always quote this biblical passage for us: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” He did a good job on us   because most of us carried those virtues till this day. Regrettably, in some, it was like the milk teeth doomed to decay on contact with the rough realities of the world. This is why some of us, let me look for trouble here, have even  navigated through belief, “Spinozaric” pantheism, agnosticism, atheism and back to belief. The one we lovingly call Eke is still on the journey since completed by the likes of M.

I recall that in one of our symposia in the Seminary, Mr. Fabian Obi ( as he then was) presented the lead paper at a time the Maitatsine group were wreaking havoc in the North. Delivering his paper entitled, “Religious Fanaticism and Maitatsine Group”, he likened the fanatic to one possessed by “Agwu.” We marvelled at the structural majesty of his ideas and the scholarship of the presentation. Yes, I still remember intellectual engagements like this because I carried a note pad and pen always to catch ideas or arresting phrases in their flight. 

We called him “I Force You”, because he would always force us to follow the paths of rectitude. He is yet to answer the question he posed to us in one of his classes, namely, “Appilico abu Njo?’’. His one potent weapon is deadly knocks on the head – instant punishment for egregious acts! Part of his punishment then was also requesting the offender to read the late Msgn P.O. Achebe’s “Maturity through Formation Forum.”

We had one encounter with “I Force You”, which we can hardly forget. One sunny afternoon, driven by hunger after class, we rushed the afternoon prayers having turned the instrument of that prayer – “Manual of Prayers for Junior Seminarians” – into fans. Always calm, Mr. Fabian  Obi (later a priest) was to say the final part of the prayer. Rather than do that as we enthusiastically waited, he said: “let all fanning stop, let the leader be slow and let us all start afresh.” Such a pronouncement quickened the pangs of hunger in us.

Adolescents would always remain one. We stopped fanning, but only a handful of us responded to the repeated prayer out of cold protest which all of us understood. When we finished the second round of the prayers, “I Force You” said wryly: “Let the leader repeat the prayers and let everybody join.” Clearly, the repetitions were eating into our time for siesta, such that a certain juvenile anger burned like lava in us, and yet we dared not ask questions. Lest I forget, the key moral of formation in the Seminary is “Obey before complaint.” If we made the third mistake, Mr. Obi would have come up with one of his favourite punishments – asking us to meditate on our lives and journeys as seminarians. He would have encouraged us to read “The Imitation of Christ”, as a component of that meditation.

The foregoing is just a minor premise. The major provocation of this piece was the exploration of the   similarities between Fr. Fabian Obi and his elder brother, Mr. Peter Obi. Those days, some students ‘served” the teachers as their function in school, which included washing of plates and clothes for the teachers. It was a good function because teachers always left food for those that served them to eat. One student I will not mention his name was a butt of jolly banter among others because his master – Mr. Fabian  Obi, Peter Obi’s younger brother- defying tradition, did not leave food for him, not once but always.

The concerned seminarian could not fathom the reason for Obi’s act. Unknowingly to us, Mr. Fabian Obi was teaching him the act of doing one’s duty without expecting gratification.

But the concerned seminarian gained more than others. While others waited fretfully for left-over food, Mr. Obi would always invite the seminarian to his room, and after words of advice, would give him novel after novel to read and summarise for him. He never collected those novels back from him.

Over the years I have watched happily Fr. Obi rising like some spacecraft among the luminaries of his time. Because he is a good formator, he is now the Rector of Iwene Tansi Major Seminary, the last formation bus stop in the priestly journey.

Like his younger brother, Nigerians should not look forward to undue gratification from the potential President Peter Obi. As he did in Anambra State and as his brother did in the seminary, he is not concerned with what we shall eat today, like the epicureans, as if we would die tomorrow. He is concerned with long term benefits, arming the youth with education that will help them conquer the future.

•Barrister Valentine Obienyem, a Communicator and Entrepreneur, writes from Awka.


Source: News Express

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