Posted by News Express | 6 January 2019 | 1,269 times
“Great men hallow a whole people, and lift up all who live in their time.
— Sydney Smith, 1771-1845
Leadership or Management remains the most critical element in every development equation – for a family unit, group, organisation, body corporate or geo-political entity. Whatever the resource endowments of any entity, competent and focused leadership will direct and take its followership to great heights, while incompetent and inept managers will drag their members into a nightmare of a stunted economy, misery, debility and despair.
Informed opinions rightly contend that “leaders are made, not born. Leadership is not a badge to adorn or an epaulette to display. It is neither a right to claim nor an inheritance to possess … leadership is performance; nothing less, nothing else”. It is also known that good leaders emerge & develop through an unremitting process of self-study, education, training, and experience. They are continually making efforts to improve their competencies and stay abreast of developments relevant to their operating environment.
For Nigerians to achieve meaning and sustainable progress, the management of the nation’s affairs should no longer be treated as a routine process of taking power, doling out largesse in appointments & other patronage and fulfilling idiosyncrasies.
What Option? At bottom, Nigeria is not bereft of competent men and women who can hold their own in their fields of endeavour – in government, the polity, economy or society. Take the case of Peter Obi, the man chosen by Atiku Abubakar to serve as his running mate for the Presidency in the February 2019 general elections.
The man, Peter Gregory Obi came into public limelight sometime in 2003 when he contested the election into Office of Governor for Anambra State; won, but was denied victory. Unlike the purveyors of fire and brimstone, he adopted due process, and three years later – in 2006 – the courts returned his stolen mandate.
Such has been our sad experience with venal politicians and public office holders that the long-suffering, exasperated Nigerians are wont to continually observe in local parlance that “Dis people no dey fear God” [These people do not have the fear of God]. In the case of Peter Obi, his admirers and detractors traducers alike agree that he has always demonstrated the fear of Almighty God in his conduct and relations with other people. Building on a family background of sound moral principles, his exemplary character, humility, grace and sense of propriety have become reference points for leadership in the land.
Peter Obi has an interesting blend of academic and professional training within and outside Nigeria. By the late 1980s, he had become grounded in policy issues, resource & business management. Among others, he headed a number of blue-chip companies, including Fidelity Bank and Guardian Express Mortgage Bank; and enjoys membership of such top-rate national & international bodies as Nigerian Economic Summit Group, Chartered Institute of Bankers, Commonwealth Business Council, West African Business Committee & British Institute of Directors. With such a string of successes in private enterprise, how would men like Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi let Nigeria’s economic fortunes slide into the kind of pit it is in today? Even from enlightened self-interest, would these successful entrepreneurs watch idly or helplessly for their investments to collapse? Would an Aliko Dangote or a Mike Adenuga sabotage the nation’s highways when their several thousand trucks use those routes to freight their various goods to their customers and consumers?
Coming from a highly-successful venture into private enterprise and impactful eight-year tenure in Government House, Peter Obi has demonstrated a sound understanding and firm grasp of what management of modern economies and institutions entails. The attainments of his administration over two terms in Anambra State speak volumes, but highlights will always bear repetition; and they are verifiable. This is particularly to remind discerning Nigerians of what we should be seeking in our public office holders and those we wish to direct our collective affairs. His administration’s programme of action was tagged ‘Anambra Integrated Development Strategy (ANIDS), which incorporated the then MDGs and enable simultaneous attention to several sectors and sub-sectors; and with commendable results: Stabilised Basic Education in Anambra State, with the effect that the State moved from 24th to 1st position in external examinations in Nigeria. Powered Governance with ICT – ensuring functional computer literacy for all civil servants in the State; making Anambra the first State to establish Microsoft Academies in schools and ICT Academies in its 21 LGAs; and going into partnership with LG Electronics of South Korea for the construction of LG World ANIDS Technical Academy & Electronics Centre.
Liberalised Procedures & Incentives for Investments; attracted significant support from the Bank of Industry (BoI), UN Children’s Fund, World Bank, British Department for International Development (DfID), UNDP, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Japan International Co-operation Agency, European Union (EU), US Agency for International Development (USAID), Shelter Afrique, Cities Alliance Group, UN-Habitat, International Finance Corporation, WHO, and African Development Bank, among others. Promoted and Strengthened Collective Security; and the second State in the country (after Lagos) to launch a Security Trust Fund. Strengthened the infrastructural base of the State, including giving it ate the best & most extensive road network in the country – duly acknowledged by the Federal Ministry of Works. Massively improved primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare services and training, including a State University Teaching Hospital. Instituted a State-wide Youth Re-Orientation & Empowerment Programme (ANSYREP]), incorporating character development and vocational training. Neither borrowed money from any quarters, nor defaulted in his State’s counterpart contributions on joint ventures. Did not owe on Salaries, Pensions and payments for work done by Contractors. Left a whopping sum of over N75 billion – denominated in local & foreign currencies – a fact grudgingly acknowledged by his successor.
As Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi instilled transparency in governance. He progressively restored orderliness in the conduct of Government business; elevated & strengthened institutional structures and diminished personality cults that have been the bane of good governance across the country. He also insisted and ensured that those entrusted with the resources of the State be held accountable; on occasion revoking non-performing contracts, sanctioning public officers who approved shoddy jobs and instituting legal action to recover monies paid.
The then Governor Peter Obi was one of the three State CEOs that were invited into the select Nigeria Economic Management Team and additionally made Honorary Presidential Adviser on Finance.
Since leaving Government House, Awka, Peter Obi has been engaged in what he describes as apostolate across the land – supporting educational institutions and worthy causes to boost community development and social welfare. Among others, he has resolutely insisted that those who have gifts for him should monetise same, which he promptly directs to one value-added cause or the other.
Though he was then the sole APGA Governor in the country, Peter Obi’s colleagues in the Southern Governors’ Forum and in the larger Nigeria Governors’ Forum elected him their Chairman and Vice-Chairman respectively. Before then, his colleagues in the South-East Governors’ Forum had unanimously decided that he should be their Permanent Chairman until the end of his tenure as Governor. This position previously had rotational six-month tenure per Governor.
Investing his tremendous personal and corporate goodwill as well as governance credentials, Peter Obi restored the confidence of the international community in Anambra State. Across the State, quite a number of organisations within the United Nations system, the European Union, bi-lateral, voluntary, Development Partners and other donor agencies became actively involved in various value-added programmes and projects.
One of a few State Governors to be conferred with the national award of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), he has been recognised variously by several people and organisations not known to be wasteful with commendation. They include: Pope Benedict XVI; Pope Francis I; Zik Leadership Prize in Good Governance; Bill Gates & Melinda Foundation; West Africa ICT Development Award; the EU, DfID, World Bank, BoI; and UNICEF.
It is pertinent to reiterate that the bottom-line staring the Nigerian electorate in the face is that Peter Obi and his principal, Atiku Abubakar, are not desperate for the Presidency or any other public office. They have what it takes to steer the ship of the Nigerian State to safe shores of economic prosperity – given the mandate of the electorate. Well, if they are not, Nigerians and not them, will be the ultimate losers. The two great men will simply walk back to their successful private lives and continue to add value in the ways they know how. So help us God.
•Onukwugha Osuji sent this piece from Lagos.
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