WHY I LIKE PETER OBI
One. He flies economy and carries his own bag. Yes. For simplicity matters to me. And Obi was like that before public office. As Governor, eye-witnesses place him on queues. And afterwards, no change. That is not typical of Nigerians in politics. Here, make your brother Local Government Chairman and he will begin to ask you, ‘Do you know who I am?’ But this power is not personal. This power is for us.
Two. He has not weaponized philanthropy. My faith teaches me that when the right hand does good, even the left should not know. Because True Love – true charity – is not a down payment on future loyalty. Like this, conventional politicians help only to harm. Yes. For paying your school fees they want your soul. But who hands over the controls of a plane to a pilot simply because he is generous? Yes. It is rare for a wealthy politician – in a country where iced fish buys votes – to keep his philanthropy and his politics separate. This is his mantra, you see? Follow me for the ideas in my head, not the money in my pocket. I like this.
Three. He does not have political ‘children’. And for this has been mocked by conventional politicians, and those who admire their methods. It is true. That a man who has 100 naira to share amongst 10, and gives 90 naira to 1, and the remainder to the rest, will have created an extremely passionate follower gingered enough to out-shout the others. But the man who shares the 100 naira equally will end up not giving any single beneficiary special reason to carry his matter personally on their head. Like this, Fairness & Equality is never populist. And those who are more interested in building systems loyal to them, than in building just systems, will always romanticize nepotism. But, in the end, the glory of a just country rubs off on its citizens, no matter how poor. While the shame of an unjust one taints us all, no matter how rich. This is true.
Four. He is prudent with public resources. For he has neither lavish lifestyle to service, or personalized political structure to water. So, Public Money can go to Public Interest. Like Public Education. And Public Health. And Public Infrastructure. Yes. I like it – that, on his watch, Anambra shot up the ranking from 24th to 1st on the NECO and WAEC lists. That he re-energized cottage hospitals and built a tertiary one. And still left enough money for his predecessor to use and build an international airport from scratch without having to borrow. This is something. But politics, sometimes, is the art of calling white, black. Yes. That is how the virtue of prudence has become the vice of stinginess in watery mouths.
Five. He is not the candidate of a mainstream party, and yet is a frontline candidate. Ah! This one sweet me die. For, indeed, there is a historic path to Power. But by the time you finish walking it, you are too old, or unhealthy, or compromised to work. Like making someone run a cross-country marathon before selecting them to run the main sprint. Imagine? We need to open up other paths, for monopoly is bad, and we want Presidents arriving fit, competent and unfettered. True. This is not the first time we are trying a Third Way. But this is the first time we are trying it with an experienced politician, who has served meritoriously in executive office, and has far less baggage, and far more popular support, than usual. Imagine? This chance to storm the castle with a proper battering ram. Imagine?
Six. He is not the candidate of established politicians. So when he arrives in a state, he is not received by house of assembly members and senators, by federal ministers and DGs, by local godfathers with reputations for delivering particular polling units. Yes. It is a system, with its own internal logic, and its business is not Good Governance; its business is Power. I like Obi because he is not in this business. So when he arrives, he is received by people. For this power is not personal. This power is for us.
Seven. He is not running as an Igbo candidate, or a Christian candidate, or a Southern candidate. Not that he denies being any of these. But that he is running, first, as a Nigerian. I tell you. It is not easy, in this ethno-religiously charged environment, to maintain the right balance – even within yourself – between your tribe and your nation. But that is where it begins, with the choices you make in your own heart. Of how you choose to present yourself. Of how you will respond when provoked. And what narratives you will reach for when put under pressure – to win. I like Peter Obi because he is not desperate to win.