By Chika JP Gabriel Okpalike
I am from Anambra State and have lived in Anambra State since 2001. I have been a good part of the discussions on Anambra politics and have devoted myself to verify facts about claims whenever politicians lay it. I am trained in philosophy and can boast about critical thinking, logical coherences and factual correspondences.
To be clear, I hold political opinions informed by intellectual sagacity and love for humanity. I belong to a political party called “The Masses of Nigeria” registered in corporate existence and existential consciousness. I have hesitated to share this experience that brought me to a point of no return with Mr Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of Labour Party, but has been deterred by my state of life. But listening to him on Arise TV on July 6, 2022, I confirmed that this man is not relenting any bit. So I am resolved to expose him a bit from my own little personal encounters of his public persona.
By 2001, I had no interest in Nigerian politics; though I listened to the news and was au currant with current affairs, I never saw myself as taking part in determining my fate in this country. By the way, at thirty-one, I had spent most of my youth in the sway of military dictatorship where choices were made for the masses by self-acclaimed messiahs and military juntas who end up being ousted by another power-seeking colleague.
I did not take Nigeria seriously; I only prayed to be allowed a little space to express my humanity while I gradually pass from this sphere of existence. About Nigeria, I was convinced nothing was true; nothing was working and nothing was going to work. Abuja was for me the headquarters of corruption and deceit; the federal Government was a bunch of oligarchs who engaged in their private, nay nefarious businesses in full public glare and in the camouflage of government while the rest of us waste precious time discussing their affairs in the pretext of analysis or punditry.
My first ever published article in 1994 was titled “Corruptionism: The Veritable Nigerian Ideology.” (The Fountain Magazine). I launched into life seeking my space convinced that not even the religious leaders in their little spaces were anything better than the politicians.
Being a religious person myself, I knew deep within me that it will take one right-thinking person to get it right in the civil environment and our churches will drastically drop in membership because hungry and frustrated people who attend our churches seeking comfort will have some job to do and have a means of livelihood. It was painful though that the faith communities are also wrongly
strategizing if their only reply to the debilitating human conditions was proliferation of prayer houses and the charlatanism that only served to further impoverish them or at best postpone the solution of their problem indefinitely.
Then came the Peter Obi spin. The same 2001 in Anambra State a sudden wave of this unusual politician filling spaces with unusual posters surged; they read: “Are we cursed or are we the cause? –Peter Obi; “The children we neglect today will take their revenge on us tomorrow” –Peter Obi; “To fail to plan is to plan to fail” –Peter Obi; “Education is our insurance to the future” – Peter Obi etc. Wherever I went these posters keep adorning our streets and my natural inquisitive mind kept asking “Who is Peter Obi; what does he want us to do?” As God will have it, before long he was billed to address an elite group to which I belonged.
That was the first day I saw him. I listened keenly as he began with soul-searching questions: “Our children have been at home for more than eight months; what are we doing? (He was referring to the long strike in Anambra State under Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju). “Our roads are in the state of disrepair; is there something we can do? And so on.
Then came the bomb-shell. This man began his usual magic with numbers. For instance, “From Awkuzu junction to Otuocha down to Omor into Adani is so-so-so kilometers, it will take so-so-so amount of money to do it. Government get so-so-so from IGR, so it will take so-so-so% to finish it in so-so-so weeks.” I have never seen a politician talk like that. I was used to “I will water Nike and fire Abakaliki, if I am voted into power.” He caught me; he made me see I have something to contribute.
Unfortunately as at that day, he had no political party. He was practically written off by the elite group as unserious. But I went home with fire in my heart resolving that I was not going to give up on Nigeria. From then on I stopped to explore any means of leaving the country with a number of offers before me.
I knew I will have many fights even ones he cannot address but I decided to believe with him. Later he entered All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and did one of his masterstroke captions – “A leader and A teacher”, when he chose a simple unassuming educationist as running mate. This one got me finally. I registered and voted in Nigeria for the first time in 2001 at thirty-one.
Then came the
disappointment, he was declared the first runner-up in that election. However, he began the legal battle to sequel that verdict. As it were, a good number of us gave up on him and even labelled him a trouble maker who has sworn that Anambra will not rest. In every public appearance where he spoke or responded to questions, he will always say:
“The masses of Anambra gave me a mandate, the least I can do is to protect and defend it.” One day I met him one-on-one at Holy Trinity Cathedral Onitsha. This man alighted from a 505 Peugeot, driven by himself in the company of one orderly. He was smiling his way to the secretariat. It was two years into his legal battle; I was surprised he still could wear a smile given his weird momentary reputation, I had thought he will be a sad man. He noticed me because I was on my regalia.
He walked straight up to me, bowed and gave me a handshake. He was even ready to exchange pleasantries. The disposition was way more than I could expect from such a highly placed person. Nevertheless, I cashed in on that and said to him, “Oga, Please, why not sheath your sword and let things be, this your shenanigan is stressing the atmosphere in this state.” He smiled, held me on the shoulder and took me off the road to the side of the flower hedge and said’ “Father, this is not what we need to be telling our people now.
If we fail to get it right today, tomorrow may not be fair to us. I don’t want to be the governor of Anambra State by all means, but I want Justice to be served by all legitimate means.” He spent the next ten minutes lecturing me on facts and figures of how things are going to work out in Anambra State.
I could see his doggedness and determination; I could not fault him by any stroke of logic even when his whole opinion was too hectic and cumbersome to my mind. I went home thinking we may all be wrong after all, I knew too that nothing can stop this man. Form the on, inspired by an intense ray of hope, I spent the rest of the waiting time trying to convince people that Peter Obi was actually coming; of course I made no convert.
Before the next one year, the unusual verdict hit media spaces. Peter Obi had won his legal battle and was declared the governor of Anambra State. The intrigues, suspense, drama and resolutions that followed is history. Meanwhile, Dr Chris Ngige has bought a place in the heart of the populace with the much he did in three years; years through which Peter Obi had earned himself the status of disrupter of the working governor. In his first
tenure, whatever he did was not enough for him to be accepted; his style of leadership never seen before made his acceptability more far-fetched. I lived in the midst of an elite who missed Dr Chris Ngige with passion. When it was time for his bid for a second tenure, I was sure I was not going to vote for Peter Obi. I have so listened to my friends, colleagues and others that nothing good was being said about Peter Obi.
Then came the second spin. Instead of him going for rallies, talking to people, distributing bags of rice/salt, sharing money, he began to schedule groups, communities, societies, professional bodies etc for tour of Anambra State. In this tour, he took people to witness what he has done in the first tenure. Hesitating about that magnanimity, I refused to join my own groups for this tour; I thought to myself that a guided tour will be remote-controlled.
I was using a Land Rover Discovery then which had the capacity of traversing any terrain. One day I fuelled the car and decided to take a tour of Anambra State myself; surely I have not been to many parts of the state, but I can give it a try. I took some provisions with me and began my journey at about 0800hours from Awka. I made first to Ayamelum Local Government, one of the places that used to be inaccessible.
I drove smoothly to Omor; I continued to Igbakwu and was wondering where the bad road began when an old woman pointed ahead of me to say if I go further, I will in Adani in Enugu State. Then I turned back and made to Onitsha; I entered Iyiowa to Atani, to Osamala, to Ogwu Ikpele and was again told I was heading to Rivers State. I drove back to Awka, into Amansea, to Ebenebe, to Awba Ofemmili.
These are the food basket of Anambra State and once impassable with damaged bridges. So you can take a tour of the whole state in less than six hours, if I had included going to Ihiala, Aguata and Orumba. These I know too well; my senatorial zone. His stint in education and health I knew so well. That was my point of no return.
I lived with the president of Agulu Town Union in the same street who has been frustrated looking for Peter Obi, so his people can gain from his administration. One day he said to me, “I will not look for him anymore, he keeps giving me one answer: ‘I am not the governor of Agulu,’ let us watch and see.” Well, I know my senior man has watched and is seeing today even that Agulu whose governor he was not. I shared my experience with my senior man and
resolved I was going to vote for Peter Obi. In Anambra, he was a member of APGA. I predicted he was going to leave APGA for Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), if he wanted to continue a career in politics because by the time he was leaving office he was in Goodluck Jonathan’s economic team and while in office he stood for PDP in every federal election. I was not disappointed he did, I was not surprised too that he left PDP for the Labour Party; party platform can only be his enabler, he is a “talk-na-do” politician in our local parlance. When he says he knows what to do with Nigerian economy, I believe him.
I have only met him up close once; he does not know me. I have interacted with his collaborators and they are carefully selected; mean with their engagements. One of them became my student, taking a lecture in “The Philosophy of the Existence of God”. He was already a professional, but I think he deliberately wanted to bag a certificate in philosophy. You can guess why.
He is working with an existential philosopher whose reason agrees with the Thomistic definition of truth “Adequatio rei ad intellectum.” Go and verify. Another proved his mettle in Anambra State governorship race; a distinguished diplomat and public administrator with a number of publications to his credit. Another after working with him, just went back to school and went into social sciences in spite of the fact that he was an engineer.
Every single one of them I met have turned a philosopher; although their master is not officially a lecturer but working with him was a process in mentoring – the real teaching. It only goes to say that what you hear him say is what he does. People who work with him do not wait for their turn to govern Anambra State; they are motivated to improve themselves and contribute their quota to the improvement of our collective humanity.
At this point, I am fully done with Nigeria and want to dust open opportunities to quit, this man has come again to raise hope. I believe him in all honesty. We can change this hopelessness to hopefulness. We can change this faithlessness to faithfulness. This is not about ethnicity; not about religion. It is about Nigeria; its peace unity and progress. If you believe with PO, we die here; I have reached the point of no return.