In 1961, Nigeria was still basking in the euphoria of gaining political independence from Britain. Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was on the saddle as Nigeria’s prime minister while Rt. Hon. Nnamdi Azikiwe functioned as the ceremonial president. On the 19th of July, 1961, a new child was born in Onitsha to the Obi family of Agulu in Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra State. He was named Peter Gregory Obi, and was to become a Papal Knight of the Order of St. Sylvester.
What’s in a name? Christianity celebrates the biblical Peter as the leader of a select group of 12 apostles who worked in concert with Christ Jesus to win drifting souls. Discovered while casting a net into the Sea of Galilee, together with his brother, Andrew, Jesus made into fishers of men.
Like his namesake, Peter Obi was weaned on a diet of greatness from the cradle before he was singled out to lead others. Over time, he has become a major leader in business and political spheres of the Nigerian enterprise.
In Nigerian politics, Peter Obi (Okwute) commands attention as a silent achiever, a frugal manager, a meticulous capitalist and a cerebral technocrat who problematises Nigeria’s ratcheting woes and offers solutions. As the running mate of Atiku Abubakar in the 2019 presidential election, he became a major talking point more than the major players for dissecting global economies and drawing analogies with Nigeria’s, especially how the struggling Nigerian economy can benefit from the magic wands of the behemoths.
The pathway for that rigorous intellection was laid decades ago from the four walls of Christ the King College, Onitsha, where he bagged his WASC certificate and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he earned his first degree in philosophy. That was just the starting point in Obi’s voyage into time and space for academic pursuits and certifications.
Among others, he has attended the Lagos Business School, Nigeria, for Chief Executive Programme, Harvard Business School, Boston, U.S.A., for Mid to Mid Marketing Programme; Harvard Business School, Boston, U.S.A, for Changing the Game Programme; London School of Economics for Financial Managment/Business Policy; Columbia Business School, New York, U.S.A, for Marketing Management; Institute for Management Development, Switzerland for Senior Executive Programme; Institute for Management Development, Switzerland, for Break-Through Programmes for CEOs; Kellogg Graduate School of Management, U.S.A, for Advanced Executive Programme; Kellogg School of Management U.S.A., for Global Advanced Management Programme;
Oxford University: Said Business School, for Advanced Management & Leadership Programme, and Cambridge University’s George Business School for Advanced Leadership Programme.
A man with such intellectual grounding is bound to radiate the bearing of the mythical Hercules with a lion skin welding a club to undertake the most difficult of tasks. As an administrator, Peter Obi was painstaking in his drives and goals. If Anambra State was a mere suburbia in Nigerian politics when he took over as the state governor in 2006, Peter Obi’s eight year tenure brought it to the fore of the Nigerian political theatre with him playing the role of a famous protagonist among the dramatis personae. It was a storied tenure laced with personal and collective achievements.
Apart from being the state governor, he acted as Honorary Special Adviser to the President (Goodluck Jonathan) on Finance till May, 2015; member, Presidential Economic Management Team till May, 2015; Vice-Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum (2008-2014), and Chairman, South-East Governors’ Forum (2006-2014).
In business administration, Obi chaired different upscale establishments, vis: Board of Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC); Fidelity Bank Plc.; Guardian Express Mortgage Bank, Ltd.; Former Chairman: Future Views Securities, Ltd.; Paymaster Nigeria Plc.; Next International (Nigeria) Ltd; Guardian Express Bank Plc.; Chams Nigeria Plc.; Emerging Capital Ltd; and former director, Card Centre Plc. Besides, he belongs to professional organisations, such as Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG),
Nigerian Chartered Institute of Bankers, and British Institute of Directors (IOD).
During his tenure as the governor of Anambra State, Obi served as a member of the Federal Government Committee on Minimum Wage,
Federal Government Committee on Negotiation with Labour on Subsidy,
Federal Government Committee on Mass Transit, Federal Government Committee on Natural Resource,
National Economic Council Committee on Power Sector Reform,
National Economic Council Committee on Sharing of MDGs Funds, National Economic Council Committee on Accurate Data on Nigeria’s Oil Import and Export,
Agricultural Transformation Implementation Council,
Sub-Committee on Needs Analysis of Public Universities in Nigeria,
National Economic Council Review Committee on the Power Sector.
Obi’s mercurial strides haven’t gone unnoticed, however —they have become an open sesame for international respectability and, more especially, garlands and confetti at home.
In 2007, Obi won The Sun Newspaper Man of the Year Award. Two years later, he won both Thisday Newspaper Most Prudent Governor in Nigeria and Champion Newspaper Most Trustworthy Governor Award. While Obi won the
2010 ICT Governor of the Year awarded by the West Africa ICT Development Award, 2011 embraced him with the Zik Leadership Prize.
In 2012, Business Hallmark Newspaper knocked on his door with the Man of the Year. The same year, he earned The Golden Award on Prudence by the Methodist Church of Nigeria as the Most
Financially Prudent Governor in Nigeria. Also, The Ezeife Leadership Foundation garlanded him for restoring peace and harmony in Anambra State.
Still in 2012, Obi was awarded the Best Performing Governor on Immunisation in South-East Nigeria by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, while the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, awarded him the Outstanding Financial Planner and Manager for his resourcefulness and creativity in governance. In 2013, he jointly won the Silver Bird Man of the Year with Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State.
In 2014, he was awarded the Nigerian Library Association Golden Merit Award for remarkable improvement of libraries in Anambra State, exemplified by his government’s construction of the Kenneth Dike Digital State Library, remarkable upgrade of the Onitsha Divisional Library, and provision of library facilities in secondary schools across the state.
The same year, Champion Newspaper, once again, celebrated him as the Most Outstanding Igbo Man of the Decade, while The Voice Newspaper (Holland) awarded him the Achievers Award for Outstanding Example in Leadership and Governance.
In 2015, Obi was the recipient of the Golden Jubilee Award from Catholic Diocese of Onitsha for outstanding contribution to quality healthcare delivery in St. Charles Borromeo Hospital in particular and Anambra State in general. He was also lionised for being the Best Governor in the Implementation of the MDGs in Nigeria.
Obi was also the first state governor in the country to seek the interpretation of tenures of governors when INEC allowed elections to take place in Anambra State when his tenure had not expired. The already concluded election was, therefore, cancelled, and he was allowed to complete his tenure.
Obi also made history as the first state governor ever to serve a second term in office and was the first governor to be appointed a Special Adviser to the President and member of the Presidential Economic Management Team while still in office due to his economic savvy.
A man of many firsts, Obi was the first state governor to be honoured with a National Award in 2011 while still in office and also served twice as the Vice-Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum.
On March 24, 2022, the former Anambra State governor declared his intention to contest the 2023 presidency on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but in the leadup to the party’s primaries, Obi exited from the party, citing a conspiracy against him. PDP’s loss turned into a major gain for the Labour Party when he joined on May 27, 2022, as the party’s presidential candidates, including Pat Utomi, also stepped down for him three days later and he emerged as its presidential candidate with avant-garde ideas to sell.
His emergence has become a rallying point for many Nigerians, especially the youths and the voiceless, who have seen in him a balustrade to hold on to and hope in the midst of despair ahead of the 2023 presidential election.
As one of the triumvirate staking a claim to the exalted stool of Aso Rock, Obi has found himself on the cusp of writing his name on the national folklore with his OBI-dient movement, which is moving across the country like a whirlwind. Only time will tell if this wind will finally rest on that rock where the golden spectre lays.