Peter Obi, a former governor of Anambra State and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, vice presidential candidate at the 2019 general elections, has said that contrary to insinuations at many quarters, the problem of Nigeria is not corruption but bad leadership.
Obi who was the special Guest of Honour and Guest Speaker at the 7th News Express Anniversary Lecture which held on Thursday, November 14, 2019, at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Ikeja Lagos, said the issue of corruption in the country has subsisted, because Nigerians “celebrate impunity and ineptitude in leadership which fuels corruption,” adding that every Nigerian is guilty, one way or the other.
Explaining how citizens, even at auspicious opportunities do not hold their leaders accountable, the PDP Vice Presidential candidate at the 2019 elections said: “When I was in government, I did not see one per cent of the people I led come to me to tell me the problems that needed to be solved. Everybody called me ‘His Excellency’ and would say since I came to office as governor, the world has changed,” he said tongue-in-cheek.
Obi, who is known to have transformed Anambra during his tenure, especially in the education sector told a story of how he went to one of the villages whilst in office and while everybody was celebrating and jumping, treating him to different types of entertainment, nobody cared to tell him the problem the villagers were going through; even though the village had numerous problems.
He said it was three young children that came to tell him that their school was in bad shape, and based on the complaints of the children, he got the school fixed.
According to him, if not for the boldness of those students, he would have come and gone and the villagers would have remained with their problem, adding: “Though the school was bad, with facilities like toilet and needed infrastructures, nobody had the courage to tell me.”
Narrating another instance he said: “If not for an 80-year-old Mrs. Ndibe, I would not have paid the pension of workers until I left office as governor.
“I used to go to church every morning to attend morning mass before I would go to work. One of the days I was praying and this 80-year-old woman came to tap me and said I should stop praying. And I said Mama, what? She said I should stop praying, that I should go and pay her gratuity and she will pray for me, otherwise, God will not hear my prayers.”
He said that up till today, some people are wondering how he transformed education in Anambra.
“When I was dealing with the principal of schools, I did not get any reasonable information about the state of schools but the moment I left my numbers with the senior prefect of every school, I started getting the true picture of things,” he revealed.
He said this approach gave him some of the needed grassroots information to make Anambra a model of education in the country.
While bad leadership is the problem, Obi said that people celebrate it. He said that Nigerians hardly hold their leaders accountable.
He stated how surprised he was when he discovered that a governor who owes workers 11 months salaries in his state, is seeking re-election and people are applauding him.
“He is campaigning and people are clapping for him,” he said, adding: “It can never happen in any other country of the world.
“The man campaigns for election, if he goes around and gives people N2,000 each and they are jubilating; for the four years he will stay in office that N2,000 translates to N500 a year, N41, a week and N1.37 a day.
“It is said that for you to come of poverty you need, $1. 50 cents a day, that is N500 but if that man who is campaigning gives you that little amount and you take it, that is the money you get and for the four years he will stay in office, he has given you for a year, what he is supposed to give you daily.
“Corruption is in all of us. Nigeria is not the most corrupt country, there is corruption in every country but the difference in Nigeria is that we celebrate it.
“The problem of Nigeria is bad leadership and it cuts across the country. I was telling the young ones the other day; don’t think any of us is going to fix the entire problem of the country because the majority of us adults we have made up our minds.”
He said that providing security in Nigeria is a big issue because unemployment is fueling social ills in Nigeria as this puts pressure on the people and turns them into monsters.
Picking holes with the theme of the lecture – ‘Getting Nigeria Out of the Woods – A New Thinking’ – he said that the thinking is not new, the thinking has always been there and is not rocket science. He said that what is lacking is implementation.
Giving some practical instances, he said: “Nigeria was a signatory to the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, like China and other countries of the world but China did not do anything extraordinary to achieve greatness.
“China just implemented the MDGs from the local government to the national level and between the year 2000 to 2015; the country pulled 435 million people out of poverty. And between 2015 and 2020, China is going to create about 6 million jobs, he said, adding “this is not rocket science.”
He observed that, within this same period, Nigeria has not made any appreciable impact despite an avalanche of raw materials.