Will Peter Obi take Nigeria’s economy to El-Dorado?

The name, Peter Obi was unknown to most Nigerians, until March 2006, when the Court of Appeal announced him as the duly-elected Anambra State Governor. Since then, his approval rating by Nigerians has been high, even after leaving office as Governor in 2014.

Nairametrics takes a deep look at the man who has just been chosen as the running mate to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential flag bearer, Atiku Abubakar. Just a reminder, if PDP succeeds in ousting the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, come February 16, 2019; Peter Obi is the man who will constitutionally be in charge of the Nigerian economy. Nigeria constitution empowers the Vice President to preside over the National Economic Council (NEC) as the Chairman.

Academic Career

The PDP presidential running mate bagged a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Nigeria, Nnsuka in 1984, before attending a Chief Executive Programme at the Lagos Business School. He later took Mid Marketing and Changing the Game programmes at the prestigious Harvard Business School in Boston, USA.

The former Anambra Governor was also an Alumnus of the famous London School of Economics, where he took Financial Management/Business Policy courses. He was equally at the Columbia Business School in New York for a Marketing Management course among others. He also attended Oxford University, Cambridge University, Institute of Management Development, Switzerland among others.

Business/Banking Background

The Onitsha-born philosopher turned politician boasts of a very rich profile in the banking and corporate world. He has held several managerial positions in different firms and companies in the past. Notable among them are Next International Nigeria Limited, Guardian Express Bank Plc, Chams Nigeria Plc, Future View Securities, just to name a few. He rose to the pinnacle of his corporate career when he became the youngest Chairman of Fidelity Bank Plc.

Political Life

Peter Obi forayed into the Nigerian political arena when he contested for the Anambra State Gubernatorial election in 2003, but lost to Chris Ngigie. But he had to wait for three years, before reclaiming his mandate. He was impeached in November 2006 but also reclaimed his mandate through the Court of Appeal in February 2007.

The former banking chief was booted out of power with the 2007 general election, despite not completing his four-year gubernatorial mandate at the time of the election. However, for the third time, the 57-year old was returned to the Anambra Government House to finish his four-year tenure after winning the Supreme Court case challenging his removal.

He took over from Andy Uba, who had already been elected as the Anambra Governor in the 2017 general election. The UNN alumnus won a second tenure in office, as Anambra Governor in 2010 and ended his second term in 2014.

Economic Positions Occupied

He is not new to the Nigerian economic terrain, having served as the Honorary Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Finance till May 2015. He was also a member of Jonathan’s Presidential Economic Management Team until the regime was ousted by President Buhari in 2015. He was also the former Chairman of the Board of Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) . He is still a member of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) and the Nigerian Chartered Institute of Bankers.

Peter Obi has won several awards among which was the Sun Newspaper’s Man of the Year (2007), Thisday Newspaper’s Most Prudent Governor in Nigeria (2009), Champion Newspaper’s Nigeria’s Most Trustworthy Governor (2009), West Africa ICT Development Award for Governor of the Year (2010), Zik Leadership Prize (2011), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Best Performing Governor on Immunization in South-East Nigeria (2012), Ezeife Leadership Foundation’s Leadership and Good Governance Award (2012), Methodist Church of Nigeria’s Golden Award on Prudence (2012), Business Hallmark Newspaper’s Man of the Year (2012), Silverbird’s Man of the Year (2013), The Voice Newspaper’s Award for Outstanding Example in Leadership and Governance (2014), Champion Newspaper’s Most Outstanding Igbo Man of the Decade (2014), Nigerian Library Association’s Golden Merit Award (2014), and Catholic Diocese of Onitsha’s Golden Jubilee Award (2015).

Economic Ideas

Peter Obi’s tenure at the helms of affairs in Anambra brought tremendous growth to the state generally, with massive infrastructural development, accompanied by economic growth in different sectors of the state economy. His economic management of the state during his tenure as Governor brought out the attention of Nigerians on Anambra State.

On Wasteful spending, speaking at The Platform 2016, he spoke on how he managed to overcome the culture of waste through his personal prudence, saying he cut down the number of aides who accompanied him to Abuja only to wander around like they were afflicted with the curse of Cain. He said:

“It costs an average of N2 billion to run the office of the First Lady in every state in Nigeria. Multiply by 36. Nigeria can still function on its income if only we learn how to cut cost.

“We need to cut the cost of governance. No governor needs a house in Abuja; governors don’t live in Abuja.

“Government house is not a restaurant, I told my cook to cook for only one person.”

However, speaking on corruption, the ex-Governor recently said during an interview on Channels Television:

“I don’t have any single property in this country outside Onitsha. If you see any property outside Onitsha and they say it belongs to Mr. Peter Obi, burn it!

“I cannot pay N250,000 for one night in a hotel. I wouldn’t sleep that night. I will feel like I have been robbed.”

In the area of increasing absolute poverty, he lamented that:

“Poverty is increasing, children out of school have moved from 10 million to about 12 million.”

On rising debt, he accused the Federal Government of continuously borrowing rather than fixing the economy.

“You are borrowing money and the issues that it is supposed to affect are not coming down. In 2017 unemployment moved from 14.8 per cent a high rate which means more people have lost their jobs; the economy is shrinking.”

Meanwhile, in the area of education, the Vice Presidential candidate said

“In a state in the North, the number of children that sat for the West African Examination Council (WAEC) is 128; a state that is about five million people. This is not acceptable.”

As the unemployment rate soars, the PDP presidential running mate has this say:

 “Unemployment is worsening. Our unemployment ratio moved from 14.8% in 2017 to 18.8% this year. This means that more people have lost their jobs. We can’t survive like this.”

Can Obi salvage the struggling economy?

With his rich economic, political, business and academic background, Peter Obi is someone who perfectly understands the Nigerian economic terrain.

His performance in office as Governor was regarded by many as outstanding. His tenure at the helms of Anambra affairs brought tremendous growth to the state generally, with massive infrastructural development, accompanied by economic growth in different sectors of the state’s economy. His economic management of the state during his tenure as Governor brought the attention of many Nigerians on Anambra State.

His rich antecedents in the business and corporate world may also be of great advantage to the Nigerian economy – if his party emerge victorious in 2019 – as he will be presiding over the National Economic Council.

However, the one particular fact to remember is that, the NEC, which consists of the 36 state Governors and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, is only there as a body to “advise the President”. The de facto economic influence and power rest with the Economic Management Team of the President, which may not necessarily be led by the Vice President.

Nevertheless, the former Fidelity Bank Chairman might just be the man the Nigerian economy has been waiting for to put it on the path of growth and sustainable development.

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