Labour Party (LP) Presidential Candidate in the February 25, 2023 election, Mr. Peter Obi, has said that Nigeria is presently in captivity and that everything must be done to rescue her from her captors, insisting that he entered the presidential race to offer the country the type of leadership that can get her out of the woods of bad governance.
Speaking as Keynote Speaker at the The Chinua Achebe International Symposium and 10th Anniversary Memorial Celebration as well as the 40th Anniversary of the publication of The Trouble With Nigeria, the widely reviewed booklet by the renowned novelist, Mr. Obi said that if Professor Achebe, an outspoken critic of bad governance, was alive today, he would have withdrawn the booklet, because when he wrote it 40 years ago, there was no trouble compared to what is evident in the country today.
Mr. Obi, at the symposium held at Princeton University, New Jersey, United States of America (USA), organised by The Christie and Chinua Achebe Foundation and African World Initiative (AWI), anchored by Professor Chika Okeke-Agulu, Director, Program in African Studies, Princeton University, agreed totally with Prof. Achebe that the trouble with Nigeria has been the lack of good leadership.
The former Governor of Anambra State stressed that good leadership will address the problems bedeviling Nigeria, such as corruption, poverty, insecurity, hunger, crude oil theft, the state of the Naira, unemployment, poor healthcare and bad education system, all of which have, literally, transformed her from a potentially great country into a failed state.
He insisted that these problems could be easily fixed by selfless and patriotic leaders who are ready to do the right thing and abide strictly by the rule of law. those whose antecedents, like their place of birth, parentage and schools attended can be verified.
Using statistics, Mr. Obi proved that Nigeria has depreciated so badly to the point of becoming the poverty capital of the world but could still be redeemed, noting that he did it in Anambra State as Governor where he met a collapsed education system, backlog of salaries, pensions and gratuities as well as insecurity, poor infrastructure and insecurity.
He told the excited and attentive audience that, for instance, by the time he left office as Governor, he had cleared the backlog of salaries, pensions and gratuities, cut down the cost of governance and transformed the education system to the point where the state became, from among the worst, the number one educationally in the country. And, he said, he accomplished all the feats and still left behind millions of Dollars and Billions of Naira in different banks in the country as savings for the state.
According to him, much of the problems of the country revolve around poverty, pointing out that he has a blueprint for getting millions of Nigerians out of poverty. This, he said involves, among others, turning the country from consumption to production, cutting down drastically on the cost of governance, checking insecurity and transforming the education and health systems.
He used statistics from nations such as India, China, the Netherlands, Israel and Bangladesh to comparatively show that Nigeria can feed herself and export surplus produce if proper attention is given to agriculture, using Niger State and Sambissa Forest in Borno State as examples of huge expanses of very fertile land that are lying waste but that could be profitably used for mass farming.
Mr. Obi, who regretted that criminality and rascality have become measures of success in Nigeria, which must change in the new nation he envisions, insisted that ordinarily, there is nothing wrong with the land or climate of the country or the average character of nationals, noting that the problems afflicting the country are the effects of cumulative leadership failure.
He said what Nigeria needs is sacrificial leadership, leadership dedicated to selfless service, insisting that the people must chase away the captors of the country, stop further abuse of the nation and checkmate those stealing the country’s commonwealth, including crude oil and other natural resources that are being mined illegally.
According to him, Nigeria has earned the
unenviable reputation of being one of the countries that are developing backwards in literally all indices of development, lamenting that there is little or nothing to show for the trillions of Dollars of oil revenue that have accrued to the country since the discovery of crude oil, noting that the country could easily pass for a giant crime scene.
Mr. Obi, who did a panoramic review of Prof. Achebe’s major works, including Things Fall Apart, Arrow of God and Man of the People, to show that the world acclaimed writer used his main characters to show his concern for society, noted that the Ogidi, Anambra State-born literary icon’s last work, There Was A Country was, clearly, a lamentation of the failed state of the nation.
He, however, assured his audience that with the collective resolve of Nigerians and united action, there will soon be a country where things will be done right, where there will be respect for the rule of law and where leaders will be who they say they are. He also assured the audience that he is not going away or giving up the struggle till the new Nigeria is actualised.
Other notable speakers also took turns, before and after the Keynote Address, to discuss The Trouble With Nigeria.
Among those who spoke, included HRM Igwe Onyido of Ogidi; Richard Joseph, Emeritus John Evans Professor of International History and Politics, Northwestern University; Professor Toyin Falola, Professor of African Studies and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities, University of Texas at Austin; Sonia Sanchez, Poet, Writer and Professor; Chika Unigwe, Professor of Creative Writing at Georgia University; Obiora Udechukwu, Emeritus Dana Professor of Fine Arts, St. Lawrence University; HE Abena P.A. Busia, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ghana to Brazil, Professor Emerita, Rutgers University; Simon Gikandi, Class of 1943 University Professor of English, and Chair, Department of English, Princeton University; Anthonia Kalu, Professor of Cooperative Literature, African Studies, University of California-Riverside and Dr. Oseloka Obaze, former Secretary to Anambra State Government.
The 10th Anniversary Memorial celebration in honour of Professor Achebe took place Saturday, September 30, 2023 also in Princeton as a continuation of the intellectual feast of Friday, September 29, 2023 and featured testimonies, poetry recitations, music by celebrated music icons dance and more.