I used to envy Valentine Obienyem on the privilege of being the handiest aide to ex-governor Peter Obi. But not anymore. Not after listening to his boss last time out at the Platform. I was completely astounded at the way Mr. Obi was reeling out figures. The way he converted currency equivalents from his head without blinking was a marvel… but I’ve watched him do that severally that it truly wasn’t new to me.
What made me wonder about the ingenuity of the man many love to refer to as the Oracle is how he compared Nigeria’s economy with any other in the world, mentioning population figures, GDP, Foreign Reserves, Debts, 2030 projections, etc. And the countries he mentioned were many – Mexico, Norway, Japan, India, Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, etc. He reeled out the figures, analysing each economy from memory! He went further to compare annual turnovers of the likes of Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, etc. I’ve never witnessed anything like that before!
It was while watching him reel out those figures that my mind drifted to Val. It immediately struck me that any time SABMiller Company decided to celebrate an anniversary and invited Okwute to deliver a speech that it would fall on Val to conduct the research. The very dependable aide wouldn’t really be researching on when Sabmiller started business, their annual turnovers and such stuff ordinary men would deliver as speeches. Val would be digging for what only Okwute would be interested in – how many bottles of each brand of the brewer’s products they produce daily and the total till date of Okwute’s speech. Compare with best ten brewers in the world and Africa, best five brewers in Nigeria. Attempt to tabulate the quantities of the products being consumed daily in each state in Nigeria. Tabulate to the last man their workforce and how many of Anambra State origin. Tabulate and sum up their gross and net profits since they started business and then hazard a projection where they would be in 2030. And Val wouldn’t afford to mix figures up or worse – get them totally wrong. He has no such luxury. Perfection and his master sleep together.
I then appreciated fully how difficult Val’s job of assisting a genius like Okwute could be.
Back to the Agulu-born ‘trader’ and the Platform. While I listened to him, the man made me feel like an illiterate. Mr. Obi called himself a trader and expressed complete global knowledge of his vocation. I asked myself there and then if I could speak so authoritatively about my own vocation. I’m a writer but I don’t even know the bestselling books and authors in the market. My mind drifted there immediately Okwute compared Amazon’s turnover with Nigeria’s annual budget. (Amazon markets my novels, The Senator and The Ultimate Prize).
I’m a filmmaker but I don’t even know the bestselling movies in Nollywood, Ghollywood, South Africa, Bollywood and Hollywood. I felt ashamed of myself. Instead I know all the players in all top football clubs in Europe, the highest goal scorers in any top league in Europe and the likely winners of each title. Yet I don’t earn a dime from football. I spend enormous time watching Arsenal and all top teams in Europe while I haven’t really sat down to watch from start any movie (foreign or local) and finish it since 2017. I understood how truly stupid I have been. Sorry Arsenal and football. Okwute re-engineered my hobby last May 1.
Once this season ends, the next time I’m spending on TV would be for news and movies. I will know the box office hits, both local and international every week. I will know the bestselling books and their authors globally at all times. Enough of valuable time wasting. God has endowed me with enough talent that I should never be in recession whatever the state of my country or state. It’s only that, unlike Okwute, I’ve never been able to discipline myself.
During the tantalising moments the Kellogg College graduate held the audience spell-bound at the Platform, he said something that set me thinking. While urging dear country to invest hugely on Education he explained that the world had left physical economy for intellectual economy. He mentioned Facebook to illustrate huge earners that do not need containers and trucks to transfer goods. He emphasised that only education, particularly quality education in the area of science and technology, would make the youths and coming generations tap into this intellectual ability that is fast becoming a global trend. He lamented that of the 57 million uneducated children in the world that Nigeria has 10.7 million of that number.
I personally know of many web designers, who are multi-millionaires. I know the biggest online movie marketers in Nollywood, Iroko, who market Producers’ films, became instant billionaires while producers labour in different location sites, making movies that most times they don’t even recover capital spent in such productions. I have many friends, who wake up every day, spend around eight hours on the internet, earning huge money legitimately without bothering to step out of their bedrooms. Okwute was talking of such intellectual knowledge and economy. It got me thinking even deeper.
Mr. Obi spent and still spends enormous money training himself in ivy league institutions the world over. I can’t afford such expensive education. So, whenever he talks, I listen attentively to grab the much I could. Because he is a man willingly at home with giving out such education free, not minding what it costs him to acquire.
But appallingly, what some intellectually bereft goonies grabbed from such earth-quaking performance are how many shoes he wears, whether he lied that he has only one watch, that he wasn’t telling the truth about owning houses and such pathetic stuff. Some went as far as stressing themselves to suggest the Finance Minister, Mrs Kemi Adeosun floored Mr. Obi at the Platform. Unless there was another Platform before or after the one Channels Television beamed live on May 1, the poor woman had the education of her life. Even with her power point presentation, the equally very intelligent woman did all she could to get near Mr. Obi’s proficiency. Of course, she couldn’t mention figures from memory without occasionally referring to her table from the screen. But I wouldn’t blame the woman. Okwute’s ability is a class act and special gift from God. Our dear Finance Minister did her best and kudos to her too.
When she started by saying, ‘’…few of the figures Mr. Obi mentioned are not very accurate…’’, I waited to see the contradiction. But the very respectful woman only exploited her position of being in the know of the accurate financial figures and what government was planning at that very moment. Of course, Okwute acknowledged he read from the newspapers during his speech. Even though she eventually threw the promised bullet when she told Okwute that he knew those in government when enormous resources were stolen and wasted, in the end the woman winded up by assuring Okwute and the audience that dear country is taking adequate steps to comply with most of the things Okwute advocated for both in the October speech and the one in discourse.
What the woman came short of telling the audience is that Mr. Obi, while as governor, tried as much as possible to stop the governors from insisting on sharing everything to no avail. And that while they shared, he took Anambra’s own, came home, utilised it very prudently and wisely … then did what he urged them to do at the national level – save. He saved N75 billion before handing over. At that rate President Obasanjo could have saved over N3 trillion in same eight years.
What baffles me is why the generation Mr. Obi is labouring to assist in building an assured economy and healthy financial stability would be busy chasing myopic shadows. Obimetrix is no longer a course to be studied in the universities. It should now be a movement preached in all places of gathering.
However, I can understand why some political opponents send low-level attack dogs to attempt vainly to re-write history and bury the import of that memorable speech. With just those two appearances at the Platform, Okwute does not need further campaign to beat any Nigerian in a free and fair contest for any political position in the country. When it comes to the Anambra Central Senate seat, it’ll be a mere walkover whenever INEC decides to make the call. So you can understand why some folks are stripping naked in public.
And coming to Agu Awka…what really are they fighting Okwute’s speech for? Politically the Agulu-born technocrat will not be contesting against the present occupant. So, why are they restless? Well, I made guesses – 1. Obi called that for our government to be seen as walking their talk in made in Nigeria goods, that they should first make sure that furniture in their houses should be made in Nigeria. In Anambra we know that the First Family sleeps on golden beds! 2. Okwute said he has only two pairs of shoes…we know that his successor at a guess will have not less than a 100 pairs of shoes – all custom-made and imported from Italy, Spain and USA. 3. Okwute said he owns just one wristwatch and has worn it for 17 years. We know that his successor, at a guess, will have not less than 20 sets of watches from the costliest manufacture in Switzerland. 4. Okwute said he ordered 1000 brands of vehicles from Innoson and paid him upfront. In today’s Anambra we order from TATA, India at alleged inflated costs and depleting poor state’s resources further in addition to insane Security Votes. So, clearly, the guilty are afraid.
The world over, intelligent men learn from even their enemies. But what we’re dealing with in Anambra centres around EGO. For those schooled in inspirational books, we have Ego food and Ego poison. But not many books would tell you they’re both served on same plate. Whichever you choose to consume decides your destiny.
Peter Obi is an institution, where some go through and pass while others go through and fail.
The choice is yours.