Even after the 2023 presidential elections scheduled for next Saturday (February 25, 2023) in which Mr Peter Obi of the Labour Party has received widespread acclamation as the candidate to beat, I will advise many Nigerians to still look out for Chuks Iloegbunam’s book, The Promise Of A New Era, which was presented to the public a couple of months ago in Enugu. Younger people who might one day nurse the aspiration to occupy leadership positions in Nigeria will find this book especially rewarding.
One juicy take-away from the book is the need for young people to school themselves to start very early to keep their paths clean because they have no way of knowing the amazing opportunities that might throw themselves on their laps tomorrow. Indeed, an action undertaken today by a youth which might appear very insignificant could shoot itself up tomorrow and undermine his ability to seize a very ripe opportunity to achieve an enviable elevation. This is one vital lesson Peter Obi’s life should teach many young people. Despite being the most fact-checked candidate in the presidential contest today, Obi has eme emerged without a dent.
In this book, Chuks Iloegbunam, a veteran journalist, essayist and author of several books, tells us Obi’s story with amazing details: his early life distinguished by unwavering focus, firm determination, industry and resilience; how his harwork, dedication and commitment to any chosen course shot him up to be become a successful businessman and star in the corporate world, before he was persuaded to run for the office of the Governor of Anambra State where his sterling records of accomplishments and transparency are yet to achieve any replications in the stories of many public officers in Nigeria.
The Promise Of A New Era offers eight chapters to its readers. In the first chapter, we encounter a detailed survey of Nigeria’s crowded political scene in the build up to the campaigns for the 2023 elections, where as many as 15 political parties presented themselves for the coming electoral contest. But like Iloegbunam submits, only “three parties appear the most likely to scratch water out of the arid presidential ground. These are the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Labour Party (LP), and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)” (p.4).
It is instructive that once Obi joined the Labour Party and indicated his interest to run for the office of the president, the two aspirants who were already warming up to compete for the votes of the 185 delegates ready to vote at the party’s coming national convention, Professor Pat Utomi and Olubusola Emmanuel-Tella, happily announced their decision to step down for him, thus, making Obi the consensus candidate of the party. Indeed, this noble and patriotic decision by the duo proved to be very rewarding to the party and Nigeria, because the emergence of Obi “as the Labour Party presidential candidate drastically altered the entire dynamics of the 2023 presidential election” (p.6). Soon, the candidate of the Labour Party so ignited the excitement of Nigerians that the party quickly emerged from relative obscurity to become a leading contender in the coming elections.
“Like a colossus, Peter Obi instantaneously mounted the pedestal of Nigerian national politics, leaving the other presidential candidates and their platforms dazed and groping desperately for a leash to a proper understanding of what was going on,” writes Iloegbunam on pages 6-7.
In the same chapter, the writer shows why many Nigerians see the APC and PDP as a choice between the “devil and the deep blue sea.”
He writes, “after two terms of eight years, the Buhari administration has posted a most successful list of unredeemed promises. Not even one of their glib 81 promises did the APC attempt to meet, let alone fuflil. This must be one of the most reprehensible records of dismal political administrations in global history” (p.16).
About the PDP, the author writes: “its abysmal role in leading the opposition is underscored by its failure over nearly eight years to interrogate the blight that is the APC. The PDP allowed the APC to go scot-free with blue murder. They spent all their time in internal wars over party leadership…And while the charade continued the remaining PDP states hardly showed any flair in governance that could be posited as substitute for the un-performing APC…can the Deep Blue Sea serve as the Devil’s advocate and procure succor to the drowning nation?” (p.17). Does a party that shows such “irreverence for the spirit and letters of its own constitution” (p.17) by jettisoning the zoning formula it willingly enshrined in Article 7(2) (c), deserve anyone’s respect?
The unappealing image of these two parties is by no means redeemed by the unedifying records of their presidential candidates. The author believes that “between Atiku Abubakar and Bola Tinubu, there is an unbreakable umbilical cord that spells nothing other than ruination to Nigeria” (p.40). More details about what the author considers the true colours of Atiku and Tinubu received generous treatment in this chapter. This should guide the prospective voter in his choice of whom to hand over an already battered country yearning for healing to.
Done with the unappetizing tales of the demoralizing backgrounds and states of the other parties, chapter two seeks to lighten the reader’s burden with a look at the Peter Obi phenomenon which suddenly took the hitherto uninspiring Nigerian political landscape by storm, unsettled previous calculations and created a formidable Third Force that is now clearly set to bring to a very refreshing end the drab and odious relay race between APC and PDP on Nigeria’s leadership stool and offer Nigerians a reinvigorating alternative. It is a breath of fresh air.
The Obi phenomenon grew so rapidly and widely that it became a Recovery Movement that soon transcended the person of Obi – though he remained the rallying point. For instance, when Obi tried to appeal to his supporters which had grown into an overwhelming mass of young people across the nation willing and eager to queue behind him, to moderate their tone while responding to the opponents of the New Move, tweets and posters emerged declaring that “Peter Obi is not contesting for the President of Nigeria. It is Nigerians that are contesting through Peter Obi” (p.48). So, he should allow them to serve appropriate responses to the people opposed to the Recovery Mission.
According to Iloegbunam, “previously, it was a matter of a candidate emerging and people rallying behind him [but] in Peter Obi’s case, the people already rallied behind the noble idea of salvaging Nigeria and enthused when they found the appropriate vehicle for the salvage operation in Peter Obi” (pp.48-49)
This chapter also informs the reader the process of choosing Obi’s running whose unveiling was “greeted with celebration among his supporters” and further enhanced the acceptability of his ticket among Nigerians, unlike Atiku who “ran into a storm by picking Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as his running mate while Tinubu compounded his crises points by presenting a Muslim-Muslim ticket” (p.52).
The following chapter narrates the interesting story of Obi’s tenure as Anambra Governor, showcasing his antecedents in leadership and the rich experiences he is bringing to the table. Here was a committed democrat who had to deploy time and personal resources to wage a protracted legal battle before he could reclaim the mandate freely given to him by the people of Anambra State. With a PDP-dominated state assembly, he was soon impeached for the most ludicrous reasons. When this occurred, he returned to court and was eventually reinstated after a legal victory. And shortly after he resumed at his office, he was told that his tenure was over and another person who had won an election to replace him was sworn in. He returned to court and obtained a landmark judgment from the apex court which served Nigerians an unambiguous interpretation of what constitutes a governor’s tenure, when it should commence and end. With his victory, he returned to office to complete his four-year term which has remained memorable in many hearts, even beyond Anambra. This is one judgment from which several governors have benefited from and which has ensured that governorship elections in Nigeria now hold at different times in several states.
Iloegbunam also allocates space to properly introduce Obi to the reader and offers rare insight into his family history, spotlighting the kind of background that moulded the character that is Peter Obi. We also see Obi’s wisdom and resilience when faced with any task and his ability to be focused and calm in the midst raging storms. These are illustrated with rich historical details reported from the privileged position of an insider.
The author writes: “People say that Peter Obi is soft-spoken. That is correct. But it is not contrived. That was the card nature dealt him. The fact that he does not believe in blustering or what Nigerians call gra-gra in common parlance, persuaded some people to see the man as a weakling, a man bereft of resolve. But time and again, he proved them wrong” (p.65). Nigerians should therefor believe Obi when he says that as Commander-in-Chief, he will be in-charge!
Selected recent and old pictures that tell the story of Obi’s movements and engagements are also published for the readers delight. This ushers the reader into Chapter Four where Obi’s tenure as Anambra governor is discussed in greater detail. Here we see a focused and people-oriented administrator intent on making a great difference on the lives of the people that elected him to govern them. We see his prudent management of resources and the giant strides he achieved in several sectors, notably health and education, and the great infrastructural improvement recorded during his tenure.
“It was because Peter Obi is proficient in money management that he saved up billions in assets and raw cash that he handed over to the government that succeeded his. It was frugality that made his government about the only one in Nigeria that never borrowed a dime…In reality what he practiced in government, and what he practices in his business affairs, is to scrupulously save money and to spend it only when it is absolutely necessary” (p.103), the author writes.
The impressive CV of Obi and his running mate Dr. Datti Baba-Ahmed are laid bare for the reader in chapter five. Everything about the dates and places of their birth, the highly rated schools they attended across the world, businesses they started and grew to great heights and how they rose to become towering players in the corporate world. Indeed, every Nigerian needs to read to this chapter to see the quality choice many Nigerians across regional and religious divides are eager to make with their votes on Saturday and how Obi and Baba-Ahmed would bring their rich experiences to bear in their efforts to resuscitate Nigeria’s ailing economy and infrastructure. Indeed, with such a team, the encircling gloom always hanging over Nigeria like an ominous threat is set to be replaced with bright lights of hope, recovery and celebrations. One more thing, everything stated there can be verified, as they usually say!
Chapter six reminds readers of those wonderful quotes that have regularly dropped from Obi’s mouth which have greatly electrified Nigerians. One needs to read them to help decipher how the mind of the man works and his sense of direction as he seeks the position of the highest office in the land. Permit me to just reproduce one:
“I’m not desperate to be president. I’m desperate to see Nigeria work, especially for the youth. I’ve moved to a party where I think the system will allow me to contribute…My politics has been consistent in character and integrity throughout the time I started. You can go and check” (p.141).
While chapter seven is a selection of insightful opinions on Peter Obi by four Nigerian public intellectuals, chapter eight closes the book with a brief reflection on the likely consequences of not allowing the people’s will to triumph. In the 2023 elections, the deep yearning of the people is clear: their votes should be allowed to count; let them be allowed to have as their leader whom they are persuaded has what it takes to take the richly endowed but badly mismanaged country to a destination of safety and incredible prosperity.
The Promise Of A New Era is a book that merits a second reading. Aspiring politicians, Political Science students and scholars, and, indeed, every educated Nigerian will find this book richly informing. In it, we discover that the road to Nigeria’s recovery is just there to be taken by a man of vision, character and competence. But sadly, it is still this same Nigerians that always cry about the sorry state of the nation that often squander the opportunity to choose the right people to lead them to the promised land. But with the emergence of Peter Obi as the Labour Party presidential candidate, Nigerians seems to have found a reason at last to make a bold, beneficial choice.
*Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye's book, Nigeria: Why Looting May Not Stop is available on Amazon.com