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Obi on Arise News

Peter Obi, the empty vessel that makes the most noise

13 November 2018

Peter Obi, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) vice presidential candidate and former governor of Anambra State, said during an interview yesterday on Arise News “Morning Show”, that “we should solve problems, not shouting, not making noise”.  He was referring to the likes of Kaduna State governor Nasir El-Rufai, who has accused Obi of bigotry.

El-Rufai made the accusation in a couple of tweets:

Rather than rebut those claims and dispel any suggestion he had a bigotry problem in a coherent way, Obi demonstrated his hollowness, lack of substance, shouted and made a lot of noise.  He resorted to a line of defence familiar to racists – the old chestnut of “some of my best friends are black”.  He said he had six police commissioners in his time as governor and none of them were from his southeast region.  Obi added, for good measure, that his police orderly was a northerner.  What has this got to do with telling a Nigerian he didn’t belong in your state?

Watch the interview below:

Obi even contradicted himself in his defence against the charges of removing northerners from his state.  He said he didn’t control the security agencies – police, Department of State Services (DSS) or army.  So was incapable of rounding up anyone for removal.  He forgot that this meant he didn’t control who was sent to his state as a police chief or posted as his police orderly.  So claiming he worked well with those officers was a daft thing to say in defence of allegations of bigotry.

The ex governor tried to flip the script and asked how many Igbo people El-Rufai has worked with.  This is again a poor line of defence, especially as it didn’t help shed any light for viewers on the specific allegations against Obi.  Anyway, a couple of days ago, El-Rufai had retweeted this along the “I have Igbo friends” lines:

It was a truly cringeworthy performance from Obi, who claimed “I have friends from every part of the country”.  But nobody wanted to know about his friends.  The issue was whether he removed any Nigerians from his state or said that El-Rufai should go back to his state.

Obi then, quite rightly, said the focus should be on education and development.  Yes, politicians should focus on those issues.  But a very diverse country like Nigeria should also not ignore or try to sweep bigotry or the perception of bigotry under the carpet.  Obi failed woefully to dispel the notion that he is a bigot with his sloppy answers.

If shoddy answers were the only problems on display, it would have been reasonable to give Obi the benefit of the doubt.  But he compounded this with shocking ignorance while fronting to be an expert in governance and business.  He said his presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, was serious about education and demonstrated it by building a private school and private university in his home state.  Obi argued that if Atiku was in it for the money, he would have built those institutions in Abuja or Lagos.  Average tuition at Atiku’s American University in Yola is $4,372 a year.  There are separate charges for food and accommodation.  Those costs are beyond the reach of average Nigerians.  The university was founded in 2004, while Atiku was still vice president in an administration whose responsibilities included improving public education.  Instead, he had an interest in creating a market for private schools and universities like his own.  The worse public universities became, the more his private university benefited.  This was a serious conflict of interest that seemed to be beyond Obi’s comprehension.

Obi then rolled on to the issue of a minimum wage in Nigeria.  He said “market forces” should determine what the minimum wage should be and also argued that the minimum wage should be different in a rich state like Lagos.  He then said that in the US, the governor of California earned more than the governor of a smaller state.  His argument showed a poor understanding of the concept of minimum wage.  Firstly, it is insensitive to talk to people earning a pittance about the pay of governors, who live rent-free, have all expenses taken care of, have allowances running in millions of naira, access to “security votes” and so on.  Secondly, the man who likes to talk about what happens in America, didn’t even understand how the minimum wage works there.  There is federal labour law that states that no one should earn below a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.  The states are then free to decide whether there should be a minimum wage above that level set by federal law.  So “market forces” may determine how much people earn in each state, but no one should earn below the minimum of $7.25 an hour.

Obi continued to show his detachment from reality.  After claiming that “I have been a trader all my life”, he said that the cost of petrol only affected the few million or so people that own a car.  It was incredible that a businessman wasn’t aware that any rise in the price of petrol affected the prices of goods and services that all had to be delivered by road in Nigeria.  Increases in the pump price also meant hikes in public transport fares – hitting poor Nigerians in the pocket.  This has a multiplier effect on the rest of the economy because a lower disposable income for the majority means less spending on goods and services and slows economic growth.  A businessman, a former chairman of two banks, and a two-term governor didn’t know this very basic level economics.

The price of petrol affects a lot more than car owners

Obi criticised the current government’s “tradermoni” scheme, in which 10,000 to 50,000 naira ($27.50-137.50) in collateral free loans were handed out to petty traders.  He said if he became vice president “we will do it differently”.  He never said how.  When questioned on what specific steps he would take to reduce the cost of governance, there were no specifics.

Obi and his admirers keep packaging him as something he clearly is not.  He is presented as a knowledgeable politician with experience in the private and public sector.  He claims regularly that he left money in the bank at the end of his eight years as governor.  Interestingly, he never talks about how much debt he left.  His successor said that Obi left the state $350m in debt.

The man himself talks a lot, shouts a lot, but beyond the noise, there is little of substance.  It is really troubling for Nigeria, if according to the hype, Obi is among the best of the rest of governors and former governors.  Paraphrasing Winston Churchill, never have so many been in praise of so little knowledge.  Obi told his viewers he was rich “by world standards”.  That may well be true, but he also appears to have more money than sense.

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