By Valentine Obienyem
The other day, Mr. Sam Omatseye – a writer many used to have respect for due to some reasons, including the fluidity of his prose – wrote an article entitled “Obi-nomics”. In the said article, clearly embittered by resentment, he hurled obloquies at Mr. Peter Obi. He saw Obi as a rising sun that must be totally eclipsed. I did a rejoinder to that piece as part of the respected “right to reply”, which readers are supposed to enjoy. I appropriately sent the rejoinder to Mr. Sam Omatseye, who, contrary to the liberality of “The Nation” newspaper refused to present it for publication. Of course, I felt bad. Omatseye may not know that I have come a long way with “The Nation” Newspaper not to be denied such a right. In any case, I was privileged to have written the first letter to the Editor at the birth of “The Nation” (then Comet) Newspaper entitled “The Comet Cometh”. Am I not qualified to be a stakeholder?
A few months after that piece, Omatseye was at it again. On the 1st of August, he wrote another piece entitled “Obi-tuary”, literary wishing Obi dead and buried as the easiest route for his patron to become the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In his recent piece, he pelted Obi with poisoned ink by inventing imaginary flaws in Obi’s character which he served in hot-peppered sauce. It is hard to find, in all records of opinion-writing, a piece more barbarous, stinking, and oozing scalding lava of obscene volcanic words not just about a person, but also about a people – The Igbo. Like a sightless lover whose inexplicable increase in hydraulic pressure drove to a blind erotic hunger that led to rape, Omatseye employed the weapons he is at home with: satire, ridicule, vituperation and crafty distortion of the truth. What are those untruths? We shall see them through the narratives he tried to push through.
The first segment of his venomous vituperation may be summarised through the lines he addressed directly to the Igbo with the aim to injure them in body and spirit: “They have transferred the temperament of their former master into the new. And they have not spared any incoherence, any lack of finesse, and threats and tantrums, any show of rabid, primitive cants, or any ululations. They have abused, cursed, thrown imprecations. They have hugged lies about their candidate. They have pelted lies about others. They have distorted material”. Here, Omatseye simply presented the symptoms of a man who is worried by sleeplessness on account of the popularity of Mr. Peter Obi by trying to make his candidacy an ethnic movement. Just like our Uncle Joe You-Know-Who, would you blame Omatseye for vigorously attacking a man who appears to have made a ship-wreck of their sweet dreams of occupying Aso Rock in 2023?
For the instruction of Omatseye and his admirers, Peter Obi’s candidacy cannot be reduced to an ethnic movement. If there is anybody who has raised the banner of ethnicity, it was the man who gleefully pronounced that it was “his turn”.
Nigeria is bleeding on all fronts. Our leaders of today have plunged the country into hostile halves of the North and the South; the rich and the poor; the haves and the haves-not. Daily, they are guiding Nigeria into anarchy. Today, there is hardly any spot or town where the torch of insurrection does not openly flame. Rather than write responsibly and contribute to extinguishing that fire, Omatseye is bracketing the Igbo as the problem of the country.
To prove to you how depraved Omatseye has descended into, because the “turn” of his master is “challenged”, let us consider some of his words: “Kanu lashes out at Obi as governor and stated what this essayist wrote about him over building a NEXT supermarket while still the governor of Anambra State. The video clip referred to him as a sort of sexual being on the fringe. You can imagine an Aso Rock sweltering with romps of the evil flesh. His so-called Obidients know this. But it counts for little.” The fact is that Next Mall in Abuja was conceived and started long before Peter Obi became a State Governor. Before then, Next already had facilities bigger that the Abuja Mall.
On the issue of sexual perversion, all I can state is that many Obi-watchers are appalled as certainly as most Nigerians are by Omatseye’s ungracious scurrility. I observed some people that called themselves “Batists,” those he is old enough to be their fathers, hailing him with guffaws of applause. Deep inside him, is he happy trying to destroy another man with obvious lies? There should be limits a gentleman should go in tarnishing the image of others simply because he is fighting for a master they place value in his favours than his reputation. I understand he is avoided in “The Nation” Newspaper because of his habitual gossips and snitches to BAT about those that support or do not support him.
No writer has the monopoly of lies and use of empty amplifications, deceptive analogies and rhetorical tricks. The difference is that sometimes it is a matter of choice or being constrained by maturity and objectivity. We have obvious truths about other presidential candidates, which nobody that works closely with Peter Obi has used because it is not his style. Who says we cannot, for example, refer to some candidates thick and dropping under lips, hesitant and incoherent speeches, and hands that twitch spasmodically as evidence that age and narcotics have rendered them unsuitable for the post? Who says we cannot demand from Omatseye the real name of his patron, the clearing of the cloud surrounding his education and the clarification of the fact of having been jailed in the USA once upon a time. We would not write certain things, especially those bordering on the use of diapers as it will amount to disrespect for the aged or the sick. It could be you or I tomorrow. However, our stand does not vitiate the fact that such are factors in governance.
Exhausting the arrows in his quiver, Omatseye wrote confusedly about Obi: “This is Obi, who claimed he saved money, while pensioners were looking desperately at their graves”. The verifiable fact is that pensioners had it best under Mr. Peter Obi in Anambra State. Besides clearing arrears of pensions and gratuities that had accumulated in the State since 1999 till he became Governor – to the tune of over 35 Billion Naira – Obi did not owe any pensioner till he left office. Under him, retirees got their benefits within three months of disengaging from service. Sam Omatseye should know and anyone else can go and verify.
Dourly inflexible and embittered by Peter Obi’s rising profile and elevation to stardom of good governance, Sam Omatseye wrote: “But no economy works in history by saving money. It stifles the economy. He has not been able to tell us how he will do it, and whether he has done it.” Would it be reasonable to think that Omatseye does not have a savings account as a private person? If he could save for any reason, why does he rationally think that States should not save? Could he point at any prodigal State that he knows that expended all their revenues without savings? In any case, Obi is ever ready to explain the rationale behind saving for the State. Here he goes: “I saved N48,629,473,469 in local currency some of which we tied to specific projects like payment of 2-year salary of civil servants we employed for him [his successor, Willie Obiano] not to be encumbered, Agulu and Onitsha Hotel, Awka and Nnewi Malls and some critical roads like the completion of the dualization of the Dual carriage road over which we had got permission to do so and be paid back by the Federal Government. We also left some for him to continue what we were doing aggressively”.
On the US$156 million saved, Peter Obi explained the purpose thus: “After our study of the Chinese phenomenal achievements as we were coming to the end of MDGs, we learned that the Chinese Regional governments were able to attract a number of investments because of the ability to contribute or partner with the investors in setting up productive facilities within their regions.
“For example, some of them effectively made equity contributions of 10-20%, which they were able to achieve due to their robust saving.
“So, our calculation was that if the State would be able to save a particular amount (US$18-20 million) as we did in eight years, up until 2030 at the average interest rate of a little over 6%, we would be able to achieve about a billion Dollars in savings and earnings. We would then use about 50% of this amount to attract investments, considering that the average Chinese Small and Medium Scale Enterprise (SME), for example, was set up with about two million Dollars. Our goal was that if we would be able to invest 25% in each enterprise, which is $500,000, we would be able to achieve 1000 SMEs facilities scattered all over Anambran State, which would jump-start aggressive economic growth within the State, especially as income from oil is coming to an end”.
What else do we add to this pragmatic explanation? It is, however, intriguing that a man of the Sam Omatseye’s status is ignorant of this fact or more likely, chose to suppress it.
A few days ago, Mr. Peter Obi visited Dunamis Church in Abuja to commune with the Creator and was warmly received. As usual, those that are feeling hurt by Obi’s candidature as represented by Omatseye had their BP reaching to bursting point. Externalizing his inner feelings, he wrote: “He is therefore using religion as a bait. He is now on a weekly pilgrimage to churches.” The truth which you may verify is that since 2014 when Obi left office, he has been visiting schools and Churches to support what they do towards the good of the society. From Sokoto to Nassarawa States, through Kogi and Anambra States, and elsewhere, he has been donating to schools owned by the Churches in his passion for education. He is also contributing to the upgrade of health facilities nationwide. Peter Obi is not prompted by politics, but by the love for the society and humanity. During COVID-19 pandemics, he donated hundreds of millions to the Federal Government as support; this was besides millions he spent on his own through about 30 hospitals.
Yesterday, while Omatseye’s article was being debated, the usually-frank Nwachukwu Ngige interjected: “The more they attack him, the more they promote him. Poor PR strategy!” As if offering advice to Omatseye and his tribe, he concluded: “Sell your product first.” In Igbo parlance, a child without parents gain when the one with parents is advised. I have taken the advice and will momentarily sell my candidate while challenging Omatseye to sell his with decorum.
Born on the 19th of July, 1961, Mr. Peter Obi had good parents who tried early enough to inoculate him with every virtue. Curiosity and the urge to succeed burned like lava in him. He attended Santa Maria Primary School and Christ the King College (CKC) – both at Onitsha. Thereafter, he graduated with 2nd Class in Philosophy at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN). He has been to some of the best universities in the world on specialised training on leadership and management. His certificates – with names and addresses of issuing institutions – are intact and available for scrutiny or as “Obidients” will say reminding us of logical positivists, for verification.
In all the educational institutions Peter Obi attended, he absorbed knowledge avidly and became the centre of attraction in his class. He has deployed his extensive learning to building the society. What others do with Agbado and Ewedu he does with statistics. Evidently, he possesses the right and agile intellect needed for the governance of Nigeria. When last did you listen to him speak? What a mind he has! – as rapid as an electric spark, and as bright; one could almost hear the crackling of the fire of his thoughts in the incisive sentences of his speech that made his listeners fall into trance of admiration. At Dunamis, even without uttering a word, a rainbow of excitement hung over the congregation that set some commentators crazy with hate. It is not easy to become a living political saint! I suspect it was one of the reasons that provoked Sam Omatseye’s piece – ‘We must stop this man at all costs!’.
For what he habitually does, Omatseye is another example of how not to be a man of letters. You cannot brandish the pen as an instrument of terror and expect to be genuinely respected! Even when the likes of Peter Obi tries everything possible to make others see politics as friendly struggle for power by playing it with the categorical imperative of love, Omatseye and his ilk make it look forbidden.
Peter Obi was recently an object of contumely by his followers when he advised cautious restraint in the use of language. I believe he needs to speak to people like Sam Omatseye on the need to see politics as the contest among brothers (and sisters) rather than enemies. Did you not hear him say that when people show him hatred, he tries to show them love? Sam Omatseye too needs that soothing vaccination. His is obviously a troubled soul and would need a little of Obi’s love to avoid psychic encumbrances.
Faithful to the advice from Dr. Chris Ngige, Omatseye should concentrate on selling his candidate by reasonably-fair means. Winning the Presidency or selling a candidate should not be by the assemblage of over 100,000 youths, buying computers for them and teaching them the propagation of falsehoods. I learnt that some of them that write pure, unadulterated nonsense against Obi are among the resource persons that tutor these youths on all the techniques of spreading falsehoods; thus drawing them into the vortex of worthlessness.
The destructive inclination of Omatseye and his tribe reminds us of Quintus’ disgraceful advice about electioneering. In one of Cicero’s campaigns, his brother, Quintus, drew up for him a manual of electioneering technique. “Be lavish in your promises,” Quintus advised. “Men prefer a false promise to a flat refusal. Continue to get some new scandal aired against your rivals”, Quintus continued, “for crime, corruption, or immorality”. Is this not what Omatseye is doing?
Again listen to one of his lumbering bashful expressions of Pugilism: “The Obi followers accept Biafra but reject Nigeria.” So elders of the West that are supporting him have accepted Biafra? Is this the reason they are trying to buy Nollywood Stars in Nigeria with 5 million Naira each to denounce Obi? Thank God the struggle in the land today is about the future of the country and not about what money can buy. Those hoping that money will do it for them would soon discover that a New Nigeria is gradually evolving from the ashes of the old through peaceful revolution.
What else? Shall we now, being exhausted, jumble together the last phase by way of advice to Omatseye? May we, therefore, commend Sam Omatseye to such writers as Dr. Okey Ikechukwu, Dr. Reuben Abati, Mr. Simon Kolawole for emulation. Despite great learning and reasoning, they are amiable in discourse, cheerful of mood, moderate in controversy, tolerant of opposing views and not letting diversity of politics abate the cordiality of friendships.