“Go and tell the people where you live (your yard people), tell your friends, preach it everywhere, Peter Obi is the change Nigerians seek.”
October 1st 2016 was an unlikely day for a Nigerian politician other than the president to set the tone of discussions given that everyone anticipates the traditional 7 am independence speech in which many former heads of state and presidents have seize upon to render stewardship and set agenda for the remainder of their time in office.
Freedom of speech and assembly enabled by our fledgling democracy has given opportunities for national discourses on the state of affairs unhindered – until recently in this dispensation- and one of those is the Platform, an “intelligent initiative powered by Covenant Christian Centre” which has run for well over 6 years.
However, this year’s edition of the Platform has taken the nation by storm because Peter Obi delivered a powerful speech which has stirred a firestorm that is yet to settle.
While some Nigerians tuned in and listened to the president’s speech, they did so without much enthusiasm and hope given the uninspiring nature of the president’s previous speeches.
The inauguration day speech in 2015 resonated with many but over time, with allegations of plagiarism and falsehood, there have been diminishing interest.
Even a line of the inauguration speech that was adjudged BBC Africa best quote of 2015 was alleged to have been plagiarised.
The plagiarism brouhaha created consternation and elicited condemnations thus exposing the president and his speech writers as mediocre.
Again, the deviation of actual governance from the content of the various speeches is a topic for another day.
The lacklustre performance of the president, the pessimism which beclouds the minds of Nigerians because of the ailing economy, gaffes and faux pax which the president has become synonymous with has created a situation where many don’t even bother to listen any longer.
Buhari’s speeches have become so uninspiring and divisive that most of his utterances elicits inimical responses and create divisions in the unity of the country.
Consequently, the popularity of the president had waned with every speech he has delivered.
His October 1st speech had been unmasked as riddled with lies and falsehood.
First it was exposed by a former PA to the former president who pointed out the misinformation in the achievements of the last administration perpetuated through under-reporting of the actual figures of some of its activities.
For instance, the amount the former President Jonathan’s administration was said to have spent on roads was just a fraction of the actual figure as suggested by the president’s speech.
To complicate matters, GE International released a statement few hours later which rubbished the claim made by the president that they would invest $2.2 billion in Nigeria against $150 million which the multinational intends to invest in the country in 2017.
Whether these are outright falsehood and propaganda meant to deceive the unsuspecting Nigerian public or mediocrity of Buhari’s speech writers, it has continued to backfire.
Meanwhile the president was launching a photo book and hagiographical text over the independence weekend with many aghast at such image laundering which gulped close to a billion naira by some estimates amidst the troubles in the North East and Nigeria in general.
When former Gov Peter Obi mounted the podium at the Platform and gave his unscripted speech on Independence Day, it did not hit the internet and social media with a bang.
The Platform is not a well-known event that everyone was anticipating.
But trust social media, some folks seeking information advantage to thrill their various audiences picked up the speech, threw parts of it into Twitter and facebook, with video snippets, boom, just like a large pool of fuel; a little spark is all that is needed to generate an inferno.
For social media, that speech was the perfect buzz to lighten up the timelines of social media influencers, e-warriors, overlords and online generals on twitter, facebook and the many blogs which dot the Nigerian online ecosystem who were having a gloomy independence amidst the recession.
Nonetheless, somewhere at the Platform, Peter Obi’s speech set off ‘Hurricane Peter Obi’ whose ripples are yet to settle.
His admonition centred on the account of his stewardship as a former governor of Anambra State.
He entertained his audience like a fiery preacher and took them on a journey into his world of espoused theory and theory-in-use.
He illustrated with real life examples stemming from his tenure.
His leadership was centred on frugality and lean management approach (espoused theory) implemented through drastic reduction of cost of governance, elimination of ostentatious and flamboyant lifestyles of our politicians, reduction of waste and quality management, and entrenchment of a savings culture (theory-in-use) for the state he presided over.
He cited examples of less number of cars in his convoy and that of political appointees, elimination of unnecessary owambes and thank-you-for-coming gifts rampant in government houses, unnecessary hotel accommodation when he is outside the state on official assignments, use of commercial flights against private jets and ensuring that state revenues are channelled to developmental activities.
He cited example of governors buying champagnes worth N500, 000 in a poor country where such amounts can offset salaries of 20 civil servants.