The greatest surprise of the political season in Nigeria today is without question the almost overwhelming presence of Peter Obi.
The man has teeming admirers and unappeasable antagonists, but either-or, he can hardly ever be ignored.
A journalist’s duty is to almost always wade into every subject in popular focus, no matter how controversial – whence my decision to write on the Peter Obi phenomenon.
I am not interested in doing a piece on his political campaigns of today – I would rather go to the past, in 2008, when the man surprised me in no small measure.
In my book, Peter Obi’s major weapon is the element of surprise, and in my time as a footballer I learnt that what beats most goalkeepers is the surprise shot.
Let’s now take a trip to my hometown Umuchu in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State.
It was a serene mid-morning, and I was troubled by sad memories as I walked into St Matthew’s Catholic Church, Holy Name Parish, Umuchu.
The funeral mass for my beloved sister-in-law, Lady Geraldine Ezeoke (nee Ofor) was almost coming to an end.
Inside the church, I stood by the side of my brother-in-law, Gerry Ofor, wondering at the sudden death of Geraldine (Sis Gee), his immediate younger sister and the eldest sister of my wife.
I was really not paying much attention to what was happening at the altar until a voice said: “His Excellency, the Anambra State Governor, Mr. Peter Obi who is here with us should please step forward to say a few words to us.”
A man in suit immediately sprang to his feet from the pew that was just a couple of steps from where I stood.
It was indeed the Governor of Anambra State, simply known to all as Mr. Peter Obi, in the manner that The Guardian newspaper of yore used to address everybody as “Simply Mr.”
He had been sitting all the while with my friend, Chuks “Baba Ndidi” Iloegbunam, who functioned as his Chief of Staff.
Chuks Iloegbunam winked at me as Governor Peter Obi began his walk up to the altar without any security man or woman by his side or behind him.
I could not believe my eyes as I looked around for any hidden security details, and I saw none.
Governor Obi carried no airs as he made his speech on the inevitability of death and the need for all to live the good life.
Lady Geraldine who was to be committed to mother earth was married to Sir Christopher Chidi Ezeoke who served as Secretary to the State Government (SSG) and Head of Service, respectively, to the Peter Obi was actually the guru who recommended my wife to me after marrying her now departed elder sister by saying to me: “There is something good there.”
Sir Chidi’s house happens to be a stone’s throw from my own home, and my children spent their holidays in his house where Sis Gee always played the perfect mother and auntie.
Now Lady Geraldine, our own inimitable Sis Gee was gone, and Governor Obi was up there at the altar narrating how he was family to us all given the bonds we shared.
After his speech at the altar, the Governor walked down to embrace my brother-in-law Gerry.
“I have to leave now to attend the Southeast Governors’ meeting in Owerri,” Governor Obi said to Gerry, adding, “I’ll be back to the house in the evening.”
There was no blast of the siren as he left, and true to his words, he returned in the evening to don the same funeral uniform as we all wore in the family.
He mixed freely with all, and anybody who had not seen him, say, on television, could definitely not know that he was the incumbent Governor of Anambra State.
The example of Peter Obi is that there is hardly any need for all the noises made by the politicians of disorienting loudness.
The demystification of power and governance by Peter Obi deserves the study of all our political stalwarts in the greater interest of growing our democracy.
Of course, when truths such as I am saying are uttered they are read to mean in Nigerian parlance that “he has been settled.”
Peter Obi is not known for parting with money or materials to gain any favour whatsoever, and he is thus well-celebrated for “not giving Shi-shi.”
I have my own reputation of not taking any Shi-shi from anybody, so it is therefore a case of a non-giver and a non-taker.
Let’s call it a “one-one goalless draw”, as one famous commentator used to say!
Seriously, Peter Obi’s disarming simplicity is all the more exemplary coming from a man whose laboriously reclaimed stolen mandate as a governor ought to have turned into a monster of sorts.
The joy is that now that he is to become President of Nigeria, if he wins, whole cities will not be closed down when he comes visiting.
He will just come and go without disturbing anybody – that is one compelling surprise Nigeria dearly needs.
Obidients, are you there? Say “Yea-Yea!”