By Val Obieyem
Towards the end of Mr. Peter Obi’s tenure, he was gradually sliding towards Benthamism. He was determined that he would get to the greater number of Anambra people through his good work. Already, he was doing that, but he needed to triple it. To achieve this seamlessly, he needed a man of proven integrity, wise in counsel, ready for work and appreciative of the factors that make for the greatness of nations.
From personal knowledge of Mr. Oseloka Obaze, Obi saw in him the type of character he secretly pined for. This was how he started seeking him. Each time we visited USA – five times- we would meet with him. After each meeting, Mr. Peter Obi would express profound surprise at seeing a different Anambra man. He said so because in spite of promises of what he had in mind for him, Mr. Obaze was not so enthusiastic about it. He made it clear that he would be happy to serve his people, but he was exasperated with most Nigerian politicians, whose idea of service is to play chess with the commonwealth. As far as he was concerned, he would never be part of such gathering of wolves in human clothing.
Later, I discovered that the foot dragging was partly because of the sensitive nature of the work he was doing at the United Nations that saw him visit almost 100 countries. Most times he was on loan to other international organisations for his expertise in World Diplomacy. A friend that knows him very well passed this verdict: “He is a model of diplomatic courtesy, his language deviously polite, and rarely profane.” I have worked with him and can tell you that he is a first-class diplomat who could rephrase in courteous elegance, the unvarnished utterances of his master.
Whenever I think about the peripatetic nature of his work at the UN, I remember that saying by the wise one that education comes one fourth from classroom, one forth from experience, one fourth from travel and one forth from other sources. For a man who has travelled to close to 100 countries, how do we measure his experience that cut across world civilizations?
Finally, when he agreed to join Mr. Obi in Anambra State after Obi mounted all manner of influences, Obi encountered another hurdle to cross: His people at the UN at first refused, when they finally agreed reluctantly to let him go, they insisted he should give him 2 years to clear his table. It was through our own brand of diplomacy that it was reduced to 6 months.
The day he returned, those of us who knew the complex, half hazard, zig zag movement, like that of Brownian motion, that preceded his returning, celebrated it as if he were a Roman General coming home after a victorious campaign.
Back home, it took Mr. Obi some days thinking of how best to utilize him. He reasoned that with him at Abuja, Anambra would be sufficiently covered. He is not the crop of people that will, as soon as they reach Abuja, forget their mission there while serving themselves. He understands what service is and he goes to its very roots.
When Abuja arrangement failed, he was appointed the SSG. In this post, he could prove his mettle.
He was mettlesome enough for he started questioning many wrong things and insisted that things must be done according to global best practices. He is a rule-governed gentle man.
On Wednesday, I was so happy seeing him with Mr. Obi (Picture is attached) at St Andrew’s Catholic Church for Cathedraticum. I stood for a while looking at them and some thoughts kept tumbling out of me.
What else do you want me to say? Mbosi nta achuu in appropriate bush. I personally believe firmly that all is not lost. Anambra will surely blossom again under the stimulus of characters like OHO. When the time comes, we shall shout it from the rooftops. Why would Val say this?
OHO has the perfect combination that would hit success in any organization he manages. He has the soul of an artist of the poet’s genre – organized, sensuous, and almost instinctively possessed of good taste that does not pass moderation to Epicureanism. He is sober and unostentatious, frugal and industrious, curious and studious, loyal and patient, with a heroic capacity for details. He is intelligently capable of quick comprehension, adaption, and practical achievement. The energy and humility of Peter Obi; the poetic sensibility of Chinua Achebe; the subtle intelligence of Dr. Chris Ngige; the logical mind of Dr. Okey Ikechukwu …all these have come together to make OHO.
Mr. Obaze is the former Secretary to the State Government of Anambra State, Nigeria from 2012 to 2015 - MD & CEO, Oseloka H. Obaze. Mr. Obaze also served as a former United Nations official, from 1991-2012, and as a former member of the Nigerian Diplomatic Service, from 1982-1991.
Selonnes Consult Ltd. is a Strategic Policy, Good Governance and Management Consulting Firm, founded by Mr. Oseloka H. Obaze who served as Secretary to Anambra State Government from 2012-2015; a United Nations official from 1991-2012 and a Nigerian Foreign Service Officer from 1982-1991.