Dissecting Peter Mbah’s interviews, by Nebechi Ogbaji

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Dr. Peter Mbah is today the Enugu Stare governorship candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Since his nomination as the candidate of the PDP, he has shared snippets of his vision, mission and programmes with the press on different occasions. Findings indicate that the full unfurling of his manifesto for the good people of the state is being delayed by timeline of activities towards the 2023 general elections stipulated by the electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Notwithstanding, Mbah’s governance philosophy can be gleaned from the press interviews. On his mission, he said, “when you are driven by transcendental values, it means how your decision is going to impact positively on others and that is why I am running for the governorship office in Enugu State because I want to touch lives and bring my people out of poverty”.

Incidentally, he revealed that even while out of government he had devoted his life touching lives positively having provided health facilities and built schools in many communities in the state and offered scholarships, and employment to a number of youths. When Peter Mbah was reminded in one of the interviews on the difference between politics and the private sector, his answer was that management in the public sector and management in the private sector are not radically different. In his words, “I do not think they are radically different because even as CEO, I also have to manage my board. I also have to make sure that we practice effective corporate governance and in doing that, it is also my ability to sell my project to my board, negotiate with them, convince my board members on why this is good for the company”.

Peter Mbah has to be believed because he is talking out of experience. He served very meritoriously amd unblemished in the public service. He was the Chief of Staff to then Governor of Enugu State, His Excellency, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, and by virtue of that position, was involved in the coordination of a number of government and inter-ministerial activities.

He also served as a Commissioner for Finance and Economic Development where he was acknowledged as one of the best Commissioners of Finance in Nigeria by the highly celebrated and authoritative Newswatch magazine. Peter Mbah, therefore should be at home with the two related worlds of public and private sector. After all, what is administration other than “the organization and direction of persons in order to accomplish a specified end”.

Although there may be functions and processes which may be peculiar to public administration, Dr. Peter Mbah as a CEO in the private sector would still be confronted with the same functions and responsibilities which include planning, organizing, staffing, directing, co-ordinating, reporting and budgeting. These will constitute the basic responsibilities that he would face of which he must have been at home with. Although bureaucracy exists in both sectors, it seems to be more pronounced in the public sector, especially in the civil service. What characterizes the civil service includes sluggish adherence to procedural rules, the emphasis upon hierarchy, formalism, reutilization, ritualism or technism, the displacement of the purposes or objectives with procedural rules.

Fortunately by the provision of the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy (Chapter 2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the rule of government is no longer restricted to mere maintenance of law and order. Governments today take part in all aspects of human development and welfare. In the words of a political scientist, Fredrick Moshers, “Government has ceased to be merely the keeper of the peace; the arbiter of disputes and the provider of common and mundane services. For better or for worse”, Mosher asserted, “government has directly and indirectly become a principal innovator, a major determiner of social and economic priorities, the guide as well as the guardian of social values, the capitalist and entrepreneur or subsidized and guarantor of most new enterprises of grater scale”

Hazardly, we opine that it is either that Mosher in expressing this view had Peter Mbah in mind or was somehow remotely or otherwise influenced Mosher’s philosophy of governance. What Mosher is suggesting is that entrepreneurship should be incorporated in the process of governance.

Peter Mbah is clearly an entrepreneur. It is again very evident in his interview. As writer, Kelsey Miller, defined entrepreneurship as “the pursuit of opportunity beyond the resources currently controlled”. These are individuals who must transform their ideas into a fully operational business, even against odds. They are always able to do this because they have and exhibit characteristics and skills such as creation, tenacity, curiosity, decisiveness, persistence, motivation, collaboration and communication, passion, resourcefulness, humility, devotion and most importantly, Peter is not only an entrepreneur, he is indeed a successful one. His humble beginning and where he is today is a testimony to this assertion.

From his story, his company started operation in 2008 in a one-room studio apartment at Ahmed Onibudo Street in Lagos Island and was largely engaged in buying and selling of petroleum products. His dream was to dominate the entire African continent, a feat he practically achieved by eventually becoming a dominant player in a market that was already saturated and matured as old players had already captured their shares in the market.

Peter Mbah bought his entrepreneurial spirit to bear on this threatening situation when with the application of strategic and creative thinking he discovered where the problem lied and the solution was located in what nobody ever imagined and that was in creating a port in the middle of the sea in March 2021. This singular innovative decision consequently transformed Pinnacle Oil and Gas Limited to a market leader with a market share of 23 percent of the petroleum downstream sector leaving its closest trading behind it with only five percent. What typically took Pinnacle Oil 30 days to do can now be done in 3 days, Peter Mbah disclosed.

According to Zhim, he achieved this unimaginable feat with the aid of a concept he called “disruptive innovation”. This means making disruptive decisions which involved creating new ideas that can displace the old way of doing things, perhaps in consonance with the Hegelian dialectics of thesis and anti-thesis which produces the synthesis – another idea that is superior, progressive and development oriented.

Being a disruptive innovator, Peter Mbah’s management style is ambidextrous. He confirmed this assertion when he said that “we have a strategy that is called “exploit and explore”. This strategy embodies that principle of incrementalism, exploiting the present and exploring the future. Management would be required to attend to processes of the past and present but at the same time gaze forward, prepare and introduce incremental innovations, that will define the future and might be radically disruptive that will certainly produce improvements in the existing operations and services.

This strategy worked for Pinnacle Oil and Peter Mbah is optimistic that it will also work for Enugu State under his stewardship. “It is possible” he said “to grow the Enugu economy from 4.4 billion dollars to 30 billion dollars”’ even though it “will require taking disruptive decisions; doing things that are creative”. Enugu State, he asserted, would be “the preferred destination for investors, for business for living and also for tourism. Whatever we are going to do in Enugu will be world class, whether it is the enablers, the pillars of our development; the education we provide, will be world class, the health care service will be world class. And we know that some of the things we have tenable in order for investors and business to be attracted to Enugu in the ease of doing business”.

Peter Mbah was speaking from experience because in his words, “I have been an investor myself; I have invested highly in Lagos State as you can see, I know where the pains are for investors”. Peter Mbah from his responses in the interviews that he is coming on board with a style of administration that is politically responsive, creative, flexible, and innovative in planning and actions. he has so far demonstrated that he is also peaceful like the current governor of Enugu State, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. This is evident in how he has humbly approached and reconciled with his fellow contestants in the gubernatorial primary and promised to carry all of them along in his administration.

Peter Mbah is a promise of good governance in Enugu State. Let’s give him a chance.

Ogbaji writes from Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu

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