Peter Mbah and misconstrued notions of leadership values, by Nebechi Ogbaji

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The Enugu State PDP primaries had come and gone and had produced a gubernatorial candidate; the prominent Enugu born corporate titan, Mr Peter Mbah, a reputable, calm, and dynamic young man of prodigious intellect. He is also known to have a great sense of service, and power of intellect and generosity, coupled with his consistent capacity for hard work which has electrifyingly catapulted him to the class of the respected and exalted.

However, in consonance with the law of contradictions, his candidature has thrown up analytical perspectives; those who are in support, and those against. Those who are for him are enamoured by his personality and humongous achievements, and the positive benefits that will accrue to Enugu State if he presides over her affairs. The second perspective pessimistically labours to raise issues bordering on sentiments of narrow clannishness, partisanship, his associations, relationships, and the persons perceived to be clearly or remotely connected to Peter Mbah. The gist of their narration concisely resonates with the person of the former governor of the state, Dr Chimaroke Nnamani, and Mr Peter Mbah’s membership of the Ebeano group. How Peter Mbah worked in Chimaroke Nnamani’s administration, and how he belonged to Ebeano group all of which made him an alter ego of Chimaroke Nnamani.

Unfortunately, ignorance among the people is a serious social problem that can generate distasteful consequences especially when the people, for lack of information, may truly believe the comments of a peddler of information who ostensibly pretends that he knows much about what he is talking about. This piece of work is aimed at dissipating the impression which the purveyors of this view are creating in the minds of the people. Let us take for instance the statement credited to the Enugu State chairman of APC, Mr Ugochukwu Agballa when he said that “Enugu will resist the attempt to bring back the Ebeano political system”. It will be recalled that Agballa served as a Commissioner for Works under Governor Chimaroke Nnamani, the founder of Ebeano family, and in fact was his campaign manager but they had a disagreement.

On this note, we shall also seek to enlighten and educate the people on the issues concerning the Ebeano group, what it is and what it has always been. Etymologically, the concept of Ebeano is derived from two Igbo words joined together. Ebe means “The Place” while Ano means “to be”. Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, as Governor of Enugu State upgraded this concept to the status of a principle or ideology, and brought it to bear on the philosophy guiding his administration. An ideology according to Karl Mainhein is “those complexes of ideas which direct activity toward the maintenance of the existing order” or “… those complexes of ideas which tend to generate activities toward changes of the prevailing order”. Dr Nnamani chose the second option, that is, using the ideology of Ebeano to mobilize actions towards changes in the society rather than the first option which is to “maintain the prevailing order”. An aspect of his refusal to “maintain the prevailing order,” was his radical departure from the traditional practice of raising social and political elites from the already privileged class, in what may be called the democratization of democracy dividend.

The consequence was revolutionary as many persons from very poor backgrounds were catapulted and elevated to positions of social, political and economic power.

In facilitating this transformation, the Ebeano philosophy did not only provide opportunities for people to climb the social ladder. It generally raised the people’s social and political consciousness to their material and existential condition, and imbued them with the synergy to overcome the obstacles, they hitherto, thought were metaphysical and divinely ordained.

Empowerment is the key word of the Ebeano philosophy, which is “a multidimensional process involving the transformation of the economic, social, psychological, political and legal circumstances of the powerless”. The result and positive effect of the Ebeano philosophy will continue to resonate and remain an existential fact in the politics and socio-economic lives of the people of Enugu.

Although people may not be shouting Ebeano slogan exuberantly from their rooftops, the values it propagated are embedded and will continue to manifest in the political fabric of Enugu State. Its empowering dimensions are far-reaching, and can easily be deciphered from the record of very many important and distinguished men and women in various political, social and economic institutions in Nigeria.

Ebeano philosophy simply is a philosophy of the common good. Its concern is not just for a specific group or individuals. Its core value is for the benefits of the generality of all, and not just a few. The current governor of Enugu Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is an apostle of the common good. Today he is the leader of Ebeano. His transformative works speak for him. The critics of Ebeano must learn how to be objective because those who abstract one side of the situation and call it a whole situation are enemies of history. What Karl Marx called “a tunnel vision” means the distortion and denial of reality out of self interest. That is exactly the mistake those carrying out vicious campaigns of calumny against Ebeano ground and their leaders are making, and unfortunately in doing so, they appeal to the prejudice of the people to foment social discontent just to further their own political ambition and interests.

The desperation of these misguided critics is again clearly shown in their definition of Mr Mbah as an alter ego of Senator Chimaroke Nnamani. In other words, Mbah is an extension of his former principal. This will also mean that he is not an individual and has no mind of his own. Therefore, because Mbah was once the Chief of Staff to Nnamani and a Commissioner for Finance in his administration, his life’s ambition and aspiration ought to be circumscribed, proscribed and prohibited. What a logic!.

Unfortunately, nature does not work that way. Every individual has an intrinsic value; values which persons have, simply because they are persons. Call it “infinite value” which is the sacredness of their individuality. Aristotle was a student of Plato for twenty years but propagated a philosophy that was different from that of his master. Both philosophies are still relevant today. Peter Mbah can also build on the experience from Nnamani’s administration to express his own idea, his own vision, and his own worldview.

As the transformative governance of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is gradually coming to an end, it is obvious that to meet the challenges of our times, we require a man with an in-depth knowledge of the system, a tested administrator, and a Christian politician who should bring his Christian life to bear on all his decisions. The man should also realize that power is divine because as St. Paul says “there is no authority except from God”.

Already, Peter Mbah in several of his statements to a number of groups had promised to uplift the living standard of Ndi Enugu, and give priority attention to growing the economy of the state. He promised “to move the economy of the state from a gross domestic product (GDP) of $4.4 billion to $30 billion, and in doing so, use strategies that will interrogate the status quo, but will build on what has been achieved. In his humanistic and universalistic frame of mind, his ambition is not just the need for the development of infrastructure in Enugu State; he envisages a development programme that is integratively regional. On a final note, it is necessary to note that Peter Mbah, although operating outside government, had through his Peter Mbah Foundation been engaged in providing health and educational services by building hospitals, and offering scholarships to many in the state. It is just that Peter Mbah is not loud. He is extraordinarily simple, humble, and has left his cozy comfort zone, as a manager of a multi-billion dollar business, that owns the biggest oil tank in Africa, to pursue the betterment of the people of Enugu State: Let’s give him a chance.

Ogbaji, a public affairs analyst, writes from Enugu

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