Featuring on Trust TV 30 minutes programme with Mannir Dan-Ali, the Presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Mr Peter Obi, responded to questions on wide range of issues including his source of wealth.
Apparently, it is that quality of yours of being simple that may have endeared you to a lot of young Nigerians. Are you surprised by the kind of reception you’ve had since you declared and became the presidential candidate of the Labour Party?
Yes, I am quite surprised about one, the loyalty especially their sacrifice which I am pleading with them to carry to the end. All I will assure them is that that sacrifice will not be in vain. I will remember them, I will work; I will ensure that I serve them faithfully because that sacrifice cannot be in vain, God will not allow it to be in vain. I am committed to it. I am committed to building a better Nigeria for the young ones where they will be proud to say I am a Nigerian.
What about your own record, you didn’t just come out of the blues, you were a governor, a businessman. Indeed your name featured in one of the controversial papers about people who have become rich and are hiding their monies in tax havens. Does all this justify the kind of adoration you have been having?
I am a very successful businessman. I have been a trader and I was successful. I have served in corporations, several boards and I can name them. I have also been a governor. In all these, I have operated as transparent and as efficiently as possible and I can explain and answer for whatever I am mentioned in.
So, while you were doing all these businesses you said you were based in Nigeria?
No, I was based in the UK. It was from the UK that I came to become governor of Anambra State. So when I was declared Governor of Anambra State, naturally I have assets, I have investments in the UK, what I needed to do was to put those assets and investments into a trust because the law says to me, you are no longer allowed by law to operate an account, you are no longer allowed to be employed to do any other job, to be employed by another company, so all these ceased. But the law didn’t say you can’t own what you own before.
Including those in the UK?
Yes, because by declaring the company that owns them here, it is like I declared that I am Mr Obi, so Mr Obi now has a branch, I don’t need to declare that branch because it is part of Mr Obi, so I declared the company in Nigeria that owned those assets, declared everything.
Eventually after, this was about 2006, in 2021 of course there was the issue where my name was mentioned and I have said it consistently, go and check the investment there, if you see any investment from the time I became governor till date even till now, then hold me responsible.
But you know there is a suggestion that these are vehicles to hide and not to pay tax….
No, you cannot hide anything because they are investments that are there. The tax I am going to pay is in the jurisdiction where it is held.
There are very little taxes paid even though you are earning the money from Nigeria and other jurisdictions….
No, I am not earning any money from Nigeria, there is no investment in Nigeria, the investment is there, the taxes are paid there. So Nigeria is not involved in any way in it.
So all the businesses you’ve been doing, they don’t come to Nigeria from the beginning?
No, not from beginning, the ones that come from Nigeria you pay tax in Nigeria. If I am doing business in the UK, I pay tax in the UK that is what the law says; you pay tax based on where you earn the income.
Is it just that you were trying to make the public not to understand that you are this rich, you are putting them in this company?
No, I am not making the public not to know that I am rich. I own shares in companies here in Nigeria, I don’t have to flaunt it around, those companies pay me dividends and they give me my own money. So, if somebody comes tomorrow and says he owns this, it doesn’t matter but at the end of the day I don’t need to show them, I don’t need to wear them around, that’s it. So those things are very clear. I passed through corporations, go and check my records, as a businessman. I borrowed monies from banks, I do my business, I don’t owe any bank. I have never defaulted, I have been in corporations where I became even bank chairman, none of them will say I mismanaged one naira. I have been chairman of corporations including SEC, it is here in Abuja.
I have been governor and as governor I left $150 million and over N30 billion the day I left office.
But there is a dispute over that. Your successor said something else, not exactly what you are claiming?
No, there is no dispute over it. My successor has even confirmed it.
So, from what you have said earlier, it is like you are a successful businessman probably a billionaire but you lead a frugal life which is why many people think you are just an ordinary man?
I don’t know what is the worth. I have never claimed to be a poor man; I have never said it anywhere. I have always said I’m a comfortable man anywhere on the surface of the globe because it is said that if you have $1 million you are a millionaire, so I have that, so I am a millionaire anywhere in the world and I have never claimed to be an ordinary person.
As a frugal person, do you see the campaign as dissipating so much resources, so much money?
Yes, it can be curtailed but what I am pleading with people is to please, for the sake of the future of this country, future of our children, future of the society that our children will live in, let’s not allow this election to be transactional as it used to be; let’s not allow it to be based on ethnicity, religion or my turn and everything else as it used to be because it is an existential election for Nigeria, Nigeria is in a bad shape, we need to fix it.
But you are no different from the other politicians who jump parties. You were a governor in APGA, moved to PDP and then now when it didn’t seem as if you could get the ticket of the party, you moved to the Labour Party….
Well, I am different. The difference is that when I see things not going the way I think they should, I move on. I would rather do the right thing and lose than do the wrong thing and win, that is why I am different.
So you are a fighter; you don’t give up easily?
I’m the first person to seek constitutional interpretation for tenure of governor and I have been doing that and I am doing it because I want us to have a country where there is rule of law and when I served, I served by the rule of law, I stayed within the constitution. I served them faithfully and I finished.
But in all of these, why is that there is so much infrastructural deficit in that state? The human capital development is still far from satisfactory….
You don’t even know Anambra State. I won prize for having the best road infrastructure from the Federal Ministry of Works.
And why is the current governor complaining about the situation of the state if all those wonderful things have been done?
Let me give you an example of what it is, it is a very simple thing. I lived in the UK, in my street in the UK, the roads are maintained every five years. When we signed contracts in Anambra State, we even put the number of years the roads will stay. So, if the road is without, what you can call a stone base, it is a minimum of five years, with stone base seven years. So no matter how you do the roads, if you don’t maintain it, it will wash away, it is simple.
How can you translate all those to the present given the situation that Nigeria is and given all the uproar about how bad things are currently in the country?
It is leadership. If you have a leadership that has character, that is competent, that has capacity, that has commitment, that leadership should be able to identify the problems, articulate with their team on what to do to solve them and start solving them.
There is a trust deficit because people have seen politicians promise heaven on earth and deliver hell.
It is a simple thing, the way they should do it, but Peter Obi is saying this, let’s go to Anambra State, not in Abuja and ask the ordinary person in Anambra State about Peter Obi.
The present government is being scored high on infrastructure, so what would be different with you?
I don’t want to go into what they score this present government.
But it is the government you are trying to inherit; you are trying to show you are better than them….
Nigeria today qualifies as a failed state because they meet the two ingredients of a failed state. First is that Nigeria is not in control of its territory. But as a governor you have never been in charge of troops and security services.
There is banditry everywhere, there is criminality everywhere. Two, they are no longer in charge of our economy. You and I don’t even know what dollar will be tomorrow, it could be N700, it could be N800, it could be N900.
But what will you do differently?
What I will do differently is that, Nigeria is not lacking of ideas and everything to do; what is lacking is that the institution is weak. The institutions used to implement is weak
What we are going to do, I and Datti Baba Ahmed, is to ensure that we will bring a government that is governed within the confines of what is needed, including character and competence. One, we will secure and unite Nigeria.
But how can you do all of these when in many constituencies, you don’t even have candidates for National Assembly?
Don’t worry about that. I governed Anambra State with 30 members of the house, none from my party, so don’t worry about that. I’ve told you, we will secure and unite Nigeria. We will show purposeful leadership.
Which magic wand are you going to wave to make it happen?
The structure they are talking about is the structure of criminality, it is the structure that has kept Nigeria where it is today, it is the structure that has produced the highest number of poor people living in a country, it is the structure that has produced the highest number of out of school children, it is the structure that has produced the highest youth unemployment, it is the structure that has produced not just pass India in infant mortality, I can go on and on and tell you.
Except for the headline, the above interview text is from Daily Trust