Alhaji Atiku Abubakar the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 2019 general election selected the ex-governor of Anambra state, Mr Peter Obi as his running mate. This was announced after a meeting in Abuja on Friday 12th October 2018.
Shortly after his announcement, some leaders of the South East led by David Umahi Governor of Ebonyi state protested his emergence on the condition that they were not consulted over the nomination of Obi. He said the development contravened an initial agreement that the leaders will collectively endorse a candidate for any position zoned to the region.
Not long after, another controversy reared its ugly head again raising moral questions about the man Peter Obi. This particular issue bothered on an alleged statement made by Obi in the past to the effect that he only owns a house in Onitsha.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
Peter Obi was one of the speakers at The Platform in 2017 where he held his audience spellbound on the problems with the Nigeria political system especially how waste and leakage remains the biggest problems. He made allusion to several cost-cutting measures he employed to manage the resources of Anambra state while he served as Governor.
He spoke glowingly of how he would travel to Abuja without the usual retinue of staff who accompany state Governors. How he vacated the government house in Awka to President Olusegun Obasanjo who was on a state visit in order to save cost. He equally spoke about his personal frugality and told the audience he has only two pairs of shoes and has had only one wristwatch for 17 years.
It was during this speech he mentioned how Nigerians living abroad have constantly persuaded him to acquire houses abroad which he always rejected because it doesn’t make sense to him. He then told the audience that the only place he owns a house is Onitsha.
WHY THE CONTROVERSY
Shortly after his nomination, pictures of a property along with a document attaching the property on No 14 Oman Avenue, Cricklewood, London NW2 6BG to a certain Gregory Peter Onwubuasi Obi with an indication that there are a few other Properties bearing his name in London emerged. As the debate raged about the authenticity of the property and document and whether he indeed lied to Nigerians about owning a house only in Onitsha, his spokesperson, Valentine Obienyem came to the rescue.
Obienyem, in a statement, said the houses were bought long before Obi became Governor of Anambra state. He said the false allegation was a means to ensure the Vice Presidential candidate of the PDP gets distracted and detracted. Obienyem said Obi has enough money to buy a house in all the 36 states of the federation.
“During several media programmes, Mr Obi said Onitsha was the only place he owned a personal house in Nigeria,” he said in a statement. “In an attempt to discredit him, some people are posting his London houses as the much-awaited evidence that he lied.
“First let it be noted that the issue of having a personal house in Onitsha is a matter of choice. If his lifestyle supports love for houses, Obi can afford to have houses in the 36 states of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
As for his London houses, it might interest the public to note that he bought his first house in London in 1987. All the houses he owned in London were purchased before he became Governor of Anambra state and were all duly declared”.
Obienyem advised Nigerians and the International community to look away from “false stories being fabricated by detractors who are clutching at straws in their vain bid to demonize Mr Obi, a proven performer and lover of the masses who is well known for his forthrightness and integrity”.
WHAT HE ACTUALLY SAID
We have perused severally Mr Obi’s statement at The Platform and other interviews and can say for a fact that all the explanations coming from his camp amounts to an afterthought. Mr Obi was very clear in his statement which he had made in other fora. Hear from the horse’s mouth as we present below a video of Mr Obi at The Platform.
As for those who may be having “poor network connection”, here is a transcript of what he said:
“When I got to America to address Nigerians, it is Nigerians that will tell me when I was Governor, that this man has a house here, this man has a house here. We can lead you to buy here. And I would say, listen, I don’t live in America. Why will I own a house in America?
“It’s pure madness. I don’t need it. I go to South Africa to address Nigerians…these are the same people who have run away from home because things are tough here. They will be telling me this man owns a flat here, this man owns a flat there.
“In fact in one case in South Africa, somebody brought one man who told me that he knows every Nigerian that owns a flat, every politician, you know. And he says I can sell the same to you. It’s just $2.5million and everything. And I said to him, why will anybody buy this type of place and keep? If I buy it, it will cost me at least another $25,000 a year to keep it. He said more than that. And I said, so why will I own it? I don’t need it!
“I’d rather use that money in my country, buy a bond and I get 5 per cent of it, which is $125,000 a year. I come to South Africa three times a year. It costs me $200 a night in a hotel. So three times is $600,000(sic). And you want me to buy this?!!
“And I told the man, look, I don’t own a house in Abuja. The only place I own a house as Peter Obi is in Onitsha. The house I will own in Abuja will cost me N400million. Why will I own it when I go to Abuja every week and sleep one night which costs me 35,000. If I multiply it by 52 weeks, it’s not up to 5 million and I buy a house for 400million? Then it’s not worth it”.
Mr Peter Obi lied when he said: “the only place I own a house as PETER OBI is in Onitsha”. It has now been proven and admitted by him through his spokesperson that he indeed own houses in London which is at variance with his claim for over a year now.
There was never a time he distinguished between owning a house in Nigeria and owning houses in London. Apart from saying this on The Platform about a year ago, he repeated same on Arise TV Good Morning Show exactly one month ago. He was always quick to refer to Abuja as an example of where he doesn’t own a house but has cleverly avoided mentioning his Osbourne Ikoyi apartment which they’ve clarified is a rented apartment belonging to his wife Margaret but used by him anytime he is in Lagos. But even that became public knowledge in the wake of the famous Ikoyi Osbourne TowerGate.
For a man with so much integrity and forthrightness, the least expected of him is to come and make a full disclosure. This is especially so in view of the fact that according to his spokesperson these houses were acquired before becoming Governor and duly declared. We are convinced that nobody would have had any qualms with Mr Obi if he has not been blowing his own trumpet about his frugal lifestyle. To the best of our knowledge, he was not forced to make those statements publicly. Since he chose to let Nigerians know about his frugal lifestyle, he should have done it without any ambiguity.
An interesting part of the conversation is the emphasis from the Obi camp that the houses were acquired before he became Governor of Anambra state. Our investigations revealed that nobody accused Mr Obi of corruptly enriching himself. What Nigerians are concerned about is the fact that he lied about what he actually owns as houses and their locations.
Another twist to the conversation is the need and use of the London houses. Are they commercial or residential? If it is the former Nigerians would understand but they cannot understand the need for the houses if they are residential especially against the background of where Mr Obi is coming from and what he has said over time concerning his frugal and prudent lifestyle.
Mr Obi needs to come clean, apologise to Nigerians for lying to them or admit he made a mistake by not talking about his London houses. It is only then that they will believe the other claims of owning two pairs of shoes and one wristwatch for 17 years.