(To understand him, you have to understand traders)
In the Summer of 2017, my phone flashed, “Peter Obi.” Pleasantries completed, he fired off a battery of questions on why it seems impossible to supply electricity to Nigerians. Halfway through the WhatsApp call, we realised we were both in London, and he offered to come to my Airbnb. “Haba, onyeisi, let me come to you.” About 30 minutes later, I was in his room at Hilton Hotel Metropole.
About 90 minutes into our discussion, the Holy Spirit reminded him that he had not offered me a drink. He walked over to his travel case and pulled out a plastic komkom containing a concoction he said was the best ginger tea in the world. He got water from the tap, boiled it in the electric kettle, and made two cups for us. The fact that he didn’t use the bottled water in the fridge to make the tea was not lost on me. The fact that he didn’t offer to get a drink from the mini bar was also not lost on me. PETER NO DEY GIVE SHISHI (even after tapping my brain).
After a while, we switched gears and talked about his time as governor of Anambra. One of the stories that stood out for me was his encounter with his biological sister. Unbeknownst to him, she was appointed as a Special Adviser to the Governor. When he learnt this fact, he advised her that it was best to return to her bakery business. “None of these appointees will steal any money from this government.” She resigned the appointment and returned to her business. PETER NO DEY GIVE SHISHI.
A few months passed, and I got another call from Peter. This time we were both back in Nigeria. A few minutes later, he pulled up to my office in a black Hyundai Sonata sitting in front, next to the driver. We spent another few hours digging deeper into the power sector, its potential solutions and his pragmatic ideas on managing the cost of governance.
As we walked him to his car, my partner asked for his home address so we could deliver some sector reports that would shed more light on the issues discussed. Peter asked him to deliver the package to the front desk at Rockview Hotel, Abuja. When my colleague insisted that we could drop the package at his home, Peter shocked us by stating that he didn’t own a home in Abuja.
Sensing how befuddled we were, he presented an elaborate arithmetic argument on why it didn’t make financial sense for him to own a home in Abuja. He reeled out figures on how much it would cost to build, furnish and maintain the house. Instead, he told the management of Rockview Hotels that he would spend more than 50 nights in Abuja every year, so he negotiated a flat rate of N20,000 per night. In January every year, he bulk-paid for the 50 rooms. He argued that the amount was far less than the monthly cost of maintaining a home in Abuja. PETER NO DEY WASTE SHISHI.
Sensing our amazement, he continued that he had negotiated a similar deal with Air Peace. He told them the number of flights he expects to make yearly and negotiated a flat rate of N20,000 per ticket. He pays the bill for the year in January. PETER NO DEY WASTE SHISHI.
To understand Peter Obi, you need to look at his history. Deep Catholic values of frugality moulded Peter (many of his siblings are Catholic priests and reverend sisters). I understand that he briefly considered the priesthood.
Peter was shaped by the core values of the society where he was raised: Onitsha. The typical Onitsha trader DOES NOT WASTE SHISHI. These traders understand the value of money. They do not see N1,000; rather, they see what that money can buy and the margin that can be made from the sale. They know that wealth comes from savings and investment. The average trader does not spend on ANY frivolities. They are utilitarian. A shoe is meant to protect the soles of the feet, so they buy the cheapest and most durable they can find.
Peter is NOT a rare breed! There are too many like him in Onitsha, Aba, Nnewi, Ogbete, Alaba, Ladipo, Balogun, Sabon Gari, and many others. Their history is that they start with little to nothing and build great wealth through savings and investments. These are old-school business people. No flash. No noise. But they control immense wealth.
That is the wood from which Peter was carved. PETER WON’T GIVE SHISHI. He is serious when he says that he won’t be able to fall asleep if he pays $500 for a hotel room.😂. Many of his fellow traders in Aba, Onitsha, Ladipo would feel the same way. It is how they were raised. It is what they know. They know the value of HARD-EARNED money.
It is what Nigeria needs now. We need intervention. We need to be cleansed of our bad behaviour. We need for our heads to be reset. We need someone to cure all of us of the madness that has taken over our country. One thing we are sure of is that Peter will plug the leakages. THE MAN NO DEY GIVE OR WASTE SHISHI.
(Name withheld because many will leave the content of this message and focus on the messenger)