By Isidore Emeka Uzoatu.
The University of Nigeria with campuses at Nsukka and Enugu boasts of many firsts. Of course it remains the first indigenous citadel of learning in the country established sans affiliation to any foreign institution whatsoever. Also, ever since it has more than lived up to its endearing motto: To Restore the Dignity of Man. And Woman, if I may dare to add.
In another trailblazer, its Business School recently became the first of its kind to graduate doctoral students in Nigeria. Made up of a chosen few engaged in economic policy management as well as business and public leadership, they are now back at their beats, no doubt, emboldened by their new togas of excellence.
Interestingly, even a cursory browser of the school’s illustrious alumni list has never laboured to find members who have excelled in the application of theoretical knowledge in business practice; Without doubt, topping the list presently without equivocation are Messrs Peter Obi and Obi Iyiegbu.
The former, a 1984 graduate of Philosophy, has governed the state of Anambra and was the vice-presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the last national elections. Engaged in business right from his school days, the exposure of his name in the list of Nigerians with offshore accounts in the recently released Pandora Papers made news recently. But, if anything, it only served to expose his avoirdupois in wealth.
The latter, on the other hand, graduated from the Political Science Department in 1998. He was to set up a chain of businesses dating from 2006 and now has a networth amounting to double digits in billions. A revelation brought to public commentary following the lavish burial he afforded his mother. The advertisement of lucre at the event served to make his moniker Obi Cubana a household name in Nigeria, nay the world.
With the duo in mind, I was virtually transported back to school, the good, old Princess Alexandra Auditorium. I just couldn’t miss it. Notwithstanding that back in our time there, it had remained a bombed-out edifice. A price paid for mustering the effrontery to host the declaration of the secessionist state of Biafra.
No thanks to the post-civil war three Rs delayed too long, it now has a roof over it. But one could easily make out all the telltale signatures that etched it’s walls into the membranes of anybody that ever took exams in its then unwholesome belly.
Might as well deposit me in the Margaret Ekpo Refectory and expect me to be lost for even a split second. Let alone the Zoological Gardens that used to host a duo of starving lions way back then. Or the Physics Observatory, where we used to stray when the cascading, campus-centre concrete jungle became unnerving.
De rigueur, first up in the determination of this palaver will be their names. Though both have Obi in their names, they are not actually namesakes, like many would imagine. You know, like Emeka Offor and my humble self. The truth being that while Cubana’s Obi is a first name, Pandora’s is his surname.
Also,although both are from Anambra State, they are no relatives. For the avoidance of doubt, while Peter Obi is from Agulu town in the Anaocha Local Government Area, Iyiegbu hails from Oba in the Idemili North. And that’s about all there would have been to it but for the extenuating circumstance of their humongous net worths.
Again, both have their concerns all over the nation. But while Cubana appears restricted to
the entertainment industry, the man with an account in Pandora’s box trespasses boundaries with ease. While the entertainment people cannot do without his beverages, he also has leverages in other fields and concerns.
But please don’t tell me that one fulfills his corporate responsibilities and the other doesn’t.
You can be rest assured that both do. The only differential there is to it is that while the one has an offshore company, the other has his own domiciled here. At least, for now.
Meanwhile both are brand representatives of the highest order. Like typical Igbo traders, they are so good at what they are doing that the sky, to them, appears a starting point. Yes, their beleaguered enclave has been likened to a dot in a circle. But there is no holding them back. They have consistently played in the big league with other citizens from the other spaces in the circle.
The only difference worthy of mention this time may be the fact that while Cubana is not amenable to hiding his stash, his counterpart is. As evidenced during the aforementioned burial of his beloved mother.
For instance, he doesn’t mind playing the beautiful game of soccer with bundles of our national currency with his friends and cronies alike.
However, before you lose your cool about this, he does not chop his money alone. Suffice it by noting that in the aftermath to his mother's burial, he had pledged to uplift hundreds of his kinsmen from poverty. Thus, this exercise can only admonish that he keeps it up. Perhaps the future may see him reaching it out to the entire state and, who knows, the entire country for that matter.
His alter ego, on the other hand, is known to be more frugal than a monk. A sure pointer to why he is more amenable at the management of public funds. The same reason why his two-term tenure as state governor still resonates around the nation. So much that but for the pull of higher office, some citizens of the state wouldn’t have minded his going for a third had the constitution so allowed.
That way, the epitome of his engagements could not but land him in banking. And as a thing always led to another, sitting on their boards ultimately lured him into politics. Hence his emergence as the governor of his home state as he sought to find out if the hitherto misruled state was cursed. At last, through his dedicated leadership, he was able to prove that, on the contrary, his brothers and sisters were the cause.
And now the centre beckons. Like many have concurred, it’s about time he asked the same question about the nation: Are we cursed or are we the cause? Interestingly, thanks to the Pandora Papers, it’s no longer debatable whether he can cough out the dough necessary for the challenge.
● Uzoatu, an alumnus of UNN, wrote in from Onitsha, Anambra State.