Echoes from the Trending Press Conference: How HE Peter Obi Taught me the Gravity of Perjury.

Echoes from the Trending Press Conference: How HE Peter Obi Taught me the Gravity of Perjury.

By Tai Emeka Obasi.

Opinion: It was in 2017, when we were at the heat of Anambra Gubernatorial campaign. One morning I went to see HE Peter Obi at his Onitsha residence. I was eager for us in his team to respond to the then contentious issue of the N75 billion he left behind for his successor, Gov Willie Obiano. PO took me inside his private living room, showed me a copy of The Sun newspaper with the bold headline urging the then immediate past and present governors of Anambra State to come clean on a number of issues bothering on public trust.

Those who could recall, particularly those from Anambra and those that had anything to do with the state, would attest to the fact that Anambra media space then was a war zone with propaganda of excessive proportions from the then seating governor and his myriad of media employees. Their major duty was to deny that the immediate past governor left anything like N75 billion behind for his successor and then attempt rubbishing all the unprecedented achievements of PO with frivolous claims never witnessed before in any state of the Federation since the Fourth Republic.

Every dictionary was invaded to discover vocabularies to express that PO did not leave behind a dime. The phrase _’Near Cash’_ was invented and despite the bizarre adventure, it trended and forced to appear real. It was becoming so painful to progressive people in the state, who knew that PO actually left N75 billion behind for continuity, despite clearing backlog and not owing a dime in pensions and gratuities, not owing any contractor, winning international prize in health sector, adjudged by the ministry of work as having constructed the best network of roads in the country, securing and maintaining top spot in education, pulling people out of poverty and indeed excelling in every index of development as subscribed in Millennium Development Goals, MDGs through Anambra Integrated Development Strategy, ANIDS.

The Southeast chapters of the Civil Liberties Organisation, CLO and Intersociety, very reputable NGOs, having earlier critically appraised and adjudged PO’s government and achievements as the best in the Southeast by a mile when he handed over, decided to wade in. In a meeting held at Enugu, they outlined 12 very well-articulated questions for both governors to clear for ndi Anambra. Those questions bothered squarely on the truth of N75 billion and then the investments left behind, including Ecological funds, UBEC counterpart funds, $155.5 million saved in three different banks, the reason he saved in foreign currency, and other critical questions bothering on public trust. These were outlined in the newspaper PO placed before me.

PO brought out a black bag and brought out from it tons of documents. They were clean copies of every document he ever signed throughout his eight-year tenure as governor as well as clean copies of bank statements, accounts of every institution Anambra State banked with under him as governor. Plus, of course, his handover documents.

Determined to respond to all the questions by himself as the man in the saddle, he began. Starting from number one question, he dictated every word for me in reply. We spent over six hours doing the task. Every bank account, the amount he handed over to the last kobo was clearly stated. While he read from each copy of figures, he passed over to me to crosscheck. After the exercise, I went back to Awka, spent most of the night piecing the whole day’s work in one document of about 18 pages.

The next morning, I went back. We went to work again. PO made corrections. I knew he was a very careful man but I never knew he was that careful and thorough. He made sure every dot and comma was how he wanted them. Of course, major emphasis was on all financial figures as contained in account numbers and the exact amount to the last kobo.

Done, I left for Awka, effected all corrections and now forwarded to him on email. The next morning I was back and he spotted yet some minor errors. After four days of making absolutely certain the documented was exactly as he wanted every word and figure, he told me, *_”This is it. Thank you, Tai.”_*

I thought it was ready for publication and I was eager to start serializing on social media. He told me to hold on until he gave me the go ahead. The boss was not him if he didn’t occasionally keep you guessing. I left for Awka.

One week later, he called me back to Onitsha and behold I saw our document in another form. Retaining every word and figure, it had gone through his lawyer and…

The Supreme Court!

He had taken his response to all the 12 questions to the Supreme Court in Abuja and swore an affidavit that those were exactly what he left behind and exactly why he saved in foreign currency and where and why he made investments and other explanations.

I gaped at him. Unwitting tears left my eyes, *_”has it come to this, Sir?”_* I believed that he definitely did not need to swear an affidavit to convince his people of his transparent stewardship.

 *_”It has come to everything, Tai. Whatever you do, whenever it is about public trust, do not let it to linger. Do everything to reverse any wrong impression, otherwise it will gain traction. Never ignore lies told about you once it is about issues bothering on public trust,”_* the boss returned, matter-of-factly.

At that moment, it dawned on me why he needed me to be part of preparing a document he would have seamlessly done by himself. He needed a second head to make sure there was no iota of mistake because he was going to swear an oath and at the Supreme Court of all places. Any falsehood in that document, whether intended or by error, amounted to PERJURY.

And that was how he shared his reply to different media houses, including social media.

And you guessed right – Obiano never bothered to reply till date. But reply or not, PO’s sworn declaration buried the issue of doubts over the N75 billion permanently.

When this great man we fondly call PO, during his press conference in Abuja yesterday, called on Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu to come out by himself to tell Nigerians the truth regarding everything about his person, my mind flew back to those four days we spent on just one document in his private living room at Onitsha. By then, HE Atiku Abubakar had not decided he was going to run for the 2019 presidency and neither had PO dreamed of being his running mate. The now Labour Party presidential candidate was only doing things the right way as it should be in any sane society. Nobody should ever be careless when Perjury could be involved.

I also recalled a moment with him in the vehicle while driving to the hotel after his recent speech at Princeton University in the United States. Our discussion revolved around bullion van and I enquired what he thought of a private citizen engaging bullion vans for private use.

*_”I don’t have any issue with that. If anybody decides to carry his money in bullion vans, keke or any other means, why should that bother Nigerians? It only becomes an issue if the money in those bullion vans are proven to be stolen money or money acquired via criminality._*

*_”We should bother ourselves with only relevant matters. Right now Nigerians all over the world are under severe scrutiny. The issue at Chicago is a huge mess. Nobody is worried about whether our present leader attended any university or not. The issue is about whether the certificates he presented were forged._*

_*”The former president of the United States of America, Jimmy Carter did not make any statement regarding President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky until perjury got involved. Lying under oath was Clinton’s major issue.*_

_*”Even though an elected leader like President Clinton should have done much better than smearing his office with that affair with an intern, swearing under oath was far far over the edge. Perjury is a serious crime. Leaders should do everything to avoid ever getting messed up in it. Nobody would ever trust any leader, who could ever get involved with perjury,”*_ he concluded.

Leadership is by example. Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu should do the right thing.

Obasi writes for PO Express Media, POEM.

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9 thoughts on “Echoes from the Trending Press Conference: How HE Peter Obi Taught me the Gravity of Perjury.

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