by Emeka C. Anago MD, FACP
My name is Dr. Emeka C. Anago, from Eziaja Village, Neni, in Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra State. I live in California where I have been practicing medicine for decades as an internist and a Fellow of American College of Physicians (FACP). I don’t usually write or comment on social media; it is not just my comfort zone. However, sometimes in life, one has to go beyond personal comfort to do whatever is necessary to serve humanity. One such time in Nigeria is now when the country is at a crossroad as it searches for new leadership to salvage whatever is left of our beloved country.
In 2009, I had a personal encounter with Mr. Peter Obi, the former Governor of Anambra State, during the Anambra State Association of United States of America (ASA-USA) convention in Nashville, Tennessee. As a hospitalist in a large hospital chain in California, I received two dialysis machines when our hospital replenished its inventory. My intention was to donate them to Anambra State government to use in one of the government hospitals. I shared my plan for the donation with some of my former colleagues in Anambra where I practiced medicine for many years before immigrating to the USA. Many of them suggested that I should set up a dialysis center at Awka for profit-making. They opined that donating those machines to the government would be a waste because the government doctors would quickly divert them to their private clinics. I dismissed those suggestions knowing fully well that my conscience would not allow me to make any money from the machines that were generously given to me free of charge in order to save lives in my state.
I contacted my friend and fellow physician, Dr. Nwachukwu Anakwenze, who was the President of ASA-USA at that time and also initiated the medical mission project to Anambra State. I shared my intention to donate the dialysis machines to Anambra State and Dr. Anakwenze stated that he would contact the governor to make it happen.
The next day at approximately 6:07pm (PST) while driving home from work, I received a call from a Nigerian number. Initially, I ignored the unknown number, but when the person called for the third time, I answered reluctantly.
“This is Peter Obi,” the caller introduced himself. I said, “This sounds like the name of our governor” and he said, “Yes, I am the governor. I got your number from Dr. Anakwenze to discuss about the dialysis machines which you are planning to donate to the state.”
At first, I thought it was one of those prank calls from a 419-scam artist because of the directness and humility of Governor Obi, however, my suspicion was alleviated when I observed his distinct and unique voice and his reference to the conversation I had with Dr. Anakwenze the same day.
The Governor and I agreed that he would be attending ASA-USA convention in October that year and that I should ship the dialysis machines to him to Nashville so that he would personally take them home after the convention. I accepted his offer but told him that the government would refund me the shipping cost to Nashville and he agreed to do so.
My biggest shock about Obi’s shrewdness came during our meeting in Nashville when he asked his aides to look for me. While standing next to one of his aides at the Convention floor, Mr. Valentine Obienye, pointed at me to the Governor. Mr. Obi left his seat at the high table and walked straight to the middle of the hall to see me. He excused me to walk outside with him and graciously thanked me for the dialysis machines and pledged to put them to utmost use. He pulled out $140 from his pocket and handed it to me as the shipping cost. Before I could put the money in my pocket, the Governor pleaded that I should give him a receipt for the cash payment. I asked, “a receipt for $135 dollars?” Mr. Obi, added, I will also appreciate to have the change of $5 because I gave you $140.” Flabbergasted and visibly shocked by the Governor’s request, he responded, “Nwa nna, okwa ima noo ego government (my brother, I hope you know that this is government money?) and I have to account for it.
The above single act truly endeared me to Mr. Peter Obi. He is a man of unmatched humility who did not only manage government resources frugally but used them to develop our state. It is not by accident that Anambra has the best road network in the whole of Nigeria; rather it is a testimony of how Mr. Obi utilized our resources efficiently to achieve great results.
Please, let’s give Governor Obi the opportunity to transform Nigeria.
We have tried mediocrity for more than two-third of our existence as a nation. It is time to give competence and efficiency a chance.