BY JUDE OSSAI
Until the recent frightening dimension of insecurity in the country coupled with the unending Monday’s sit-at-home order by the pro-Biafra agitators in Southeast geo-political zone, Saturdays were usually set aside by many people for social gatherings and household chores.
Following the ugly trend, in Enugu and some states in Igbo land, many privately owned primary and post-primary schools now open their offices and classrooms on Saturdays for academic activities apparently to make up losses from Monday’s shut down.
However, to this reporter, Saturday, June 18, 2022 was significant as it was a day he received an official appointment that brought him and other media men face to face with the 2023 governorship flag-bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Peter Mbah.
The hall of “The Base”, Independence Layout, Enugu, venue of the gathering was full of suspense and anxiety as none of the reporters was told of the identity of the Newsmaker that invited them.
Expectedly, all Correspondents of media outfits whose headquarters are not domiciled in Coal City were in attendance. The journalists were led by the Chairman of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Enugu Correspondents’ Chapel, Comrade Lawrence Njonku.
As scheduled, the Head of Mbah ‘s Media Unit, Dan Nwomeh, who dispatched the invitation through the leadership of the journalists’ group set the ball rolling with an explanation for the gathering, saying it was conveyed by his boss with a view to familiarizing with Correspondents of mainstream media in Enugu.
Prior to the commencement of the occasion proper, the PDP candidate had gone round to the seat of each journalist to exchange pleasantry, a development which the reporters described as a good public engagement, show of humility and human compassion, stressing that he is not an egocentric type that relates with people according to class.
Trust Journalists, every newsman was ready to hit the headline of his tabloid with information from the meeting but it turned out to be a forum of acquaintances though there were questions thrown to the host of which one of his responses revealed that his deputy for the 2023 gubernatorial race is Ifeanyi Ossai, a legal practitioner.
During the media parley, the PDP standard-bearer who was accompanied by his running mate, Ossai, went down memory lane, recalling his great exploits in private and public sectors, assuring that they would replicate them if elected as Enugu State governor in 2023.
The PDP candidate who spoke extemporary, kick-started with an introduction, saying, “I am Peter Mbah , from a town called Owoh in Nkanu East in Enugu State. Nkanu East is a local government. I am a lawyer by training; I trained in the United Kingdom. I did my LLB in the United Kingdom, came back and attended the Nigerian Law school and got called to the Nigerian Bar. I went on to do my LLM at the Lagos State University. I did my LLM in maritime and commercial law”
Mbah also went ahead to say that in Maritime law, he had bias for oil and gas pointing out that his inroad into the oil and gas industry was not by accident.
“It is something that I had always wanted to do. Then I went on to earn an MBA at IESE Business School, Barcelona, Spain, University of Navarra. It is one of the leading business schools in the world. They have continued to remain number one in the last eight years ahead of Havard, Standford and the rest of other business schools. They are actually the parent school of the Lagos Business School. They were part and parcel of the Lagos Business School
“As an alumnus of the Lagos Business School, “I did my Chief Executive programme there. I did a post graduate study in strategy and innovation at the University of Oxford beside business schools. I have attended a lot of executive programmes both at Harvard and Stanford. So, I started what you see here today sometime in 2008. We started the Pinnacle Oil and Gas as another oil business”, he further said.
Just as in the interview he granted Lagos media, he told Enugu Journalists, “We started off in a one bedroom studio apartment; three of us. I had my secretary and somebody who ran errands for me. We have grown that business from one bedroom studio apartment to where you are today, the headquarters of Pinnacle. For those of you who may not know, Pinnacle is today the leading company in the industry. We are number one in the oil and gas downstream sector.
According to him, “The downstream sector is a mature sector and market where you have all the established companies-the big players, Mobil, Connoil, Oando and the rest of them. They all play in this space. We came in from that zero base of nil reckoning and we grew the company to number one today by market share and revenue.
He noted that it did not happen by accident stressing that it happened because of the passion they have for excellence –focus, creativity and innovation.
“Obviously, we did not grow the company incrementally, otherwise, all we would have done is to do catch up. We would not be where we are today if all we had done was to grow incrementally. We knew we wanted to become a dominant player and for a market that is already mature, for you to displace the dominant players already there, you have to do something creative”, he explained.
He disclosed that currently they have 23 per cent market share, adding, “Perhaps the next company to Pinnacle has five per cent. So, these attributes that were driven by me also reflected in my sojourn when I had a four year stint in the public sector. I worked at various times as Chief of Staff and Commissioner for finance”
Still reflecting on his days as Commissioner for Finance, he said, “some of you would know that I am old in the media. I won an award then as one of the outstanding finance commissioners in the country given to me by Newswatch.
According to him, it was because of what they did, recalling that when they got into the system and noticed a lot of sub-optimisations, they disrupted those sub-optimisations and ensured things were done optimally.
“We created value for our people. We came in and noticed that the budget at the time did not reflect government priorities. It was largely done in an incremental basis. We developed an economic empowerment strategy that reflected government priorities and we had to allocate funds to those government priorities.
“We started our budget on a zero base capturing all the government priorities. We looked at all the critical sectors. Some of them could not be contained within the budget cycle. We had to design a midterm expenditure framework which allowed us to deploy funds to that sector in order to achieve our output. So, we did all those things also mindful of the passion we have for excellence”, he said.
On his quest to govern Enugu State, he stated, “My mission essentially is to deliver a quality people-focused governance and to make Enugu State the preferred destination for investment, business, tourism and living. I envision an Enugu State that will be one of the top three states in this country and our aim is to achieve a zero percent rate in our poverty headcount index.
“We also have a clear governance philosophy but like I said earlier, this is not my day to begin to unveil my manifesto. We also believe that Enugu State has witnessed an appreciable growth on account of prudent and creative management of our resources particularly in the last seven years of this administration.
“There has been a buildup of new infrastructure and maintenance of the existing facilities. Enugu as most of you already know, discharges its obligations to our teeming civil servants. We are also today arguably the safest and most peaceful state in the country.
“And you know there cannot be any sustainable development without peace and the current administration has invested hugely in making sure that Enugu continues to be safe and peaceful. You hear about the South East and the commotion going on here and all that but it is almost like Enugu is insulated from all that.
“Those things do not happen by accident. It is also a deliberate strategy that this current administration has taken to ensure people of Enugu State continue to live in peace and safety.
“So, to sustain these achievements and also to build on it, require more than just having a mere appreciation of the status quo; it takes a commitment for one to harness the human and material resources of the state. It requires someone with a good head; someone whose past record both in the private and public sectors cannot be questioned. I think that essentially is what is driving the kind of support we are getting across stakeholders and the leadership of our party.
“We have identified that, in order for us to take our state and be able to compete and achieve this sort of record that we are talking about.
“I want to grow our economy to become one of the top three in this country. Enugu State’s GDP currently is at $4.4 billion annually. That is our current GDP size. We are saying that we want to grow that economy from $4.4 billion to N30 billion. This is because the three top states in the country today are Lagos which has a GDP of about $37 billion, second is Rivers State with a GDP of about $27 billion and the third is Delta with a GDP of about $22 billion.
“We want to in the next four to eight years be able to grow our GDP from $4.4 billion to $30 billion. That is not something you can achieve by growing incrementally.
He ended his speech with a call on the media to cooperate with him in his pursuit to succeed Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi in 2023.
The moment Mbah finished speaking, there was ovation from the floor as it was perfectly delivered to the admiration of the journalists in the hall.