By Kemi Yesufu
Frontline Aspirant for the Anambra governorship ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, has described the model of governance implemented by the late Premier of the former Eastern Region, Dr. Michael Okpara as still useful to Nigeria especially with its current challenges.
Okonkwo therefore said that he would replicate the Michael Okpara style of governance should he pick the ticket of the PDP and is eventually elected governor of Anambra State.
The governorship aspirant who has made his mark in business and philanthropy described the Premier’s leadership model as one that was humanitarian in approach, transparent, holistically developmental and people- oriented.
Okonwko who delivered a lecture entitled: ‘Quest For A New Nigeria, The Michael Okpara Leadership Model’ as part of activities to mark the centenary celebration of the late Premier, stressed that like him, many Nigerian leaders see the Okpara as a role model whose principles are still worthy of emulation unto significant results.
He said: “Dr. Okpara embodied the humanism he preached and lived it in and out of office and to the very end of his illustrious life. He epitomized transformational leadership and brought profound change in the political administration of eastern Nigeria not by the force of his authority as Premier but by the moral influence of his example.
“As a visionary, Okpara was way ahead of his time. Some of the things that defined his leadership in the 1960s, are only becoming fashionable now. For example, he encouraged Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) sometimes called P3 in his development policies long before we had a fancy name for it. His humanism, people-centered approach to governance speak to what the U.N. and development partners today romanticize as Human Security.
“Little wonder Okpara has remained a benchmark for good governance not just in the geographic area that previously constituted the Eastern region, but in Nigeria at large. Virtually, all informed commentators agree that since the end of his Premiership in 1966, no public officer from the region even comes remotely close to being compared with him. Perhaps, the only one that occasionally gets a distant mention is the second republic (1979-83) Governor of the old Imo State, Sam Mbakwe”.
“Begs the question: what became of good political leadership in Nigeria, despite the examples of our founding fathers, who although imperfect, left a decent legacy for us to follow?
“And I really think that in trying to answer this question, we should probably focus as much on the followership as on the leadership simply because, all too often, people get the type of leaders they want, even if sometimes unwittingly. In Nigeria, politicians get away with anything because the followership lets them; as actions, even the most odious, no longer seem to have consequences”, Okonkwo further said.
Okonkwo was also honoured at the event for providing exemplary leadership in business and charity as well as his contributions to youth and women empowerment.
Earlier in his welcome address, son of the late Premier, Chief Uzodinma Okpara expressed confidence that current leaders who wish to emulate the much touted ‘Okparanomics’ will achieve similar results as was recorded in the old Eastern Region, which he said had minimal level of unemployment and functional social services. He described Okonkwo as a worthy personality to deliver a paper on Dr. Okpara at the event organized by Verbatim Magazine and the Michael Okpara Foundation in honour of his father centenary celebration, as the governorship aspirant is a genuine disciple of his late father’s style of governance.
On his part, immediate past Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki , who delivered the keynote address at the event on ‘Okpara And Issues Of Leadership’ reminded the audience of how the late Premier improved the standard of living in the former Eastern region through reforms especially in the Agric sector. Saraki was represented at the event by his former Chief of Staff, Mr. Ladi Hassan.
Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, who chaired the occasion described Dr. Okpara as a leader who was willing to mentor the younger generation. The minister revealed that Okpara played an important role in his rise in politics from nominating him for ambassadorial appointment to supporting his emergence as governor of Abia State.