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For PDP’s Peter Ndubuisi Mbah, the time to quit is now

This life is full of mishaps; its paths are never smooth and straight. On the contrary, they are paved with landmines and stumbling blocks that often trip even the very careful, and when that happens, the fall is usually painful, sometimes existentially cataclysmic.

Where I come from, there is a proverb that, loosely transliterated, says that the grasscutter told her children that in moving around the bush, they should form the habit of pausing as frequently as possible, to close their eyes, because blindness occurs at unexpected times. This is because perfecting this practice helps one to easily adjust to a life of blindness if and when it happens.

It does seem that the Governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Barr. Peter Mbah, may have missed this practice of closing his eyes intermittently, as advised by the fabled grasscutter. A few days into the month of February, a group, at a press conference in Abuja, announced that Mbah, a “shrewd businessman”, may have misconstrued the idea of obtaining a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) discharge certificate.

Since the news broke, the political atmosphere in Enugu has grown tepid, with certain people toning down the excitement with which they had hitherto approached the otherwise vibrant preparations for what looks like a high-octane electoral contest. At the PDP end of things, supporters of Mbah are in palpable apprehension. They are ostensibly worried that the candidate they had worked so hard for, towards what initially looked like a certain victory, might likely not even feature in the elections.

The facts, according to the group which used the Freedom of Information Act to compel the NYSC to issue what looks like a disclaimer on the PDP candidate’s NYSC discharge certificate, show that Mbah may have not completed his service year. Consequently, he may not have been duly discharged. When the news broke, supporters of Mbah quickly released sundry photographs of the embattled politician wearing the NYSC uniform at an orientation camp, as proof the candidate actually performed the compulsory national service prescribed for all university graduates and Higher National Diploma graduates of polytechnics.

But rather than thaw the thickened suspicion of forgery against the candidate, more questions began to rise and that is why, no matter how desperate, or determined Mbah is to serve his people, the general request is for the man to withdraw from the race.

From what I have read of him, Peter Mbah is a man of means; at least, the profile of his forays in the Nigerian oil and gas industry suggests so. If the stature of his business is anything to go by, Mbah has everything it takes to be counted as a billionaire. If his foray into political leadership was a means to add more feathers to his well-adorned cap, I am convinced that accomplishing that at the expense of trust, dignity, and honour, will rub grub on his manicured credentials as a shrewd businessman, who is said to have worked his way from a man of modest means.

There are things a man does not need to taint his adulthood. We live in a country where political leaders have proven to be proud of flaunting odoriferous credentials. There are times you expect people to make efforts to live clean and avoid certain taints, even if it means sacrificing burning desires, political leadership inclusive.

If the bristling grapevine of the Enugu political ecosystem were to be relied upon, Mbah has invested heavily towards actualizing this ambition. All the major godfathers of Enugu politics, including the incumbent Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, former Governor of old Anambra State, Jim Nwobodo, and former first civilian governor of Enugu State, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, have also invested heavily, including both goodwill and hope, in the now tainted governorship adventure of the Nkanu-born politician.

Let me even speak to the position of Chief Nwobodo. He probably has seen the best part of the dance of power and is at an age where everyone expects him to be a living example of rectitude and truth. For this simple reason, he should be the one to invite Peter Mbah, speak words of wisdom and truth to him, as only doting and protective fathers must do, and convince him that, in the interest of the entire Enugu, who should be his children; for the sake of honest leadership and for our future generations who are watching and learning bad and dishonest examples, such as the Mbah NYSC saga represents, he should save Enugu from such potentially lingering tumult, and withdraw from the 2023 governorship elections.

Jim does not need the extra bragging rights that successful godfatherism brings. He has seen it all and needs to retire from everything and anything that could erode the political capital he has built since 1979 when he was elected governor of the old Anambra State. Were the great Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe to speak from his grave to his political godson, whom everyone agreed was the natural successor to the iconic pan- Africanist, I am sure his words would be for him to advise Mbah to avoid the futile pursuit of an ambition certified with purported contrived documents, particularly one abetted with such a bad example as forgery.

The National Youth Service Corps clearly stated in their published letter that the discharge certificate submitted by Mbah to the Independent National Electoral Commission was not issued by it. They could never have done so in bad faith; they could not have had any intention to hurt or halt Mbah’s political ambition. For this reason, I doubt if there is any reason to fight on.

Precedence does not also help this case. On February 16, 1999, a journalistic investigation embarked upon by the defunct The News Magazine, revealed that contrary to his claims, Salisu Buhari, Nigeria’s Speaker of the House of Representatives, never attended the University of Toronto, as he had claimed in the documents he had submitted to the Nigerian elections umpire.

Was it possible for Mbah to be performing his “national assignment” in a Lagos Law firm, as claimed by his defenders, and be working full-time as Chief of Staff to a governor? The law governing the Nigerian NYSC scheme prescribes full service, meaning that Mbah should never have left Lagos except by the written permission of the Zonal Inspector in charge supervising him, and even then, it has to be on health grounds and other compelling reasons.

The then speaker fought for months. But on July 23, 1999, the man bowed out, disgraced and stripped of all honour. Before his shameful ouster, thousands of fair-weather friends voiced their support and tried to ensure he did not leave office. But they could not win such a battle against truth, against honour, against the compelling need to preserve the integrity of the Nigerian political and electoral system. He had to serve two years in prison as punishment for his unnecessary indiscretion.

The second, and more recent case, was that of Kemi Adeosun, the young and brilliant lady appointed as Nigeria’s Minister of Finance in November 2015. Adeosun was one of the marquee appointees of President Muhammadu Buhari. But on July 7, 2018, Nigeria’s online newspaper, Premium Times broke the news that the poster girl of the Buhari administration “had illegally obtained her NYSC exemption certificate to get into political office.

Adeosun lived and studied abroad and apparently did not feel the need to return for the compulsory national service until she was invited to serve in government.  And just like a lot of Mbah’s supporters are doing at the moment, the lady brought in all her expertise in finance to water down the issue. But it did not work, and on September 14, 2018, she resigned as Nigeria’s Minister of Finance.

Like Adeosun, Peter Mbah’s supporters are bandying photographs taken during his purported service year as proof that he did perform the national service. But these photographs do not answer the question. On the contrary, they have raised a lot more questions about the integrity of the documents submitted by the embattled candidate.

Peter Mbah, for instance, was said to have graduated abroad and returned to the country for his NYSC programme after a degree in Law. According to a copy of the certificate he was said to have submitted to INEC, his service year ended in 2003, at a time he was also serving in Enugu State as Chief of Staff to the then Governor Chimaroke Nnamani.

This is where the paper trails raise disconcerting questions. Was it possible for Mbah to be performing his “national assignment” in a Lagos Law firm, as claimed by his defenders, and be working full-time as Chief of Staff to a governor? The law governing the Nigerian NYSC scheme prescribes full service, meaning that Mbah should never have left Lagos except by the written permission of the Zonal Inspector in charge supervising him, and even then, it has to be on health grounds and other compelling reasons.

This is a question that needs to be answered. There is also the little matter of how he was able to cover his English Bar Exams and be able to be in Nigeria for his NYSC programme at the time he did. English Bar examinations, I have been informed, take two full years to complete the two classes, known as Bar One and Bar Two. If he embarked on this aspect of his programme, it would never have also been possible for him to finish it in such good time as to also embark on his national service at the time he purportedly claimed.

These issues border on honour. They border on integrity. They border also on trust, especially since the office at stake is that of the governor of more than 4 million people of Enugu and the millions of others living in other parts of the country. This office demands those aspiring for it to be above board in all things.

Mbah has been found wanting in this critical area. Except he is sure he is capable of proving that the NYSC issued that letter in error, the only choice left for him is to withdraw from the 2023 governorship race.

Honour demands it of him.


Ikem Okuhu is a journalist, a Public Relations professional, brand strategist and teacher. With a career that traversed Print Media, Oil & Gas, Banking and entrepreneurship, Ikem is the author of wave-making book; PITCH: Debunking Marketing’s Strongest Myths, a dispassionate exposition of the dos and don’ts of successful engagement in the marketplace, especially the Nigerian marketplace. He is the founder/publisher of BRANDish, Nigeria’s first nationally circulating Brands and Marketing magazine. He has also handled the PR and reputation management consultancies for a number of brands, businesses and public figures.

  • Chidibere Francis Ezeh

    Bombshell by Ikem Okuhu. The cork finally came home to roost.

    February 9, 2023 at 9:13 am Reply
  • Chijioke Ogbodo

    This an excellent and fact enriched piece.

    Thank you Ikem. 🙏🏻

    February 9, 2023 at 4:21 pm Reply
  • Ikembuchukwu Fabian Asadu

    I often hear people say, “yesterday is gone let us look to the future” yes, but I have come to know that there is a need to crosscheck yesterday, before launching into the future, this is important, because at the point of handshake with tomorrow, yesterday may come calling. Most men who were randomly randy in their senior secondary and university days, often get get visited at 40+ by their yesterday. It is usually a grown up boy or girl that could stroll in as a yesterday.
    He said “tomorrow is here” and yesterday is saying, don’t breach our relationship. Inec may lack necessary powers to disqualify yes, but the law courts at the instance of criminal act prosecution, may use the concept of delayed judgement and wait till after the elections, that’s my worry.

    February 9, 2023 at 10:31 pm Reply

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