Former Rivers State Governor, Peter Odili became a subject of discussion recently, thanks to Labour Party presidential candidate Peter Obi. If you’ve followed Nigeria’s politics, especially ahead of the general elections in 2023, you’ll know that Obi is a very popular figure and one of the strongest contenders for the presidential race. So critics and supporters often discuss and dissect his utterances and revelations.

So when he mentioned that Peter Odili was his senior at Christ the King College, Onitsha, the media went agog with supporters and critics making several comments as to whether the claim was true. If you’re curious about Peter Odili, here’s a biography to help you understand the man and politician.

Peter Odili biography

Peter Otunuya Odili was born on August 15, 1948, in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of Rivers State, Nigeria. His parents were Chief Philip Celestine and Princess Janet Okwei Odili. At the age of five, Peter Odili was enrolled in St. Michael’s School, Oguta II, and Sacred Heart School, Onitsha, where he lived from 1953 to 1960. He then proceeded to Christ the King College, Onitsha, one of the best mission secondary schools in Nigeria.

After his secondary education, Odili attended the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he graduated from medical school. After completing the compulsory internship under the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Odili pursued post-graduate work in Tropical Medicine at the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom.

Peter Odili career

Peter Odili began his career as a Resident Staff Physician at Medical Consultation Centre, Port Harcourt, between 1979 and 1980. In 1988, he was elected member and leader of Rivers State Delegates to the Constituent Assembly. He also served as the Chairman of the Conference Committee on State Creation when he was elected to the National Constitutional Conference.

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In 1992, he was elected as the Deputy Governor of Rivers State. He first served as National Vice Chairman (South-south) Democratic Party of Nigeria (DPN), and later as National Secretary during the beginnings of the fourth republic. Peter Odili was the Founder and Leader of Rivers Platform in 1998 and the Founder and Leader of the Restoration Team. He was also the State Leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) before being elected as Rivers State’s Governor.

In November 2006, Odili announced he would run for president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the 2007 elections. However, he stepped down a day before the PDP primaries, which saw Umaru Musa Yar’Adua emerge as the party’s flagbearer.

Peter Odili governor

Peter Odili was elected Governor of Rivers State after winning the gubernatorial elections in 1999. He was reelected to the same position in 2003. During this period, Odili served as the National Chairman, PDP Fund Raising Committee (2000); and Chairman, Presidential Committee on Housing and Urban Renewal (2001).

Under his administration, Rivers State became one of the wealthiest states in Nigeria, though his tenure was marred by cultism, militancy and other security issues. In fact, he survived an assassination attempt as members of a dreaded cult group attacked his convoy along the East-West Road in Port Harcourt, killing a policeman and another person.

In all, Peter Odili was popularly called “The Golden Governor”, “Father Christmas”, and “Donatus”  while he was in office due to his extravagant lifestyle.

Peter Odili achievements

The following are the achievements of Peter Odili as Governor of Rivers State.

  • Best Performing-Governor in Nigeria in 2002.
  • Built 1200 low-cost houses across the State in the first 100 days in office in 1999.
  • Introduced ‘Free School Bussing Scheme’, free education at primary and secondary levels.
  • Free medical treatment for under 6 years and over 60 years.
  • The first independent power plant in 2002 which brought 36 Mega Watts of electricity into the national grid.
  • Built and commissioned the biggest power plant by any state government, the Omoku Power plant of 150 Mega Watts, and 120 km double circuit Transmission Line to Port Harcourt in 2006.

Peter Odili controversies

In January 2007, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), under Nuhu Ribadu’s leadership,  issued an interim report accusing Odili of fraud, conspiracy, conversion of public funds, foreign exchange malpractice, money laundering, stealing and abuse of oath of office. At the same time, Human Rights Watch issued a report detailing the pervasive corruption and mismanagement patterns at the state and local levels under his administration.

As a result, Odili filed a suit challenging the powers of the EFCC to probe his administration in Rivers State in February 2007. He also defended his record before the Rivers State Truth and Reconciliation Commission, denying all charges against him in 2008. By December of the same year, Odili had successfully stopped EFCC from probing his administration after the Federal High Court had issued an interim injunction stopping the body from arresting, detaining, prosecuting or embarrassing him.

However, EFCC struck again a few days later, summoning Odili over alleged debts owed to five banks as the Central Bank of Nigeria had removed the Managing Directors and board. In addition,  the New York Times published an article about kidnapping in Africa where the author talked to one Adiele Nwaeze, who accused Odili of paying him to help rig the election ten years ago by robbing ballot boxes. However, Odili denied the accusation.

In 2013, Odili was alleged to have plundered $500m of Rivers State funds to set up Arik Air.  He was also linked to the controversial $2bn Arms Deal diverted by the Jonathan administration for the 2015 general elections.

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Peter Odili net worth

There is no official record of Peter Odili’s net worth.

Peter Odili family

Peter Odili family

Odili is married to Mary Ukaego Odili, (nee Nzenwa), whom he met during his student days at UNN. Mary Ukaego Odili is a Justice of the Supreme Court of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The couple is blessed with four children – Njideka Odili, Peter Odili Jr., Adaeze Odili, and Chinelo Odili.

Amaechi and Peter Odili

Amaechi and Peter Odili

Like Odili, Rotimi Amaechi is a former Governor of Rivers State. Before his election into office, he was Odili’s personal aide and later Speaker in the Rivers State House of Assembly. Rotimi Amaechi became governor after replacing Celestine Omehia, the PDP candidate for the 2007 gubernatorial election.

After the elections, Odili accused his former aide of betraying him after the Supreme Court awarded the governorship to Amaechi as a replacement for Omehia, who was incidentally Odili’s cousin. In May 2011, both Odili and Amaechi took away their four-year-long feud and reconciled during the latter’s Inauguration church service and swearing-in ceremony for his second term as governor.

In 2014, Odili expressed his regret for helping Amaechi to become governor of the state after he accused him of dismantling structures that the founding fathers of the PDP had in the state when he assumed office.

Peter Odili’s age

Peter Odili is 74 years old

Conclusion

Peter Odili is one of those prominent Nigerian politicians who has managed to keep a low profile despite the controversies surrounding them. The former governor still enjoys respect in his state due to his landmark achievements in office. He is also a faithful member of the PDP, unlike some of his contemporaries who have defected from the party.

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