Since the emergence of Peter Obi as the presidential candidate of the relatively unknown Labour Party, the Nigerian political landscape has been charged as never before. And many Nigerians who have shown little interest in the issues of politics and governance in the past seem to be let unhinged from their lethargic cage. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recorded that within one month after Obi’s declaration, millions of Nigerians who hitherto were indifferent about elections applied for voter’s card and this is attributed to the Obi phenomenon.
Peter Obi has become so popular that he is the dominant force in the current electioneering. Specifically, when the members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) want to speak it is Peter Obi that will be their topic. Tinubu himself was so riled about the movement that in Osun state during the gubernatorial election campaign, he said that the members of the Labour Party to which Obi is the standard bearer will labour in vain. His traducers have tried smear campaign and cooked up false allegation in order to discredit what is now known as the Obidient Movement. They have tried unsuccessfully to link the movement with the embattled IPOB. Also, the attempts to give the movement ethnic and religious colourations failed woefully. They have also tried unsuccessfully to infiltrate the movement to destabilise it. There have been a lot of intrigues and shenanigans to destabilise the movement including, hiring false prophets to predict doom, harassing, intimidating and blackmailing members of the movement. But the more they try the more the Obidient Movement gathers momentum.
Again, in an attempt to create apathy and dampen the morale of members of the Obidient Movement, the political opponents said that Obi has no structure but the people said resoundingly that they are the structure. The average Nigerian politician does not think in terms of electoral votes but in terms of agents at different wards that will facilitate electoral malfeasance. And that was why they said Obi has no structure. A typical Nigerian politician does not think about ideas or issues; what he thinks is how to manipulate the process and swing his way through. He is thinking about touts and thugs that he will arm to cause mayhem at the polling units and snatch ballot boxes. That is what they mean by structure: the structure of criminality and electoral malfeasance.
Interestingly, and contrary to the predictions of some analysts and media hirelings and social media influencers that the Obidient Movement will wane and peter out before the presidential election in 2023, the movement seems to be bourgeoning, permeating every nook and cranny of the nation, every social strata, groups and political blocs across the nation. And significantly, Obi’s social media volunteers have outmaneuvered the Tinubu’s mainstream media and always set the agenda for public discourse. It is no longer business as usual for those who specialise in smear campaigns and character assassination. If you write nonsense about Peter Obi you will receive over a million ripostes within 24hours. You can verify from Sam Omatseye or Charles Soludo.
Evidently, among those vying for the exalted office of the president in the current dispensation, Obi is the most qualified by public acclamation. But the reactionary forces responsible for the woes of the country are palpably apprehensive of the unexpected emergence of the Obidient Movement and the pervading political tsunami that may ensue therefrom. Peter Gregory Obi the erstwhile Anambra state governor appears to have the edge over all the other candidates. He has the character, competence and capability which he has demonstrated in the past and if there is free and fair election, Obi will win landslide. But the pertinent question remains: will there be free and fair election and if not what will the Obidient Movement do? More than half of those rooting for Obi have no voters’ card and there seem to be insidious plan to disenfranchise them. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has promised that the cards of the last batch of those that registered between April and June, 2022 would be released in August and the last batch in October but as I write this, the year 2022 has come to an end, with election barely seven weeks away yet the cards are yet to be released to the eligible voters calling to question INEC’s neutrality and capacity to conduct free, fair and credible election in 2023.
But beyond INEC neutrality and capacity to conduct a credible election are other supervening issues that the Obidient Movement needs to put into consideration going into the 2023 presidential election.
Obi is genuinely interested in economic transformation of the country but unfortunately the politicians think differently. Nigeria is a country ruled by the worst citizens; a country held recumbent by unconscionable politicians who have weaponised poverty as a means of controlling the disoriented masses divided along ethnic and religious lines and whose idea of politics and election is just about voting their tribesmen. Make no mistake about it, no politician in Nigeria wants the likes of Peter Obi in power for obvious reasons. We should not be deceived by Wike’s antics, his showboating act and halfhearted endorsement of Obi. They are all part of his ploy and tools to negotiate with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). We do not need the services of a clairvoyant to know that Wike is a drowning political object that can latch on anything to seek relevance. We have not forgotten that it was the same Wike that frustrated the PDP from micro-zoning its presidential ticket to the South-east because he wanted to contest. It was the same Wike who denigrated Peter Obi and facilitated his premature exit from the PDP. But when Wike failed in his bid to clinch the party ticket, he made a volte-face and claimed that he is fighting for equity.
Of course aside from the professional politicians who have no other job besides politics and who faced the prospect of premature retirement if Obi wins, we must not overlook the civil servants especially those at the top echelon, who are the main perpetrators of fraud in the government. My independent survey shows that this group are not in any way comfortable with Obi’s prudence, probity, accountability and lean government posturing and may work to frustrate his emergence.
Again, we will not overlook the fact that Obi’s choice of running mate may appear perfect in the eyes of Nigerians but not so with the North. Dr. Yusuf Datti Ahmed may be a former senator but he is not an out-and-out politician. He is a scholar and an educationist whose influence may not be felt in the North. He and Atiku Abubakar and one or two others are about the only northerners who have invested in education, establishing and running private universities. The North may not be interested in anything other than somebody from the region remaining at the helm of affairs.
Furthermore, the North because of the separatist agitations in the South-east has got this fear that the Igbo man at the presidency would divide Nigeria and cut them off the nation’s oil wealth. So they would want an Obi as president.
Another group that lives in perpetual fear of the Igbo man is the Yoruba who have over the years used the Lagos press to spout out negative things to promote ugly stereotypes and hatred against the Igbo. Among other things, they have this morbid fear that voting the Igbo man at the center will accelerate the development of the South-east zone, the Igbo home land and when this is done, the status and glory of Lagos which they see as the center of their world will evaporate. They will prefer to vote for Tinubu than to vote for omo-Ibo, Obi. It is the voting behaviour of the monolithic South-west as the legendary Ojukwu had described the zone.
As it is, apart from the South-east, it seems only the Middle Belt and the South-south people that that may vote for Obi. Before now they have been under the illusion that their problem and that of the nation is the Igbo man because of negative ethnic profiling by the negative press. They are seem tired of the hegemony and the unholy alliance between the North-west and the South-west that kept the country in a state of retrogression. But what is the number of registered voters from these regions?
Even in the South-east, Obi’s primary constituency, the political elites seem not to be in support of Obi’s ambition and may work against him. Out of jealousy, stupidity and outright ignorance many of them are against the candidature of Obi and have made many inflammatory remarks to denigrate him. Orji Uzor Kalu, the former governor of Abia state and an APC chieftain, Charles Soludo, the current governor of Anambra, Obi’s home state, Dave Umahi, the Ebonyi state governor, Willie Obiano, former governor of Anambra state, Victor Umeh, Dan Ulasi and other political bigwigs in the South-east, have said things that suggest that they are not in support of his ambition and may work against him. To them, they are wondering why it must be Obi, a seemingly political rookie that will be the first Igbo man to be made president in the post civil war Nigeria.
But beyond the domestic political scene, those conversant with the imperialist policies of the colonial masters know that they would not want a good government that the likes of Obi may bring in Nigeria that would extricate the country from the stranglehold of the western powers that may pretend to be supporting and promoting democracy and good governance but subtle promoting and sponsoring crisis in the polity.
I have taken up these issues with some of my colleagues in the Obidient Movement but they optimistically waved them aside even at the verge of calling me names. I am an optimist and an incurable one at that. But optimism without plan and action is just mere wishful thinking. There is no need to be complacent and no need for heroic assumptions. No doubt, the Obidient Movement has won the battle in the court of public opinion. It is left to be seen if it can replicate this victory at the presidential poll next month. Yes, it can if it will do critical analysis, evaluate the odds against Obi and map out strategies to overturn them. Sloganeering and propaganda are good but that alone do not win elections. Election is won by voting and defending your vote. There is need therefore to re-strategise and work and that can only come after accurate situation analysis and constructive stakeholders’ engagement.
Irogboli writes from Enugu via