The emergence of Peter Obi as Labour Party presidential candidate and relative approval it has garnered so far is an uncommon political act. But the spectre of Peter Obi presidency is unsettling to Nigeria’s traditional political class and they are agitated. The spectre of Peter Obi presidency is so unsettling to Nigeria’s traditional politicians with decades’ long entrenched beliefs and practices that made them tin gods.
With Obi’s emergence these beliefs and practices are imperiled and may be swept away thereby returning them to the earthly plane to be humanized, redomesticated to live like other mortals on productive economic activities instead of exploiting the rentier system to enjoy humongous prebendal benefits flowing from their offices. Traditional politicians have reason to be agitated and fearful over Peter Obi’s presidency. First, politics of money-for-vote either during the primary or actual elections will go as Obi not being a product of that system will abolish it.
Second, the prebendal politics and its patronage system will be over as nepotistic hiring into public offices will be abolished thereby rendering our political ‘bigmen’ and godfathers moribund. Third, the rigging of elections to install unpopular candidates will be over as Obi will strengthen electoral system and institutions through law reforms to entrench clean elections. Finally, the religious and ethnic politics will be over as Nigeria becomes one nation and one people and the manipulations that go with the religious and ethnic sentiments will be checked. All these amount to death sentence to the traditional political class.
So, you can see why the spectre of Peter Obi presidency is quite unsettling and sends cold shivers down their spines. Peter Obi is a politician from Anambra State. He tried to penetrate the labyrinthine web of Nigerian politics by becoming a member of the Peoples Democratic Party. Being averse to money-politics that is the hallmark of politics in Nigeria he defected to the then newly formed All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) led by Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.
He was chosen to run against the incumbent governor, Chris Ngige who had battled the Anambra State entrenched ‘god fathers’ and survived. Mr Obi went on to win the governorship election and ruled excellently and uncommonly by concentrating on the essential issues of governance such as education, health, road network, rural electrification, provision of portable water and sanitation. Indeed he made United Nations’ MDG as the index upon which he predicated his governance in Anambra State and ended up a success story. Mr Peter Obi must have been persuaded to join the Jonathan’s administration and invariably switch political camp from APGA to PDP with the possible argument that being a young and vibrant politician and a successful administrator, the PDP offers him a broader horizon compared to APGA that was at the time of his defection in control of only two States (Anambra and Imo States).
Mr Obi fell for that sweet talk and political gambit and lost a lot of goodwill in his home State, Anambra, and indeed in other states. However, the saving grace for Mr Obi was his apparent political cleanliness and his legacy of good governance that continue to glow like a Northern Star in the dark political firmament of Nigeria littered with all kinds of political barracudas and outright kleptocrats.
That was what saved Mr Obi from political oblivion and irrelevance. His legacy continued to speak for him for the schools and health institutions and clean governance he achieved were there to defend him. During the 2019 general elections season, Mr. Peter Obi like an inconvenient truth kept resurfacing as Alhaji Atiku Abubakar despite the opposition of many Southeast PDP governors and other governors and leaders opposed his choice of Mr Obi as his vice presidential candidate. The team (Atiku-Obi) could not protect their electoral fortune and so they lost the election.
In the present political season (2022/2023) Mr Obi entered the political fray contesting to be nominated the presidential candidate of the PDP but all reasonable calculations and permutations do not give him any chance. Sensing that the primary election system of the party (PDP) largely driven by monetary inducements was structured against him, he left the party and defected to Labour Party, reenacting the same political tradition of running away from murky political environment to a virgin pedestal to challenge the system. Mr Obi’s transition from PDP presidential aspiration to become Labour Party’s presidential candidate was like magic.
From relative obscurity, both Mr Obi and the Labour Party have been transformed overnight to phenomenal incubus sending nightmarish goose principle down the spines of his political opponents and entrenched political demagogues. Infact, the spectre of Peter Obi’s presidency is so unsettling to the political establishment that he has become the talk-of-the-town and object of vicious attacks and denunciations. Quite unlike his traducers and opponents who luxuriate in denouncing him as ‘unserious’ and lacking in political gravitas of political structure and spending-power to make any headway in the 2023 presidential election, Mr Obi has maintain appreciable measure of political decorum and desists from any negative attacks on his opponents and traducers.
Even in response to attacks, Mr Obi maintains civilized conduct by not abusing them. Mr Obi has been dismissed as lacking the requisite structure to win the presidency. To such do-gooder dismissal, Mr Obi has only retorted that his structure remains the “One Hundred Million” downtrodden Nigerians who are eager to overthrow the decadent system in order to enthrone a clean state and a productive political economy.
The Atikus, the Kwankwasos, the Lamidos and even from Obi’s Southeast, Governor David Umahi had declared that Ebonyi State vote is for APC while Ekweremadu and Senator Chimaroke Nnamani feel threatened by Peter Obi phenomenal political renaissance, and were recorded to have boasted that Obi will not get Southeast vote.
But the daily rise in the ‘Obidient’ Movement is an incubus they wish away. This spectre of Peter Obi presidency is so threatening that Mr Sam Omatseye, Asiwaju Tinubu’s The Nation newspaperman was so disturbed by this Peter Obi spectre that he had to use his column to predict death to the spectre and a denunciation of the Igbo.
But Omatseye’s penalty was a whirlwind of denunciations from the supporters of Peter Obi to the extent that he cried like a baby that he was threatened and begged Mr Obi to call his supporters to order. Mr Omatseye by his exposure and education ought to know that Mr Obi do not know any of these supporters and most of the supporters have not had any physical contact or relations with him. So, this is a social movement quite like the Zikist Movement between 1946 and 1949 when youths all over Nigeria formed themselves into a social compact and were campaigning for Nnamdi Azikiwe and his party, the NCNC.
That first organic youth activism that Nigerian youths initiated to take control of Nigeria was aborted by Nnamdi Azikiwe himself as he desired political compromise with British colonial authority rather than revolutionary resolution of Nigeria’s existential questions. Nigeria, particularly the Igbo is paying the price of Azikiwe’s political error till today.
The mistake Mr Obi will make that will be disastrous for him and his political vocation is to disown this movement and its imperfections. Revolution is not a tea party. It is bound to be nasty and averse to some niceties. This is usually attributed to the accumulated anger in the society and the frustrations that have torn the society apart and made it amenable to all kinds of characters. The saving grace is that this revolutionary energy is being channelled through legitimate means – that is electoral ballot which will be determined one way or the other.
Mr Obi has no control over the movement and can do little or nothing to control the movement’s activities in the social media. So, the politicians affected should bear with Mr Obi because he can neither stop nor control them because he did not commission or hire them. The Peter Obi supporters merely latched on him to seek a change of Nigeria’s politics and governance hoping that Mr Obi is not part of the rot and he will make a better President. Let the agitated politicians be still and calm and correctly gauge the political tempo as the 2023 election is going to be a ‘rematch’ of the June 12, 1993 presidential election or even better as the election like the June 12 is going to be a referendum on Nigeria’s politics and governance.
If it succeeds, it becomes a stepping stone to healing Nigeria and rebuilding its collapsed politics and governance that have been transformed from republican democracy to feudal and kleptocratic system. Just like the Nazarene, salvation from an unknown quarter comes. Be still! Be not troubled!!