By Gbenga Osinaike
The momentum is gathering. Time is ticking. 2023 is knocking. Nigerians are preparing to elect another president to saddle the ship of the nation for another four years.
Unlike previous elections, the preparation for the 2023 elections seems to be gathering unusual steam. What came close to the present euphoria was the pre-2015 election era when the change mantra rented the air. Then, Nigerians had to choose between the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC). There was no third force.
Back then, it seemed Nigerians were fed up with the ruling PDP and felt there was a need for change. The opposition APC made outlandish promises; thumbing their chest that they would make a difference. A former Minister of Information, Prince Tony Momoh, was reported as saying “Nigerians should stone us if we fail to perform in two years.”
There was a virulent media campaign against the then President Goodluck Jonathan; many wanted him out of the system even if a president with a NEPA bill certificate was to take over from him. Both truth and falsehood were traded in the media space just to get him out.
There was hope for change. But four years after the first term of the APC-led government, the indices showed Nigeria was sinking. There was sentiment against the government but the sentiment was not strong enough to push them out in 2019.
The trouble then was that the available option of a PDP candidate was scary. It was believed it would be suicidal to fall into the hands of the PDP again after the party’s alleged 16 years of misrule.
The 2019 elections came. It was a hard fight. The APC got in again. And the macabre dance continued. The party’s success at the polls marked the beginning of another round of woe for the nation.
Apart from the government’s excellent performance in completing road projects initiated by the previous administration, all the other available statistics have only shown it has no grasp of governance.
The security situation has gone so bad that bandits seem to have put on the garb of an alternative government. The economy has become insolvent. Nigeria has had to continually service its humungous debt. Corruption has taken a frightening dimension.
The Accountant General of the Federation, Mr Ahmed Idri, was reported to have stolen a whopping N80 billion. Yet, the man is walking freely after being suspended. The then Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, was also suspended on corruption allegations.
The Justice Ayo Salami Panel set up to investigate him noted in it’s reports that Magu was more of a monster than an anti-corruption chief. Among others, according to news reports, not only did he abandon 14 fraud cases involving N118 billion and $309 million, he had also failed to remit to the government another N48 billion in recovered foreign and local currencies. Yet, this man is walking about freely in the land and has since even been decorated with the rank of Assistant Inspector General of Police.
Beyond corruption cases, other sectors of the economy are not something to cheer about. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has laid down its tools for six months and counting. The atmosphere in the country is not only unfriendly but killing. The tripartite campaign promises of the APC-led government have fallen on their faces.
They promised to fight corruption. But it seems corruption is fighting them. They promised to revive the economy, what we have is a sinking economy. Their promise to secure the country has also not gone beyond the books. The life of an average Nigerian is almost two for a penny in the hands of bandits and kidnappers.
All these put together has culminated in anger in the land. But then, the regime of delegate buying in the primaries of the major political parties in the country would not allow for credible candidates to emerge for the 2023 elections. There were media reports that almost all the delegates of the two major parties were compromised.
The 2023 general election is however just around the corner; in few weeks, electioneering campaigns will kick-start all over the country while the elections proper are expected to come up in February 2023, according to the calendar of the Independence National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Elections are expected to take place in all the states of the country except Ekiti, Anambra, Osun, and Edo states where the governorship elections are off season. In spite of this, National Assembly and State House of Assembly elections would hold in these states just like in other states across the country.
The election that is most anticipated all over the country is the presidential election. According to the data provided by the INEC, 16 political parties would field candidates for the presidential election, yet the contest appears to be a three-horse race.
Before the presidential primaries of the leading opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party, it was a two-horse race between the opposition party and the ruling All Progressives Congress. Sensing that he won’t be able to play the money game with them, Mr Peter Obi pulled out of the People’s Democratic Party and aligned with the Labour Party which is said to have no structure. The withdrawal of the former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, from the contest in the PDP and his defection to the Labour Party (LP) changed the tide.
While the two major contenders, Atiku Abubakar and Bola Ahmed Tinubu, may have their war chest filled with financial back-ups to prosecute their electoral campaigns and the scheming they plan to execute for the success of their contest, Obi appears not to have the chest but a movement. Today, the largest chunk of supporters pushing for Peter Obi are the youths who form a larger fraction of eligible voters in the country.
The APC and PDP presidential candidates may bank on their respective party structure for victory at the polls, but for Peter Obi, it is the people. For the 61-year-old politician, the time is right for Nigeria to take its rightful place among the comity of nations. Obi believes that the economic potentials of the country are left unharnessed while those at the corridors of power continue to feast on the commonwealth of the country.
Peter Obi is praised for his spartan lifestyle and his advocacy for financial prudence in governance. As the governor of Anambra state, Obi left investment worth $500 million in both local and foreign cash at a time his contemporaries were leaving their states in debts; the state was regarded as the least indebted and most financially stable state in the country by the Nigeria Debt Management Office. Obi also made his impact felt in youth empowerment, security, economy, health and education in the state during his time as governor.
The 2023 presidential election would be the first trial for Obi to take a shot at the number one office in the country. With the followership he is getting across the country, especially in the south of the country, Obi is likely attaining a cult-hero status just like the incumbent president Muhammadu Buhari and the likes of Ahmadu Bello, Nnamdi Azikwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo. But is this enough to catapult him to Aso Rock by May 29, 2023?
Undoubtedly, Nigerians are in a state of despair as a result of the failure of the political class to better their standard of living. The trust Nigerians place on the political class seems to have been exhausted due to many years of promises failure.
Since the return to party democracy in 1999, the expectation of Nigerians for better life has become a mirage even as the security and economy of the country are in a state of comatose. Determination to bring sanity to the deteriorating situation informed the voting out of power the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan of PDP in 2005 to pave way for President Muhammadu Buhari of the then opposition party, the All Progressives Congress.
Buhari who campaigned on the mantra of change soon became docile and retrogressive as all government apparatus and institutions have failed to function in a way to effect positive change in government administration. In fact, security of lives and properties are no longer guaranteed as some state governors and relevant stakeholders are urging Nigerians to pick up arms for self-defence in order to mitigate the rate of mass killings of law-abiding Nigerians in the hands of rampaging terrorists, bandits and kidnappers.
The level of mismanagement of the nation’s resources is evident in the high rate of unemployment, epileptic electric power generation and distribution, poor health care facilities, decay of educational system, spiral inflation and general hardship in the land.
The present government is overwhelmed with incapability to provide solutions to these myriads of challenges confronting the nation and Buhari’s body language confirms this. Had it been a developed country, Muhammadu Buhari would have resigned or been impeached by the National Assembly.
As 2023 is approaching to provide another constitutional opportunity to vote for leadership change, the emergence of people considered as products of corrupt Nigeria in the primaries of the ruling All Progressives Party (APC) and opposition People Democratic Party (PDP) is unacceptable to the teeming youths whose future is at stake.
In view of this, one may understand why the youths are yearning for the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Mr Peter Obi, whom they consider younger and more articulated to bring about the 21st century change they desire.
The former Anambra State governor while unveiling Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed as his running mate said that, “Securing, uniting and making Nigeria productive require steady and trusted hands. I am confident that with Dr. Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed by my side, we shall ensure that in moving Nigeria forward, no state or community will be left behind.
“Pursuant to its statutory responsibility to protect, our government will promote the rule of law, ensure that governance is inclusive, cost-effective, transformative, less transactional; and national investment regenerative,” Obi said.
Further pledging to move Nigeria from consumption to production, he said his campaign manifesto which will form the principles, priorities, and programmes for turning the country around would be anchored on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He added that he will pursue proactive, well-articulated strategies aimed at tackling the key challenges that are of utmost concern to domestic and foreign investors.
Obi who had recently decamped from the PDP to Labour Party and secured the party’s presidential ticket has spurred unprecedented surprises going by his huge followership among the youth folks across the country. The Obi admirers christened as Obi’s movement are not taking any chance at all as their determination for leadership change through democratic process is uncompromising and this is giving the APC/PDP leaders a sleepless night.
In addition, the PDP decision to jettison its rotational presidency affirmation by producing another northerner in the person of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in view to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari after his eight years in office, and the APC candidate, Alhaji Bola Tinubu, settling for Muslim/Muslim ticket, the Obi’s movement gains more followership in the fold of the two leading parties.
Tinubu’s choice of a Muslim running mate has made Obi, a southerner and Christian, a bride attracting huge support from Christian community voters who see him as a possible unifying factor for political and economic liberation.
Who Is Peter Obi?
Peter Obi’s full name is Peter Gregory Obi. He was born on July 19, 1961, and he is currently 61 years of age. ‘Okwute’ (Rock) as he is fondly called, is from Agulu in Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra state.
He is a Nigerian politician and businessman. He was a two-term Governor of Anambra State under All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) vice-presidential candidate at the 2019 general elections in Nigeria.
He obtained a B.A degree in Philosophy in 1984 from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka; attended Lagos Business School, Nigeria, to do a Chief Executive Programme; and has attended many other schools both locally and internationally.
As a businessman, Peter Obi has been the Chairman of Next International Nigeria Limited, Guardian Express Mortgage Bank Limited, Future View Securities Limited, and at one time, the youngest Chairman of Fidelity Bank Plc. He was also appointed the Chairman of Nigeria’s Security and Exchange Commission during ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
Peter Obi is happily married to Mrs Margaret Brownson Usen, now simply known as Mrs Margaret Obi. They got married in 1992 and their union is blessed with two children – a boy and a girl, Gabriella Nwamaka Frances Obi and Gregory Peter Oseloka Obi, respectively.
Obi had told the media that he would rather fail doing the right thing than succeed doing the wrong thing.
Joining the Labour Party by Obi has however stirred up a form of revolution in the polity. Obi was accorded the honour of the party’s ticket; Professor Pat Utomi who was holding the Labour Party ticket stepped down for him.
Since Obi stepped into the field for the presidential race, however, the story has not been the same for Nigeria. Euphoria seemed to have seized the nation. Many have termed what is happening a sort of revolution.
A chieftain of the APC, Chief Femi Fani Kayode, in a treatise noted that supporters of Obi are everywhere. He warned that those in the larger political parties like the ruling APC and the opposition PDP, “treat them with contempt and ignore them at our own peril.”
Fani-Kayode stated further that the Obidient Movement is “far more dangerous to our collective cause as a ruling class than many of us can possibly conceive or appreciate. Only the discerning can appreciate this and know precisely where this whole thing may be heading.”
He said they may have no structures or elected representatives in the legislative and executive arms of Government but “they have IDEAS and VISION coupled with a clear ideological and philosophical bent that can and will endure for far longer than mere political platforms and structures.
“Unknown to them as well as virtually everyone else, therein lies their power.”
According to him, the movement is an idea whose time has come. “Long after we are all gone, they will still be here because structures and political alliances rarely endure but IDEAS and VISION last forever.”
He stressed, “they will outlive and outlast us all because they are not a political party in the true sense of the word but rather a growing national movement that scales and spreads across ethnic, religious, political, and regional lines and traditional boundaries.”
Many other people have expressed similar thoughts about the Peter Obi movement. The sentiment for him is more prevalent among young and middle-class people. The last conference of the Nigerian Bar Association speaks volumes about Obi’s acceptance among the intellectual class.
Gradually but surely, Obi is making inroads into seemingly obscure areas. He has become the target of the two major parties. There are efforts to discredit him with all kinds of allegations. But many of those allegations seem not to have roots.
The issue that must however be interrogated is if Obi will make any difference in 2023. The first concern is whether he would make any reasonable showing at the polls that will make him win the presidency. And if he wins, will he make any difference? Does he have the capacity to lead a diverse nation like Nigeria?
In the first place, it is alleged that Obi has no structure. But that position is gradually being punctured as some Nigerians have unwittingly surrendered themselves to the structure of the party.
General Overseer of Household of Love Church, Reverend Yinka Yusuf, once made a post on his official Facebook Page where he shared his experience of Peter Obi some years ago. He recounted his encounter with Obi when he was traveling from Abuja to Lagos with an entourage. When he was at the airport in Abuja, he turned to see someone who resembled Governor Peter Obi holding his luggage tightly in his hand. He said he later confirmed the person was Obi and gathered that Obi never allows anybody to hold his luggage for him. Pastor Yusuf said he felt embarrassed and had to disengage the protocol officer carrying his bag for him.
Rev. Yusuf wrote: “I felt so embarrassed for myself. I quickly collected my bag back, gave the protocol guy some money, and pulled my bag myself to the plane. Peter Obi did not open the Bible or quote any verse in the Bible, but he preached to me the greatest message I have ever heard on humility. Now I understand that leadership is by example, and humility is one of the greatest signs of a great leader.”
According to him, when people say Peter Obi has no structure, he replies to them that he is one of his structures. Yusuf has since deployed his pulpit to campaign for Obi. Many other church leaders have done the same. Many people have volunteered to be the voice and hand of Obi as the 2023 elections beckons. Many are obviously disenchanted with the Buhari-led APC government and would not want to risk another APC person taking the reins of governance.
The concern however is if all this euphoria will translate to votes in 2023.
An architect, Lanre Ojeola, opined that the only way the euphoria that has greeted Obi’s emergence will translate to votes is if the campaign process is handled maturely. He noted that what is playing out among the vast majority of Obi’s supporters is uncoordinated. “What we have presently, from my own point of view, is still not well coordinated. It is just a frenzy. The supporters of Obi have to move a step further and coordinate their support and make it spread organically.”
Ojeola who is a pastor in the Redeemed Christian Church of God also expressed concern that some of the supporters who are screaming at the top of their voices may not have PVC. “They are just carried away by the wave of the moment and feel they should belong to the present move. But then, we can’t lose sight of the fact that there is a trend that is largely in favour of Obi. It has to be handled maturely.”
Publisher of Christian Benefit, Dr. Wole Olarinde, believes the present euphoria will translate to the election of Obi as Nigeria’s president. He said, “I can assure you that he will win. What is happening is a revolution and revolution usually comes with a mass movement, which is what we are having. I believe under a clean and fair election, Obi will win. Nigerians are tired. The youths are tired.
“The way to know people are desirous of change is the way many trooped out for their PVC. Many went to INEC centres as early as 5am just to be sure they get a PVC. I can tell you that he will win. What is uppermost in the mind of many is to drive the present APC-led government away and usher in a new government.”
The younger brother of the former governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Isaac Fayose, however says the only way Obi can become the next president of Nigeria is to invest in a structure that will lead to his victory. “If we conduct an election today on social media, Obi will win. But elections are not won on social media. They are won through structures which Obi does not have,” the younger Fayose was reported as saying.
While promising that he would give between N20 and N40 million towards building a structure for Obi ahead of the election, he said, “Right now Obi is the most visible of all candidates. Those who believe in his presidency should contribute money towards it,” he said.
Deji Dania, a graphic designer and book illustrator, believes that with a level playing field, Mr Obi will carry the day at the polls.
Dania said, “When Obi made known his intention to join the race in PDP, I sensed in my spirit he would make a difference if given the opportunity. And when he eventually left PDP for the Labour Party, that inner drive followed him, probably because of what God had told me about the other leading contestants. And when in less than a week his support base grew among Nigerian youths globally, my conviction grew the more and I wrote on one of the youths’ online support groups that this is a movement unprecedented in the history of the country that is neither comparable to Abiola’s Hope ‘93 (because Abiola was primarily a philanthropist and a politician oiled by military generals of the Northern stock specifically. And he touched so many lives at different levels irrespective of tribe. Meaning that it is reasonable the people would want to pay him back with political support for his gestures).
“But this Obi hasn’t offered or given anyone money and he isn’t even ready to. He has come real and openly canvassing support by engaging Nigerians in intellectual dialogue with facts and figures he dares them to go verify and which some people too, have taken up the challenge to do. He is boldly treading where the other better experienced political warlords cannot tread. He seems to be sincerely prepared over the years not as a politician but as a true Nigerian that understands our sensitive nature and the challenges we face as a nation.”
Dania stressed further that Obi’s disposition will make way for him at the polls. “He is calmer, sensitive, youthful, robustly intelligent, economically conscious, and knowledgeable. All these will give credence to the support being increasingly routed for his candidacy beyond any party. The youths with all vigour and strength are staking their lives and now building a support base and structure the opposition said he doesn’t have with their personal resources and sacrifice.” Dania said.
According to Dania, the Obidient Movement is a movement beyond any mortal orchestration. “It’s a wind that’s caught all unawares. This is foolishness that has confounded the wise. It’s a quiet revolution far beyond ENDSARS. It’s a tsunami that is threatening the very fabric of the faulty existing structure on which corruption and all contraptions existing here thrive.”
Dania believes the massive and increasing rise of the movement has even gone beyond Obi himself; “it’s a revolution”.
Giving further analysis, Dania who is also a pastor says what is at stake is the soul of Nigeria (future) on one hand, and the old, corrupt order on the other hand.
“An unprecedented clash between the true progressives (the new order) and the old is foreseen hiking the uncertainty in the air. But an un-rescued Nigeria now may signal her final end. And this is what the youths know, that it is their last chance to take the country back from the old vultures and their bootlickers.”
Beyond the success of Obi at the polls, the other concern of many Nigerians is if he would make a difference if he is voted in as the country’s next president.
Olarinde reasons that he may not be able to make a quick difference if he becomes Nigeria’s president. “If God spares his life and he becomes Nigeria’s next president, I don’t see him performing any magic because the system has collapsed seriously. We are still going to have years of lamentation.
“Perhaps the fruit of his presidency will begin to yield in his second term. He has the capacity to make a change but the change will not be immediate. He has the masses on his side. But it will take a while for him to make a difference.”
Dania corroborates Olarinde’s views. He notes that the very foundation that unites us and makes Nigeria a nation has been ruptured and destroyed.
“There’s implosion already. Yes, he will try to make that difference but he will be resisted by the old losers and their goons because he will seek to reform the system by altering the very base upon which the faulty one has been built, blocking their channels of siphoning our collective wealth and riches for personal gain. And in further trying to consolidate his hold on power, his administration will be more confronted with the propaganda of different kinds.”
Dania however posits that “the people’s genuine readiness as a nation this time around, will help him make the difference he’s come to make.”
Peter Obi in the state house would also mean the first time the country is having an executive President of the southeast extraction. As a major ethnic group in the country, the southeast is the only zone that has not produced a president. With the ‘Obidient wave’ raving across the country, and the advancing of ‘Obi-nomics’, perhaps the man with no party structure across the country would win the election and break the hegemony of the power-drunk politicians of the country.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who was a former beneficiary of zoning, also throws his weight behind zoning the presidency to the southeast. During a meeting with the Political Action Committee (PAC) of the Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, in Abeokuta, the former president advanced that giving the presidency to the southeast in 2023 would ensure peace, fairness and national development in the country. The same line of thought is shared by the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere.
Meanwhile, in spite of the growing support the former governor is getting, his ambition is also threatened by what appears to be the source of his strength. Politically, the southeast does not have an arrow head that decides the direction the region should face as a block. Due to this, there always arises discordant tunes when it comes to choosing who to support.
In 2018, ahead of the 2019 presidential election when the candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar, chose Peter Obi as his running mate, political leaders in the region complained about his choice, while others grumbled that they were not consulted. Although the region gave its support to the PDP, political watchers concluded that the votes the APC got from the region which was higher than what it got in 2015, was as a result of the assurance the governors gave President Buhari to ensure he got 25 percent in the region.
Also, the massive followership his campaign enjoy on the social media is loose and uncoordinated. While his fame spreads across the virtual world like wildfire, the overzealousness of his supporters and unnecessary attacks on supporters of other candidates can affect his chances since elections are not contested in the virtual world.
Peter Obi has promised to take Nigeria from the economic back seat to the fore front just like China, Singapore and some other countries were able to do. He has stated at different fora that what Nigeria needs are reform and the need to cut wasteful spending in governance. The challenge however is how prepared is Nigeria for the reform that would place the country on the path of economic advancement? Would the political elites who are parasitic on government coffers allow for the reforms that would deny them what they have become used to? Would the Nigeria civil service cooperate with the financial prudency that Obi advocates and is known for? In this regard, the greater challenge Obi would face if elected, would be the elites who would find it difficult to bend to the reality of a new sheriff who does not believe in wasteful spending.
Whether Obi would become the president or not, the power lies with the voters. By the end of February next year, Nigerians would know what direction the country is sailing towards.
Additional Reports by Bosun Obafemi & Samuel Oyejola