Mr. Peter Obi
In a video I watched recently, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi was seen eulogizing Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (PDP) presidential candidate. To many whose understanding of political engagements is shaped largely by realpolitik, such a gesture would be considered utterly naive.
But there is absolutely nothing naive about what Obi did in the said video. It essentially captured the unpretentious worldview of the former Anambra State governor, which, simply put, is one of the reasons a growing number of Nigerians find him so endearing. Even if one concedes to the cynical point of view that such lavish praise was merely contrived to burnish his reputation as an atypical politician, it still reveals nonetheless, an inclination fast receding in our relationship with others, especially when once rosy bonds of friendship turn awry – a capacity to be charitable.
I became “Obidient” long before the present national festival around the person of Mr. Peter Obi; and that was some four years ago. It was at the annual Harvest and Bazaar event of the Enugu Adoration Ministry, hosted by the gadfly of the catholic Diocese of Enugu, Rev. Fr. Camillus Ejike Mbaka. It was in the run-up to the 2019 general elections, such a season that politicians are usually vulnerable before some religious demagogues. It attracted the high and mighty including the likes of Governors Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, David Nweze Umahi, Abdulahi Ganduje, and a host of other high profile politicians including Mr. Peter Obi. Fr. Mbaka was at his very odious best; he understood what was at stake as he cajoled, prodded, and even blackmailed these desperate politicians to submission.
The only exception was Peter Obi! Like the rock (which symbolizes his name Peter), he stood his ground and refused to yield to Fr. Mbaka’s apparent blackmail; and he earned my respect! While he had requested Fr. Mbaka to show him a project he could execute for the church, the priest would rather he monetized it. Instructively, it was this event that made Fr. Mbaka later declare that Obi would never realize his presidential ambition because, according to him, he is “stingy”!
But if this was meant to scuttle his presidential ambition, it inadvertently became the most recommending testimonial and a crucial factor in the sudden national acceptability of Peter Obi vis-à-vis the tagline of “we no dey give shish”! In a country long defined by the inexplicable debauchery and profligacy of the political class, it was ennobling to find one amongst them who is distinguished by the probity of his character and the lucidity of his ideas. Thus, when the traditional potentates of the PDP were too determined to render their national convention a mindless bazaar, Obi quietly left the fold and joined a relatively unknown Labour Party! As if that was what the Nigerian populace were waiting for, this hitherto unknown party, suddenly shot to national limelight!
Today, by the sheer strength of his character and ideas, Peter Obi is without doubt the frontrunner in the forthcoming presidential election. His support base is pervasively organic, and has broken all the barriers – class, ethnic, partisanship, etc., – that hitherto, had arrested our national development. Thus, rather than the party defining the candidate, it is Peter Obi as a brand that is defining the Labour Party! As expected many opportunistic politicians who had failed to clinch nominations in the traditional parties such as the PDP and the APC, have all joined the Labour Party.
Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, they have failed to study the irresistible persona of Peter Obi, the brand that is driving their so-called party. While Obi is infectiously courtly, these no-where-men are crudely brash; while Obi believes in the power of his ideas, these infidels believe in their lowly tantrums; and while Obi is marked out by his disarming equanimity, these renegades are defined by their garrulity! In other words, Peter is unfortunately unequally yoked with scoundrels! Thus instead of helping to build his electoral fortunes, I am afraid these renegades are rather pulling him back.
Obi’s support base cuts across all the political divides. There are those in the traditional political parties who have resolved to vote for him at the presidential election while they would vote for their various parties in other elective positions. Peter Obi knows this and has been engaging some political leaders in the other parties to look beyond partisan definition and consider his personal profile. Indeed, in all his stumps, he has hardly sold any candidate solely because he is in the Labour Party rather than the quality of his profile.
That is because he knows he is not riding on the profile of Labour as a party, rather merely as a vehicle especially as the laws do not provide for an independent candidate. So these opportunistic renegades who are feasting on Peter Obi’s profile should please note that the Obidient Movement is not about the Labour Party but about the character and content of Peter Obi. They should, therefore, learn to campaign on their personal qualifications rather than attracting the bile of other parties against an innocent Mr. Peter Obi.
In Enugu State for instance, those who failed at the gubernatorial contest in the PDP have all invaded us and have infested our movement with their traditional confusion. As of now, the Labour Party has no definite candidate as the battle is still raging in the courtrooms between Chijioke Edeoga, the now embittered cousin of the sitting Governor Ugwuanyi, and Capt. Everest Nnaji.
As at today, none of these two has any manifesto defining their ideas, nor do they in their stumps excite any admiration. Edeoga’s preoccupation is to spew rants against his cousin Gov. Ugwuanyi and the PDP, a party he was a prominent member of, and a government he duly served in until March this year! Unlike Peter Obi, he has no transformative ideas, appears largely vacuous, prevaricative, and vain, and dwells mostly on primordial emotions as a strategy. This is despite the fact that he had been a member of the House of Representatives and a commissioner, two key platforms that should, ordinarily, launch a politician’s career to heights of excellence.
Besides the fact of having had what were unarguably tepid and lacklustre stints in the House and as a commissioner, Edeoga has proved incapable of demonstrating Obi’s graciousness. So, with barely any significant record to flaunt from his public service career, he uses every opportunity to rail against an administration of which he was an executive council member for seven years!
For the discerning public though, his tantrums against the PDP is an after-thought, an embarrassing catalogue of self-indictment. His anger is rooted in the humiliating defeat he suffered in the PDP’s governorship primary, having long seen himself as the heir apparent, not on the strength of an outstanding performance as a commissioner but solely on the grounds of some primordial sentiments that he is the incumbent governor’s cousin. His tantrums are therefore nothing but sour grapes. Had he won, or, more appropriately, been given the governorship ticket on a platter, as he had hoped, there would have been no such bellyaching from him.
Knowing how silly an unrelenting denunciation of a party to which he belonged until recently would sound, Obi has himself, devoted every effort towards burnishing his personal profile to broaden his acceptance to the electorates. Edeoga, on the other hand, is mired in a hate-filled campaign, dredging up imagined hurt from a party to whose platform he owes every claim to prominence. Herein lies his loss of reason and the wherewithal to ride on the crest of Obi’s soaring popularity.
Edeoga all the while knew that the zoning arrangement in tha state would not be tolerable to his governorship gambit as the template solely favoured the East Senatorial zone, where by his conduct he had clearly demonstrated he was not a part of. Indeed, nothing best highlights his hypocrisy in this regard as his choice of a running mate in the now truncated ambition.
Settling for Dr. Nwokeabia, someone from the Enugu West Senatorial Zone was an implicit admission that he had never quite identified with the Enugu East Senatorial Zone, or Nkanuland, if you will. If he truly did, then the logical choice would have been Enugu North Senatorial Zone. But that couldn’t possibly be, as his ambition from the outset had been premised, irrationally, on the divisive notion that the governorship should still be held by someone from Nsukka cultural extraction.
Having failed to actualize that in the PDP, he was attempting to put a veneer on such an atrocious bid through the immersive wave of Obimania. But he ought to have realized that the reputation which has earned Mr. Obi such admiration and large following is just not transferable.
It should have become apparent by now that political expediency is not exactly all that matter in the Labour Party’s quest for “structure”. Peter Obi knows that the strength of his ideas and his character are enough to pull through his ambition, and not so much the baggage of all these opportunists.
He has travelled this route before. In 2003 when he threw his hat in the ring for the governorship of Anambra State, he had no candidate elected with him as a member of APGA. But he governed the state successfully because of the strength of his ideas.
Indeed, it was his successes as a governor that subsequently enthroned APGA as the party to beat in Anambra State where there is hardly any opposition leader’s position in the state’s House of Assembly anymore.
Nigeria is yearning for a change and it would not matter if Obi became a president without a single member of the National Assembly or even governor from the Labour Party. And that is why it would be prudent to call the likes of pretenders like Chijioke Edeoga, to order. He should not cause disaffection between the Enugu people who are wholly PDP faithful but graciously Obidient.
Nwokedi, a member of the “Obidient Movement”, lives in Enugu.