Peter Obi, Prospects and Challenges

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By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

This piece stemmed from two uniquely similar but different sources. First is a WhatsApp picture of Peter Obi, the Labour Party presidential flag bearer and his running mate, Dr Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed, which I recently stumbled upon on a group platform.

The referenced portrait was laced with the following inscriptions; Nigeria Has Never Had It This Good! No missing certificates, excellent academic achievements, good, verifiable track records, good business administration and no criminal records.

While reflecting on the portrait and its messages, I got yet another WhatsApp message. Like the first, it reads; ‘Obicracy is a system where the masses choose a competent leader without structure over incompetent leader with full structure’.

To cross-check the validity of these claims about Peter Obi’s popularity, I sought a telephone conversation with a cross-section of quietly influential Nigerians. While all comments were validly important and appreciated, the observations by Tony Ezeagwu, Chairman, Labour Party, Delta state/Coordinator, Peter Obi Campaign Organization, and another by Iwemdi Nwaham, member of People Democratic Party (PDP), not only stood out but formed the nucleus of the present discourse.

‘Like a boil that can never be cured as long as it is covered up until it is opened with all its pus-flowing ugliness to the natural medicine of air and light, their remarks respectively brought to surface the hidden prospects and concerns inherent in Obi’s movement to where it can be seen and treated. Most importantly, the duo subjected Obi’s quest for the presidency to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion.

Beginning with Tony Ezeagwu, he was not only emphatic as to Obi’s prospect but categorical as to why Nigerians should elect him as their next President.

In his words; as you can see, Nigeria as a country is in a state of decay. Everything has gone wrong, people are suffering, and schools are closed. No hospital to attend. People are being kidnapped and the people have no answer to all that is happening. And you have also heard of Obi’s background particularly when he was a governor.

‘You have heard all he did in Anambra State, how he revived the state. You know what made them impeach him on two different occasions. But each time he goes to the court, the court returns him to the office because of his steadfastness to doing the right thing. He was sure of what he was doing in the office as a Governor. He was doing the right thing and not the wrong thing. Even when they alleged that he did not follow due process and the rest of it, the court insisted that the man followed due process, except if it is a different thing that you are looking for’.

Waxing philosophical, he asked rhetorically; do you know that it is in washing hands that we know who will scramble for the food? And are you also aware that charity begins at home? What you were not taught at your youthful age, you cannot learn in old age. Obi has taught us not to talk about other people. Instead, we should tell Nigerians what he is going to do and what he has done in the past-as that is better than looking into what others have done. Whether they have done well or have done wrong. It is Nigerians that have to say that.

He further stressed that the most important thing is that what he did in Anambra stands him out. Anambra, he explained, is a state, just as Nigeria is a state. If we are talking about the Ministry of Health in Anambra, there is nothing different between the Ministry of Health in Anambra State and the Federal Ministry of Health. If we are talking about the Ministry of Agriculture in Anambra state, there is nothing different from that of the Ministry of Agriculture at the federal level. So, he is only going to replicate whatever he has done in the past.

The only thing is that it is going to be at a larger scope now and because it is on a larger scope, it will require larger resources to spend on those demands. It is not the size of the fund that is in Anambra as a state that is at the federal level. The only thing is that the size of the man’s thinking, the ability that he used in Anambra is the same ability that he is going to use at the federal level. I think it is a very simple and straightforward thing. Anybody who is talking about Anambra being a small state and the rest of it might not be getting it right.

The issue is; does Peter Obi know what to do? That is the question.

‘I am sure you are aware that the issue we are talking about is somebody who will look at a problem on the ground and not only know what to do but figure out the solution. That is exactly what we are talking about. And if you see the people Labour Party is parading now; president and vice presidential aspirants, you will know that first and foremost, two of them possess the energy needed to function at that capacity. They are young people. They are successful entrepreneurs. So, they know what to do to make Nigeria great’.

At this point, he said something very interesting; Obi is not promising the youth anything extra-ordinary than what they are entitled to.

So, what are those things that they are entitled to? I queried.

Look, he responded; first and foremost they are entitled to a good life. Secondly, they are entitled to go to school and if you have a course of four years, you will do it for four years and not for eight years. Thirdly, when you graduate, you will get a job. Fourthly, our people used to call Benue State the food basket of the nation. Today, Benue State is no longer the food basket. They have been driven out of the bush and their farms and you don’t expect us (Nigerians) to be getting food the way they used to. Go to Zamfara State, people are being slaughtered every day. Go to Kaduna State, people are being slaughtered every day. So, what he is going to do is that he has to bring Nigeria to oneness again. It will no longer be Christian/Muslim or Hausa/Igbo, Yoruba or South versus North. It has to be if you are a Nigerian, you are a Nigerian. That is what he wants to put in place.

However, while Tony exudes confidence about how Peter Obi will win the forthcoming presidential election and turn the fortunes of this country around, Iwemdi Nwaham, a member of PDP in Delta State, said something new and different.

He said, I don’t have a contrary opinion as per observation. I only have a contrary opinion as per actualization. When you open social media, when you look around you, you just find people who are ‘Obidient’ all over the place. You go to school, you go to a motor park, palm wine drinking bar, and honestly, the mileage of stocks is in favour of Obi because Obi is saying the right things. Obi is really touching on the nerves and this is where APC must know that they have thrown up an Obi because of the way they have misruled this country. You know, when you come out of that, you look at the ingredients for electoral victory.

‘The ingredient for electoral victory is not just to sit down in a palm wine bar and talk. It is much more. When they say structure, you have to have a structure and because of the way people are interpreting it, I don’t even like using the word structure anymore but it is real. In party politics, you entrench yourself, you put certain tentacles into the ground. If you don’t have it, you will just ramble around it’.

I tell you, Peter Obi might not even score 30 per cent in Anambra State of the votes that will be cast for president. But he is so popular; people like to listen to him. His messages are resonating everywhere. He will get to the presidency but not in 2023. There are certain things that must be in place in dismantling the skewed nature of Nigeria. Nigeria is too skewed in favour of one ethnic group and it is not fair. Those things that will be done to dismantle it cannot be done by Peter Obi or Tinubu. It can only be done by somebody like them who will say ‘look my people, I think this unfairness has become too much. We have gone too far. This country might go into a conflagration if we don’t apply sense’. Then he now begins to reorder gradually. It cannot be done mechanically. He concluded.

Whatever may be the case; this piece on its part holds the opinion that the current administration has no clear definition of our problem as a nation, the goals to be achieved, or the means to address the problems and achieve the goals. Secondly, the system has virtually no consideration for connecting the poor with good means of livelihood-food, jobs, and security. This is the only possible explanation for the present situation and a fact that has made the need for a third force in the coming 2023 general election important!!!

Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He can be reached via [email protected]/08032725374

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