Peter Obi – Obasanjo’s Hope?

Peter Obi – Obasanjo’s Hope? Or Nigeria’s hope?

One should ask what does the support of former generals, ethnocultural groups, and other political heavyweights in the land mean for Peter Obi’s campaign? Peter Obi has earned phenomenal popularity through fostering Nigeria’s first popular democratic movement since the 1950s. That was for Nigeria’s Independence from colonial rule. This time it is for Nigeria’s independence from auto-colonial misrule. The pro-democracy movement of the 1990s was an army arrangement. Obi appears to have defied the Religious-Ethnic-Money complex (REM) that has left Nigeria, according Prof Eghosa Osaghae, a withered giant impotent in fulfilling its obvious capabilities as a nation. Elections should be about “Hope” since politicians who give the best chances of hope to voters become the People’s choice.

Nigeria’s history has taught its citizens to doubt the support or trust former leaders offer in any aspect of political life. The irony is the citizens must often drop their doubts in the expectation that it will enhance the promise of “Hope” current popular election candidates tender. Such is the stuff of countless political traps. Should we trust those Big Persons who come out to support Peter Obi? Arguably, these Big Persons have left many a political candidate in a state of “E no see water cry.” And in other situations, the support a transaction, fulfilling personal or group interest. It has nothing to do with their proposed candidate.

Unsurprisingly, Obasanjo has come out to support Peter Obi in a most public and sensational manner. Other generals who usually Obasanjo’s adversaries have in a dimension of wisdom decided in unison Peter Obi should be president. The question is why? Is Peter Obi Obasanjo’s hope?

Large sections of the citizenry have taken their eyes of the habitual politics in Nigeria. The REM is not dead. It is alive and robust. That is a rational reason to be wary of the support of Big Persons. Half-a-century ago, textbooks on elections would tell of an interesting case from the United Kingdom. People who were Liberal Party supporters would vote Labour to prevent the Conservatives from winning. Why? Liberal Party supporters felt their vote for their party would be a waste. Since it would not be enough to defeat the Conservative party at the polls.

The above example is not only classic but applicable in various scenarios. For example, it is possible for a majority of voters to want Peter Obi as their next president but as they enter polling booths, they vote someone else. Then after casting their vote for whoever else, they continue to support Peter Obi. Alas, that is an unfortunate political trap for popular candidates and peoples’ choices. Yet, there is a solution. Surprise popular politicians, more so outsiders, must overcome the “support but won’t vote” tendency in their new found followers particularly in the last-minute of elections. Peter Obi is scoring high in that department; he meets the people daily. Where are the other candidates? The REM is working on their behalf.

Over the past twenty years. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo has done so much by any means possible to prevent Atiku Abubakar, his former Vice, from becoming president. Obasanjo made sure Atiku succession bid for president was unsuccessful. But he gave Nigeria President Musa Yar’Adua. The coercions of OBJ put Goodluck Jonathan in Aso Rock only to campaign against the incumbent’s re-election at the time. Inevitably, that antic is responsible in no small way for the election of Muhammadu Buhari as president eight years ago.

Who can forget the graphic images of OBJ burning his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) membership card in front of cameras. Yes, a party that gave him two terms as president and for which he sought a third term. Consequently, OBJ was to undermine both Jonathan’s re-election chances and the future of the PDP. However, OBJ is savvy enough to spot the not too visible revival of PDP. With a little help from the current president stratagems and the REM, Atiku Abubakar can be Nigeria’s next president. Surely, OBJ can only say one thing to that, “Over My Dead Body.” So, we see his game. OBJ has, perhaps unwittingly, enabled many to fathom for themselves Atiku Abubakar is the man to beat or be beaten by. Sekpekpebe!

The other question is, does Peter Obi need the support of the Big Persons in Nigeria? Well. Outside the REM these Big People have no influence over the electorate. They can buy and sell votes. Or whip up ethnic sentiments. And use God’s name for their marketing. Therefore, getting votes of conscience from voters in free and fair elections is the best support a candidate can get. Can the Big People contain the money component of the REM? In the spirit of Over My Dead Body, Obasanjo would, if he can. Nevertheless, the enduring sensation of Emilokan and the runaway popularity of Obidiency obscures PDP’s revival in the public eye. I repeat, REM is alive and robust and if it works the upcoming general elections, Peter Obi will have a rough time.

Now, the religious component of the REM favours both presidential candidates Atiku Abubakar or Bola Ahmed Tinubu as insiders. Obi is not exempt from REM but he is an outsider who refuses to play that card. This is a stubborn remnant of Lord Lugard’s legacy in Nigeria. Who would the Muslims choose? Conversely, the ethnic component favours Atiku Abubakar over Bola Ahmed Tinubu by colonial perceptions of Nigeria’s ethnic demography that resists correction forever. This may be an oversimplification of how politics works in Nigeria since the dynamics of politics is not so straightforward. Notwithstanding, if the REM works, it must choose between Tinubu and Atiku, it can only produce one leader.

Moreover, money, the last component in the REM is nothing but money for and from corruption. In Nigeria’s life, corruption is the main destroyer of the country. In elections, vote buying whether from delegates, voters, or electoral officials, low and high is the rogue. If corruption and vote buying were an education system – nursery, primary, secondary, higher education, and professorship? Honestly, where would you rightly put each individual presidential candidate?

Interestingly, Most African or Nigerian political scholars have a consensus that the only thing that will improve the governance of Africa or Nigeria, respectively, is thoroughgoing social/political movements emerging from the grassroots. Such movements promote what the people want not elites and cabals demand. Movements seek radical changes for a better a life for voters. Otherwise, elites introduce radical reforms that ensures them obscene wealth while they impoverish voters endlessly.

As for movements, Peter Obi is the man of the moment who should know enough about the PDP machinery to check Atiku, if he can. He must make sure his unexpected runaway popularity counts in voting booths not just in TV studios and on the street. Thus, he must assure his supporters that a vote for anyone else will be wasted.

Accordingly, let the electorate decide who will lead them, wisely, and may their votes count. The people, the youth, the common man and woman have had enough of seven decades of “Everyday things are getting worse” only to vote their REM conscience and cry again. It up to the voters.


Grimot Nane

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