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Obi, Obidients And The New Face Of Politics In Nigeria



Can We Have 'No Victor, No Vanquished'?

The Insight by Lateef Adewole

Last Saturday, the second phase of elections for the governorship and state houses of assembly took place. Nearly all the results have been announced with just two states left; Kebbi and Adamawa. They were inconclusive. I hereby congratulate all the winners. They should be magnanimous in victory. Those who lost too, should be gracious in defeat. There will always be another day. As I anticipated in my last Saturday’s article, that round of elections was very intense. Being local elections, the gladiators were more desperate to either retain their seats or ensure that their preferred candidates won. They deployed all arsenals and resources within their reach to achieve it. It gave credence to the common saying that “all politics is local”.

The outcomes of the elections were completely at variance with the previous presidential and national assembly elections. The outcomes of the previous elections which shocked many, must have jolted many politicians who were, hitherto “sleeping”, to reality. Although, the factors in the presidential were not the same as with the state elections. Most of the dynamics had changed. In these ones, the rallying points were from each state, unlike where there was a national arrowhead, around which previous campaigns were built. This one is what the Yorubas called “k’olomu d’omu iya e gbe” (every man for himself).

This 2023 general elections were “special”. Since their conduct, they have been a subject of review by political analysts and public commentators. The elections were made interesting with the new face of politics that was witness, which could be associated with the involvement of the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi. Sincerely, his participation in the contest changed a lot of things, both positively and otherwise. It brought “fire” into the competition and the traditional politicians were shaken to their roots.

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Before the elections, even if some of us believed that the presidential election was actually between Tinubu of APC and Atiku of PDP, we never saw that Obi’s performance coming. We might have underestimated the power of the rhetorics he deployed. All we were concerned was that his platform, the Labour Party, has no formidable political structure. The common response of Ob0i and his supporters was that his supporters were his structure he needed. Truly, they were, and they tried, but we saw how far “structurelessness” could carry him.

The ineffectiveness of “structurelessness” has also reflected in the subsequent elections at the state level where Labour Party, despite its sterling performances at the previous national elections, performed woefully. With the declared results across the country, Labour Party simply fizzled out. Even within their strongholds in South East and South south where they had landslide victories during the presidential election and other places they performed well, they “luled” during the state elections. This is where structureless failed them. Of the total 26 governors-elect declared, Labour Party only managed to win one; Abia State.

On July 16th, 2022, I wrote an article titled: “2011 and 2023: Looking Like Déjà Vu”. This was after Obi has moved to Labour Party from PDP, when he must have suspected that he won’t get the ticket, and his candidacy and campaign began to gather momentum. In that article, I expressed my observations of similar trend in his politics, based on my own experience. And I made predictions. Then, I saw a replay of 2011 presidential election where Major General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd.) was the presidential candidate of CPC and he slugged out with the incumbent President Jonathan of PDP. The only difference is that, now, it was not the incumbent that is involved.

The similarities I drew were between Buhari then and Obi now. Same as the possible outcomes and post-election phenomenon. Nearly all I stated in that article have happened. Just like Buhari joined CPC less than one year to the election but was able to gain massive momentum before the elections, that was how Obi joined Labour Party and it became a movement in less than a year. CPC had no structure. Everything was built around the personality of Buhari. Same way Labour Party has no structure. All they have done was built around Obi.

In 2011, Buhari performed well at the presidential election where he won 10 states but still lost the election. In 2023, Obi performed incredibly well, won 11 states and FCT, but still lost. After the declaration, crisis erupted as the Buhari supporters went wild. Since the declaration that saw Obi lost the presidential election in distance 3rd place, not even second position, all manners of inciting statements have been heard made by leaders and followers. Protests have been organised and what we read daily as the reactions of the leaders and followers were nothing to write home about. Most are at best, irresponsible and unpatriotic, as they could ignite a national crisis if not well managed. All these I predicted in that article.

To be fair, the participation of Peter Obi in this election brought many positive things. It created unprecedented awareness among the people. In building his support base, a supposed “movement” evolved, which is the umbrella body of his teeming supporters who called themselves “Obidients”. This spread like wild fire, given that majority of them are the new generation, with their internet savvy personality and social media craze. They blew it out of proportion. The campaign online was vigorous. That quickly made Obi to become very popular among the youths.

Many of them, who were usually lackadaisical about their country and elections, became more interested. There was massive enthusiasm to vote, which made them to register enmass. We witnessed a surge in the number of registered voters. As much as 93 millions in total (both new and old). About 87.2 million collected their PVCs. The youths were also very active in campaigns offline. They got involved in physical mobilisation and got creative in their methods. All these worked for Obi.

Although, at the elections, the turnout was still very low, contrary to the anticipated massive participation expected to be driven by the enthusiasm that we saw for months, going into the elections. This could also be attributed to the needless difficulties created by CBN with their cash confiscation and the fuel scarcity. People were struggling to barely survive. These were disincentives. Yet, the Obidients actually showed up. If anything at all, those who stayed behind were possibly the supporters of the traditionally entrenched candidates and parties; APC and PDP. This reflected in the results, as Obi actually performed far beyond the expectations of many people. To have obtained about 26% of the total vote cast was incredible, winning in 11 states and FCT.

Many unknown, less-known or “accidental” candidates of Labour Party won elections into the senate and house of representatives, against many well experienced, ranking lawmakers of the National Assembly. It was one of such who defeated the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives in Delta state. Similar things happened in many states where Obi won. Incumbent governors lost their bids to senate. Many lawmakers at the national assembly lost their reelection bids. These guys rode on the back of Obi’s popularity. Many who voted for them didn’t even know or care to know who they were voting for. This was exact way it happened with Buhari’s CPC in 2011.

However, as laudable as the awareness that Obi’s participation created, the toxicity and divisiveness it has created might hurt and hunt the country for a long time to come. With benefits of hindsight, many have thanked God Obi never happened to Nigeria. Many believed we might have dodged a bullet with his outright loss at the election and for not even coming second like in Buhari’s case in 2011. We can only imagine what would have happened till date from that moment of declaration and going forward, if he had won, considering the conduct of his supporters who felt aggrieved that their principal lost and their arrogant displays where he even won at state level then.

Numerous posts on social media, voice notes, video recordings and so on, where “obidients” were seen threatening the peace of the country, have been all over social media. It is understandable that anyone who loses an election would be pained. But to be ready to set the country on fire just because of that is criminal.

Their leaders have not been very responsible enough in cautioning them too. In fact, they have been seeing making incendiary and inciting statements on national televisions, some of which have become the avenues for such recklessness. They flippantly accused INEC leadership without proof and disparaged them, and even the judiciary, in an attempt to intimidate them, after they have filed their petitions against the election in court. These are acts that could jeopardise the fragile peace we are enjoying in the country right now.

Some of us, who concluded long ago, that Obi could not win the presidential election, because he had no path to victory, were proven right. From his approach to the elections and campaigns, we saw a divisiveness. His strategy was based on our most volatile and flammable fault lines; ethnicity and religion. First and foremost, he was highjacked by his tribes people. They must have seen him as another means to an end. In very short period of joining Labour Party, it started to wear more Igbo coloration. This was not an effective strategy. Buhari relied on similar approach for three consecutive times when he contested between 2003 and 2011, and lost.

The second dangerous strategy was to pitch christians against muslims. Unfortunately, majority of christians bought into it, with the exception of those who think beyond religion in their choices. He took his campaigns to the churches. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) became his campaign arm. Pastors became his mouthpieces in their churches, revivals, and everywhere. They campaigned vigorously on their pulpits and compelled their members to vote for Obi. We learnt some even place curses on any member who wouldn’t vote for him. It was so bad. I have never witnessed such dangerous recklessness in my life.

Fortunately for them, there were three prominent muslims in that contest with Obi, who had to divide the bloc muslim votes into three. This gave him a leverage with the benefit of bloc votes from most of the christian-dominated states and regions. These were obvious in the outcomes of the elections in each state. Where ethnicity did not give him votes like some parts of the north, Christianity did it. Among all the leading presidential candidates, it was only Obi who won as much as 95% of his region in popular votes and won the whole five states in his region. Others won some and lost some to opposition, and they never scored more than 65% of the popular votes in their regions.

Where Obi won outside Igboland, they were areas populated by the Igbos and or Christians. This was why he didn’t win any of the states in the core north of North West and North East. That’s 13 states. He didn’t show up, except in few Christian-dominated areas in Kaduna South, Taraba and Adamawa. How did he and his supporters expect him to win a national election with such limitations? Yet, they kept claiming he won. How?

The demography outside these two bases of his comprises of some youths and muslims, who thought that they were genuinely championing true change and wanted to enthrone new order or new Nigeria, as the case may be, both of which are fallacious. Obi is Obi, part of the old order, from APGA to PDP to Labour Party. Nothing is new in that. He was the vice presidential candidate to Atiku Abubakar in 2019 presidential election, same Atiku that Obidients now see as “devil”, like they see other established politicians. But unfortunately, many of our youths are low information voters who only followed herd mentality, not knowing they were being manipulated.

Many later realised that, after what they saw as reactions of many Obidients who are Igbos, after the election, especially those youths from Yorubaland. That informed the thrashing of Labour Party in the governorship election in Lagos state last Saturday. You can deceive some people some times, but you cannot deceive all the people all the times. “B’iro ba lo logun odun, ojo kan lododo ma ba” (even if a lie has travelled for twenty years, one day, the truth will catch up with it). I hope those who were hoodwinked with religion and deceit of a new Nigeria have learnt their lessons.

The cases by Obi and Atiku are already in court. I hope they will stop heating up the polity and creating needless tension in the country with their utterances, actions and inactions. Rather than this endless media trial on the television and social media, they should put their house in order, be diligent in proving their cases in court, based on facts of evidences. Let it not be that they present hogwash prosecution and later begin another round of complaints and criticising the outcome if it doesn’t favour them. Court judgements are based on evidence, not blackmail, sentiment or emotion.

In my inner heart, I truly wished such movement that Obidients represent, was built on altruism, sincere national rebirth for new Nigeria based on inclusiveness. I have yawned for a time when we would have a true paradigm shift from the old order to the new, from older generation to the new, but not one based on parochialism of tribalism or religion jingoism. Not one based on divisiveness and vile ideology as we have witnessed and still witnessing. They are even worse than what we want to replace them with. I hope that time will come soon.

Let me congratulate all the winners in the last Saturday’s governorship and state assembly elections once again. I pray that God gives you all, the knowledge, wisdom and understanding that will help you deliver on your mandate and campaign promises, for the good of the citizens and the betterment of our country.

May God continue to protect us and guide us aright.

God Bless Nigeria.

You can follow me on:
Twitter: @lateef_adewole
Facebook: Lateef Adewole
Email: [email protected]
Whatsapp: +2348179512401

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March 25, 2023.


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