New Telegraph Thursday back page of June 23, 2022
By Ike Abonyi.
“We must be better and act better if we seriously plan to play on the global stage.” – Peter Obi
Even the Labour Party flag bearer for 2023, Peter Obi himself cannot explain the driver of his charisma and the everyday growth in the number accepting his message. Yes, he has a penetrating political message that many didn’t know would be grasped so quickly. Why so?
Before the enigma of the PO phenomenon, we had hoped that all sentiments of religion, party affliction, and ethnic politics acting as cogs in the wheel of progress would end only when the stomach infrastructure issue (hunger) is ultimately settled. Lo and behold, Obi's #TakeBackNigeria message has hit the political space like a bullet. To think that the groping and fumbling in our polity will continue indefinitely is to say that the tunnel has no light at the other end. Nature, since creation, says that whatever has a beginning has an end. Could it then be that Nigeria’s "all motion, no movement" politics is gradually terminating?
The Peter Obi revolution is not all about winning or losing the prized presidency in 2023; it is also about a bold statement, "Enough is enough." His message is not about APC or PDP, Atiku or Tinubu, not even President Buhari. It is about the so-called lazy Nigerian youths taking responsibility for their future because they own it. Even if Obi fails to win in 2023, it would be clearer that the politics of Nigeria will witness a dramatic change. Obi appears to have woken the hitherto docile youths to be politically conscious and realise they are the real owners of their future.
Let us pause and ask, who is Peter Obi? You may have gone through his intimidating profile…how he went to the best schools all over the developed world…made a huge success in the business sphere as a "trader" and banker…ventured into the tough turf of politics…did what nobody before him ever did in governance. You would have seen all that stood him out? But what do others think about this man? Why is he shocking the nation’s political space like an electric current? What is he saying that others are not saying?
Musing this week will attempt to present this political enigma in a way that will send a clear message to all those taking him for granted…they are on the wrong side. Those waiting to see Obi’s structure and who continue to see him as an aberration will soon realise their prejudice.
This columnist is well suited to tell the few perplexes behind Peter Obi, not as a soothsayer but as one who has known him even before his politics.
Our objective is to unearth the enigma behind Peter Obi and to forewarn all those who continue to underrate him that they will be doing so at their peril.
After many years in the corporate community, Obi packed his luggage from Lagos and returned to Anambra State in 2002, saying he wanted to run for the governorship seat. Nobody, no family members, friends or associates except himself took him seriously. Believing in himself was all he needed. He joined the then ruling party in the state, the PDP. Of course, he was an outsider and couldn’t have been taken seriously. At meetings, they would not even allow him to talk. Is it not if you have space before you can show the stuff you are made of. Knowing that he had what it takes to right the wrong created by Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju, a PhD holder whose first term as governor met all the requirements of failed governance, Obi remained focused.
After several attempts at meetings and he was not given a chance to talk, he took the revolutionary decision, left the PDP and joined a lesser party then in the opposition in the state, the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, won their gubernatorial ticket as a political neophyte in a small party. He began his strange campaign home to home, community to community, town to town asking the huge question, is Anambra cursed or are we the cause? Either way, I have the answer," he told the people. Expectedly, the ruling party dismissed his threat as a non-issue.
The election came and the voters responded to his message believing he had something new away from PDP that Governor Mbadinuju had done irreparable damage to and had to be replaced by Dr Chris Ngige, the current Minister of Labour as the party flag bearer. The then overwhelming PDP could not stomach it that one political nonentity will come and defeat them and they wrote the results in favour of PDP instead of APGA, the rightful winner. In their hurry and neglect of the inconsequential Obi, they left lots of gaps which Obi saw and tapped. Just as meticulous as his campaign was, he had all his records from the polling booths intact and he raised lawyers who approached the election tribunal. Still, PDP did not take him seriously as they went ahead and swore in Dr Ngige as the winner. For three years, Obi and his party APGA were in court until finally in 2006 he was declared the rightful winner and he took over governance in the state.
Not believing their eyes, the political elite ganged up and impeached him in a bizarre 5 am parliamentary session. Again, he returned to the court which reinstalled him a few months later.
It is because of Obi that the nation’s political timetable was fundamentally adjusted; gubernatorial elections became staggered to reflect when you were sworn in. Again, Obi returned to the court to determine his rightful tenure, PDP and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, ignored him and conducted an election and declared PDP’s Andy Ubah the winner and he was sworn in to replace Obi but the Supreme Court, two weeks later, again restored Obi to office, saying that Ubah ought not to have been sworn in because there was no vacant position to fill.
Three years after leaving office in 2017 Anambra gubernatorial election was due, Obi joined the then-ruling PDP through the persuasion of then-President Goodluck Jonathan who wanted him closer for a role in his economic team. Obi attempted to influence somebody who could repeat his feat in the state after Wille Obiano's disastrous choice, but the entire Anambra political elite ganged up against him. Strangely, PDP leaders in the region agreed to let their party lose just to halt Obi’s political profile which such victory would achieve.
The fear was that with Obi’s choice emerging as Anambra governor in PDP, coupled with his high rating nationally, he would be dominant and ahead of all his rivals for national job, President or Vice President. Their thinking was that PDP not controlling his state was a huge minus for him getting any national job. But they were wrong, being the mystery man he is, in 2018, Obi was picked to run with the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar for the 2019 presidential election. All the gang team who undermined Anambra State gubernatorial election for this not to happen saw it happen and they were furious.
Then came the race for 2023, the country challenged the South East to produce a nationally acceptable presidential candidate. Obi was among those who came out. He went around the country with his insightful message and began to make an impact. The same elites came again using the delegates list they drew to disgrace him in the party primaries. Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, a presidential aspirant like Obi aware of this plot, went to Anambra, Obi’s home state, and took a dig at him, urging the people not to waste their votes as their son was wasting his time. The two governors of his party in his region abandoned him and directed delegates to vote for Gov. Wike from another region whose dollar with no issue message made more sense to them.
Having gone around the country and seeing that Nigerians were receptive to his message, Obi decided to abandon PDP and the delegates and joined the Labour Party as its Presidential flag bearer in the 2023 race. Obi’s journey out of PDP to the Labour Party gladdened his supporters who now came out in their numbers pushing for him.
With everything about the Presidential and Vice Presidential ticket dusted last week Friday, four strong persons emerged for the 2023 contest, Obi is one of them even though from not too weighty a political party but through his penetrating messages that have caught up with a cross-section of Nigerians, particularly youths he has become a front runner.
The likes of Wike who mocked him is nowhere on the radar even after his desperation to get either President or Vice. All political elites from his region whose gang up since 2017 have been to stop him are nowhere in sight as chips are down. Even the fiery Catholic Priest, the Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka, who, meddling in partisan politics, has attacked this political rarity twice, is now swimming in his hot soup over the Obi issue. Not even apologies to Obi could save him the ban on his ministry.
When Obi went to Anambra State, one of the most difficult states to govern and made a huge success for eight years, they sarcastically started referring to him as a necromancer, a political wizard, who creates a way where there is no road, although in a stingy way.
But despite all this glaring evidence showing Obi as a man providentially on a mission, some naysayers still think Obi is an aberration, a flash in the pan who should not be taken seriously.
Anambra PDP thought so in 2003, In 2019 South-East PDP leaders who teamed up to stop him from being running mate to Atiku and failed woefully also thought so.
Gov Obiano, Anambra governor in 2019, also thought so and told the people to vote for Buhari instead of Atiku where their son was a running mate, but the people ignored him and gave Obi over 95 per cent of the votes cast in the presidential polls. Gov Wike who also thought so in 2022, lost out and is now in political oblivion and happy to take photo with the new political marvel.
We have taken the time to project this man and his political journey so far to forewarn those particularly from the South East who still believe that Obi is not the man who should wear the shoes of Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, Nnamdi Azikiwe, or Michael Okpara. If all this endless opposition to Obi derives from envy rather than competition, this Spanish man Baltasar Gracián has a note of warning: “The envious die not once, but as often as the envied win applause.”
One wonders why one should feel alone and hurt by smiling and progressing enemies. Jealousy in politics exposes our neurotic insecurity and lack of competence and self-confidence.
May God help us defeat hate in our political life in the South East.