Peter Obi: Nemesis of The Nigerian Power Establishment II

By Victor Enyinnaya on April 25, 2023

Without much ado, it is natural that between a general election and the swearing in of a successor administration there should be excited anticipation from across the land without any prejudice.  As this writer has seen overtime is habitually a time of pleasurable speculations on the new faces that will soon grace television screens, newspaper front pages and online platforms. For the masses in a polity in virtual captivity, it is time to begin getting used to new overlords and masters. For the records, elites this time ought to debate policy perspectives and options for the new administration.

There is so much in the present ambiance which defies the tradition of a civilized political transition season. Instead, the sitting All Progressives Congress (APC), which is also assumed the incoming administration, is consumed by a crushing nervousness that envelopes the arena all the way. Instead of engaging the public in sensible debates about policy options and directions, the APC sadly has retreated into a continuous campaign mode, attacking the opposition here and there.

Party hawks and attack hounds are so  busy insulting our public sensibility. They are berating, abusing and profiling their election season opponents. It is as though the elections are not yet over. In the process, two dangerous things are happening. First, the division and bitter splitting up in the country is being more deepened. Second, the groundwork for a new climate of despotism and repression is being laid. Clearly, we are in the verge of an imminent administration that is likely to invest in tormenting the opposition and abridging the liberties of citizens. Therefore if there is otherwise voice, why then has Bola Tinubu not disperse with his abusive and divisive campaign propaganda machinery?

I think that after a bitterly fought election, Nigeria requires calming words and remedial hands to repair broken binds and assuage wounded feelings. But unfortunately, all we are getting from APC’s frontline propagandists is an overdose of negativity and sickening ethnocentrism. They are still fighting the ghosts of Bola Tinubu’s opponents in the presidential election. Therefore, in the lead up to May 29, shamefully, the nation still bears the appearance of a landscape of war with hate as the dominant language of public conversation.

Objective commentators knew that in an unwritten law of authoritarian power consensus; however, all the post election hostile barbs have now found one common target, Peter Obi and his political movement.  Hardly anyone in the APC and the incumbent government (one and the same) mention Atiku Abubakar who came second in the INEC Presidential election vote allocation tally. It is now all about Peter Obi, Datti Ahmed and the Obidients as main targets of APC and her violent dissident supporters. This systematic narrowing down requires further depth interrogation and investigation.

To give official stamp to the show targeting of Obi, Buhari’s Minister of Information, the well-known for wrong reasons, Lai Mohammed has gone junketing too far away Washington DC to announce that Obi could be guilty of treason. His crime? Just expressing his reservations about the credibility of February 25, Presidential elections purportedly ‘won’ by Mohammed’s party, the APC. He has followed this by rallying its puppet, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to slam a fine of N5 million on Channels Television for hosting an interview with Obi’s running mate in whom the disarmingly unassuming suave man expressed strongest reservations about the conduct and outcome of the presidential elections.

Quite interesting drama too, the rhetoric of the APC/Tinubu campaign trumpeters have opted for the same choice of words as the government organs in characterizing Peter Obi and his followers. ‘Treason’ is the word of common choice. Insisting that the election of February 25 was not free and fair is now treasonable. Again, when going to Court to challenge the outcome of that election became also ‘treason’ now. Pointing out anomalies in INEC’s procedures and processes is also ‘treason’. Haba and funny enough too and only in Nigeria it can happen.

They have gone several steps further to spread these wicked rumours and propaganda. Federal Government and APC propagandists and pro-Tinubu violent ridden fanatics on the social media have begun linking Peter Obi with IPOB and ESN, even when there is no evidence to that effect and in spite of the man’s repeated/oftentimes dissociations from these groups. Implicit in these mischievous associations and linkages is the assumption that Obi is just another Igbo politician. There is also an ongoing feverish attempt to use paid party jobbers in the Labour Party to destabilize the party and discredit the Obidients movement. The desperation is to disentangle the Obidients movement from the Labour Party and return the party to its previous small time status.

All these so called LP ‘troubles’ are handiwork of APC using money to carry out destabilization game of the current mass movement of Nigerian youths, professionals of different fields including the elderly.  For instance, in Imo state, the party has been factionalised and its offices shut down by factional hoodlums supervised by the Nigeria Police, signifying where that one was coming from. In Abuja also, a traitor faction claimed to have ousted the party chairman and forced its way into the party headquarters. These melodrama are scripts written and being acted out by APC agents and being given adequate cover by security agents.

Curious but true, the Department of State Security (DSS) and its other counterparts have joined this ranting choir of shock mongers by issuing a yet unsubstantiated warning against those planning to disturb the peace by plotting to emplace an interim Government in preference to the swearing in of the purported elected new administration on May 29. The Defence Headquarter and the Army have sounded the same warning. All Nigerians agree that we do not need any interim arrangement. It is uncalled for. However, many believed that all these were antics of APC to divert attention from the nitty-gritty of the current national discourse.

What unites all these voices is that they are in one way or the other tied to the incumbent power setup. They are all either officials of government or affiliates of the APC in one way or the other. They are united in a strange consensus that the most consequential adversary of the Nigerian state at this point in time is the combination of Peter Obi, his running mate and of course the Labour Party in that order. Since that charade of February 25 this columnist has not left her readers in any doubt but firmly foretold this eventuality as the campaigns of calumny unfolded.

Recalled that in the run up to the last Presidential election, I wrote in a piece in this column, “What if 1983 kind of Voting and declaration of ‘winner’ return in 2023” in which I predicted on what the victory of each of the three front runners would mean for the power equation in Nigeria as we know it.

On the threat posed by the possible emergence of Peter Obi of the Labour Party, here is what I wrote in January 2023, a few weeks before the presidential election:

“With Obi of the Labour Party, we have truly come face to face with a real threat to Nigeria’s power equation. Obi is challenging the long rooted political establishment, the fixed structural design of parties and the culture of old politicians. He is challenging the stronghold of vested interest, the organized crime collective of fuel subsidies and inflated State contracts. He has openly indicated a desire to run a people oriented administration that is accountable, prudent and open. All these aggravate on the nerves of the deep state and the warlords of enshrined corruption. He wants to reorganize national security and thus curb the crime dividends enjoyed by the security high command.

Peter Obi and his Obidients movement could have been dismissed with a wave of the hand if they were not so consequential, alarming and expanding.  In a relatively short space of time, Obi has had a movement grow around him and his counter narrative. He has become the emblematic poster “man in black” of this season with a targeted appeal mostly to the youth deepen population.

It is instructive to note that he is the coming together of moment, message and messenger. His message very simple: centered ‘It is time to take back our country’. That communication resonated with the youth and the disenchanted majority of municipal poor and the unemployed.  The desire to create a new Nigeria transcends the barriers that have thus far held Nigeria and Nigerians hostage. There lies Obi’s real threat to the power traditionists/ perceived owners of the nation. That is the offence Obi committed and the establishment are not comfortable with that hence their crying of wolf where there is none home and abroad. Obi actually ruffled the feathers leading Nigerians home to roost, the acclaimed power equation holders in the country have been fighting back earnestly.

The system is not going to idly sit by while Obi and his followers sweep vested interest out of power. Therefore, he will be the meeting ground of all the dark forces intent on maintaining the status quo. In quick rehearsals, financial blackmail of Obi has been tried and did not work. Ethnic profiling has not stuck. In short all manners of blackmail and sundry against Obi has proved or hit the rock. As the campaign season progresses, more sophisticated antics may be rolled out if Obi and the OBIdients sustain their appeal as gather momentum.

But the ultimate triumph of our democracy will remain a function of the state of health of our democratic institutions: a truly independent and credible INEC, a judiciary of honest judges, a media of fair and truthful journalists and a non- partisan state structure. However there has been big question marks’ surrounding the mentioned above.

In a sense, the speculative possibility of a Machiavelli vote in 2023 is another way of posing the great universal question of history: What if this or that?

The moment heralded in that prophetic excerpt has arrived Nigerian shores presently. We have crossed the junction of “What if?” The election has produced an outcome? INEC has pronounced Bola Tinubu as the President-elect on the basis of its best judgment of what transpired and the summation of the information and other procedural outcomes. As required by law, those who lost have since filed their objections in the form of petitions to the relevant tribunals and courts. It would therefore be a natural course for the winners to go about setting up their programmes, policies and unique governance procedures and structures so that the business of Nigeria could proceed unhindered.

The losers in that scandalous election should be busy putting our judiciary to an ultimate test of their credibility. The pursuit of justice according to law should be the final berth of the journey of democracy. Peter Obi was not pronounced winner by INEC but somehow, his political presence and electoral feats have earned him unusual attention by the Octopus of the Nigerian power behemoth.

We must make some concessions. Admittedly, there have been a few incensed and even careless statements by both the losing PDP and the LP. Peter Obi’s running mate, Datti Ahmed, may have been a bit too emphatic and irreverent in his Channels Television interview on a matter that should be left to the judicial finality of the Supreme Court. But Dino Melaye of the PDP has been even more unguarded. Not to talk of the serial indiscretion and incendiary incitements of  Fani-Kayode and Festus Keyamo of the APC.  Bayo Onanuga of the Tinubu campaign has been even more vitriolic and dripping with ethnic hate in his choice of utterances.

In the heat of the campaign, some fringe elements of the Obidients movement may have overstepped the bounds of decent assembly in response to the hooliganism of the APC in places like Lagos for instance. Even then, with the Labour Party and the Obidients, we are dealing with uncharted territory. A populist movement that finds itself as the rave of the political moment has a capability to go overboard. But critics of the Obidients have hardly spared a thought for the many of them that were killed, maimed and seriously injured in parts of the country by APC professional thugs.

Nonetheless, in spite of coming third in INEC’s ranking of the presidential candidates in the last election, interest in Peter Obi and his movement has recently been on the increase. Obi is lately being demonized systematically. The Obidients are being rebranded as urban terrorists by people who should know better including, most regrettably,  Wole Soyinka. The threat level has become so intense that, Peter Obi recently hinted he had come under pressure to leave the country for fear of his personal safety.

The reasons for the special interest in Peter Obi by the Nigerian power establishment are multiple.

Of all the presidential candidates, he posed the most credible threat to the Nigerian power status quo. By side-stepping the established bipartisan architecture of the political structure and stepping forward to directly seek the top power slot, he audaciously upset the tripodal ethnic architecture of Nigerian power. He threatened the existing political order by challenging the old money politics of African Big Men. By openly challenging the system to name his wrongs, if any, he was calling out the decadent moral edifice of traditional Nigerian political culture.

Perhaps most importantly, Peter Obi evolved a message that appealed to a cross section of Nigerians across ethnic, religious, class and geo-political divides. As it turns out, what unites most Nigerians is the hunger for a better country in which the leadership presents a moral and performance example that most citizens can emulate.  Obi embodied that message and it conferred on him an automatic charisma and electrifying appeal especially among the youth.

Peter Obi thus threatened the hegemonic dominance of power fundamentalists and regional/religionist hegemonists. His electric popularity attraction came as a rude shock to those who had come to take the youth and urban detribalized Nigerians for granted. A man who joined a small party and, in less than a year transformed the Labour Party into a serious power contender, a populist magnet and an electoral threat cannot be written off casually.

Like a bolt out of the political blues, Peter Obi and the Labour Party trounced Tinubu and his thriving thuggery industry in Lagos. He swept the Federal Capital Territory like a political thunderstorm/hurricane, leaving his rivals no room for even a miserable 25% vote score. He demonstrated the truism that every politics is first local by sweeping through the whole of the South-east and South-south as well as the bulk of the Middle Belt states of Nasarawa, Benue and Plateau.  From Nasarawa and Southern Kaduna, Obi and his rampaging political train menacingly eyed the conservative Northern bastions with the force of a powerful national message. INEC announced a Bola Tinubu win with 12 states; so also did Peter Obi win in 12 states and perhaps even more.

These electoral milestones should frighten the traditional political establishment. They were achieved without a so called political structure. They were achieved without lorry loads of ‘stomach infrastructure’ or bullion vans of Naira or dollars.

However, because of his surname, Peter Obi has also become a strategic threat to both the Nigerian power machinery as well as the political elite of his home base South East. Aspirants to the trade mark ‘Igbo presidency’ slot in the big parties were thoroughly rattled and shredded.

To the political elite in the rest of the country, Peter Obi, perhaps unconsciously because of his surname, also became the unspoken voice, the uncomfortable variable and indeed the ominous face of something that at once frightens and attracts the Nigerian imagination.  All those factors that have held Nigeria hostage since 1970 have remained curious of what Nigeria could become under the leadership of the Igbo people who have been absent from the central seat of Nigerian power for 57 years.

There is in the Nigerian subconscious a certain envious curiosity and yearning about the difference that the Igbo ethnic identity could make in the way Nigeria is run. But Nigeria is also united by a baseless fear of what the Igbo could become if Nigeria were to let them add apex power the entrepreneurial and mercantile sagacity and expansive spirit. There lies their strength and also their weaknesses as a people.

Before this page went to bed at last, Festus Keyamemo’s alleged Us house he bought is still trending. Right or wrong, this is Nigeria where laws are enacted for certain group while the others are above the law.  Many Nigerians have further seen clearly how everything is playing out. That was his loot from the recently concluded charade of Presidential of February 25 election where he was one of the attack dogs of APC. As loquacious person, of the group we saw him defending and talking as usual on drop of hat.

The World as usual is keenly watching nothing came out from others before him and his won’t be an exception though. After all Buhari and his group are leaving offices calmly with their loots. That is the trend in Nigeria be it at Fderal, State or Local Government levels.  Nothing happens.  For Festus, it is obvious that all through his days as Lawyer before he joined the train in Nigerian politics he cannot boast to buy a property in any remotest part even in his Warri place. But today as alleged, he has joined the league of rogues of Nigerian politicians to owe house(s) in one of the high pricing streets in US.

Also as I was tiding up this column, Chimaraoke Nnamani, a two tenure Governor in Enugu State and a one tenure Senator pushed out an article where he said all sorts of rubbish to and about Peter Obi and Ndigbo. For the records, very informed would agree who this former governor is.  I will not go beyond that than to put a lie to all the garbages or trash he wrote.
It remains his personal opinion and not that of Ndigbo. He has his right to say anything he likes. Of late, I don’t know the people managing him as his outbursts have become so embarrassing to everyone.

I knew when one of my colleagues served in his government; the former Senator had the best of public images and was greatly accepted and admired too, but now things have gone hail wire.

His personal opinion on Peter Obi is full of envy and innuendoes’ but I quite believe he is not talking from his senses. Obi, LP and the Obidients massive movement worldwide should ignore him intoto because as now an errand boy he must play to the Masters’ tunes. But come to think of it, what does Chimaraoke Nnamani wants again?. Under their watch, Tinubu and cohorts are stepping into the shoe of Ndigbo, by trying to hijack the their turn in Nigeria governance, even as they presented the most credible, candidate among the four front runners in the just concluded presidential race. We remain keenly watchful as Nigeria rolls.

We anchor on this note and wait for the second part next week. Keep shooting hard as the struggle continues. Meanwhile, we wait!!

Source Daily Sports Nigeria

Posted April 25, 2023


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