“In the Bible story where Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego said they’ll not bow to the Babylonian god, even if God fails to deliver them. Nebuchadnezzar was more worried, why? Intransigent minority.” – Kelechi Deca.
Obviously, Nigeria has arrived at a generational crossroad as 2023 general election beckons. More than ever before, she is seeing a postmortem of her 63 years of nationhood enmeshed in cotillion of tragic-comedy satirized by her character-flawed leaders. As the second tenure of the first opposition party that transitioned to ruling party eight years ago comes to an end in about eleven months time, well-meaning citizens are beating retreats. The texture of leadership the country needs in 2023 and beyond has dominated all public discourses in recent time.
But while these persiflageous colloquy is ongoing with no known communique due to babeldom of interests, some, including yours sincerely, were routing for a president of Igbo extraction, for equity and fairness. Others, with werewolf DNA came to the same equity championing presidency of their tribes, but with leprous hands. As we went back and forth, it became obvious that if we couldn’t chart a common cause as a people, 2023 may just pass like its predecessors.
It was at such quagmiric situation that a certain man with the meekness of a lamb and nomenclatural simplicity — Peter Obi, appeared in the scene, holding the rudder of clear vision. He spoke to consciences. He chastised their confusion and offered the path for better logical deliberations.
Since then, the argument has shifted from tribal and parochial sentiments to a nationalistic one. It is no longer where the next president will come from, but where lies his competence.
As Peter Obi continued his preachment on the actionable ideas of how to put Nigeria on the right footing, people started advocating for him to declare for the presidency. And when he did, it was was greated by overwhelming acceptance and his growing popularity doubles geometrically among the youths.
In him, age factor melts away, tribal biases thaw down, academic qualification became unimportant, and religious ties loosen effortlessly. Obi has the charm, which like Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart alluded: “…has placed a sharp knife of reason into the tethers of old politicians and things have fallen apart.”
Today, the only thing that matters to Nigerian voters is what have you done in your previous engagements with power and how can you guarantee Nigeria a better future. And because Obi has rich verifiable antecedents, he is the new bride of the youths. He has transformed politicking in Nigeria from empty rhetorics to evidence-based frank conversations.
Never before in our 23-year old democracy have we had a three-horse race to the presidency, with the third force coming from the unlikely ‘subjugated’ south eastern Igbo. Peter Obi has made it possible.
But there is a lot which many didn’t know about Obi’s aspiration.
First, the movement has gone beyond Obi. He is just like every other member in his campaign organization. The youths have taken over. They see Labour party as a favoured opportunistic platform, that needs Obi more than he needs it, to sail. It’s about “taking back Nigeria,” a slogan culled from the soundbite of his many public speeches bothering on restoring Nigeria’s founding philosophy, which formed the first stanza of our national anthem : “Arise O Compatriots, Nigeria’s call obey.”
Second, the naysayers who play the ethnic card to smear his aspiration are seemingly unaware of how Obi’s trend began. It started like Christianity, which left Jerusalem as naive Semitic movement, got to Europe and became institutionalized, and was exported to other continents as formidable channel of civilization. Obi’s fame rose from Anambra as a reference point of good governance after his eight-year reign as governor, got to the centre as a civil movement for those who love Nigeria above self. As you read this, the name Peter Obi resonates national renaissance.
It is no longer about where he come from. Of course he has to come from a state and a tribe, like Atiku Abubakar is from Adamawa and Hausa-Fulani and Bola Tinubu has to come from Lagos and Yoruba. But at the centre, what matters is how can each candidate’s aura, aided by antecedents foster national unity and common progress.
To make a statement about his nature as a detribalized Nigerian, when he left PDP, he didn’t join APGA, the party that has been reigning in his home state for 16 years, and which he has a stake in, as its pioneer ex-governor, rather he choose a more cosmopolitan party — Labour. Like the defunct ACN, APGA is still perceived as a regional party of Ndigbo.
This was why the nationwide “one-million match for Peter Obi” held in 36 states and FCT, early last month remains one of the most peaceful civil procession in the anals of our history. A match that was crowd-funded by volunteers both within and outside the shores of the country. If Obi is not a phenomenal leadership icon, his relevance in the race would’ve waned drastically when he left PDP, but on the contrary, it blossomed.
It showed how flawed the argument of ethnic stain on his aspiration can be. Another shortfall of his Igbo ethnicity propaganda is the failure of its peddlers to recognize the republican culture of Ndigbo. They detest mediocrity, irrespective of who exhibits it. In fact, one social media subscriber, Osy Peter Asika tweeted: “Put Osibanjo and Hope Uzodinma forward for election, Igbos will go for Osibanjo. Put Ugwuanyi and Seyi Mekainde, Igbo’s will go with Seyi. Put Ambode and Okorocha, Igbos will go with Ambode. Put Ikpeazu and Zulum, Igbos will go with Zulum. Our support for Obi is not because he is Igbo. It’s competence-driven.”
In same sequence, a clergyman, Rev. Fr. Osita Asogwa wrote: “on the Peter Obi project, the Igbos have no exclusive right to any credit. Igbo politicians frustrated his alliance with Atiku in 2019, and their Governors and politicians openly campaigned against him this 2022 and frustrated him out of PDP, while we and their cronies clapped for them by our silence! The credit for the Peter Obi’s fever goes to well-meaning Nigerians across tribes, tongues and religion. It goes to the Nigeria youths — Hausas, Fulanis, Ijaws, Efik, Yorubas, Igbos, Itsekiris, Ibibios, who have seen in him a great leader and a dependable character for a Nigeria of their dreams!”
So, all those jumping into a movement they don’t understand with patches of parochial mentalities should just clear off the way and continue their sharing formular at PDP or APC. But the “OBIdient” Nigerians, won’t allow any contamination with ethno-religious virus.
Thirdly, those who malign Christian pastors of souls, especially the Catholic Church for making acquisition of PVC a prerequisite to accessing her services and sacraments are unaware that the church has the apostolic mandate to enforce civil obedience on her members. By the admonition of two principal apostles of Christ — Peter and Paul “Christians should obey legitimate authority, who wield temporal powers, for they represent God” (Titus 3:1, 1Pet. 2:13-14).
They didn’t know that the recent political awareness raging in the nave of the church sends a wrong signal to the two main parties that had held sway since 1999, that a new revolution is brooding.
Many fraternal communities are fastly catching the bug too. Okposi-ezinasato community of Ebonyi state residing in FCT made news over the weekend that henceforth, without PVC, none of their members will be allowed into their meetings.
Despite the attack on PVC registration centre in Lagos which is a new strategy of voter suppression, Ndigbo have continued to enroll en mass at registration centres with massive calls for mobilization of more machines and personnel.
May daylight spare us!
© Jude Eze.