When Governor Charles Soludo of Anambra State stated unequivocally that Peter Obi stands no chance of winning the 2023 presidential election, social media was thrown into a frenzy.
In his 14 November 2022 statement, Soludo made some audacious expostulations about Obi’s presidential ambition. Firstly, he said that Obi cannot win the election: ‘Let’s be clear: Peter Obi knows that he can’t and won’t win. He knows the game he is playing, and we know too, and he knows that we know.’ Secondly, he said that there were only two candidates and parties contesting for the presidency of which Obi and his party, the Labour Party, LP, were not among: ‘The brutal truth (and some will say, God forbid) is that there are two persons/parties seriously contesting for president: the rest is an exciting drama.’
Thirdly, Soludo said that the first two positions will elude Obi: ‘Indeed, there is no credible pathway for him near the first two positions, and if care is not taken, he won’t even near the third position. Analysts tell him you don’t need “structure” to win. Fantasy!’ Lastly, he said that the LP candidate is merely paving the way for the victory of the All Progressives Congress, APC: ‘If I were Asiwaju Tinubu, I would even give Peter Obi money as someone heading one of the departments of his campaign because Obi is making Tinubu’s pathway to victory much easier by indirectly pulling down PDP. It is what it is!’
To suggest the historical importance of his interconnected opinions, Soludo had titled the voluble essay, History Beckons and I Will Not Be Silent (Part 1), further noting during an interview: ‘That piece, I did not write it for today. I wrote it for history.‘ And as expected of an essay written for posterity, the governor was unsparing in giving his two cents.
Not surprisingly, the governor’s apparent apathy towards Obi’s candidacy ‘gave the social media mob something substantive to rant upon and rain their abuses on for weeks.’ The level of public anger and criticism that Soludo’s statement elicited was unparalleled.
He was attacked from all fronts by the ‘social media mob’ – Obi’s ardent supporters christened ‘Obidients’. He was accused of harbouring bottled-up anger against Obi and sabotaging the success of the 2023 Igbo presidency agenda. He was labelled an ‘enemy of Nigeria’ and ferociously bullied on social media – a treatment that awaits anyone who dares to share an iconoclastic opinion about Obi’s presidential ambition.
Interestingly, Soludo’s resolve ‘not to be silent’ was in response to the cyberbullying he faced following his ‘frank’ comment on Obi’s investments as governor. During an interview, the sitting governor described Obi’s investments as ‘worth next to nothing‘, which provoked ‘Obidients’ to descend upon him like a swarm of bees. It could be rightly said that Obi’s supporters interpreted Soludo’s remark as a de-marketing stratagem by the governor to ridicule the former governor, and Soludo reacted to the aspersions by sticking to his guns.
Soludo wrote, ‘As history beckons, my conscience and sense of duty to my people dictate that I should never be silent. I will happily accept the judgement of history for standing by the truth!’ And that ‘judgement of history’ came on Saturday, 25 February 2023, when Nigerians generally and Soludo’s critics particularly headed to the polls, determined to prove his hypothesis wrong.
But after the announcement of the results of the presidential election by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, two truths were hard to accept: Obi did not win the election and he was in third place. The chairman of the INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu declared the APC’s candidate, Bola Tinubu winner of the election. Tinubu polled 8,794,726 votes to defeat his strongest rivals, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP and Obi who got 6,984,520 and 6,101,533 votes, respectively.
Indeed, the outcome of the election was a fatal blow to Obi and his battalion of high-spirited supporters. Had various opinion polls not forecasted Obi’s landslide victory? Had the nationwide one-million-man rallies held in support of the LP’s candidate not shaken the very foundation of this country? Had a throng of supporters not attended Obi’s campaign rallies across the country while the two leading parties, APC and PDP were renting crowds for theirs? Of course, the only explanation for Obi’s woeful rout was that his mandate was stolen and plans are already in motion to reclaim the mandate and uphold the ‘wishes of the majority of Nigerians’.
Evidently, the ‘judgement of history’ was in favour of Soludo while his naysayers cried foul. After all, had he not said that ‘the minority will have their say, but the majority their way’ and that ‘translating anger and social media agitation into political outcomes requires humongous work’? But rather than consider the critical message holistically, the detractors launched a tirade against the governor whose only crime was ‘saying it as it is’.
I reckon that the title of Soludo’s statement, History Beckons and I Will Not Be Silent (Part 1) suggests that part two was to come, presumably after the results of the February election have proven him right. There is a popular saying that ‘he laughs best who laughs last’. Hence, I expect that the second part of the statement will be an I-told-you-so epistle, addressed to the critics who abused and harassed the governor on account of the first part. ♦