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The Obidient Movement and the Critical Issues in the Forthcoming Election

‘Without a doubt, the Obidient Movement has won the battle in the court of public opinion and has dominated the media space.’

The Nigerian political landscape has been charged like never before since the emergence of Peter Obi as the presidential candidate of the relatively unknown Labour Party. And many Nigerians who have previously shown little interest in issues of politics and governance appear to be loosened from their shackles. 


The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) reported that within one month of Obi’s declaration, millions of Nigerians who were previously uninterested in elections applied for voter’s cards, which is attributed to the Obi phenomenon.


Peter Obi has become such a popular figure that he has emerged as the dominant force in the current election campaign. When members of the discredited All Progressives Congress (APC) want to speak, they focus on Peter Obi. 


Tinubu was so enraged and frustrated by the movement that during the gubernatorial election campaign in Osun State, he almost lost it when he uttered what could be interpreted as imprecatory words when he said that members of the Labour Party, of which Obi is the standard bearer, will labour in vain. His detractors have tried smear campaigns and made-up false allegations in order to discredit the ‘Obidient Movement’.


They have attempted but failed to link the movement to the embattled IPOB. Attempts to give the movement ethnic and religious colours also failed miserably. They have also tried, unsuccessfully, to infiltrate the movement in order to destabilise it. 


There have been numerous intrigues and shenanigans to destabilise the movement, such as hiring false prophets to predict doom; harassing, intimidating and blackmailing members of the movement. But the more they try, the more the Obidient Movement gathers momentum.


Again, in an attempt to create apathy and lower morale among Obidient Movement members, political opponents claimed that Obi lacks structure, but the people responded emphatically that they are the structure. The average Nigerian politician does not consider electoral votes, but rather agents in various wards who will facilitate electoral malfeasance – that is why they say Obi lacks structure.

A typical Nigerian politician is not concerned with ideas or issues; rather, he considers how to manipulate the process and swing his way through. He is planning to arm touts and thugs to cause mayhem at polling units and snatch ballot boxes. That is what they mean by structure – the structure of criminality and electoral corruption.


Interestingly, and contrary to the predictions of some analysts, media hirelings and social media influencers – speculating that the Obidient Movement will wane and gradually lose its intensity before the presidential election in 2023 – the movement appears to be thriving, permeating every nook and cranny of the nation, every social strata, groups and political blocs across the country.


Significantly, Obi’s social media volunteers have out-manoeuvred Tinubu’s mainstream media mercenaries, setting the agenda for public discourse, which is why Tinubu admitted that he no longer uses social media because it causes him high blood pressure. It is no longer business as usual for media thugs who specialise in character assassination and smear campaigns. If you get to write nonsense about Peter Obi, you will receive over a million ripostes within 24 hours – You can refer to Sam Omatseye or Charles Soludo for confirmation.


Obi is clearly the most qualified by public acclamation among those vying for the exalted office of the president in the current dispensation. However, the reactionary forces responsible for the country’s woes are understandably concerned about the unexpected emergence of the Obidient Movement and the ensuing political tsunami. 


Peter Gregory Obi, former Anambra State governor, appears to have the edge over all other candidates. He possesses the character, competence and capability that he has demonstrated in the past, and if the election is free and fair, Obi will win by a landslide victory. But the question remains: will there be a free and fair election, and if not, what will the Obidient Movement do?


More than half of those supporting Obi do not have a voter’s card, and there appears to be an insidious plan to disenfranchise them. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) promised that the cards of the last batch of those who registered between April and June 2022 would be released in August, and the final batch in October. 


But as I write this, with the election only a few weeks away, the cards have yet to be released to eligible voters, calling into question INEC’s neutrality and capacity to conduct free, fair and credible elections in 2023. So, how do you explain the INEC shenanigans?


Despite Buhari’s pledge to hold free and fair elections, the facts on the ground seem in the opposite direction. INEC’s handling of the voter registration exercise is suspicious and insidious.


Beyond INEC neutrality and capacity to conduct a credible election, the Obidient Movement must consider other intervening issues before the 2023 presidential election.


Obi is genuinely interested in the country’s economic transformation, but politicians have different ideas. Nigeria is a country ruled by the worst citizens; a country ruled by unconscionable politicians who have weaponised poverty to control the disoriented masses divided along ethnic and religious lines, and whose idea of politics and elections is simply voting for their tribesmen.


Make no mistake: no politician in Nigeria wants the likes of Peter Obi in power for obvious reasons. Do not be deceived by Wike’s antics, his showboating and his half-hearted endorsement of Obi. They are all part of his ploy and tools to negotiate with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). A clairvoyant is not needed to see that Wike is a drowning political object who will latch on to anything to seek relevance. 

‘They will vote for Tinubu, even if he is permanently confined in the infirmary, rather than vote for ‘omo-Ibo’  Obi.’

Do not forget that it was Wike who prevented the PDP from micro-zoning its presidential ticket to the South East because he wanted to contest. The same Wike who denigrated Peter Obi and facilitated his premature exit from the PDP. When Wike failed to secure the party ticket, he made a U-turn and declared that he is fighting for equity.


Of course, aside from professional politicians who have no other job but politics and face early retirement if Obi wins, we must not overlook civil servants, especially those at the top echelons, who are the main perpetrators of government fraud. According to my independent survey, this group is not comfortable with Obi’s prudence, probity, accountability and lean government posturing and may work to stymie his rise.


Again, we will not ignore the fact that Obi’s choice of running mate may appear perfect in the eyes of Nigerians, but not in the eyes of the bigoted north, whose primary concern appears to be religion and cultural atavism. Dr Yusuf Datti Ahmed is a former senator, but he is not a politician.; he is a scholar and educator whose influence may be limited in the north.


He and Atiku Abubakar, along with a few other northerners, are the only ones who have invested in education, establishing and running private universities. The north may not be interested in western education and economic progress; they seem to be content with induced poverty and ignorance as long as someone from the region remains in power.


Furthermore, due to separatist agitations in the South East, the north is terrified that the Igbo man in the presidency will divide Nigeria and cut them off from the oil wealth that the drones from the region have undeservedly enjoyed over the years. The Fulani people, in particular, who are clearly in charge of the state administrative machinery at the moment, feel threatened and vulnerable as a result of Buhari’s ineptitude and revanchist policies, and therefore fear retaliation if power passes to another region. 


Naturally, they would want a soft landing, and that would not come from people like Peter Obi, who is from the region that bore the brunt of Buhari’s obnoxious apartheid policies and misrule.


Another group that lives in constant fear of the Igbo man is the Yoruba, who have used the negative Lagos press over the years to spread ugly stereotypes and hatred against the Igbo. Among other things, they have a morbid fear that electing an Igbo man to the centre of power will accelerate the development of the South East region, the Igbo homeland, and that if this happens, the status and glory of Lagos, which they regard as the centre of their world, will fade.


They will vote for Tinubu, even if he is permanently confined in the infirmary, rather than vote for ‘omo-Ibo’ – Obi. It is the voting behaviour of the monolithic South West, as described by the legendary Ojukwu.


Apart from the South East, it appears only the Middle Belt and the South South people who are gradually creeping out of their cocoon of ignorance will vote for Obi. They previously believed that their problem and that of the nation was the Igbo man as a result of negative ethnic profiling by the negative press. 


They are clearly fed up with the hegemony and the unholy alliance between the North West and the South West, which has kept the country in a state of retrogression. But how many registered voters are there in these regions?


Even in the South East, Obi’s primary constituency, political elites seem to be opposed to and may work against him. Many of them are opposed to Obi’s candidature and have made inflammatory remarks to denigrate him out of jealousy, stupidity and outright ignorance. 


Orji Uzor Kalu, the former governor of Abia State and an APC chieftain, Charles Soludo, the current governor of Anambra – Obi’s home State – Dave Umahi, the Ebonyi State governor, Willie Obiano, former governor of Anambra State, Victor Umeh, Dan Ulasi and other political bigwigs in the South East have said things that suggest they are not in support of and may work against him. This has been attributed to filial jealousy by observers. 


They are perplexed as to why Obi, a seemingly inexperienced politician, will be the first Igbo man to be elected president of Nigeria following the civil war.



Beyond the domestic political scene, those conversant with the imperialist policies of the colonial masters know that they would not want the good government that Obi will bring to Nigeria, which would free the country from the stranglehold of the western powers, which may pretend to support and promote democracy and good governance while subtly promoting and sponsoring crisis in the polity.


Is it any surprise that, despite his Neanderthal policies and misrule, Buhari has not been rebuffed by Britain? Everyone knows how Obama bullied Jonathan into stepping down as president.


Obi is clearly ahead of this generation in many ways – so was Zik in his time, because while the great Zik of Africa and his kinsmen were planning for Nigeria and the liberation of Africa as a whole, his contemporaries had a different agenda. Kwame Nkrumah, who gave birth to Ghana’s independence was Zik’s mentee. However, the colonial masters arm-twisted the great Zik into accepting the position of the ceremonial president while entrusting Nigeria to puppets under control.


I raised these concerns with some of my colleagues in the Obidient Movement, but they dismissively waved them aside, even threatening to call me names. I am an optimist, albeit an incurable one. But optimism without a plan and action is just wishful thinking. There is no reason to be complacent or to make heroic assumptions. 


Without a doubt, the Obidient Movement has won the battle in the court of public opinion and has dominated the media space, having tamed Tinubu’s media thugs and nearly neutralised his propaganda machinery, which was previously regarded as his forte. It remains to be seen whether it can replicate this victory in the presidential poll in 2023.


Yes, if it conducts critical analysis, evaluates the odds against Obi, and devises strategies to overcome them. Sloganeering and propaganda are useful, but they do not win elections – voting and defending your vote is how you win an election. There is thus a need to re-strategise and work, which can only happen after an accurate situation analysis and constructive stakeholder engagement. ♦️

Gozie Irogboli is an economist and a public policy analyst.

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