OKEY MADUFORO writes on the presidential bid of a former governor of Anambra State. Mr. Peter Obi, who is the standard-bearer of the Labour Party (LP) in the 2023 general election
The 2023 presidential candidate of Labour Party (LP), Mr. Peter Obi, stepped into the nation’s political tarmac, cutting the picture of a lone ranger, searching for a platform to ventilate his grasp for politics and governance. He spent 34 months at the Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, seeking to recover his mandate and within four months in the saddle as governor of Anambra State, the House of Assembly impeached him.
He once again approached the courts, challenging his removal and at the end, the court granted him his prayers and he returned to his seat as governor. He attempted to contest for the 2007 gubernatorial election in Anambra State and he was disqualified and he returned to his familiar terrain; the courts seeking for the determination of his tenure as governor. Seventeen days after the inauguration of Mr. Andy Uba as governor of Anambra State, the Supreme Court delivered a landmark judgement that his tenure has not elapsed hence changing the electoral calendar of the state. He later defected from the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) shortly after he had successfully produced an APGA governor.
His journey in the PDP indeed saw him trying to reenact the APGA magic, when he presented Oseloka Obaze as the party’s governorship candidate as well as Valentine Ozigbo, which was marred by the conspiracy of some tin gods who claim to own the PDP in Anambra State. When Obi declared to contest for the presidential ticket of the PDP and it was indeed clear that he had come to make a statement on the campaign for a Nigerian president of South-East extraction, his old traducers returned to the trenches and frustrated the election of delegates from Anambra State and it became clear that his kinsmen in the party have been compromised.
Before the screening of aspirants, Obi announced his withdrawal from the party’s presidential primary election and political watchers were taken aback as to what would be his next line of action. There were projections that he had taken to the Rabiu Kwankwaso- led New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP) to have him as running mate, while others posited that he is going back to APGA. Observers could not phantom the undercurrent of his visit to the 10 Dawning Street, where the seat of the Labour Party-led British government resides. Later it was made public that Obi has joined the Labor Party and today he is the presidential candidate of the party.
Apparently, while his co-aspirants were campaigning to the delegates of the PDP, he was campaigning to the Nigerian elec-torate from Sokoto to Bayelsa states. He was watering the ground for his ambition and it is on record that he toured the thirty six states of the federation twice with the message of hope for a better Nigeria. Obi’s Labour Party ticket, no doubt, unsettled the ranks of both the PDP the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and it was gathered that there were several clandestine moves by leaders of the two parties to seek an alliance.
But in his response, Obi stated that the ambition is now beyond him as Nigerians have taken over the project. His words: “Today we have started this movement and no amount of intimidation, no amount of pretense of factionalisation, no amount of stopping us from registering or preventing us from participating in the ongoing voters’ registration will stop this movement.
“Wherever I have been to, people have confronted me on how am I going to do it since I have no structure and my response has always been that you can never stop them a people that have decided to liberate themselves. “I have also maintained that it is people that form structure. Political structure belongs to the people and the people of Nigeria have made up their mind to liberate themselves and what will happen in the next few weeks will shock many. “We already have structures across the country, across the states and local government as well as in the units. That structure will be further ventilated because Nigerians have decided to make a change and this change is inevitable. “Whenever I hear of no structure my answer to it is simple. The 100 million Nigerians living under poverty will be the structure.
The 35 million Nigerian youths who don’t know where the next meal will come from, will be structure. “The elderly, the mothers and fathethers, the old ones that are dying or being owed gratuity and pension, will be the structure, ASUU, the lecturers who are being owed, the students that are not in school will be the structure since it is all about the structures of a human being.”
As the South-East once again leak the wound of a failed presidential project on the platform of the leading political parties, most political observers now look up to Obi to carry the cross of the most marginalized geopolitical zone in Nigeria; the South East. Interestingly, Labour Party has become the new bride as most members of the two major political parties are defecting to the party possibly believing that the status of Obi would be the umbrella upon which they could actualize their respective ambitions.
It is been canvassed that the South-East and South- South politicians, who were victims of the two presidential primary elections are looking the way of Labour party in a bid to use the candidacy of Obi to get back at their political foes . Similarly Obi’s candidacy coupled with the failed ambition of the South-East in the two parties have become a dilemma for the likes of Atiku Abubakar who is sweating to pick a vice presidential candidate from the South-East.
It was reported that most South- East aspirants in the PDP turned down Atiku’s overtures of being his running mate and have chosen to work for Obi. For a former governor of Anambra State, the fate of the South-East geopolitical zone appears to be dependent on his ticket as the zone has no other option at this point. According to a former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, all is not lost despite fathe outcome of the APC and PDP primaries. His words: “It is sad that this nation has once again reminded us of what they feel about us as Igbo people going by what these two parties have done. When I listened to Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu at the convention, I could feel the pains of our people and the level of subjugation that we were sentenced to and the only person left now is Peter Obi.
“We in Ohanaeze Ndigbo will give Obi all the support that he may need and for our brothers in the South-South, it has been made manifest that their roles both in the PDP and APC had not bettered their condition, so they would not have any choice but to work for Obi.
“All that we need at this point is to make sure that Ndigbo makes a strong statement in this election through the ticket of our brother, Peter Obi and head or tail, we shall see how far we can go.” Ezeife also posited that the duo of PDP and APC will suffer major political setback in Igbo land because it is going to be a payback time for them. First Republic Minister for Aviation, Chief Mbazuruike Amaechi, on his part, opined that he has been vindicated that the rest of Nigeria do not see Ndigbo as part of them. He, therefore, urged the people of the South-East to rally round the candidacy of Obi.
“What else can I say as an old man and as an Igbo man than to appeal to our people to give the ticket of Peter Obi the much needed support. No matter what people will say about his winning, we should hold our own and tell Nigerians that irrespective of what has happened, an Igbo man is contesting for the presidency of Nigeria. “We battled to field candidates in all the parties in Nigeria and these so called major political parties disappointed us but it is not over yet. We shall pursue this ambition to its logical conclusion and win or lose we shall come out unscathed and it would go down in the history of Nigeria that we contested this election,” he said. The National Forum for South- East President led by Dr. Patrick Enukenu, expressed strong hopes that the candidacy for Obi if well managed can at least create a stalemate in the coming presidential election.
“If Peter Obi, going by his acceptability nationwide can poll 25 per cent spread in at least 15 states, a straight winner cannot emerge and Obi would be invited for a unity government after it had resulted to a stalemate. “It is my belief that Obi has the capacity to achieve that.
People should not underestimate Obi because his defection to the Labour Party also changed the dynamics of the game and that explains why both the APC and PDP are uncomfortable with his ticket,” Enukenu said. Against the backdrop of the growing popularity of Obi at this point, pundits however insist that the supports should be translated to real votes on election day and that should this remain within the realm of mere lip service, his ambition and that of the South- East geopolitical zone for the 2023 general election would be waste of time.