Something new is happening in Nigeria. The tectonic plates are shifting. The analysts are adjusting their seats. The tremors are being felt. It is like Poseidon rising from the sea. It seems that the bottled anger and frustrations of the oppressed, exploited and marginalized Nigerian youth, are being channeled into political action, for the first time in the history of our country. All at the instance of one man, who came preaching the political gospel of integrity, probity, and incorruptibility, in a country notorious for corruption, political simony, and kleptocracy at all levels of government and governance.
This man is Mr. Peter Gregory Obi; a 60-year-old former governor of Anambra State, a Nigerian State in the Southeast of the country. Mr. Obi, a businessman, and banker came into political prominence, as an unwilling politician. He was virtually drafted by the elites of his home state Anambra, to come to salvage a state, laid prostrate by a vested thieving cabal, running a prebendal and neo-feudal politics, popularly known as Godfatherism in Nigerian parlance.
Godfatherism is the system, where a group of wealthy robber-baronial crooks, captures the state for their profit. This they do by sponsoring a politician into office, and leaning on him with Mafiosi tactics, to make sure that the government official, channels a percentage of the state´s resources and monthly allocation, into their bank accounts. This percentage is so high that most states could not pay the salaries of their workers, or embark on any serious project to better the lives of their people. The state is run for the good pleasure of their cabal. The political office holder becomes a dog, and the puppet masters hold the leash ad nauseam.
Anambra state was held hostage by this cabal for two administrations, which culminated in a member of this cabal, kidnapping a sitting governor and forcing him virtually at gunpoint to resign his office.
Peter Obi ran for the Anambra state governorship elections in 2003 on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), a Nigerian political party. He won the elections but was rigged out, by the PDP and their Godfathers in Anambra State, who fielded Dr. Chris Ngige as the governor. Mr. Obi a dogged fighter and a firm believer in the rule of law headed for the courts. He was frustrated every inch of the way, as the case dragged on for 3 years, during which the usurper of that post, held office for three of the four years tenure, stipulated by the Nigerian constitution. He won the case and was rightly declared the winner of the elections on the 15th of March, 2006. Obi took office on the 17th of March, 2006.
Scarcely had he settled in; exactly 8 months into his tenure then he was impeached by the State House of Assembly populated by the mandarins of the same Godfathers that stole his mandate. That was on the 2nd of November, 2006. Crime; he was accused of saving money without the permission of the House of Assembly. They replaced him with his deputy Mr. Virgy Etiaba the first woman to become a governor in Nigeria. Obi headed for the courts again, successfully challenged his impeachment, and was reinstated as governor on the 9th of February, 2007 by the Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu.
Obi had to leave the office again on the 29th of May, 2007 following the general elections, in which Andy Ubah was declared the winner. He returned to the courts once more, with the contention that the four-year tenure he had won in the 2003 elections only started to run, when he took office in March 2006. On the 14th of June, 2007, the Supreme court of Nigeria sided with his contention, and returned him to the office to complete his tenure, which the Supreme court held should have remained undisturbed till March, 2010. This set a precedent in Nigerian legal history. Mr. Obi hit the ground running after being declared winner and his tenure was set to begin on the day, he reclaimed his mandate.
His government was noted for frugal management of state resources. He plugged all the loopholes through which the State was hemorrhaging money into corrupt channels. He was able to pay and clear the arrears of debts, salaries, pensions, and gratuities owed by civil servants in the State. He was able to invest in education, equipping all High schools in the state with computers, and improving teachers’ and students’ welfare; so much so that his state that lagged in WAEC (West Africa Examination Council Examinations) became the first in Nigeria. He returned the schools to the church institutions that owned them and was directly on hand to take up their problems and ensure a speedy resolution. He invested and wisely managed Anambra State´s resources, and saved up a huge capital base for his State. He became the first governor in Nigeria´s history to leave money he saved up, for his successor. He saved up to 75 billion Naira, which he handed over to his successor. This was a first in Nigeria. He did 2 terms of 4 years each in office and was handed over on March 17th, 2014.
On leaving office, he became a special adviser on finance, to the then Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. He vied for the office of the Vice President under the platform of the PDP in 2019, but he and his principal then Atiku Abubakar lost to the incumbent Muhammadu Buhari. He was in the PDP-The People’s Democratic Party, which has been Nigeria´s main opposition party since 2015, till a few weeks ago. He was among the frontrunners for the party´s presidential primary ticket. He had to leave the PDP because he refused to bribe delegates with dollars to vote for him. He decamped to the Labour Party, which welcomed him with open arms and offered him their presidential ticket.
Before the PDP primaries, Nigerian youths organized themselves and staged a protest action before the PDP secretariat, asking the PDP delegates to give them Peter Obi as their presidential candidate, since he is the man, without traces of corruption to his name, as well as the candidate that speaks to the issues. PDP succumbed to the pressures of massive dollarization of bribery during the primaries, as the ticket went to the candidate that was ready to shell out over 20,000 dollars to buy the votes of each delegate to the convention; a process Peter Obi refused adamantly to participate in; stating that he would rather lose doing the right thing than win doing the wrong thing. This resonated deeply among Nigerian youths, who are now driving a massive movement to get him elected Nigeria´s president come 2023.
This man has in a few months ushered in a new narrative, into the Nigerian political discourse, enroute 2023 Nigerian presidential elections. His resonance has been unprecedented, even though the major political parties have now woken up to attempt to throw the kitchen sink at him.
In a few short weeks, his entrance into presidential politics has thrown up a volunteering fever that Nigeria has never seen before. Youths are volunteering for his campaign in droves. Some are using their own money to print campaign materials for him, and distribute them. Many others are designing online campaigns and deploying the power of the internet to push his vision. Every word that emanates from him, is trending ad infinitum in Nigerian cyberspace. Nigerian comedians are pillorying other candidates with incinerating jibes issuing from Peter Obi´s analysis of the Nigerian State. His words like I will not give anyone a cent to vote for me, have been translated into Nigerian street-speak “I no dey give Shishi”- A Nigeria version of pidgin English meaning-I won´t bribe anyone with even a cent to vote for me”. Trending campaign slogans like “Peter is better”, “Peter will prevail”, and many others, are trending on cyberspace Nigeria.
The major political parties are criticizing his chances, with the claims that he has no structures to win the presidency. Structure in Nigerian political parlance is that network of party acolytes, and entrenched interests, that determine what happens at the local level. In Nigeria, the political conceptual scheme, and structure is a Blackhole of political henchmen, who are ready to rig, and steal votes for their candidates, as several Nigerian elections have shown. Peter Obi countered by telling them that over 100 million poor Nigerians, who are not sure where the next meal is coming from, are his structure. And this message is seriously resonating with the people.
To this end, there has been a massive and unprecedented drive by first-time voters registering to vote. It is so massive that some Christian churches have excluded some of their members from church services until they go get registered to vote. And almost all of these first-time voters are massively in support of Peter Obi. Most of the agitations in Southeast and Southwest Nigeria have taken the back-bench at this time. Peter Obi is the trending issue.
Something new is in the offing in Nigeria. We are not yet sure; in which direction this wind is blowing. But one thing is certain, Peter Obi has woken up the massive energy of the Nigerian youth. And they are now propelling his campaign. One of them told me this morning. Peter Obi is a movement, and we the Nigerian youths are his structure.
Is this going to be the end of prebendal politics in Nigeria, that would free Nigeria from the captivity of the cabal that has been holding her hostage since 1960?
Only time will tell.