When the former Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi pulled a surprise in May and opted to quit Nigeria’s main opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), it left political pundits flabbergasted as to what must have informed such a decision. To some people, leaving a party that almost made one a Vice President the last time there was an election reeked of desperation and poor judgement, while to others, it was a political masterstroke. The truth is that both schools of thought could be right or wrong and only the February election can provide a definite answer. One thing is certain; a Peter Obi Presidency will require some degree of luck, and maybe even magic, but can he pull the magic?
Had Obi remained in the PDP, his failure during the party’s Presidential primaries would have been abysmal. With Wike bulldozing his way in from April, not even Anambra delegates were spared for Obi. The Obiakpor-born politician had simply connived with some national leaders to pull the rug from under the feet of the ‘No-shi shi’ dropping Obi. These developments culminated in Obi’s exit from the party and marked the beginning of his bold Presidential charge.
Obi’s entry into the obscure Labour Party has pushed the party into the limelight nationally, and this is something only an unconscious or disingenuous person will deny. Labour Party now gets a mention in political conversations every day in Africa despite scoring less than six thousand votes in the last election. Supporters of the penny-pinching shrewd businessman have taken over the daring but daunting challenge of attempting to enthrone a third-force political party in Nigeria into Aso-Rock. The truth remains that, despite the disillusionment or perceived lack of political foresight that Mr. Obi’s supporters who called themselves the ‘Obidents’ have been accused of, there is no gainsaying that they should be commended for their audaciousness, energy, enthusiasm, and boldness.
The truth remains that politics is a game where emotions play little to no role. This is a reality many ‘Obidients’ have refused to accept or have chosen to carelessly ignore. Politics, all over the world is a game of wits and strategies and not emotive outbursts and social media dominance. As the popular saying goes, there is no polling unit on social media and that is not debatable.
Many pundits have argued that Obi cannot win a presidential race. Central to this school of thought is the issue of ‘structure’ which is an advantage his opponents have over him. In response, he has always dismissed its potency saying that it is criminal and must be dismantled. Whether or not he is right will be determined by fate and time. The anti-Obi elements, regardless of how much they will want to deny it, certainly hold a strong admiration for the enthusiasm of his supporters. Currently, Obi is perhaps the only candidate with a large support base made up of young Nigerians who have chosen to finance their rallies and campaigns themselves — something of a rarity in the country.
Despite the odds stacked against Obi, he obviously has some positives going for him. With 70 percent of the population under 30, the 2023 elections pose a challenge for presidential aspirants such as Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar who have been criticised based on their age or health. This explains why they have failed to fuel youth enthusiasm outside their geopolitical regions. Again, in recent months, there has been an increase in voter registration, and this might be an advantage for Obi depending on the side of the coin one wants to focus on. According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), of the more than 10 million new voters, over 6 million are youths, a very formidable voting bloc that has historically been largely ignored as they are seen as apathetic when it comes to voting.
With the 2023 Presidential elections less than four months away, Obi must understand that he is not the favourite of the powers that be in Nigeria. What he is proposing might seem a difficult or impossible pill to swallow for the Fulani Oligarchy who have jointly held the country by the jugular for many decades through the instrumentality of the state. If Obi will challenge these deeply entrenched forces, then it will take more than emotions and wishful thinking to perform the ‘magic’.
Obi and his highly motivated ‘Obidients’ must now understand that the ‘We no dey give Shi Shi’ has its limitations. The reality is that they are not a known quantity in many parts of rural Nigeria and votes from urban, affluent middle-class Nigerians will not be enough to upturn the status quo if votes eventually count in 2023.
With these things in mind, Obi and his handlers must now push wishful thinking down the dustbin and get to the field. There are over 176,000 polling units in Nigeria and Obi will need to make a good showing in all to stand a chance. Some analysts have postulated that Obi will only need to win the South-East, South-South, and North Central convincingly to take the day, but then again, they say this ignoring the fact the three regions with the most voters are not any of those three. With Tinubu and Atiku both going for each other’s necks, Obi must also understand that most times, elections are won not by the margin of victory in your areas of strength but also by your margin of loss in your areas of weakness.
As impossible as their mission appears, the young Obidients, most of whom would be voting for the first time, must at least be praised for daring to challenge the status quo in a democratic manner rather than attempting to ransack the state house and chase away the occupants as we saw in Sri Lanka some months ago. However, they must take a cursory look at the odds again to ascertain if the battle is worth it. In the case of it appearing unwinnable, they must explore choices such as seeking alliances or even using their heavy numbers to demand a total restructuring of the country to restore sanity as a pre-condition to holding elections. Obi can win, but that will require more magic than ever imagined.