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Obi is short on democratic credentials

Given all considerations, Peter Gregory Obi is far better than Bola Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar or Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso but he has his faults or weaknesses that is so deep as not to make a good president for Nigeria at this very painful period of the nation's history.


Let me say it from the outset, I did not vote in the last 2023 election cycle. I couldn’t have because none of the four front runners fit my consideration for a Nigerian president, especially after Muhammadu Buhari’s ruinous eight years. Tinubu was especially odious to me that I wrote so much against him. He is part of the rot that brought Nigeria to the sorry state we are in today. Given all considerations, Peter Gregory Obi is far better than Bola Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar or Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso but he has his faults or weaknesses that is so deep as not to make a good president for Nigeria at this very painful period of the nation’s history. Obi made frantic efforts to sell himself as a national candidate but for those who look beyond grandstanding, Obi is an ethnic candidate. There is nothing really bad about tribalism because as late legend Chief Obafemi Awolowo said birds of the same feather need to flock together. But in flocking together birds of the same feather must not deny other birds from flocking together or their right to a peaceful and good existence and the right to plot their future. But the flocking together of Ndigbo is to dominate. Ndigbo must learn to adjust to other Nigerians; when that is learnt Ndigbo can rule Nigeria forever.

Obi seems to have good character and one that can manage the lean resources now that the nation is broke. The last Nigerian who had that kind of character in Nigeria was the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. But give Obi the opportunity today to rule Nigeria, the main Ndigbo in him will stand against his performance. He tried to deny it many times but he couldn’t. I wrote about an encounter I had with him via television during the 2013 election in Anambra when he ordered the arrest of Nasir El Rufai who had gone to represent his party in that election. He cried out on camera, “We, that is Ndigbo, are the most hardworking in the country, they, meaning El Rufai representing the North, have come to hold us back.” That day I concluded Obi wouldn’t be a good national candidate, it appears IPOB means more to him than any other issue in Nigeria. Anybody who has had close contact with Ndigbo will know their penchant for wanting to dominate everybody and everything. They love to ride roughshod on others holding themselves out as the best people that God has in the world. Those who know will acknowledge that that is pride, and it has a huge capacity to ruin relationships. Ndigbo should be one tribe that should be winning elections over and over in Nigeria because more than any other tribe in Nigeria, they don’t stay at home, their zeal for wealth pushes them out everywhere searching for the golden fleece. Give it to them, they are very hardworking and enterprising, and they often get the golden fleece. But their success led them to further pride. For those who believe in God, they will know God resists the proud, and he gives his grace to the humble. At this stage of our history in Nigeria, we don’t need a man who will be resisted by God. We need all the grace we can muster to break out of the problems that years of bad leadership have put us in. That gives Obi a disqualification.

I noticed early in the campaign how abusive some Ndigbo, especially the youth had become disguising as #Obidient and I warned in one or two articles. Ndigbo can never win an election in a multi-ethnic nation by forming themselves into cyberbullies whose only duty is to malign and abuse others. I told them, how do you abuse other tribes and still want them to vote for you? Obi pretended that he could not do anything about it but that is a lie. A leader leads from the front seat and if you can’t control your supporters, how would you govern a complex multi-ethnic country like Nigeria? I saw early enough that Obi and his Obidient crowd would not make it into the election. And he did not. But ask any Ndigbo and especially Obi he will tell you Obi’s mandate was stolen. Even Obi was very clear he wouldn’t win that election a day before and that was the reason for his “Yes Daddy! Yes Daddy!” leaked telephone conversation he initiated with Bishop David Oyedepo of the Winners Church. Obi knew things would be difficult for him in the Southwest and Kwara State and he wanted Oyedepo to make a move that he calculated would help him. It became surprising when LP listed Oyo state as one of the Southwest states Obi won. I went out to monitor the election in two polling booths in my area in Ibadan and Obi’s performance was the same thing in both the presidency and the governorship. In the two polling booths I checked he had one and two votes respectively.

Ibadan is the largest city in Oyo State and has dominated the governorship of the state since it was created. Once Ibadan present you in an election you can be sure to be the governor. Obi had no presence at all in Ibadan. When he came to the ancient city for the campaign, his audience was the Ndigbo traders in the city shouting the usual ‘Obi, Obi’ as if Obi was contesting a student union election. If he didn’t have a presence in Ibadan, how can he claim to win Oyo State? Once I saw his three votes in two polling booths, I knew that would be the pattern in all polling booths. A friend I told who lives in the United States of America and is ‘Obidient’ told me of the University of Ibadan, UI students who, he said, rooted for Obi. UI can’t have more than fifty thousand students population which cannot match one local government area in the city. It was therefore simply illogical to claim an Obi victory in Ibadan. And so for many other cities and towns and villages in Nigeria. Who can compete with Obi in the Southeast states? Anybody who thought he could defeat Obi in the Southeast is simply deluded. Tinubu tried to woo Senator Orji Uzor Kalu by a visit where he genuflected before Kanu’s mother, yet he had a very poor outing in Abia State whereas Orji Kalu won his senatorial seat convincingly. David Umahi, ex-governor of Ebonyi State said openly that his own family betrayed him during the presidential election. They did not vote for his candidate, Bola Tinubu whereas they switched their vote in the senatorial election where Umahi was the candidate. It stands to logic, just like in other parts of the country, Ndigbo was very hungry for power in the centre and they queued behind their own, Peter Obi. It would be naive for Tinubu to claim victory in the Southeast but Obi thought magic happened and he won the Southwest, the region of Bola Tinubu. Nothing but self-delusion can explain that. It is a psychological trauma that politicians fall into, an inability to face up to reality. So the behaviour of Obi especially in his claim and those of his followers that his mandate was stolen is delusional. Tinubu would have been equally delusional to claim a victory in the Southeast. This claim put a big question mark on Obi’s democratic credentials.

What drove him to the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal was pure unbridled ambition and such ambition can make a man do the undemocratic. Obi by this delusion will probably rig election if he has the chance. Many credible persons think that his high figure in the Southeast was cooked, he could have won but his figure was jerked up and he denied it. An Igbo told me he met a Hausa man on Twitter who is an Obi follower, and he used that one person to generalise all of the North and Nigeria. He didn’t realize the illogicality of his opinion even when it was obvious. If Obi is democratic, he and his followers will not go to that Tribunal. His defeat was so obvious but African politicians are bad losers. That is why the coup is again returning to Africa. The attitude of Obi and his followers shows clearly that if they have the opportunity to engineer a coup d’etat, they will grab it. Let’s remember the coup of 1966 was produced by a situation similar to what we have now and Ndigbo planned it. They want the presidency so much that they don’t mind pulling down the whole nation. The “All Eyes on Judiciary” campaign which has been traced to Obi’s followers in diaspora is one such inordinate desire for power that does not mind doing any undemocratic thing. Why intimidate judges? They did because they knew they didn’t win. A friend told me that Twitter is a war zone between Yoruba and Ndigbo. Obi’s incursion into politics increased the competitive animosity between Yoruba and Igbo and set back whatever gains had been made on that in the past. If the Obidients will bring the nation down to rule, I wonder which nation they want to rule. I’m not amazed that Obi’s camp has rejected the judgement of the Tribunal which denounced the petition of Obi’s lawyers in the most virulent of legal language. If Obi will not waste his hard-earned money this is the time to say goodbye to those lawyers because they are only interested in his money. They knew Obi had no case but they wouldn’t tell him the truth. I know Obi will progress to the Supreme Court to claim his ‘stolen mandate’ but there, he will be trounced again. And whatever little democratic credentials he has left will be lost, I hope, not forever.

Tunde Akande is both a journalist and pastor. He earned a Masters degree in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos.

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