Nigeria has a few weeks to the official flagging off of the campaign for the 2023 elections. But trust Nigerians, they no dey carry last, as we say in our pidgin English, our political actors have been beating the umpire’s whistle. They have been campaigning. Peter Obi of the Labour Party was asked if his movement around the nation will not be counted as the usual campaign. Wisely, he told the journalist, that his rounds were consultations. That’s like a woman who has just had a nice time with a man in a room rocking with the creeking sound of a bed, who wipes her lips and said “I have done nothing.” Obi is not the only one, virtually every politician has been campaigning. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the warrior from Lagos fielded by All Progressives Party (APC), despite his obvious ailment has been criss-crossing the nation on consultation with every political juggernaut in a bid to fulfill his ambition. So, also, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) flagbearer, Atiku Abubakar who has become a serial contender for Nigeria’s presidency. He is swiftly scheming and putting out fire all over the place. Nyesom Wike, the governor of Rivers State, who came second in the PDP presidential primary and wanted to be the running mate but was schemed out, has been fighting and spilling out every secret discussion in high political strategy. Wike promised to “help PDP loose the 2023 election.”
Of late, Seyi Makinde, Governor of Oyo State, usually quiet, has been spitting fire too. “We will not take it,” he told a gathering of PDP faithfuls that the scheme to have both the chairman of the party and the presidential candidate come from the North must be resisted by the South. Until recently, Makinde was in the camp of Atiku, who would be president. To achieve his objective, Atiku must scheme out the Southeast whose turn it is to produce the president, according to PDP’s zoning policy. He had Makinde as a strong ally. A top party chieftain told this reporter that this involved some mouthwatering deals. But it seems, due to Makinde’s popularity among his people, he will not want to compromise his position on that stand and therefore do anything that may amount to the cheating of Southerners. According to Governor Wike, “when decision of who is to take what is to be taken, it is the president and the chairman that do it.” It was on this score that Seyi Makinde rejected the chairmanship of the PDP governors forum offered him, saying it was not his turn and that there was a deputy chairman to take the position. Makinde saw through the antics of the North as Aminu Tambuwal, Governor of Sokoto who was the chairman resigned and the office was offered to Makinde. Trust the North in political manoeuvre. They are born to rule, they think. Now, Governor Seyi Makinde is united with his Rivers State counterpart Nyesom Wike in the war for the soul of PDP. The following morning after Seyi Makinde announced his stand, Atiku dashed to Ibadan to seek consultation with Makinde. We are yet to know what transpired between them. Many believe Atiku would pull out all the stops to ensure the resolution of the PDP crisis.
In all this, Peter Obi is the cynosure of all eyes. His political movement has garnered so much following and support that it is considered necessary for the two big political parties to do something about this growing phenomenon. Both APC and PDP have internal bickerings. APC’s Muslim-Muslim ticket is giving problems. Even Islamic clerics who have no stomach for Buhari’s seven year rule are criticising the ticket saying it’s unacceptable, ostensibly to make a case for Atiku Abubakar. Sheikh Gumi, the man who has heart for the bandits is one of those clerics opposed to it. In the case of PDP, Atiku’s capacity to scheme out everybody in the race for president seems to have boomeranged. Atiku, so far will not know what to do with Obi because Obi publicly knelt down for him at the Nigeria Bar Association convention held in Lagos recently. But the APC is involved in a scheme that many people are suspecting may be very dangerous, and which may lead to the introduction of a dirty game into Nigeria’s politics. When Tinubu appointed Festus Keyamo, who had sued him in court while he was governor over his certificate scandal, as his official spokesperson, Nigerians knew that Keyamo will bring much fire into Tinubu’s campaign. Even as an ordinary citizen and not a member of APC, Keyamo made so much noise for Buhari that Buhari gave him a job in his government. No doubt, he will want a job from Tinubu too, if he wins.
On Tuesday, September 13, 2022, Festus Keyamo cried out in the media that the Labour Party was planning to simulate an attempted assasination of Peter Obi, the new and fresh voice and idea in Nigeria’s politics. Labour Party members, Keyamo alleged, would wear APC yellow caps to make it look as if the party was involved in the attempted assasination. Keyamo went on that the attempted asasination would be carried out as Obi returned from abroad. Keyamo is not a prophet, he is not known to be that but exactly as he said, Obi’s car was shot at as he returned to the country. Obi as predicted by Keyamo escaped. Did Labour plan it? If Labour planned it, what will be the purpose? Did APC plan it and flew a kite to create an alibi? Tinubu did something like that during #EndSars protest when he did an interview to give the impression that he was in France whereas he was body and soul in Nigeria. Has APC become so terrified of Obi that it had to plan this kind of thing or scare Obi? Not a few among those who are not supporters of Obi believe that APC may have planned it to scare Obi. In his statement, Keyamo asked Obi to withdraw if he can not continue in the war. Many believe that may be the objective of APC.
What is the antecedent of APC? The party belongs to the old block that Nigeria’s youth feel should be discarded. Wole Soyinka, Nobel Laureate once described this cast of politicians as a nest of killers. Labour Party is not so popular in Nigeria as to habour such a plan. Peter Obi made Labour Party popular but APC and PDP have been in the game for a long time. Their hunger for power is so insatiable that they are ready to give it anything. A public analyst who is a staunch supporter of Tinubu said he was not surprised that the campaign got dirty and that it is going to get dirtier. No doubt Obi’s ascetic life style is what was exploited. Obi goes around only by himself, he carries his brief case by himself, he goes in a commercial flight when he could afford to own a jet. Obi refused to give anybody bribe of any kind; even a priest of the Catholic Church said Obi is stingy. He was not acting out, it has always been his life. These are the kind of things that Nigerians think will change their country. These are things that make Nigerians home and abroad clamour for Obi. Obi says he must not be voted for because he is Igbo. No Nigerian politician will say that, they depend on ethnicity and religion to win elections.
But Obi must change his method in the interim. Obi has seen now that the contest for 2023 is becoming desperate and will get nasty as events unfold. He is not just running with men, he is running with wild lions, so to speak. 2023 is a determinant of whether Nigeria will change or collapse, whether the old will remain or the new will take over. Desperados have no mercy. Obi must not even trust people in his party. He must not trust the other parties. He must search the party and get rid of moles there. He must get good security around himself. The government will allocate him security when the campaign starts but that is not enough. Now, Obi will need to spend money to secure himself, he must engage his own personal security and they must be armed. It will be foolhardy to trust the government because the federal government as the party in power would prefer that its own candidate wins. Fifth columnist can organize an assassination attempt on his life. Besides, Obi has to be careful with his social habits, including eating and drinking.
Obi should watch it and not let his guards down either with the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) or the Eastern Security Network (ESN). Yes, he was seen pushing Prof Ben Nwabueze’s wheelchair to the trial of Nnamdi Kanu which means he has some sympathy for Kanu but he shouldn’t think Kanu will be happy with him. Apparently Obi’s activities have totally eclipsed Kanu and his IPOB. We are seeing a resurgence of the activities of IPOB in Enugu State. They went to Labour Party’s office in Enugu the other day and shot in the air to scare people. They are trying to reassert themselves. Obi’s life means a lot, so also is his death. His death by assasination by whoever can mean another war. This is not the time to be pretentious because 90 percent of Obi’s followers once followed Nnamdi Kanu. Thus Obi should be extremely cautious about his followers. Even he should be as careful in the Southeast as anywhere else as he campaigns across the country. In short, Obi should watch his back.
Tunde Akande is both a journalist and pastor. He earned a Master’s degree in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos.