Peter Obi: A Dove In The Nigerian Jungle
In the political history of independent Nigeria, presidential candidate of Labour Party in the 2023 general elections, Mr. Peter Obi, qualifies as the greatest political catalyst. Unassuming Obi debuted in Nigerian political scene in 2003. Obi contested the governorship election in Anambra State under the platform of All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA. Then, political godfathers held sway in most states of Nigeria including Anambra. Political godfathers determined who got whatever position beginning from the governors through local government area chairmen to ward councillors. The Anambra godfather bestrode the political space like the Colossus and diverted loyalty due to the Nigerian constitution to himself. The Anambra political godfather was the most powerful in the Southeast and the third most powerful in Nigeria after the strong man of Ibadan politics and the Oloye of Kwara State respectively. Political office holders or godsons in Anambra State fell over one another in their respective bids to curry the favours of the godfather who at a time ordered the kidnap of a sitting governor! Mr. Peter Obi joined the governoship race of the most powerful state in the Southeast, Anambra, in that era. Without a godfather, Obi traveled through tortuous judicial routes to succeed; and he left indelible footprints in Nigerian constitutional law, politics and the history of Anambra State.
Peter Obi joined Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, at the eve of the 2015 general elections. Obi was on a joint ticket with former vice president Atiku Abubakar who was the PDP presidential candidate in 2019. Mr. Peter Obi joined the race for the PDP presidential ticket in 2022 but later withdrew from the race and resigned from the party. Few days later, he joined the Labour Party, LP, and emerged as the presidential candidate of Labour Party in the 2023 general elections. Obi's emergence as Labour Party presidential candidate was a positive catalyst which sparked up the interest of Nigerian youths in the electoral process, set the largely unknown Labour Party on a trajectory of relevance in national politics, demystified political godfathers and changed the narratives of electioneering campaigns in Nigeria by making character, competence, capacity and track records the cardinal considerations in the assessment of candidates.
Obi's revolutionary entry into the presidential race and the dedicated followership it attracted to him within and beyond Nigeria made him the envy of the Nigerian political class. Obi and his presidential project became the target of malicious attacks and propaganda. Searchlights were beamed on Obi's educational, business and political careers, but nothing tangible was found. The election came and notwithstanding the Nigerian factor which seemed to be fully charged against Obi, he and his Labour Party performed beyond the expectations of many including the incumbent Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR. Against all odds, Labour Party won the governorship of Abia State, six senatorial seats and 34 house of assembly seats! With the elections over, attention shifted to the election petition tribunals where Mr. Peter Obi is contesting the declaration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress as president-elect on grounds of Tinubu's status as an ex-convict over drug dealings; the double nomination of Tinubu's running mate, Kashim Shettima; Tinubu's failure to win a quarter of the total votes cast in FCT among others. This has set Obi's adversaries on more intensive search for incriminating evidences with which to nail Obi. So far, nothing bothering on character, management of public trust or civic responsibility has been found. Attempts to foist charges of treasonable felony on Obi through the "Yes daddy" audio clip seem dead on arrival; and Obi has refused to yield to intimidations.
That said, Mr. Peter Obi's traducers have found a straw-like consolation in the trending report of Mr. Peter Obi not being a member of the Labour Party before 30th April, 2022 when the party's membership register was "made available" to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC; and so, not qualified to run for presidency on the platform of Labour Party! Legal pundits have made various comments over such claims while some even laughed over it as a non-issue. As Nigerians await the interpretation of section 77 of Electoral Act 2022 by the Presidential Election Petition Court, it suffices to say that there is no provision of the Act or any other law prohibiting political parties from proselyting and receiving new members after making available their membership registers to the electoral body. Furthermore, there is something called "waiver" which political parties often grant to people who join them in the circumstances which Mr. Peter Obi joined Labour Party. Waiver is a legal document removing some requirement, such as waiving a right or liability. Labour Party granted Obi such waiver! Above all, it is doubtful that any Nigerian court will uphold section 77 of the electoral act to deny anybody freedom of association as enshrined in section 40 of the 1999 CFRN! So far, Obi has remained an unsolved riddle in the Nigeria political firmament; a dove in the jungle called Nigerian politics. His rivals who wield sensitive state apparatuses have not been able to smear Obi and his petition. Obi is gradually transforming to a saint of sorts; and it is heartwarming to have a saint within Nigerian polity.