How I Became OBIdient
By: Deji Yesufu
I have been told that politics is not my calling. I have been told to stick with religion. They say politics is dirty and those who claim to be pristine through the grace of God should not be associated with it. I have heard those arguments before but they have not convinced me. After supporting Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 and witnessing his disastrous two terms in office, I made the resolution that I will not be putting my name on any politician again – Nigerians should vote whoever they wish. When I made that resolution, I was almost sure that I will break it. The reason is that I live in Nigeria and I experience everything the average Nigerian is enduring. I am also into pastoral ministry and I understand the need to meet the physical needs of the people you are ministering to before the spiritual message you are preaching can make any sense to them. Churches, like many other social organizations in the land, have become a place of refuge for the poor in Nigeria. The easiest way to unburden oneself in Christian ministry is to call on government to do what they are supposed to do, so that churches can return to their primary duties. It is for this reason why we must join the bandwagon of seeing credible individuals come into government.
Anyone watching the political scenario in Nigeria will understand that it will take a miracle for Peter Obi to emerge the President of Nigeria in the forthcoming elections in 2023. I myself have argued that only the incumbent APC and the PDP can produce who will be the ruler of this country in the coming election. I have however reconsidered the candidacy of Peter Obi because I believe in miracles. I believe that in the 9 months before the elections, an OBI-tsunami can sweep the Nigerian landscape, bringing unprecedented popularity to this gentleman that will deliver for him no less than 20 million votes across Nigeria and thus bring him into the highest office in the land. I am convinced that the same way I became OBIdient, many more Nigerians can become equally convinced too. This is why I must relay my pathway to OBI-ism in this essay.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was an option only as long as former Governor Peter Obi was running on that platform. When Peter Obi jettisoned the PDP and reverted to the Labor Party, I turned my attention to the All Progressive Congress’ coming primaries. Primaries in political parties in Nigeria have been completely monetized and the APC’s primaries was not going to be any different. Even at that I had hoped that Muhammadu Buhari will wield some veto power and convince party men to settle for a consensus candidate – with the hope that they will settle for Yemi Osinbajo. When Bola Ahmed Tinubu scuttled the President’s plans with his now popular emi lo ko speech in Abeokuta, it was clear that nothing could hold back the scheduled primaries of the APC and dollar rain, not workable ideologies, will determine who will emerge the APC presidential flagbearer. Yemi Osinbajo gave a resounding speech to the delegates during the primaries and made a hearty and spirited plea for them consider him. While all these was going on, I understand that some weighty candidates had reached each of the over 2,000 delegates present with $25,000 offers. By the close of the day, the number of votes Tinubu garnered from the delegates was double the amount of votes all the other aspirants got – combined. It was on that note that I settled for the Jagaban of Lagos as the only possible candidate in the coming elections. Atiku was not an option and Obi was not popular enough. Until…
On the night of Sunday, 12th June, I received a call from my cousin in Canada. He asked me what candidates I was considering in the forthcoming elections. The thing about Nigerians in the diaspora is that they have half of their personhood here in Nigeria. They live abroad but their hearts are here and most of them partake in the country’s electoral process by proxy: they get their loved ones to vote sensibly. I told my cousin that I was left with no other choice than to support Tinubu. He agreed with me but he took his time to show me something that I was missing: he said that if the Bola Ahmed Tinubu that is running today is the same individual that ruled Lagos between 1999 and 2007, then he will support him. He said that clearly age and particularly ill health will impede the government of Tinubu. Then he helped me to see how ill health had stood as an albatross to the government of Yar’Adua and even Muhammadu Buhari, and how the general productivity of all human is usually impeded by ill health and aging. No one can cheat nature; we are only as good on a job as our bodies will permit us. My cousin also did not think that Peter Obi was popular enough. He only felt that if we must vote for Tinubu, we must be sure of the state of his health. One thing that I am sure the supporters of Tinubu have not been able to argue for is the state of health of their principal. Bola Tinubu is not well and he is clearly not going to do well leading this country.
It was at this point the possibility of a Peter Obi emerging as President began to appeal to me. First, there is a large section of the Nigerian electorate that are tired of both the APC and the PDP. It is clear to these people that the two parties are one and the same: the same money politics had produced the flagbearers of the two parties. That the call for an alternative to these two, a sort of third force, was actually a popular sentiment being expressed by many people. Then came the individuals who were the minds and brain behind the End SARS protests. Until this day, no one knows who are the real backbone of the EndSARS protests; they appear to work well anonymously. And some of these individuals were emerging and calling for a third force. In their usual manner, they do not say that they were campaigning for Peter Obi; they are only asking Nigerians to head to INEC and get their PVCs. These are the individuals behind the clarion call for every adult in Nigeria to grab a PVC and be ready to vote out bad leaders. Some of them have organized concerts where they made it clear that the PVC was the entry ticket. As a result, young people are converging at INEC and getting their PVC. I was in one of the INEC offices here in Ibadan yesterday and the whole place was filled with young people: they have heard the clarion call for true CHANGE. It was at this point I realized that Peter Obi could be elected on the mere fact that he presents himself as a credible alternative to the APC and the PDP. This is how I became OBIdient.
More than anything else, a Peter Obi presidency will settle the question of the alleged marginalization of the Igbos in Nigeria. Whether we agree or not, the activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has gotten the attention of everyone in the country. They have spilled enough blood for us all to ask them: what do you want. If by any chance Peter Obi is elected President it is not likely that their cry of marginalization will end; it will however reduce considerably and the Nigerian government, under Obi, can then fast-track a process of meeting the demands of these aggrieved section of the country. The presidency of Nigeria is not the exclusive right of one or two sections of the country; the Igbo man can also rule the country and if they are suggesting Obi as their man, the Nigerian people should consider him.
Another thing that has endeared Obi to me is this perceived stinginess of his. Fr. Mbaka, of the Adoration Ministries, Enugu, had suggested that Nigeria does not need a stingy person in government. What Mbaka regards as being stingy is what sane people in developed countries regard as being thrifty. There is one major problem that many of us in this country have not been able to identify and that is our penchant for waste. Nigerians are not only corrupt, we are also very wasteful and the place where this waste is most prominent is in government circles – it is incredible. Peter Obi’s success in Anambra State was in curbing waste in government. He was so thrift with government resources that while he met the state in debt, he left huge resources in government coffers when he left. Nothing teaches a people frugality than adversity but Nigerians are unable to learn to use scarce resources well because a culture of corruption has made it impossible for us to think these issues through. Everyone is milking the country and are ready to jump ship the moment the country begins to sink. Thankfully, Peter Obi is of another spirit.
I am not under an illusion that it will be an easy ride for Peter Obi to the seat of the presidency of Nigeria. I believe that as things stand, the best that Peter Obi could get will be a few million – perhaps five million votes – which will stand as an advantage for him in 2027. I also believe that fostering a coalition with a popular individual in Northern Nigeria, like former Governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwakwansor, will give Obi a major boost during the forthcoming elections. The last card that I will be banking on will be some sort of tsunami – some kind of realization falling on many Nigerians and helping us to realize that we cannot continue to do the same thing in the same way and expect a different result. If after 24 years of PDP and APC this country has not been able to make any significant progress, and all the options the two parties can give to us are two individuals who are better off in nursing homes than in the highest office in the land, it is time we take our destinies in our hands and do the right thing.
I believe the right thing is supporting the presidential ambition of Peter Obi. This is how I became OBIdient. Would you also consider the Peter Obi option?