The Labour Party (LP) presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, has been enjoying a mass support since he joined the party last May. ONYEKACHI EZE writes on the emerging new cult personality in Nigerian politics
Favour Bassey Otu, a journalist with Silverbird Television, few days ago, did the unthinkable, at least, in Africa perspective. Otu in a tweet, said she resigned her appointment with the television station to campaign for the Labour Party (LP) candidate, Mr. Peter Obi.
She said she took the decision because she is not allowed to be partisan due to the nature of her work. “They said a journalist must be nonpartisan (unbiased and fair). So, I resigned my position with Silverbird TV to throw my full support for Peter Obi.
“After the elections next year, I’ll apply for a media job maybe with Channels TV or ARISE TV or start up my business. “We must get it right. Please this is not a campaign,” she declared. What Favour did is obtainable in advanced democracies, not in Africa, let alone Nigeria.
She took a gamble based on her passion, not minding whether Obi would be elected as Nigeria’s next president or not. Favour took the gamble notwithstanding the nationwide belief that Labour Party on which platform Obi is seeking to rule Nigeria, “has no structure, and whose supporters are mainly on social media
Last Tuesday, another “risk taker”, Covenant Onyebuchi Okereke, gave her ‘widow’s mite to Obi’s ambition. Covenant accosted the Labour Party presidential candidate after he appeared in a live radio programme, at Urban Radio, Enugu, with her ‘widow’s mite’ in support of his presidential campaign. “I have been saving for this.
Yesterday, I prayed to God that I want to bless a humble man. Today, I heard that Peter Obi is at Urban Radio. “I live in the neighbourhood. So, I decided to see if I could meet him. God has answered my prayer because I am about to bless a humble man even though I have no name,”
Okereke said. Since he left the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) last May, where he was one of the presidential aspirants, to Labour Party to pursue his ambition, the former Anambra State governor has been receiving goodwill from Nigerians across regional and religious lines.
His supporters call themselves ‘OBIdents’, which is a combinations of Obi’s name and commitment to his ambition, just like followers of Jesus Christ are called Christians and Mohammed, Muhammadans. ‘Obidents’ membership cuts across all ages, genders and socio-cultural groups. Otu is not Igbo, as Obi, but she sacrificed her job to support him.
Octogenarian, Ayo Adebanjo, a leader of pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, prefers the Labour Party candidate over someone else who is from his own ethnic stock, Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT), who is a candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), and Atiku Abubakar, a candidate of PDP. According to the elder statesman,
“Only Peter Obi can rule the country independently without the influence of these criminals in the government. Tinubu will only give continuity to Buhari’s incompetence.
“We know Peter Obi very well. That’s why we endorsed him. He will not disappoint Nigerians. Let’s put tribal differences apart and vote the right leader in. “Tinubu sold Buhari to over 200 million Nigerians for his own selfish interest of wanting to rule after Buhari.
None of them loves Nigeria. “Easterners are also Nigerians. They deserve to rule. I am sure Peter Obi will not subject himself to the northerners like Tinubu and Atiku would do if elected.”
Social media influencer, Aisha Yesufu, is proposing a N100 billion fund raising campaign to fund the Labour Party candidate’s project. Yesufu, a founding member of #BringBack- OurGirls, on her social media handle last week, @AishaYesufu, urged her audience to start saving as little as one hundred Naira per week.
According to her, “If it is N100 you have to give weekly, start putting it aside. “Imagine 1,000,000 doing N100 weekly. That’s 100million weekly and N400million monthly. Every drop matters! Put a bucket under a leaking roof and see the power of a drop. #PeterObiC ampaignFund#100BillionForPOCam paign.” Yesufu is not done yet. She made a video of herself defending her trust and confidence in Obi’s presidential project.
Said she, “Voting for Peter Obi is not voting for Igbo people. It is voting for competence. Saying you will show Igbo people is laughable. If there is one tribe that has prepared itself for the worst Nigeria can be, it is the Igbo. They faced the atrocious side of Nigeria during Biafran war.”
Business mogul, Bishop Matthew Okpebholo, a native of Edo State, donated a building to the Labour Party in support of #Obidatti 2023 movement. No Nigerian politician, living or dead, has received the amount of support and appeal Obi’s presidential project is enjoying.
The only one near it was the “fresh air” movement of pre-2011 election of former President Goodluck Jonathan. Even President Muhammadu Buhari with his much talked about masses support, did not measure up with the #OBIdent Movement. Buhari’s support base was limited in Northern Nigeria, unlike Obi’s that cuts across ethnic and religious divide.
Despite the attempt to classify the movement as social media thing, the dimension the movement is taking and the vociferous nature of the campaigners and their determination to push forward the agenda, are sending shock waves to other political parties.
Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, in a viral video, warned that youths in Nigeria (who form bulk of Obi’s supporters) no longer want APC and PDP.
According to the governor: “The future of our politics is changing, if you have been watching the level of disenchantment with the existing political parties. “I’m sure in all our homes, we have people who call themselves ‘Obidients’. Ask them which party you belong to, they say ‘Obidient’. They don’t want us.
“They’re not talking about APC or PDP. They’re looking for alternatives.” Former National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) Senator Victor Umeh, said APC and PDP are having “sleepless nights,” due the increasing support Obi is getting. Umeh told journalists that,
“The support of Nigerians for the former governor of Anambra State and the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi, is giving sleepless nights and serious scare to members of the All Progressives Congress, the Peoples Democratic Party and other parties ahead of the 2023 elections.
“The APC, PDP and other political parties are afraid of Peter Obi because of his resolve to banish poverty and ability to manage resources.”
Tinubu, the presidential candidate of APC, exhibited such fears when he addressed party supporters before yesterday’s governorship election in Osun State. The former Lagos State governor in apparent reference to the waves being made by the Labour Party, told the people, “God will not make you labourers.
They will labour till they die!” Obi’s larger than life image is because of his proven administrative ability in the eight years he governed Anambra State.
His austre lifestyle and frugality in managing public and private funds set him aside from typical Nigerian politicians, who are known for their flamboyancy and ostentatious way of life. Obi left office since 2013 and was credited to had left huge sums of money both in local and foreign currencies, for his successor in office.
Among former Nigeria governors, the Labour Party presidential candidate is among the very few (if not the only one) who were not guests of the anti-corruption agencies, despite tons of petitions against him. His supporters said Obi is “doing the unpopular and deviating from the corrupt norms of money politics, arson, hooliganism, gerrymandering, and political thuggery.”
According to them, Obi is not after public funds; he would rather spend his income for the public. Another reason why Nigerians are rooting for him is his age. At 60, Peter Obi can be classified among the middle aged, same as Dr. Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed, his running mate, who is in his late 40s. Nigerians said they are tired of electing gerontocrats as their president.
Among the four leading presidential candidates, Obi is the youngest. “Youths need young and open minds in governance,” his campaigners said, adding, “Obi is energetic and ready to work. Leadership requires a sound mind on a strong body.” English Oxford Dictionary defines a cult hero as “a person who is admired by many people for doing something brave of good.”
Among American leaders listed in this category are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, and Donald Trump. Historian Conrad Black described Abraham Lincoln as “supreme champion of the American personality cult.”
In the United Kingdom, names like Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher also feature. In October 2020, #EndSARS movement by Nigerians youths aimed at reforming the nation’s police and end brutality by law enforcement agencies, was aborted.
The End- SARS movement succeeded largely until the time it was prematurely aborted, because the youth were united for a just cause, and refused to influenced.
The only option left for government was to use brute force to crush the movement. Obi represents almost everything the youths want in a new Nigeria – focused, determination and incorruptible. While others candidates have launched attacks on his person, he refused to be distracted, but instead, return such attacks with kind words.
With barely seven months to the presidential election, and against every expectations that the OBIdent movement would fizzle out, Obi’s supporters remained resolute and unyielding. One only hopes that the same measure used against the EndSARS movement is not applied as the nation moves closer to next year’s presidential election