Peter Obi, the Labour Party presidential candidate
By Emeka Alex Duru
The recent endorsement on the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi by Chief Ayo Adebanjo, the leader of Pan Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, has a lot in common with the support the former US President, Barack Obama, received from established American political dynasties in his march for the presidency in 2008. They were anchored on credible profiles and track records.
The moment Obama received the approvals from even the ultra-conservative chieftains of the Republican Party, it became obvious that the American society was ready for a paradigm shift in its politics.
Obama, then in his late 30s, began to win the acceptance, by emerging the candidate of his Democratic Party, triumphing over Hillary Clinton, ex-First Lady, whose husband, Bill Clinton, imbued the presidency with exceptional charisma.
At the main election, Obama clashed with the Republican nominee, John McCain, a Senator of repute and a tested war veteran. Two issues were at play in the election – rebuilding the American economy and reinventing its sagging prestige at the international sphere. Obama convinced the electorate that he was capable of undertaking the tasks. And Americans gave him their votes.
Nigeria is at similar critical juncture, with Obi, hence the endorsement by Adebanjo. Two character traits readily stand out for the Afenifere leader. He is blunt and direct, some say, to a fault. And he is not frivolous. Recently when insinuations were made in, “My Participation”, a book written by All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain, Bisi Akande, on his seeking favours at a time from Bola Tinubu, former Lagos governor and the 2023 APC presidential candidate, Adebanjo fired back, putting lie to the claim and went ahead to list his properties and how he acquired them. He dared those doubting his sources of wealth to show evidence to the contrary. None spoke, further. That is Adebanjo, a lawyer of many years standing and committed disciple of the late Yoruba leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. It is always easy to know where he stands on issues.
When therefore he announced that he was throwing his weight behind Obi, it was not without reasons. He said he did so because Obi has the ability to rule independently and would not disappoint Nigerians if he wins the 2023 presidential election.
Adebanjo who made the declaration on an online radio programme, Yoruba Gbode, said he has lost confidence in the APC flag bearer and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar.
“It is only Peter Obi that can rule 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”, he said.
That resonates with the thinking of many Nigerians. Across the country, Nigerians who have been denied effective governance over the years, particularly, the youths, are yearning for change. From Gombe State where a young Northerner, repainted his house in Labour Party colour as a way of support, to Delta, where members of a political pressure group, Like Minds 4A New Nigeria, donated a building to the Obi Presidential Campaign in Issele-Azagba, Aniocha North Local Government Area of the state, the enthusiasm is thick and overwhelming.
A member of the group, Kingsley Odum, who spoke on the donation, said; “I have donated my building to serve as a secretariat for Labour Party, to show my support and demonstration of my confidence in Mr. Peter Obi’s capacity and competence to entrench good governance in Nigeria”.
Activists are not left out, with popular social justice crusader, Aisha Yesufu leading the pace in the social media to canvass for the donation of N100 billion for the sole purpose of Obi’s presidential campaign. In one of her outings, she said; “I believe with Peter Obi, the people have to contribute that money. There is no State money that Peter Obi will be dependent on or even state machinery”.
Elsewhere, the momentum keeps soaring. The other day, a female journalist, identified as Favour Bassey Out, resigned her job to throw her full weight behind Obi. Otu said her decision was based on the fact that her job wouldn’t allow her express open solidarity with her preferred candidate.
The most touching, perhaps, is the case of a 19-year old girl, Covenant Onyebuchi, throwing her life savings into the Obi campaign in keeping with promptings of her conscience. According her father, Denis, the young Covenant received divine instruction to give the money to any good humble man who would commit it to her future. Obi, she said, fits into the picture. There are others with same conviction in many parts of the country.
For the LP flag bearer, these demonstrations of trust, are not issues to be taken lightly. He understands the enormity of the challenges ahead and has prepared adequately for the plunge. The system, he admits, is broken but can be fixed. He has identified the problems confronting the country, capturing them under insecurity, youth unemployment, and leadership failure across board.
“Today, Nigeria tops the list of fragile, failing states and ranks third on the list of most terrorised countries in the world. We have, since 2019, become the world poverty capital. We now have an army of 50 million out-of-school children, out of which about 60% of them have not been to school at all. Nigeria is now the most stressful country to live in, according to the stress level index”, he observed recently.
He has promised to change the situation, to turn Nigeria from an orientation of consumption to production. His record in Anambra State where he served as governor, qualifies him for attention. In a system characterized by departing governors leaving their successors with debts and the treasury in red, Obi did the extra-ordinary in maintaining a clean record and bequeathing huge reserves to his successor. He equally tackled insecurity effectively and repositioned the state’s education sector taking it from a decrepit point to a leading position manifested in the state taking first position in national examinations in the country.
For emphasis, Obi has always maintained; “I am not contesting because I want a political appointment but to serve this country and unite Nigeria.” He adds that he is not desperate to be president but desperate to see Nigeria change for the better- from consumption to production. These are among the considerations that informed Chief Adebanjo’s endorsement of his candidacy.
.DURU is the Editor of TheNiche Newspapers, Lagos