Obi addressing supporters in Katsina, January 26, 2023.
By Emeka Alex Duru
The reasons the Labour Party presidential candidate in the February 25 election, Peter Obi, cried out the other day that he was under intense pressure to leave the country are becoming clearer.
He is really in huge stress and in a battle of his life.
You will only understand the magnitude of odds stacked against him to appreciate what he is going through. He deserves the prayers of every well-meaning Nigerian.
Obi had in line with the tenets of democracy, raised his voice against the charade that passed for the presidential election and insisted that the candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, was not validly elected, contrary to the declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
He consequently approached the Presidential Election Petitions Panel, arguing that Tinubu did not earn the votes allocated to him by INEC, did not meet the constitutional stipulations to be declared president-elect and was not even qualified to stand for the election.
Going to court is a globally acclaimed method of expressing dissent in democracy. Here in Nigeria, many state governors have had their mandates restored by the courts. They include the former governors of Edo, Adams Oshiomhole; Osun, Rauf Aregbesola; Rivers, Rotimi Amaechi; Ondo, Olusegun Mimiko, and even Obi in Anambra.
The present Bayelsa State governor, Douye Diri, got back his mandate through the court. Some have not succeeded in the exercise and have taken it so.
Apart from Obi, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, the All Peoples Movement (APM), the Action Peoples Party (APP) are equally in court, challenging the declaration of Tinubu as president-elect.
In the Second Republic, the presidential candidate of the then Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), had pursued his case against the declaration of Shehu Shagari of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) as presidrnt, up to the Supreme Court, without success.
Between 2003 and 2011 when he repeatedly contested for the presidency, Muhammadu Buhari instituted cases against President Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan, alleging that the elections that brought them to office were rigged. He lost in all the instances. None of them was ridiculed or framed for doing so.
Going to court may not translate to instant victory for the aggrieved but gives him a sense of belonging, a feeling of satisfaction that he has been allowed to ventilate his grievances when he feels that he has been wronged.
That is the noble path that Obi has taken and not resorting to self-help. That, ordinarily, should have earned him plaudits. But the APC as a political party, its henchmen and the APC-led government, which, incidentally, snatched Osun under Aregbesola and Edo under Oshiomhole from the PDP through the courts, do not see the current situation in that light.
For them, Peter Obi has committed a mortal sin by challenging the flawed election. He should, therefore, be cut to size.
It is clear that neither the APC nor its candidate in the election, Tinubu, has any answer to the posers raised by Obi in his petitions. Thus, the only strategy to overwhelm him, is to leave the issue at hand and focus on his person.
They have, in this regard, flooded the internet super highway and other social media networks with hired hands, whose briefs are to attack and bruise the image of Obi.
There is nothing being spared in the exercise, including Obi’s family and his private life. They go to the extent of creating fictitious accounts on the social media, cloning identities of Obi’s supporters and making frivolous assertions to mislead the public to believing that such unruly outings are from him.
There is, in fact, an ongoing case of a man who caused a stir in an aircraft, by selling the impression of being an Obi supporter and pretending to be kicking against the inauguration of Tinubu, with the intention of painting the LP candidate as supporting terror or plane hijack.
Later developments however indicated that he was actually an APC chieftain.
A recent conversation involving Obi and founder of Living Faith Church Worldwide, Bishop David Oyedepo, was tapped and doctored out of context. Obi has dismissed the tape as fake and the reporter that misrepresented the discussion, suspended by his employers. Yet, the federal government is making a mounting out of it. The audio affair has been the propaganda objects that engaged the Information Minister in his tour abroad.
He had earlier accused Obi and his running mate, Yusuf Datti-Ahmed, of treason for insisting that justice be done to their case at the tribunal.
As if these were not enough, retired academics who had left the country for some time, have been recalibrated and mobilised to talk down on Obi and his supporters – the “Obideints”.
From Kaduna, an amorphous group that described itself as Coalition of Arewa Leaders, was propped to accuse Obi and Datti of making comments capable of causing tension in the land.
In London, an impersonator was planted in his name and cause him embarrassments, which included his brief detention at the airport by British Immigration officials.
These are distractions from the task ahead. Obi understands these antics and the agenda but has moved on, drawing from the wisdom of the ex-American First Lady, Michelle Obama, that when his attackers go low, he goes higher and when they serve hate, he shows love.
From his days as Anambra State Governor, Obi was not known for the habit of attacking people or building lies against others.
The more critical point at this moment is the challenge, which the declaration of Tinubu as president-elect poses to the integrity of the country and its future.
These are matters that border on leadership recruitment process, transparency in our elections and corporate existence of the country.
Making Peter Obi the issue is not the way to go. Doing so, completely misses the point.
Democracy is about openness and akin to market-place transactions. It thrives on superiority of facts and ideas. Obi has taken his case to the tribunal. He should be allowed to be. He is an equal stake holder in the Nigeria Project.
There is no wisdom in intimidating or pressurizing him to leave the country. That will be counterproductive to the growth and development of democracy in the land. .Duru is the Editor, TheNiche Newspapers, Lagos