Let me categorically state without fear or favour that I fully endorse a candidate of South-East extraction for the 2023 presidency. It has been my pet dream right from immediately after the result of the 2019 presidential election was released.
By Tiko Okoye
Labour Party (LP)/Peter Obi
- Structural backbone – the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) – is a national brand with a significant national presence and name recognition.
- Seen as a breath of fresh air given that neither the party nor its candidates have previously held high elective offices at all three tiers of government.
- Generally perceived as the party of the majority of hard-pressed Nigerians.
- Most popular among the youths.
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- Elections under a democratic dispensation anywhere in the world is a very expensive business – more so in Nigeria with its unacceptably high poverty rate and penchant for ‘stomach infrastructure. LP’s very limited corporate war chest and unpopular positioning as a stingy party would do it in with the same hard-pressed electorate it is seeking to ‘liberate.’
- Dysfunctional party/candidate psychometric state e.g. pro-workers/pro-business.
- LP, on its own, neither has a commensurate national spread nor maintains a relatively strong presence on the ground. With no governor and only one senator plus two representatives – all of which are defectors who lost out in their respective party primaries – LP glaringly lacks the middle and top commanding ranks of officers to engage in winnable electoral battles.
Strengths of the Obi/Baba-Ahmed ticket
- Obi is arguably generally perceived as squeaky-clean as new-laid egg, untainted by corruption.
- Most supported ticket among the youths, who represent a clear majority of the country’s population.
- Obi is perceived as a performing governor who leveraged his novel multi-sectoral initiative tagged Anambra Integrated Development Strategy (ANIDS) programme of action, to move Anambra State to the front burner position in the areas of primary healthcare, water, education, youth empowerment and inclusive governance through the introduction of the town union administration system aka ‘fourth tier of government’ which won him plaudits from several multinational and international agencies and organisations.
- Datti Baba-Ahmed, Obi’s running mate, is the founder and chancellor of the Abuja-based Baze University.
- As against the intial hypothesis that an Obi/Baba-Ahmed combo is a ‘mixture’ of strange bed fellows, they actually better fit the description of a ‘solution.’ Both are men of high principles who dropped out of different PDP primaries – Baba-Ahmed in the Kaduna State governorship primary and Obi in the presidential primary – essentially for the same reason: inconsistency of the process with their “purpose for being in politics.”
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Weaknesses of the Obi/Baba-Ahmed ticket
- Although both have been in politics for quite a while, they still largely remain not too well-known outside their immediate home constituencies.
- Their carefully cultivated brand image as men earnestly seeking to serve and not to give ‘shishi’ resonates very positively with a vast majority of potential voters – given the pandemic corruption that has long stifled Nigeria’s multi-dimensional development – and actually constitutes the bedrock of a cult following among youths. Still, like English statesman and writer Edmund Burke so eloquently averred: “There is, however, a limit at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue.” Ascertaining that limit can be a Sisyphean task!
- Let me categorically state without fear or favour that I fully endorse a candidate of South-East extraction for the 2023 presidency. It has been my pet dream right from immediately after the result of the 2019 presidential election was released. I was motivated by the trite saying that “the early bird gets the worm,” meaning that someone will have an advantage if they do something immediately, or before others do it. But the influencers of Igbo thought I tried so hard to rally into action expressly told me that Ndigbo were only interested in restructuring, and not even my well-canvassed argument that both objectives are not mutually exclusive moved the needle an inch.
- I even went as far as warning that Bola Tinubu from the South-West and Nyesom Wike from the South-South would capitalise on the lack of interest by Ndigbo to throw their hats in the ring – and the resounding clapback I got was “Let them; we don’t care!”
- The converse of the adage about the early bird is that “the patient dog eats the fattest bone,” implying that everything comes to those who wait. It may be true that the patient dog gets the fattest bone, except that it’s now a truism that while the patient dog waits, the hustling dog can attack him and take all the bones! That’s exactly how the highly nutritious presidential bone that was the South-East’s just for the taking, as a way of ensuring equity, justice and inclusiveness, became an all-comers’ affair.
- Obi’s victory in the 2023 presidency would totally alter the political, social and economic landscape of the South-East and end all forms of secessionist agitation. This is in the nation’s abiding interest. However, his electoral loss would not only be a complete disaster for Ndigbo but might trigger a more destructive spiral of violence and unrest in the South-East. From the look of things, neither the APC nor the PDP may allot any of the remaining three spots of Senate President, House Speaker and National Chairman to the South-East if victory goes to either.
- My crystal glass shows me that both the APC and PDP would similarly allot the posts of Senate President and National Chairman to the North-West and North-Central respectively. APC would allot the Speakership to the South-South, while PDP would allot it to the South-West.
- If the election was to be decided now by online voting, Obi would be the winner of the 2023 presidency by a long mile. But elections are decided by casting of ballots, which explains why Obi mustn’t allow himself to be carried away by his wide popularity on social media that has a propensity to easily transform into what Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti dubbed “noise for vendor mouth.” Truth’s that smart candidates know where their votes would really come from.
- Yes, Donald Trump broke all conventions with regard to traditional models of campaigning. His use of a novel approach fully centred around digital communication channels saw him unexpectedly winning the 2016 US presidential poll. But America and Nigeria are not the same and Obi mustn’t succumb to the temptation of comparing apples with oranges.
- French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte once said that “Ten people who speak make more noise than ten thousand who are silent.” Edmund Burke put it this way: “Because half-a-dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their importunate chink, whilst thousands of great cattle, reposed beneath the shadow of the British oak, chew the cud and are silent, pray do not imagine that those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field.”
- The point cannot be made enough that no matter what Obi and his team may be espousing, a well-oiled structure, not a social media clutter or mob raising a ‘clamour opinion’ – is sine qua non to ratcheting up the winning odds of a typical political party.
- As American actor and humourist Will Rogers poignantly noted: “More men have been elected between Sundown and Sunup than ever were elected between Sunup and Sundown.” Because all politics is local, the key to successfully engaging in the dead-of-the-night politicking is an effective and extensive party structure.
- And since no candidate has ever won a presidential election in Nigeria without winning one or two of the three topmost vote-rich states of Kano, Lagos and Rivers – and with the first two most likely to be carried by APC – it’s pretty obvious that a necessity is fully thrust on Obi’s shoulders to capitalize on the lingering crisis in the PDP and broker an accord with Wike.
- In a nation seemingly in a quagmire of abject poverty, stomach infrastructure remains a primary means of winning elections and Obi is trailing far behind the other two candidates in this area in the 2023 presidency. Much sooner than later, he would’ve to up his game or prematurely throw in the towel.
- Political correctness aside, the greatest potential threat to Obi’s candidacy is the Igbophobia that hasn’t abated long after the civil war ended more than fifty years ago.
- But perhaps we should take a cue from Obi himself and stop driving ourselves crazy over a lack of party structure. If snippets of his leaked discussions with the Wike-led G-5 are anything to go by – getting them to back his candidacy in their respective states while Labour Party candidates are made to step down in all down-ballot contests – it can only mean that Obi is hiding a joker up his sleeve. And I’ve become fully persuaded that it can only be that Obi is planning to re-defect to the PDP within six months of taking the oath of office if he wins the election!
- Give or take, I predict Obi’s best performance to be second runner-up in the 2023 presidency.
- Series concludes next week with the APC and Bola Tinubu/Shettima.
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