I admire Peter Obi’s diction – choice of words. Smart and cool as his dressing. For instance, he calls his election defeat and subsequent losses in the courts this year a “revolution postponed.” By revolution, he means a radical regime and system change.
After his last loss, Oct. 26, at the Supreme Court, the candidate of the Labour Party, addressed a world press conference during which he offered a definition of revolution: “From the very onset, our mission has been more about enthroning a new Nigeria. It is a new nation where things work, where the country is led from its present waste and consumption orientation to a production-driven economy. Our commitment is to a nation anchored on the principles of prudent management of resources to quickly pull millions out of multidimensional poverty, ensuring transparency and accountability in the equitable distribution of opportunities, resources, and privileges. In the new Nigeria, we aim to address all unmet needs by showing compassion for all those left behind by the present system.”
Diction. Note that Obi didn’t say his revolution was thwarted or hampered or obstructed. But “postponed” – the strongest suggestion yet that he would give the presidency another shot, most likely, in 2027. Four years from now. Three months after he placed third in the February 25 presidential election that BolaTinubu won, Obi declared it wasn’t all over yet for him. “Anyone who thinks I’m in transit is wasting his time. Let me tell you, I must be the president of this country. I’m sure of that. If it is not today, it must be tomorrow,” he told journalists.
By the next election, Obi will be 68 years old. He will still be younger than Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar, both in their 70s now. President Tinubu will be the man to beat in 2027. Atiku, who came second in the February election, hasn’t indicated whether he will race for the presidency again. If he does, he certainly will break Buhari’s record as the man who has run the most times to be president. Back to Obi. His showing in this last presidential election was a marvel, for a man who hasn’t wandered in the Nigerian political wilderness for long, unlike Atiku. He was governor of Anambra state two times and a vice presidential candidate once. All under Nigeria’s equivalent of the Grand Old Party (GOP), the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Counting down to this year’s election, Obi lost his bid for the PDP nomination and abandoned the party. As one that seizes the day when it comes, Obi grabbed the Labour Party nomination and went on to nick Lagos state and a couple of others in the presidential vote. The only second Ibo politician to do so after the late Nnamdi Azikiwe. Obi”s phenomenal performance in the 2023 election was helped by his chance nomination by a rudderless LP and another chance seizure of the #Endsars structure that galvanized millions of Nigerian youth to protest police brutality in 2020. He conveniently converted it to the OBIdient Movement. This is what he hopes to, and should, build on to transform into a mass movement as he eyes 2027 – his Godot. Can he?
For now, this is what Obi proposes to do.”Going forward,” he says, “we in the Labour Party and the Obidient Movement are … effectively in opposition. We are glad that the nation has heard us loud and clear. We shall now expand the confines of our message of hope to the rest of the country. We shall meet the people in the places where they feel pain and answer their needs for hope. At marketplaces, motor parks, town halls, board rooms, and university and college campuses, we all carry and deliver the message of a new Nigeria. As stake holders and elected Labour Party officials, we shall remain loyal to our manifesto.We will continue to canvas for good governance and focus on issues that promote national interest, unity, and cohesion. We will continue to give primacy to our Constitution, the rule of law, and the protection of ordered liberties. We will offer the checks and balances required in a functional democracy and vie robustly in forthcoming elections to elect those who share our vision of a new Nigeria.
“Given our present national circumstances, there is a compelling need for a strong political opposition. We shall, therefore, remain in opposition, especially because of the policies and the governance modalities that we in the Labour Party campaigned for, especially reducing the cost of governance, moving the nation from consumption to production, reducing inflation, ending insecurity, promoting the rule of law, guaranteeing the responsibility to protect, and stabilizing the Nigerian currency; are clearly not the priorities of the present administration nor is it interested in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“If there is one thing that has immensely gladdened my heart in the course of the struggle of the past 18 months, it is the passionate desire of our people, especially our young people from across ethnic and religious divides, to construct a new and restructured Nigeria that will work for all Nigerians. That goal remains my guiding light and abiding inspiration. Critics say he pulled out of the contest because he knew his chances of winning were slim but he cited wrangling within the PDP, where he was a vice-presidential candidate in 2019, for deciding to cross over to the Labour Party.”
A strong, viable opposition Obi says he will provide. But he has to do more than that. He will have to convince voters that as an alternative government, one in waiting, he can walk Nigerians out of their current wilderness experience and into the “land flowing with milk and honey.” But to do so, he has to drop the garb of ethnic and religious bigot that he has been dressed with.