Friday, 03 March 2023 06:00

Peter Obi, a salute, a bow - Comfort Obi

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I neither flaunt nor use the title, but I am a Princess of an over 150-year-old Royal Home. So, by tradition, I usually don’t bow for, or courtesy before most people. I was told not to do so because “you are Royal.” However, I make exception before some Clerics; some, not all. There are too many fake and lying Clerics that one is tempted, at times, to ask God: ”Almighty, why are you patient with these fake guys?”

But today, for Peter Obi, the Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party in the just concluded February 25, 2023, Presidential Election, I bow. I salute. And as Politicians would add, I tremble.

I forget the exact time, but I think it was about 3.30am, Tuesday, Nigerian time, when a friend/brother called me. Being, sadly, on the other side of the Atlantic, I asked what he was doing awake at that time of the morning when sleep, God bless it, is most sweet.

I was preparing to go to bed when the call came. As, I guess, it was with most Nigerians across the globe, I hadn’t slept since the night of February 25. I was following the Presidential Election bumper to bumper, switching from one Television channel to the other, working the phones, reading and writing and commenting. These Politicians will not kill us!

But, Tuesday, I told myself: ‘Comfort, listen to your doctors, your healthcare providers, and go to bed early.’ More important: I was not expecting any activities from INEC at that time of the day. INEC Chairman and Commissioners, I thought, would be in their houses that time, awake, thinking of how they bungled the most important  date in Nigeria’s 2023 Calender.

But the call came. The caller wanted to discuss the State of the Nation, and I, suddenly, came alive. Midway into our discussion, he asked me to pause, and listen. He said INEC Chairman, Mahmoud Yakubu, who, like the Governor of the Central Bank, Godwin Emefiele, has registered as one of the  most hated human beings in Nigeria, was speaking.

My heart did a somersault. And began to palpitate, something my doctors warned me is extremely dangerous. “Call 911, or go to Emergency Room if you experience it”, they warm me each time I visit for check-up. Those guys, very great as they are, can scare one into sudden death. With God on the throne, I manged to arrest the situation by calming down, completely.

Yakubu was reeling out the final results of the Presidential election.

I had seen the figures earlier in the day. So, I had an inkling of where victory was headed to. But you know, having an inkling is not the same as having It officially confirmed. I was not expecting any drastic change in the numbers. But  I strongly expected the Chairman  to cancel some results from some areas in a couple of states and reschedule the election.

Top on my list was Rivers State where video and audio evidences confirm the unimaginable, the most bizarre and the unprecedented happened. I also had Edo and Delta States in mind. And there is Lagos State. And a couple of States in the North where children – five to eight year olds – voted in their thousands. When we come out of our present, dicey situation, it will be nice to investigate how these children got registered, which INEC officials colluded with whoever to register them. For now, let me just say ‘shame’ to the Police Commissioner who, instead of doing his job, argued that the kids could be adults with “stunted growth!” Just imagine!!

In a number of states, what we had on Saturday was the shame of a Nation.

There were brazen malpractices. Snatching of ballot boxes. Stuffing of ballot boxes. Mass thump-printing of ballot papers. Violence. Intimidation of voters. Deliberate disenfranchisement  of voters. Dumping of  thump-printed ballot papers inside bushes (LP bore the brunt of this wickedness, this unpatriotic act, comparable to  treasonable felony ). Breaching of the Electoral Act by INEC itself. Deliberate Shortage of ballot papers. I thought the results from those areas were going to be canceled and election rescheduled. But no, Yakubu thought otherwise.

Finally, excuse this cliché, he hit the nail on the head. He declared Bola Tinubu, candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, the winner. He was followed by Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar, who performed below one’s expectation. Atiku was very closely followed by the Candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, the star of the 2023 Presidential election.

I took a deep breath, and suddenly began to clap. I was clapping for the refreshing Candidate Obi, the man who has just changed Nigeria’s political architecture. The man who has just changed Nigeria’s Political map. And, I said to nobody in particular: “Peter Obi, thank you Sir. I salute you. I bow and tremble before you. Great guy. Great Nigerian.”

In one fell swoop, Obi destroyed many myths. In one fell swoop, he disrupted Nigeria’s voting pattern. In one fell swoop, he united Nigeria. And Nigerians. In one fell swoop, he told us that we are one people, that we have the same problems, that we feel the same pains. In one fell swoop, he told us that in building a Nation, neither religion nor ethnicity matters. In one fell swoop, he gave Nigerian youths a voice. Unprecedented!

In one fell swoop, Obi galvanized the youths. He reminded them of their importance. “You are the salt of the nation”, he told them. “There is no Nigeria without you.” He told them “Nigeria’s future is in your hands”. He gave them a sense of belonging. He gave them a platform. He gave them a voice. He told them that they hold his political future, Nigeria’s fate. He told them to wake up and take back their country, a country so blessed by God, but a country so badly managed by its leaders. He galvanized Nigerians in the Diaspora. “You are needed in Nigeria to pull your country out of the dustbin”, he told. For the first time, many of our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora, irrespective of tribe and religion, flew down to Nigeria to vote. Almost, effortlessly, by being himself, Obi started a movement, a movement that will outlive him.

Entrenched interests fought hard to pull him down. But he stayed put like the rock of Gibraltar. He laughed off the darts thrown at him. They said he had no structure. He laughed that off, and had an appropriate answer. “The people, especially, the youths are my structure. They insulted him. They laughed at him. He trudged on, focused on his mission. And so was his running mate, Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed. What a great pair they make. And he endured unbelievable attacks and betrayal from his own people. Again, he had an appropriate attitude to that. “I am not an Igbo candidate. I am a Nigerian candidate of Igbo extraction.”

Of the five Governors in Obi’s  Southeast, none backed him. Nor did most of the elite from the region. They fought him. His State Governor, Charles Soludo, was the worst culprit. He gave the impression that he was elected into office to pull down Obi. He laughed at him for daring to run for the office of the President. Soludo looked down on Obi and looked down on the Igbo race.

Soludo said Obi would make no impact. That he would come a distant fourth. So, Governor Soludo,  the question today is: “how now?”

See, Obi and his Labour Party have taken over Anambra. They defeated Soludo all round. Even inside Government House Awka, Soludo was routed. In his Senatorial Zone, Soludo was routed. And of the three Senators in Anambra, Obi’s Labour Party has two. Soludo’s now comatose APGA has none. The LP, also, has the majority in the Members of the House of Representatives. In case Soludo does not understand the implication of what has happened, he has lost Anambra to hurricane Obi. He needs to work extra hard  to get a second term in office. The structure he boasted of, and taunted Obi for having none, has been pulled from under his feet by Obi’s Labour Party.

Those who laughed at Obi, especially, in the Southeast, are hiding their faces in shame.

Of course, naturally, nobody expected them to abandon their own parties and support Obi. But nobody, also, expected them to drag him into the gutter, or push him out to be devoured by lions. Much of their behavior, most people say, is a product of envy and jealousy. You know, why should Obi be the one? It was the same attitude they had towards him in 2019 when he was running mate to the now demystified Atiku   Abubakar. Why should it be Obi? They worked against their brother. But now, where are they? Nobody would mention their names, in politics, before Obi’s anywhere in the world.

Many of them have either been retired by Obi and his Labour Party and/or made irrelevant in the Southeast. For the Zone, Obi is number one. He has become the most important politician in the Zone.

All those who laughed at him are wondering what happened. The Arthur Ezes,  the Mbakas, his colleague-Governors in the Southeast (serving or former) who neither gave him a chance, nor received him decently when he visited their states for his Campaign Rally. They refused to allow Obedients to rally. Governors Dave Umahi, Ebonyi, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Enugu, Ifeanyi Okowa, Delta, Nyesom Wike, Rivers, Abdullahi Sule, Nasarawa, Godwin Obaseki, Edo,  Soludo, whose Government removed Obi’s Posters, the foul-mouthed Nasir El-Rufai, Kaduna, who Atiku routed, and who lost all the Senatorial Zones in his State, just like Soludo.

Amongst the Governors in the Southeast, only Imo’s Hope Uzodinma was decent to Obi. When they met at Imo Airport, he invited Obi over to Government House. He, also, approved a Campaign Rally venue for him, belated as it was. But he did. And there are many other top politicians in Igboland who yabbed him. Obi didn’t give a damn. He was a National Candidate, not an Igbo candidate. Now, look at where they are, and look at where Obi is.

Reno Omokri, Deji Adeyanju, strong supporters of Atiku, both of whom didn’t give Obi a chance to win anywhere, except a couple of States in the Southeast, and/ or garner 25% anywhere outside the Zone are shocked. They are taken aback. Verify this: Peter Obi won 12 States, as did Tinubu and Atiku. Unprecedented! And, this is a man who just, a few months ago, picked an almost dead Political Party, and proceeded to give it a larger than life image. Unprecedented!

His movement has vanquished Soludo’s APGA, and is hot on the heels of the PDP. In the Southeast, the PDP has to work extra hard not to be completely vanquished by the LP, thanks to Obi. Suddenly, the LP has become a National Party. The Third Force, they call it, has emerged.

Take a look at the states Obi won outside the Southeast Zone. Lagos, Abuja, Delta, Plateau, Nasarawa, Edo, Cross River State. And in just eight months. Unprecedented!

Yet, these achievements pale before what he has done for the Igbo race. For the first time since democracy in 1999, a serious candidate of Igbo extraction surfaced. A major candidate of Igbo extraction emerged. A candidate of Igbo extraction was one of the three front runners. And he won the same number of States as the other two Candidates – Tinubu and Atiku.

Obi put back the Igbo race smack at the centre of Nigerian politics. He gave the Igbo a sense of belonging in Nigeria. He rubbished ethnicity, religion and money politics. He gradually veered off political rallies and debates from irrelevant, elementary issues to serious issues.

Dear Obi, the results have been announced. According to INEC, Tinubu won. Pending what you and your running mate and Party and millions of supporters plan to do, just know, and you know, that in ‘defeat’, you are a winner. You are the greatest. A phenomenon. From being “structureless” eight months ago, your Party, as I write this, has about 86 members in the National Assembly. Imagine what could have happened if INEC and Security Agencies had played their roles.

You are the rallying point for the Youths, the poor, the oppressed, the masses. In you, they are at home. They see hope. They see a future, a great future. You are the pride of your people, of Nigerians.

No serious politician or political party can ignore you henceforth. It will be at their own peril. And nobody can wish you away. You have shown the world the decent side of Nigeria’s politics. You never, personally, insulted anybody all through the Campaign period. You focused on issues. Millions of Nigerians are proud of you.

One day, Nigerians will get there. They will get to that point which you have in mind, where nobody, anywhere, will look down on Nigerians, and where Nigerians will be proud of themselves, and of their country.

Congratulations! Okwute (Rock)!! You rocked in this election. I salute you. Great son of the East. I bow (and tremble).

** Obi is the Editor-in-Chief/CEO of The Source (Magazine)

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