Special to USAfrica magazine (Houston) and USAfricaonline.com, first African-owned, US-based newspaper published on the Internet.
Nkem Ekeopara is a contributing editor of USAfricaonline.com
There’s a new movement in Nigeria. It’s closely associated with the upcoming Nigerian elections, especially the presidential election on February 25, 2023.
Truth, as Igbo elders say, shines like the moon. And the truth is that whether nationally, continentally, or globally dispassionately looked at, the face of the Movement is Mr. Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP).
Obi will be seen as such by any objective assessor and sincere watcher of the Nigerian political landscape since May 27, 2022, when he joined the Labour Party (LP) after leaving the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Obi’s decision to leave the PDP for the Labour Party that excitedly received him with open hands was strategic. It was driven by wisdom. Indeed, it was a political masterstroke as later events are showing.
Obi left the PDP when he saw that the presidential primary of the party was going to be a dollar-denominated bazaar that will go to the highest bidder. And precisely, that was what happened.
This was aided by some political intrigues that saw Aminu Tambauwal, former Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives and current Governor of Sokoto State, tactically withdrew from the presidential nomination race, and directed his supporters to vote for Atiku Abubakar. Tambauwal was a contender for the PDP ticket, too.
Atiku was Nigeria’s Vice President during Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency (1999 to 2007).
Atiku’s first admonition to notable Northern Nigerians at his interaction with the Arewa Joint Committee for presidential candidates held in Arewa House, in mid-October, 2022, in Kaduna after emerging as the presidential candidate of the PDP was very revealing. On that occasion, Atiku told his audience that Northerners should not vote for a Yoruba or Igbo candidate in the 2023 presidential election. He said that they should vote for a Northern presidential candidate like him who has built bridges across the country and understands the problems of the North. What he said was, in the opinion of some people, insensitive and divisive — of what the disastrous ret. Major General Mohammadu Buhari’s regime has done to the psyche of other nationalities in Nigeria, who are not of the Fulani stock like himself and Buhari. It became obvious thereafter that the PDP presidential primary was a done and-dusted deal before the day it was conducted on May 28, 2022, in Abuja, Nigeria’s seat of power. Atiku picked the dismally-performing Governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, as his running mate.
Of course, this has led to disunity in the PDP, which is Nigeria’s main opposition party. The daring Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who fought for the ticket with Atiku, and who some say was “betrayed” by Tambauwal during the primary, is leading four other governors of the party in what they’re orchestrating a pursuit of equity, justice, and fairness as enshrined in their party’s constitution.
These governors are called the Integrity Group or simply, the G-5. They’re resolutely opposed to the North having both the presidential candidate and the chairman of their party.
The other governors in the Integrity Group are Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, Samuel Ortom of Benue State, Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State. Some of them have demonstrated unmistakable sympathy for Peter Obi’s quest for the highest office in the country. Those they govern are majorly ObiDients, the streetwise name for supporters of Peter Obi and his young, well-educated, successful and urbane running mate, Dr. Baba Datti-Ahmed. Obi himself possess an intimidating academic, professional and leadership qualifications in diverse disciplines from renowned institutions like Harvard and Oxford. Both are coming to the job they are seeking well-prepared. This why he tells the masses that converge at his campaign rallies that they should vote for him, using competence, capability, capacity and character as the parameters. He has never asked the public to vote for him because it is “his turn” or because of where he comes from or his religion. He campaigns on issues and his abilities.
Obi is tested and trusted. He led Anambra State between June 14, 2007 and March 17, 2014. Initially, his tenure was truncated by some “renegades” in Anambra State.
On each occasion, he battled through the courts to reclaim his mandate.
Notwithstanding these distractions, he led Anambra to commendable records of achievements.
His message of the familiar slogan of “a New Nigeria is possible” is attracting the support of people across all strata of the Nigerian society.
His supporters and network and organizations are appealing to Nigerians to turn out on the D-Day and “vote wisely”. “Vote wisely” is a euphemism for them to vote for the Peter Obi/Baba Datti-Ahmed ticket.
To be fair to the PDP, the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), didn’t fare better in the conduct of their own presidential primary. Theirs was also a dollar-denominated extravaganza in which the highest bidder, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, picked their presidential ticket. Tinubu was a former governor of Lagos State. The State used to be the Nigerian administrative capital till December 12, 1991 when the former self-styled military president, rtd. General Ibrahim Babaginda hurriedly relocated to Abuja, following his narrow escape from death, during Maj. Gideon Orkar’s coup on April 22, 1990. Presently, Lagos is regarded as the commercial capital of Nigeria.
I believe the February 25 presidential election in Nigeria is between the Nigerian masses represented by Peter Obi and two other contenders, Atiku Abubakar and Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The record of public service of this duo is ruinous and stinking with scandals of corrupt activities — especially for Tinubu who has issues of being, allegedly, involved in the financial transactions of drug dealing while he was in the United States. They’re very wealthy. Most people see their wealth as largely unearned and ill-gotten. They are currently fighting dirty with each other in the public arena.
This election is a defining moment for Nigeria, for Africa and the international community. This is so because if the outcome is not seen as transparent, free, fair and credible, there could be some unpleasant consequences in the most populous country in Africa. Such consequences will impact the West African sub-region.
The spate of insecurity in all parts of the country and not just the Northeast as it was under President Goodluck Jonathan, poses an existential threat to Nigeria. In 2015, Buhari ran for president, promising the Nigerian people that Boko Haram will be a thing of the past under his watch. He ran, promising that he will battle corruption to a standstill. He ran, promising economic revival. Indeed, he is on record to have said that through a sound economic plan and management under his watch, that one Nigerian Naira will become equal to one U.S dollar.
Also, he ran, promising that the issue of power outages and energy crisis will be tackled so that entrepreneurs will have enough energy to run their businesses, profitably.
He ran, promising massive employment for the youths among other litanies of promises.
Today, the security of lives, which is the primary responsibility of any government, has never been this bad in the country’s recent history.
The Nigerian people are frightened, kidnapped for huge ransoms, and sometimes, bombed, burned, and butchered in their homes, places of worship, work, relaxation, and on the road and rail tracks. Some families have witnessed their daughters raped and sons shot. No day passes without an ugly incident being reported by the media.
Nearly 8 years on, corruption is alive and well under President Buhari’s watch. It’s thriving to the extent that one man could steal about N109 billion in a country where millions go to bed hungry! Inflation is at an all-time high of 21.34% as of December 2022. Of course, massive youth unemployment remains a dangerous aspect of Nigeria. The diversification of Agriculture which would have provided jobs for the youths was not given committed attention.
The Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), which could have made a difference in this sector or provided employment for the youths was abused through favoritism, opaque administration and corruption.
What about the economy? Well, the Nigerian currency, the naira has since gone from the NGN150-180 range under Jonathan to the NGN740-850 range under Buhari in the parallel market. The parallel market is where those connected with the government and the CBN round-trip the currency. It was so bad at a time that a former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, and former Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi told the media that some people stay in their gardens, make calls and get the dollar at ridiculous rates, which they sell in the parallel market. According to him, some people just became billionaires overnight through this condemnable practice.
As I write, the energy crisis has never been worse as it is at the moment. Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) is selling between N400 and N500 in some parts of the country, surpassing twofold what it was (N180) under Jonathan. Dual Purpose Kerosene (DPK) has since been priced out of the reach of the poor masses. Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) is so expensive that people, who were able to afford it in the past are now resorting to the use of firewood.
There’s a predictable negative impact of this on climate change.
The unbearable cost of Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) has forced many companies to operate at half or less than their production time. Even, some have closed. And this is a country that used to be ranked the 6th largest oil-producing country in the world. As of November 25, 2022, Nigeria ranked 7th in the world. And this is not a result of restiveness in oil-producing regions of Nigeria, but because of crude oil theft that’s high-profile criminality. As you know, Buhari doubles as President and Petroleum Minister.
In the health and education sectors, it is the same sore story of failure. President Buhari promised to eradicate medical tourism by Nigerian public officials if he is elected into office as president. However, more than any other Nigerian ruler, he has become the number 1 patron of what he promised to eradicate. A thorough aggregation of the time he spent in a hospital in a foreign land may not be too far off the period he effectively governed.
On education, we are living witnesses to the rot in the sector, especially at the tertiary level. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), was on strike for 8 months. Money stolen by one individual in this government can meet their demands, and remain to address other urgent national needs. Presently, graduates from Nigerian Universities with Masters’s degrees are hardly accepted for PhD programmes abroad. Always, they’re asked to do a Masters’s in their universities before progressing to doing their PhD. That’s how low we have fallen.
Nigeria appears to be either on the dawn of a new era, (courtesy of the rekindled hope that Obi/Datti involvement in the race to Aso Rock has engendered) or on the edge of a cliff. The onus now lies on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to strictly use the new electoral law, which revolves around the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), to conduct an election that will determine the fate of the Nigerian State after February 25, 2023, presidential election.
The world is waiting and watching!
The truth indeed does not hide. Thank you Mr. Nkem Ekeopara for this expository piece.