By Ehichioya Ezomon
Barely six months to the February presidential election, contenders for the position have virtually yielded the field to candidate Peter Obi and his platform, the Labour Party.
The candidates of other major parties, All Progressives Congress, Peoples Democratic Party and the New Nigeria Peoples Party, appear to have no stake in the polls.
What Nigerians read, watch or hear in the media is, Peter Obi’s here, Peter Obi’s there, and Peter Obi’s everywhere, as if the former Anambra State governor is ubiquitous.
But he’s not! Unlike the rest candidates posturing for president, Obi’s seeming “ubiquity” is located in the seriousness he attaches to the processes of the election.
Well, Obi’s an “opportunist” defined by vocabulary.com as, “One who sees a chance to gain some advantage from a situation, often at the expense of ethics or morals.”
To urbandictionary.com, an opportunist is “One willing to befriend any person regardless of race, creed, gender, sexuality or socioeconomic status if the relationship benefits them directly or indirectly by improving their public image.”
What an apt description of Obi, who simply seizes on the current national discontent, disaffection, disappointment, disillusionment, dissatisfaction, dissonance, and disunity to fire up Nigerians, to join him in the race for 2023!
Remember where Obi comes from. When he decamped from the PDP to LP in May 2022, he’s confronted with the issue of “lack of political structure” to kickstart his run. Other posers were: What did Obi achieve as governor (2006-2014)? What experience has he got to govern a complex country as Nigeria? As part of the old order, what new things are Obi bringing to the table?
The answers rest on these bywords: “A toothless animal is the first to arrive to eat of the fallen fruits.” “The morning shows the day.” “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” “As you make your bed, so you must lie on it.”
Obi has risen early to plan to succeed in the crucial 2023 elections, so that he’d have cause to lie comfortably on his well-laid bed after the polls. It’s that simple!
Because Obi actually lacked the structure – physical and representative – to reach millions of eligible voters, he’d to first embark on an aggressive mobilisation, deploying modern tools of communication to maximum effect. It’s to capture the youths, to buy into, and spread his “New Nigeria” message that stresses youth engagement, empowerment and development for a 21st century society.
Has Obi succeeded in this strategy? Absolutely! Like a wild fire, the youths have turned his (small) acorn into millions for a revolutionary change of the status quo.
Adopting the appellation of “ObIdients” for all supporters, the drivers of his campaign have segmented their operations into two: swarm the media space, and take over the political arena of the country.
Hence Obi leads on social media platforms, and political events and quasi-rallies, even as the Independent National Electoral Commission has yet to sanction electioneering.
As he tweets regularly to his followers, or comments on issues of concern to the public, Obi engages in several events, some taking him to more than one state, in a day. He’s either attending seminars, workshops or meetings organised by political groups or professional bodies; paying homage or solidarity visits to persons or groups; or joining in worship at church services or crusades.
Obi presents himself as a different breed of politician, who’s prepared to engage Nigerians by highlighting the issues plaguing the country, and how he’ll solve them.
He isn’t afraid to speak to Nigeria’s economy, education and security, even as fact checkers query the alleged exaggerated or inaccurate examples, comparisons and figures he reels out to support his presentations.
And confronted on such “inaccuracies,” Obi has a ready response: “Go and verify,” knowing the very low reading culture in Nigeria, where even truth is a scarce commodity.
An unflattering saying is that, to hide something from a Nigerian, you put it in writing, in form of a book, as they won’t open, or peruse it. So, with no appetite for reading, most Nigerians judge the content of a book by its cover.
The likes of Obi make un-informed, incorrect, imprecise, outlandish or even unfounded pronouncements because the audience, mainly of their supporters, won’t question their assertions. Rather, the captive listeners applaud and ovate every anecdote, innuendo, nuance and gesture.
The upside is that Obi controls his messaging by talking, engaging, and proffering solutions to problems. Whether the messaging makes sense is a different story. But his listeners’ enthusiastic receptions answer that poser!
Obi enjoys a rockstar status wherever he goes. His entry into a gathering causes excitement and commotion, as the attendees mob, hug and take selfies with him. And when he’s formally announced, a standing ovation takes over.
The other candidates only come out irregularly, or speak through surrogates – not to address the real issues at play, but to fight the fires they or their campaigns have lit.
They hibernate – in Nigeria and overseas – waiting for the electoral umpire to blow the whistle before they show up publicly to tell Nigerians what they have for them in 2023.
Because there’s a dearth of engagement by the other candidates, the media “rely” on Obi as their main source of “relevant” news on 2023, even from a single assignment. For example, within minutes of the leadership summit by the Labour Party and Coalition for Peter Obi on August 11 in Abuja, the media published four news items on Obi.
The headlines: How Labour Party will transform Nigeria’s economy from consumption to production – Peter Obi 2023: We have structure, ready to save Nigeria, Obi boasts. What I’ll do after winning 2023 presidential election – Obi
Leadership deficit Nigeria’s greatest undoing – Peter Obi.
On the same day, the candidates of the APC and PDP earned such headlines as: Catholics blast Lalong over reference to Pope, demand apology
Tinubu/Shettima: Lalong explains his reference to Pope; 2023 polls: Imams, Pastors pray for Tinubu, Sanwa-Olu’s success. PDP crisis: Atiku sends Adamawa gov to Wike, meeting deadlocked. Atiku should beg Wike to win 2023 election – Onwordi
PDP crisis: Please, apply brakes, before it’s too late, Dele Momodu warns Wike.
That’s why Obi blazes the trail, leaving the other major candidates to play catch-up. But will his approach take him to the finish line in February 2023? Obi thinks so!
Still, Ecclesiastes 9:11 admonishes: “… the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” (King James Version)
Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.
Send your opinions, breaking news to firstname.lastname@example.org.