By Sunny Ikhioya
The challenge confronting OBIdients
THIS is not the first time that a party or conglomerate of political parties will be making an attempt to remove a conservative party-led government at the centre. In the past, we have had Obafemi Awolowo’s Action Group, AG; Aminu Kano’s Northern Elements Progressive Union, NEPU; Joseph Tarka’s United Middle Belt Congress; Nnamdi Azikiwe’s Nigeria Peoples Party, NPP; Ibrahim Waziri’s Great Nigeria Peoples Party, GNPP, and many more; all of their attempts ended in futility.
Now, with the 2023 presidential election a few months away, we have the Peter Obi inspired OBIdient movement propelling the presidential candidate of the Labour Party to the real possibility of success. We had expected this kind of vibrancy from Labour all these years, especially during the era of Adams Oshiomhole as President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC; but he chose to align with the conservatives when it was time to pursue his political ambition. That sadly is our way because we do not play politics based on ideology and principles, we prefer the one that will best butter our bread. That is why the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, cannot be differentiated from the All Progressives Party, APC.
This disposition by our politicians usually leave the people confused. But, one thing is definitely clear to all: the nation is in a very precarious situation and drastic remedies are required to get us out of the woods. Who among the contending candidates can take us out of it? Labour Party was almost invisible in the political arena until Peter Obi came along to use it as a platform to actualise his political ambition; and as we can see, the support for him has been growing at an exponential pace since he threw his hat in the ring. But the OBIdient movement has gone beyond Peter Obi as a person; he is just a symbol, representing millions of Nigerians dissatisfied with the existing status quo.
The political class has failed the people and there is an urgent need for a change, whether the change will achieve the desired result will be determined by time. But for now, it appears to be the only option that we have. Someone wrote that “vision does not win election,” it has to be practically conveyed to the people in a manner that will deliver the required result. Having and stating the vision is one thing, but running and implementing the vision is another thing altogether. That is the challenge of an Obi candidacy that campaign is not addressing in full. To say that ‘the whole deprived people of Nigeria is my structure’ is all mere rhetoric; the people and population are not the structures in an election, it is the people that make up structures; they will only be relevant if you build them into structures. Structures are moulding blocks through which foundations for human interactions are laid. You build the structures through interactive relationships, institutions, organisations with defined goals and modes of operation.
Yes, Peter Obi can win the 2023 presidential election but the structures have to be right and we must not take this for granted. Somebody wrote: “They need to learn what is meant by structure and what the functions are; the important job of supervision, when to sign, common tricks, how to split yourselves for effectiveness and where to position in each LGA like polling booths, collation areas, INEC offices, the list is long. People are willing but must be properly taught…Structure is not the imagination people are throwing around…”. There is Peter Obi, there is Labour Party and there is the OBIdient movement, each working on its own, sometimes working at cross purposes: no synchrony, no organisation and no proper plan. Add that to the noisy social media followers, whose only function is to abuse people and in so doing, scaring them away from the group. Winning the Presidency ticket is not a tea party, you will have a central structure that will be the point for co-ordination, to the regional, state, local governments, ward and polling booths levels.
The kind of people you have in the NLC, with the present leadership, have not demonstrated the capabilities that will make citizens of this country to trust them. They have watched in docility as conditions in the country continue to nosedive in recent years; they have witnessed our refineries grounded to zero level; they watched as all of our manufacturing factories closed down one after the other; they watched stupefied as the Naira continues to lose ground against other currencies, it is almost N700 now to the dollar; the umbrella union has also failed to intervene effectively in the perennial ASUU strikes that usually keep students at home for long as is the case presently. So, the NLC structure as presently constituted can only offer a sandy foundation.
If Obi is to succeed in this venture, his group must take control of the movement and bring all the different tendencies under one roof. There must be established rules of engagement and strategies to adopt. It is a good thing that many of his supporters are volunteers, not motivated by monetary and other pecuniary interests, but a desire to see a change in our political space. It is not something novel, we have seen this kind of campaign before, in the manner Barack Obama became the President of the United States of America. The coordinators of the Obi campaign must take time to study the strategies employed by the drivers of the Obama campaign that led to success. The herculean task of bringing the millions of online supporters down from their high horses is another challenge. Records have shown that the online popularity is not always commensurate with what is obtainable on ground.
In a recent Arise TV interview, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, did allude to the fact that majority of people from the Northern belt do not operate on the social media realm; so, all the noise people make online are meaningless to them. Recall that a former governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff, once told journalists that people from his area do not read newspapers; that is the state of things in the Northern part of Nigeria: the politicians are not bothered about the emancipation of the people but concerned only about their personal interests. We must forget that the current security challenge in the North has its root in the introduction of Sharia law in Zamfara State by Ahmad Sani Yerima during the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidency. He did this to gain popularity with the largely illiterate people of the state.