Obi and Atiku win primaries

Attorney Chuma Uwechia counts potential benefits of Nigeria’s arrival at a Tectonic Turning Point through the Peter Obi campaign.

Nigeria's tectonic turning point
CHUMA UWECHIA

Uwechia is a New York based attorney with an abiding interest in Nigeria’s socioeconomic journey.


The perceptible closing of tribal and religious ranks amongst the youths forebodes the imminent end of divide and rule politics in the form that it has been practiced since the nation’s independence in 1960 and represents a tectonic shift towards the enthronement of real nation building

Chuma Uwechia

Nigeria is an amazing and vibrant country with millions of imaginative writers unleashed online at the advent of the social media. The country’s politics is complex and full of never-ending intrigues, and the stuff of which movies are made which explains the success of the Nollywood film industry. Nigeria’s political commentators oftentimes attempt to portray figments of their imagination as reality. Frequently, those are obvious spins or partial truths with layers of opinion intermixed or outright paranoid conspiracy theories.

With the current presidential campaign season, the cacophony of related political noise has reached pulsating decibel. Particularly intriguing is the buzz around Peter Obi’s presidential campaign.  Sadly, a great many of the social media commentators curiously thrive on sensationalism and conspiracy theories. They make one ponder at the fertility of the human mind. These writers reinforce the logic that the way we see the universe around us is subjective and often a figment of our own imagination. But one fact is clear; our impressions of reality are not always the same as reality itself. Bees and bats, they say, see things differently.

Judging by current political realignments and trending commentaries, the 2023 presidential election is shaping up to become a watershed and, perhaps, the nation’s most important political battle. Not in terms of an impending epic show down between the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) and the out of power Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It’s neither the usual North versus South power tussle; nor as the hegemonic battle between the three dominant tribes. It is also not the traditional Muslims versus Christians scrimmage. It is evolving into a battle between the old established political class and the younger politicians – the third rail — an existential fight for the soul of the nation. The nation has evidently reached a tipping point for the teeming millions of unemployed and underemployed youths frustrated with the never-ending misrule and pervasive corruption of the old political class.  For the perennially striking lecturers seeking better conditions of service, the university students regularly locked out of school due to strike actions and the unprotected masses living daily at the mercy of kidnappers, bandits and terrorists that operate with impunity, this might prove an opportunity to make a change for the better.

Many of these groups of compatriots have embraced the third rail’s transformative politics and messages. The messages are that the establishment politicians are fully responsible for the nation’s palpable and deplorable economic situation. That good governance should not wear any tribal or religious marks or garb. And, that political deliverance lies obliviously, in the hands of the teeming millions of neglected Nigerians with Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs), who are rightfully the nation’s stakeholders.

As a result, a new reality is seeping into the political landscape as the attacks from Peter Obi’s political campaigns are hitting home with messages of redemption and hope for suffering citizens of the country. The campaign is seriously harnessing the boiling discontentment of disenchanted citizens at the crass display of political impunity, corruption, and ineptitude by the old establishment politicians, and the alarming slide in insecurity of life and property affecting all sections of the country. Simply voting for your kinsman no longer appears to be politically correct.

It is becoming clear that this generation of Nigerians is beginning to see through the maze of tribal, zoning and religious deception deployed by the old political establishment to manipulate them and cling to political power for their own selfish interests and not for any public good. The perceptible closing of tribal and religious ranks amongst the youths forebodes the imminent end of divide and rule politics in the form that it has been practiced since the nation’s independence in 1960 and represents a tectonic shift towards the enthronement of real nation building.

Whether this development will birth a new political dispensation in 2023 and truncate the cash and carry politics is still a matter of debate. But there is no doubt that we are witnessing the beginning of a cataclysmic political shift in the country.

Contemporary political discussion in the nation has abruptly shifted from zoning and tribe to the capability of a candidate to fix and resuscitate the national economy; about the young and healthy versus the old and ailing; about treasury raiders and those that feed fat on political patronage versus the candidates with track record of reducing the cost of governance and stimulating economic growth; about consumerism versus productivity; about the ability to ensure national security of life and property by guaranteeing that the optimum globally recommended ratio of policing to the population is met; and that funds meant for the welfare and equipping of our security services personnel are not diverted but properly deployed. Never before has the ability to provide redemptive governance trumped the twin evils of zoning and tribalism in Nigeria’s political discourse. Give it to Peter Obi for his stingy and pesky campaign for politics of character and clear-cut manifesto that provided the spark to the latent social movement. That social movement is now a surging movement of the people popularly known as OBIdients. Obi is trapped in the currents of the movement and the movement is trapped in Obi.

Nigeria's tectonic turning point

If Peter Obi’s leadership will turn around the fortunes of the whole country, check terrorism and banditry, usher in affordable and qualitative education and healthcare, ensure constant and uninterrupted electricity, provide employment, foster patriotism and reduce the bloated size of government, what more do the citizens want?

The two major political parties, APC and PDP, which have been identified as the culprits behind the dwindling political and economic fortunes of this nation are stressfully reading the tea leaves and consulting marabouts about the possibility of a new sheriff riding into Aso Rock. They admit that Peter Obi is crushing all competition on social media. They concede that the sudden stampede to register for Permanent Voters Card (PVC) among the youths was fueled by the Obi movement, yet they postulate that the new developments will not translate to votes for Peter Obi in the end. They say that Obi is a social media tiger, which they liken to the EndSARS movement that eventually fizzled out. They conveniently forgot that EndSARS movement was brutally put down with governmental force, which will not be available to them at the polling booth for the presidential election. They are also in denial about the approximately 34 million active social media users, a great number of whom are warriors for Peter Obi.

The fact that President Buhari won the presidential elections in 2019 with only 15.2 million popular votes out of the 27.3 million total votes cast, makes the youth drive for Peter Obi on social media a statistically significant development. The 2019 turnout of 27 million votes out of the 82.3 million registered voters was clearly low. If one considers the number of voting groups behind Peter Obi’s movement, such as the coalition of workers from the labour unions; the Christian organizations, which have of recent suffered a spate of kidnappings and blasphemy killings in the north; the Southeast protest bloc votes against APC and PDP for failing to zone the presidential nomination to them; and the OBIdients youth movement, which will translate to lost votes for APC and PDP, you will begin to see the possibility of  Obi’s chances for electoral upset. APC and PDP are currently still in disarray after their fractious presidential nomination conventions.

From his base in Kano, Rabiu Kwankwaso and the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) are riding on the highly influential Kwankwassiya movement that Rabiu formed from the relics of late Mallam Aminu Kano’s movement to carve out a strong northern power bloc. According to political observers, Kwankwaso has become well-entrenched and is in a good position to defeat the ruling APC as well as PDP in Kano state and give them a tough challenge for the whole of northern Nigeria. NNPP an offshoot of Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP) has established a national presence for the presidential campaign. But the chances of electoral gains in southern Nigeria is still nebulous.

The collapsed coalition/alliance talk between Peter Obi’s LP and Kwankwaso’s NNPP that consternated APC and PDP politicians, would have been a formidable option.

Now, the biggest spotlight, appears to centre on Peter Obi and his national youth movement that has successfully cut across tribal divide using the social media – a previously unforeseeable political factor. The fear of what this national youth support may translate to in real terms, seems to have catalyzed the closing of ranks among the old guards across party lines to safeguard their stranglehold on the country. There is heightened political unease and apprehension in the land.

When icons are shattered, the believers naturally panic.

Presently, all indications point to a cataclysmic shift in the ability of the two major political parties to hold on to their current political turf and power, as a result of the emerging new national political consciousness. There is concern that the emergence of Obi and Kwankwaso has distorted the APC and PDP political power base, and that no presidential candidate may be able to win the elections outright on the first round of voting. This is due to the fact that the nation’s presidential elections are not won just by winning the popular vote, a candidate must in addition win at least 25% in two-third of the 36 States, which in the prevailing circumstances, is a tough bar. But there is a strong possibility that Obi may squeak through on the support of the northern and Middlebelt Christians that are marginalized in the north, in addition to a robust Southeast bloc support as well as the national youth movement.

Certainly, Nigeria’s political problem is not so much about the structure, as it is about the people who put in and nurture that dysfunctional structure in the first place. It is beyond cavil, that those who can’t visualize and provide a workable structure, obviously can’t provide visionary and redemptive leadership. Like parasites, they feed fat on the nation and need to be fumigated out. To borrow the words of US Senator Mitt Romney, the nation is suffering from a “malady of denial, deceit, and distrust” that would only heighten if APC or PDP return to power.

History has shown that there is always a turning point in the life of every nation, when agents of bad rule are overthrown by progressive elements and Nigeria cannot be an exception. According to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus, change is the only constant in life. It is time for an overdue generational change to politics of workable ideas and sustainable nation building, away from mediocrity, tribalism and zoning. If Peter Obi’s leadership will turn around the fortunes of the whole country, check terrorism and banditry, usher in affordable and qualitative education and healthcare, ensure constant and uninterrupted electricity, provide employment, foster patriotism and reduce the bloated size of government, what more do the citizens want?

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