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The Peter Obi Tsunami APC and PDP are Underrating

By Farooq A. Kperogi Twitter: @farooqkperogi Former Anambra State governor Peter Obi is inspiring a powerful, social media-enabled, youth-le...

By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Former Anambra State governor Peter Obi is inspiring a powerful, social media-enabled, youth-led political tidal wave that will radically change the contours of the 2023 election.

 But APC and PDP operatives, still inebriated with the overconfidence of the size and deep pockets of their parties, are sniggering at the suggestion that Peter Obi’s Labour Party will change the game next year. They comfort themselves with the mantra that there are no polling booths on social media where Peter Obi’s devotees form noisy cyber silos. 

Well, there is no opponent more dangerous than an underestimated one. People who are habituated to the politics of the past may dismiss it, but something fundamentally novel is happening.

 There’s an unstoppably growing corps of fired-up young (and not-so-young) people who are investing their time, energy, and emotions in Peter Obi. We have seen spectacular spikes in PVC registration and an increase in offline political mobilization, all thanks to him.

Three factors appear to be driving this. One, there is mass disillusionment with the quality and character of the presidential candidates of the two major parties. They are the same woefully familiar, recycled, unimaginative, self-interested, careerist politicians who are deeply invested in sustaining the dysfunctions that keep Nigeria in the twilight zone between life and death.

They mouth the same flyblown clichés, can’t articulate any grand visions, are indistinguishable from past politicians, have no commitment to any grand ideals, and are in politics to steal from the public till and dispense favors to cronies.

Peter Obi seems to be different. He comes across as down-to-earth, self-aware, committed to transparency and the demystification of governance, and as someone who invests considerable intellectual energies into thinking about— and offering solutions to— Nigeria’s problems.

I am dubious of the facticity of some of his more self-righteous, messianic claims, and suspect that he sometimes hyperbolizes some of the too-good-to-be-true anecdotes about his time as Anambra State governor in order to gain the applause of his audiences. 

As a scholar of rhetorical studies, I know that rhetors can sometimes feel an obligation to not violate the expectations of their captive audiences by telling stories that their audiences want to hear even if this means bending or sexing up the facts a little bit.

Nonetheless, compared to Atiku Abubakar and Bola Tinubu, Peter Obi is a breath of fresh air.

The second impetus for the dramatic surge in Obi’s political profile is religious. Many Christians in both the South and the North feel excluded from the presidential tickets of the APC and the PDP. Churches all across Nigeria are drumming up support for Obi in protest.

 I think this is legitimate in the interest of representational justice, particularly because Obi isn’t some pastor with a predetermined agenda to advance narrow religious or sectarian causes.

Although Obi is a devout Catholic, he is thoroughly secular and, based on some of his speeches I’ve watched, has a deep understanding of the imperative of separating the sacred and the profane in the business of governance. 

The third driver of his popularity is Igbo resentment at their systemic political exclusion. In my April 2, 2022, column titled “Why Nigeria Needs an Igbo President in 2023,” I wrote: 

“The Igbo are almost in the same spot that the Yoruba were in in 1998. There is mass resentment among them. Several of them feel emotionally disconnected from Nigeria. And we all know why. Apart from the fact that they have never produced a president or vice president since 1999, Muhammadu Buhari has done an extremely poor job of husbanding Nigeria’s intricate diversity.

“The sense of alienation that a vast swath of Igbo people feel now has made several of them, particularly their youth, susceptible to the murderous wiles of the mentally and emotionally disturbed mountebank called Nnamdi Kanu.”

Some of the secessionist oxygen that sustained Biafra agitation has now been redirected to Peter Obi, and Nnamdi Kanu has now been pushed on the backburner.  While some people have put a negative spin to this, I think it is a golden opportunity. It shows that an Igbo presidency will solve the secessionist agitations and violence in the Southeast. For me, that’s a worthwhile reward for having a president who is Igbo.

Incidentally, in the April 2 column I referred to earlier, Peter Obi was one of two Igbo people I recommended as candidates for the presidency. The other was Kingsley Moghalu who sadly lost the primary election of his party.

I wrote: “The second is Peter Obi. In a March 25, 2022, article titled ‘Peter Obi: Applying to Be Driver of a Knocked-Out Car,’ I mentioned that listening to his speeches has captured my imagination. He appears to have a handle on Nigeria’s problems, and what I’ve read of his record as governor of Anambra State inspires some confidence that he isn’t just a talker. I can’t speak to his cosmopolitanism and commitment to seeing all of Nigeria as his constituency. That’s up to voters to find out.”

If Obi’s political momentum holds steady until February next year and the election is free and fair, I predict that he will cause a runoff. If he leads with the youth, Igbo, and Christian votes (I know there’s an overlap in some categories), he will upset both the APC and the PDP to the point that none of them can win in the first round of the presidential election.

If he doesn’t win or qualify to participate in the runoff, whoever he supports will be the winner. So, an intelligent political party won’t antagonize him or his supporters just yet.

But there are dangers for Obi, though, should he somehow defeat the structural impediments on his way to become president. First, his devotees call themselves “Obidients” and demand “Obidience” to him. That’s horrible. They would be worse than Buhari’s BMC trolls. 

What is needed in democracy is critical citizenship, not “obidience.” “Obidience” in democracy suggests a surrender of one’s critical faculty, which is precisely what Buharism is.  It’s the death knell of democracy.

Obi’s rise to political stardom is propelled by anger at the political establishment. That’s the literal definition of populism. Populism instrumentalizes anger for politics without being able to transform the lives of the angry in any meaningful way. 

Obi’s devotees imagine him to embody the solutions to Nigeria’s problems and expect him to wave the magic wand and make the problems disappear. As he himself has admitted in a previous public appearance, Nigeria’s problems are structural and systemic and can’t be resolved with a mere change of the personnel in the corridors of power. 

If his presidency violates the expectations of his devotees, they will turn against him. In other words, he is riding the tiger of populism, and it will devour him when he dismounts from it.

A Pastor’s Wish for Buhari’s Murder?

One Pastor Olugbemiga Olowosoyo who prophesied that Yemi Osinbajo would win the last APC presidential primary (in which he came a distant third) has insisted that Osinbajo will still be president, according to TheCable of June 16.

“It is in being vice-president that you will become president,” he said. “If you are not Osinbajo you will not understand what I said. But if you are close to Osinbajo, tell him that I said so. Let him go and be vice-president to Buhari. The era of Buhari is ending very soon.”

What does this mean? That Buhari will be murdered, poisoned, or die a natural death so that Osinbajo will take over power from him? Recall that Osinbajo reportedly said a loud “Amen!” in his hometown of Ikenne in Ogun State when an RCCG pastor prayed that Buhari should die in London so that Osinbajo will become president.

 Of course, it’s unlikely that anyone can murder or poison Buhari, but why are some of these so-called men of God this reckless and irresponsible in their utterances?

Let Buhari complete what remains of his wasted presidential tenure and leave Nigeria to sort itself out.

Related Articles:

Peter Obi: Applying to Be Driver of a Knocked-Out Car

Why Nigeria Needs to Elect an Igbo President in 2023


  1. I largely agree with your piece but I slightly disagree with the “Obidience” part of the article.

    I do not think that when the opposition continues to form the habit of attacking Peter Obi that his supporters ought to overlook their attacks and mischief. Simply put; their reactions is predicated on the pre-2015 elections which saw all kinds of calumny carried out against GEJ, the PDP and even in.
    For the fact APC and PDP are, somehow, united in igniting this fire and making sure obidients are suppressed simply shows how threatened they are and how dirty they will go in painting him evil.

    If we recall, so-called “obidients” are yet to activate the kind of hate which the BMC used. However, it will be autocratic and suicidal for Peter Obi's fans to expect obidience and surrender to their candidate. This is democracy and we must at all times leave room for decorum and peaceful disagreement.

    1. "Obident" is a poor attempt to exploit Obi's name to form a word that will serve as the battle cry for a movement. Unfortunately, it has led to a coinage that means worshipful and uncritical idolization of Peter Obi, which is at odds with the expectations of democracy. And we can see this from the aggressive and uncouth behaviors of Obi's fanatical online devotees. The mildest criticism of Obi invites a deluge of coarse insults and curses from them. They have closed off the avenues for even the most respectful debate about their idol. They just want you to be "Obidient" and not question anything. I honestly don't see how different "Obidients" are from BMC trolls.

    2. I am an Obidient. And I can assure you that my fellow obidients are not foolish. The overzealousness is not a product of blind followership as moqst people are making it out be be. It's because it's been a long time since we saw any politician that embodies a majority of the qualities we seek in our leaders. Least among are not humility empathy intelligence communication and political will. But don't get it wrong. As the writer said these crowed you see supporting obi will surely turn on him the day he falls short of a certain threshold. The followers are not blind look at what happened when he empathizeed with Ekweremadu. And I wish you guys should just rest with this narrative of Obidents are toxic angry and BLA BLA BLA. It was worse with BMC and you know it. Agressiin has always been the language of online discuss. And the only reason it shows now even as lenient as Obidients are is because our numbers are massive. GEJ got it 100 times more that this from the BMC and no one raised all these dust

  2. The "Obidient" mantra is largely emotional: change for the sake of change, without thinking about what an Obi presidency might be. His economic policy, from his own declaration, would be an old-fashioned blend of IMF-inspired structural adjustment programme and autarchy, very much akin to Gen. Babangida's approach of the 1980s which caused considerable hardship to many Nigerians and initiated the decline of the naira from which our currency has never recovered to this day. Fiscal and monetary discipline is important, but not at the cost of ruining lives.

  3. Here's a similar but slightly different view:


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