Since 26 February till date, Peter Gregory Obi has been shuffling his shoulders in a feat that suggests that he has something up his sleeves. He has spoken, cried, agonised, lamented and gnashed his teeth, to convey his poisoned emotions about the presidential election.
Before the election, most of the polls were understandably pro-Obi; because some of them were his silent sponsors. Relying on those skewed pollsters, Obi was confident he would defeat his opponents in the election. I had faulted the pollsters, accusing some of them of being economical with the truth. They concentrated Obi’s winning demographics in the South-East, South-South, and North- Central. They reasoned that Atiku would win in the North, and Tinubu would win in the South-West. They failed to reckon the presence of the APC Governors as being powerful in their respective states; there were twenty-one of them. Obi’s supporters during campaigns were more than there were during the election.
A lot of them had no voter’s cards. They were just enjoying the fanfare of a new narrative in town, that could absorb their desires and pressures. So, Peter Obi’s razzmatazz before the election was a deliberate strategy to dominate the media, especially social media. His lieutenants used the skills of abuse and insults to confront anyone via social media, who wasn’t on Obi’s radar.
Obi may have won in twelve states in the election, but he didn’t deserve those votes. The votes from his South-East states were suspect, dubious and unconvincing. They were without a doubt, falsely generated to shore up votes, to level up with areas where they envisaged he would suffer a shortfall and deficit, because he had no control of those areas.
The percentage of attendance recorded in the South-Eastern states was contradictory to the realities that dominated public discourse before the election: IPOB was not predisposed to election conduct in the South- East, the unwholesome activities of unknown gunmen had turned the South-East into a theatre of war with cakes of crimson. It was a frightful reality that painted an ugly picture of a geopolitical zone whose economy had been badly affected by intermittent warfare and several stay-at-home orders, the rivers of blood in the South-East and the number of INEC offices that were burnt on a regular basis created apathy for the election; going into that election with such sub current was in itself a bad omen for a zone that has long yearned for the presidency. Blood after blood, it was an atmosphere of suspense, fear, killings, and arson; such were the visible tell-tales of the zone. If that was a strategy to chase other contestants away, it may then be said that it has amounted to Peter Obi swimming in the pool of blood of those who were killed, so as to birth his presidency. I don’t think that would sit well in his consciousness.
Again, the outcome of the votes in the South-East did not reflect the reality we were familiar with. It is abstruse to think that elections were conducted in a seemingly calm atmosphere in that same zone that had always been soaked in contestation, disputations and killings. Considering also that the South-East had been PDP’s stronghold before now, and Obi’s involvement in the election was expected to take the shine off PDP’s chart, such a landslide victory is curious. Some of the results sheets had one and the same signature running through all the columns, some others had the same handwriting all through, while others had all other parties with zero votes except the Labour Party; I will call those votes allocated votes. Intimidation, gun-shooting, ballot box snatching and voter suppression were all part of the deliberate acts to steer the votes in Obi’s direction.
Surprisingly, none of those has become a topic for discussion, in trying to analyse the general outlook of the election. One hardly hears anyone talk about the malpractices in the South-East. All one hears is INEC’s inability to post results using its iREV facility. If all political parties had the expected number of agents, as they should have, the complaint about the non-use of iREV would not have gained traction; because all party agents had the results at the polling units; so, get the actual outcome of the voting exercise was easy for political parties with the required number of agents. On Sunday 26 February, the day after the election, we were already jubilating in the Tinubu camp knowing he had won the election.
For me, Obi put up a good showing, but not enough to upstage the propitiousness for the APC and place power on his lap. His participation altered a lot of permutations, and the flow of politics across the country. Many upsets were recorded as a result of the Peter Obi factor; a factor that was propelled by a youthful following. The youth showed that they want a paradigm shift from the old order and saw Obi as a breath of fresh air.
His sense of organisation was tacky, and the party’s ability to spread its message of hope across the country was impaired; first by leadership crisis, and secondly by its lack of the right calibre of persons to manage its opportunities. Also, Peter Obi was detained by his ethnocentric concentration and his pro-Christian campaign focus. He was a regular visitor in churches and places where the Christian population commands attention.
Even in some parts of the North, he deployed his Igbo brothers as coordinators. The spread of his electoral votes is suggestive of the Igbo and Christian demographics spread in Nigeria- useful information for statisticians I guess. Adamawa, Taraba, Gombe, Nasarawa, Plateau, Benue, Kaduna, Niger, and part of Kogi showed much support for him from the Christian-populated areas.
He suffered rejection in the core Northern states where the Christian population is scanty: Jigawa, Katsina, Kano, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi, Borno, Yobe and parts of Bauchi states. Whatever he gained in the South-East was knocked off by his poor outing in those Northern states. As I mentioned last week, Peter Obi’s presidency was anchored on ethnicity and pro-Christian sentiments and was further attenuated by Tinubu’s Muslim-Muslim ticket. Atiku’s presidency was anchored on the belief that with two formidable Southern candidates, he would have a smooth ride in the North, while Tinubu’s presidency was anchored on a pan-Nigeria orientation; the reason why his votes, were spread across all other geopolitical zones, except the South-east.
Even, if Peter Obi is gifted an extra one million votes, he wouldn’t still meet Asiwaju’s threshold. One million votes in an election is like winning three states in a ratio of 300k, 300k and 400k votes, while others are presumably scoring zero. Even with a such generous electoral gratuity, Peter Obi would still not have a claim to victory. So can someone please help me explain this to him in his dialect for better understanding? I am annoyed by Peter Obi’s claim to victory, in an election he has so badly condemned. Is he trying to profit from a process which in his opinion does not meet the statutory requirements of the law, or is he feeling that declaring him president-elect would eliminate all the “infractions” he has earlier identified?
Does it not appear that Obi is trying to be clever by half? From the outcome of the election, does it not appear so convincingly that INEC had complied with the law substantially? Where is this Obi’s victory claim deriving its impetus? If the votes from the South-East are subjected to forensic examination, does Obi not think that the chicken will come home to roost? How come Obi is not complaining about the outcome in the South-East, but looking elsewhere? Is that another name for smartness or glossing over what favours his quest? These and many more unanswered questions will form part of the narrative at the Tribunal.
Peter Obi must choose between being a patriot and a spoiler. It was convenient for him to celebrate when he defeated Asiwaju Tinubu in Lagos, but finds it faulty that he was beaten in some other places. He must quickly wake up from his dreamland to the stark reality of his defeat instead of wasting precious time keeping his supporters in suspense. He should congratulate the winner of the election, set a new tone to play constructive opposition and retool his Labour Party with a more vibrant leadership that can actively play the role of credible opposition, while preparing for another day. If he turns around to congratulate the winner, after the tribunal, it will not resonate with the aplomb of being a good sportsman. No election can truly meet the criteria for perfection the world over.
Despite envisaged imperfections, nations move ahead through reforms and constructive engagement to deepen the process and make it more responsive to the challenges in the system. Nigeria’s democracy is barely twenty-four years old and still undergoing its own challenges.
Through citizen participation, mobilisation and conscientization, the likelihood to have a more robust electoral process will someday dominate the reality of our electoral system. Peter Obi still has age on his side and can recontest in future elections if he so desires. He must help the country to grow in the right direction and not be part of a process that may likely throw up violence to hurt an already fragile system. He should behave like a good Christian.
For me, Peter Obi did not win the 2023 presidential election, he couldn’t have won; and the earlier he realised that, the better for his psyche and emotional stability.
Prince Kassim Afegbua, a former Commissioner of Information wrote from Abuja
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