- The political landscape in Nigeria has changed in the last few weeks due to the activities of young people who call themselves 'Obidients'
- These young Nigerians have queued behind Peter Obi, a conservative politician running for president under Labour Party in 2023
- Since his declaration, Nigerian youths have sacrificed their time and resources to campaign for the former Anambra state governor
FCT, Abuja - Peter Gregory Obi, a 60-year-old Nigerian businessman and politician is the rave of the moment in political circles.
Obi, a former governor of Anambra state, left the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Wednesday, May 25, a few days before the party's presidential primary election. Days later, he joined the Labour Party, where he is now the presidential candidate.
He has been preaching prudence in Nigeria's wasteful governance structures, adding that as president he will boost reserves and eliminate waste.
Who are the Sóró Sóké youths?
Sóró Sóké means Speak Up/Do not be Silent in the Yoruba language of West Africa. It was a cry, a battle chant, a movement used in the #EndSARS protest. End SARS was a decentralised social movement and series of mass protests against police brutality in Nigeria. It was largely successful as it forced the federal government to disband the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) - a notoriously criminal arm of the country's police force.
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Since the end of #EndSARS, the youths that formed the bulk of the movement have been active in political discussions, movements, and other social causes. From 5 June 2021 to 13 January 2022, the government of Nigeria officially banned Twitter, which restricted it from operating in the country. Analysts say the government was targeting the Sóró Sóké youths who became very vocal and scrutinised every move of the authorities.
Enter, Peter Obi...
Despite successive moves to intimidate the Sóró Sóké youths (including freezing their accounts and banning crypto), they have become bolder and a pain in the neck to the Nigerian authorities. Using mainly social media, they call out government agencies, officials, and their ilks who continually short-change the citizens through harsh policies and lack of accountability.
Peter Obi is changing the narrative and the youths have identified with him as the one politician with integrity who can lead a revolution in the West African nation.
Professor Remi Sonaiya, a former presidential candidate, captured it all by saying:
“The spontaneity, the creativity, the energy of our young people is because one man, Peter Obi, offers the possibility of real change.”
Peter Obi's support is strong, wide, organic, and has broken ethnic and religious barriers in a deeply divided nation. Numerous support groups are springing up across the country to together form a coalition to support an Obi presidency. Interestingly, they are not been paid, coerced or enticed to promote the candidacy of Obi.
Hurdles faced by Peter Obi...
While Obi is the rave of the moment, it has angered some people including a controversial Enugu-based Catholic priest, Ejike Mbaka known for dabbling in political discussions.
While speaking during one of his programmes in Enugu, the cleric said:
“A stingy man, that cannot give people his money, with this hunger ravaging the land, and you are saying he is the one you want. You want to die of hunger? Are you people insane? Where is the Holy Spirit?
“It is now that Atiku is seriously contesting for president; now that he is contesting without Peter Obi; it is now that he is serious.
“We want somebody that is serious. Unless Peter comes here to kneel, if he becomes president, he will close down this ministry. What we are doing is spiritual.
“Listen, a good old man is better than a young wicked man; Peter Obi is going nowhere as far as God lives. If Igbos want a representative, it is not someone like Peter Obi.’’
The backlash from Nigerians forced the priest to apologise, but it was too late as the Catholic church moved against him.
A political movement without viable structures?
Nigeria's ruling class have dismissed Obi's political popularity, saying he has no structure to win the presidential election.
“Labour Party does not have the structure to win but they have a support base. He’s a popular candidate but cannot become president because he does not have the structure.
“As a president, you must have the majority of the Labour Party in the House of Representatives and Senate.
“Many things in Nigeria will work against the emergence of a president under the Labour party, It wouldn’t happen.”
But, Obi says he does not need any structure to be president. His words:
“Whenever I hear of no structure, my answer to it is simple; the 100 million Nigerians that live in poverty will be the structure. The 35 million Nigerians who don’t know where their next meal will come from will be the structure.”
Babangida Aliyu says Peter Obi should wait for his time
Another PDP chieftain and former governor of Niger state, Babangida Aliyu, says Obi will make a good president but stated that the former Anambra governor should wait for four or eight more years.
“I think he will make some name now. But he may be able to make it only in 2027, 2031. But 2023? Too early.”
Ahead of 2023....
One thing is certain, whether win or lose, Obi has sparked an uncommon political renaissance among Nigerian youths who were, hitherto docile and uninterested in the nation's politics.
Obi offers hope for the common man, who has been subjected to lack of electricity, water, healthcare, corruption, insecurity, poverty, and wasteful spending by kleptomaniacs posing as leaders. For the first time in the history of Nigeria's integrity-challenged politics, there is a man with a clear political ideology, consistent in preaching the same message that the arrogant political elites have failed to address.
Economic experts say a better Nigeria is certain when the country gets a leader that is prudent to lead the people and that is what Obi offers.
But politics is not mathematics, if the 'Obidients' miss the opportunity to get their man into office in 2023, they should not be deterred, but sustain the movement in 2027 and beyond.
2023: Obaseki says Peter Obi is a force to reckon with
On his part, Edo state governor, Godwin Obaseki, has declared that Nigerians are no longer interested in the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the PDP.
According to the governor, Nigerians are now in search of an alternative political party ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Obaseki also acknowledged the rising political profile of Obi, saying his supporters are in every Nigerian home.
2023: Group says Peter Obi’s exit will cost PDP 15 million votes
In a related development, the Coalition for Peter Obi’s Presidential Aspiration has commended the former governor of Anambra state for dumping the PDP, saying the party has automatically lost about 15 million votes.
The organisation made its stance known in a statement on Thursday, May 26 issued after the official announcement of Obi’s defection from the PDP to Labour Party.
The group added that Obi, as a decent man, would not play the type of transactional politics going on in the PDP and that was why he was wise to have dumped the party.