Mr Peter Obi, Presidential candidate, Labour Party.

Dan Onwukwe

You needed to have been at the Boundary market, Ajegunle, Lagos state, last weekend. There were tears of joy when the Presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi, went to campaign there. It was part of his open campaign in selected markets across the country. Remember he has always told us that he is trader. It wasn’t the chant of his name, “Obi, Obi, Obi number One”… that touched the hearts of the enthusiastic crowd at the Ajegunle market. It was, indeed the crowd of excited women with their kids jostling like that woman with the issue of blood in the scriptures who desperately wanted to touch only the hem of the garment of Jesus Christ and be healed. (Matthew 9:20-21, KJV). Obi obliged them, carrying one baby after the other. It’s the audacity of hope, amid despair.

For a brief moment in Ajegunle, it was like time froze. Such moving scene is rare in our politics. When one of the women was asked why she was screaming in excitement that Obi should carry or at least touch her baby, she said the future and aspirations of every child lies largely on a better Nigeria, governed by a competent, compassionate leader with capacity who the people can trust to deliver on his promises. How many times(if at all), have we seen a presidential candidate go to the hinterland, the grassroots and talk with the people and seek their votes? You see, in the last eight years, most Nigerians believe the present administration has lied, and even conned them. The message this time around is: Nigerians no longer want to follow a Franken-leader, politicians who seek power not to achieve great purposes for their country and the citizens, but for self-advancement. That decisive moment that may change or break Nigeria, is almost upon us. Just four days away to D-day. Undoubtedly, the Feb 25 Presidential election will, for many Nigerians, be a decision of a lifetime. It’s not for nothing. It will be a day of decision that will most likely determine and shape the future of the country, for better or for worse. There’s no escaping the sense that Nigeria is not only fractured, the country is broken and bleeding from all fronts. It’s an existential crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul of our national will. The past 8 years represent extreme sorrow, distress and regrets never witnessed our history, not even during the civil war. No presidential election in Nigeria’s political history comes with such great expectations as the one next Saturday. It will be a referendum on the lamentable failure of the All Progressives Congress (APC) government that promised ‘Change ‘ in 2015, but rather than bring about positive change in the lives of the citizens, it delivered calamity in all ramifications. It is a story of poor leadership and irresponsible governance that stinks. This has become evident in the growing doubt about the future of our lives and the continued existence of the country. Never in recent memory has our country drifted so dangerously in every index of measurement, both in leadership and human development, as it is today. The loss of confidence in the future of Nigeria is destroying both the social, economic and political fabric of the country.


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That is what happens when responsibilities abandoned today return as more acute crisis tomorrow. That is exactly the hole APC administration has put Nigerians in almost 8 years in power. The party has suddenly discovered that it is one thing to win election, and quite a different thing to govern effectively. That is why, across the country, despair has supplanted hope. Frustration, anger and confusion are tearing at the heart of the citizens and eating deep like acid. The present loss of confidence in the current leadership of the governing party is unprecedented. Under the outgoing government of President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria is ranked at the bottom rung of key indices of development. The country is now the world’s poverty capital, with about 133 million poor people. This represents about 63 percent of the total population, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). No country is so endowed, yet its citizens so impoverished as Nigeria is today. Nigeria is also ranked as the “second most terrorised nation” in the world, after war-torn Afghanistan. Out-of-school children is at record high of 23 million. Insecurity has squeezed everyone to a corner, adding to fresh concerns over the elections. National debt, unemployment, inflation are soaring.
In short, everything APC inherited in 2015, it has either destroyed or made even worse. For instance, it inherited a national debt of N18.89trn, today Nigeria’s debt stock is over N46trn according to figures from the Debt Management Office (DMO). In 2015, the naira exchanged at N200/$1, today it’s over N750/$1. Foreign reserves stood at $35.25bn in 2016, today, it’s less than $28bn. Nigeria used to have a robust Foreign Direct Investment(FDI) that was described in 2014 by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development(UNCTAD) as the “preferred FDI in Africa”. Currently, it has declined sharply. Pump price of petrol was N87 /litre in 2015, today it’s over N400 and scarce to see. A litre of kerosene was sold at N100 in 2015, now, it’s N1000/litre. Prices of food items are at record high. A bag of 50kg rice was sold between N8,000 and N10,000 in 2015, it’s now over N45,000.
All of this can be summarised in one simple question: Are you better off today than you were 8 years ago? These are the issues that voters will consider on Saturday. The truth simply, spoken is that Nigeria desperately needs a new kind of leadership. The good news, however, is that this presidential election, more than previous ones, provides clear choices for voters. Fortunately, Peter Obi, the Labour Party Presidential candidate, is a fresh face for the new direction that Nigerians are looking up to bring the desired change. The mark of an effective leader is consistency. Obi, more than any presidential candidate in this election, set the public agenda for the campaigns. He came adequately prepared. Perhaps no politician in this democratic dispensation has been able to mobilise such an awesome and faithful supporters, fondly called the “Obidients” as Obi has done. The youths that form his support base get attracted to his message like bees to honey. Even his opponents agree that he has changed the dynamics of our politics for good. His message resonates everywhere across the country. Everywhere he went – the markets, churches, in Townhall meetings – he articulated in detail, and argued emphatically with conviction, the challenges confronting Nigeria and proffered solutions for them, including the need to cut the size and scope of government. For him, the buzzword is: from “Consumption to Production”. That’s why he’s different, and thinks uniquely different.

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In the words of the respected London -based Economist Magazine, Obi is one candidate out of the pack that “offers Nigerians hope and real change”. No one doubts that Obi has brought a new hope and optimism, a warm hand to Nigeria’s polluted politics. He has redefined the work of leadership in our country to the extent that our political leaders will no longer see themselves as the so-called grand visionaries, all-wise decision-makers and iron-fisted men who see the presidency as their birthright. The assessment of Obi as an agenda-setter, a problem solver, is shared by millions of people in Nigeria and within the international community. That accounts for the groundswell of endorsements he has received across the country, cutting across ethnic groups, churches, elder statesmen, business organisations and even former and current state governors. It’s because, they believe, Peter Obi has the best blueprint to rescue Nigeria and reposition it for a greater, prosperous future. That’s why all eyes are him in the presidential poll.

The other key element that the Obi/Datti ticket has brought to our consciousness is the realism, the ability to look facts – even unpleasant facts – in the face and not allowed themselves to be deluded by wishful thinking. It speaks volumes of the precedents of the Presidential candidate and his running mate. This approximates to a political version of a businessman’s interest in the balance sheet, where the right decision must be taken if you must have the right outcomes. That’s why his campaign rallies more than others, attracted an amazing, organic crowds who came of their own volition. “Obi no dey give shishi”.

But the Obidients are cool with that. Nothing scares the people more than a leader who lurches unpredictably from one moment of seeming insanity and uncertainty of sort that sends inconsistent, worrying signals. The rest is for INEC to do, and the security agencies to protect the voters and not compromise the outcome of the election. Nigeria cannot afford again to hand over a sick country to a sick man. It’s time to get it right. The presidency should not be for sale.