Peter Obi has energized young Nigerians

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Peter Obi has energized young Nigerians
Posted on: July 06, 2022, 08:16:12 AM
 Supporters of Obi have raised him to sainthood in a society that is continually looking for a Messiah to cure its many ills. They support his relatively unknown Labour Party against two old political heavyweights, APP and PDP.
His name is often trending on social media due to the many discussions started by his admirers, whose display pictures of his image or the white, red, and green symbol of his party quickly identify him as a prominent figure.

Young urban professionals who call themselves the "Coconut-head generation" because of their independence, will, and scorn for older politicians who they claim have done nothing for them make up most of those protesting.

In the EndSars protests two years ago, many of them, including Dayo Ekundayo from the eastern city of Owerri, was active in the demands for better governance, which led to the disbandment of a notorious police agency.

This time, they're using the same tactics they used to rally young people and collect millions of dollars within a few weeks for the 60-year-old who's seen as a viable alternative to the two parties that have dominated Nigerian politics since 1999.

"Has there ever been a Nigerian politician in government who could say that he maintained his integrity? There is no other logical choice for Nigerian youth, "intoned Mr. Ekundayo

When he was organizing the EndSars demonstrations, he provided logistical support for Mr. Obi's march and mobilized students.

Critics claim that Mr. Obi is a political pretender, one of many who emerge at election time with illusions that he would be a third force capable of displacing the established political parties and seizing power for himself.

While many PDP supporters and impartial observers believe he is head and shoulders above the other contenders in the race, they caution that his followers risk wasting their ballots by voting for him.

According to those who oppose the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), he is a diversion from the shared objective of ousting them from power.

The Muslim-dominated north of Nigeria, where he is from, is a crucial voting bloc in presidential elections for the devout Catholics from eastern Nigeria.

He has many detractors, reminding him that his name appeared in the stolen Pandora papers, which revealed the hidden riches of the wealthy and influential in 2021.

When it came to reporting offshore accounts and assets held by family members owned by members of his own family, he claimed ignorance.

A corporation with whom he had business relations was also accused of receiving public cash from him as governor. He maintains his innocence and reminds out that the investment's value has increased.

It's odd that Mr. Obi has changed parties four times since 2002 and claims he isn't yearning to be president.

Just days before the PDP's presidential primary in May, he left the party, and the party went on to nominate former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, 75, as its presidential flagbearer.

His decision to defect from the PDP, where he was a vice-presidential candidate in 2019, has drawn criticism from some, who suggest that he stepped out of the race because he felt his prospects of winning were minimal.

The phrase "We don't give shishi (money)" has been coined by his supporters to describe his famed frugality and caution in managing government funds in a country where public officers have historically wasted money. His supporters believe he was expelled from the PDP because he refused to bribe party delegates during the party primary.

APC and PDP are considered by many as the same coin, but they see him as an unusual politician ready to take on the APC and PDP behemoths who they accuse of dipping their fingers into public funds.

His campaign also has a religious and ethnic flavor to it.

An estimated 50 percent of Nigerians identify as Christians. His backers believe this would help him win since they do not want another Muslim president, like APC's Bola Tinubu or PDP candidate Atiku Abubakar, to gain office after eight years of being President Muhammadu Buhari in government.

Mr. Obi's ethnicity may potentially be a factor in his popularity. Nigeria's third-largest ethnic group, the Igbo, has only had one Igbo president since the country's independence from British colonial authority in 1960, and he was primarily ceremonial.

It is widely believed that previous Nigerian administrations have neglected the Igbo people. Many Igbos anticipate that Mr. Obi's ascent to power will alleviate their concerns and offset the influence of separatist movements like the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob).

After earning a degree in philosophy, he began working for his family's retail companies before setting out on his own and importing everything from salad cream to cosmetic items and baked beans to champagne. He also owned a brewery and had significant stakes in three commercial banks.

Mr. Obi, a Nigerian millionaire, proudly flaunts his thriftiness as a sign of his status.

To his credit, he's eager to point out that he only has two pairs of black shoes, both from mid-market British brand Marks and Spencer, like his $200 Stein Mart suit to his $4,000 Tom Ford suit, and insists on lugging his baggage rather than hiring someone else to do it.

His modest ways extend to his family as well. According to him, his 30-year-old son was turned down for a vehicle, although his other kid is an elementary school teacher, a rare in an otherwise highly-competitive society.

OBIdient Followers



He has used his time as governor of Anambra state as an example for his presidential campaign, even though he has been mired in a financial scandal.

The primary things that most Nigerian state governors disregard, say his fans, are that he spent a lot of money on education and paid his employees' paychecks on time.

Another oddity is that he left large sums of money in the state coffers after two four-year terms.

In contrast, a university student in Anambra state during Obi's time as governor, Frances Ogbonnaya, is startled by the acclaim being heaped on him.

"In the face of starvation, who saves money? In the absence of facilities, who saves money? "Rhetorically, she posed the question.

OBIdients, as they've come to be called, have flocked to his side because of his reputation for prudence and solid management.

Cyberbullying and calling everyone who doesn't vote for him in next year's election an enemy of the state are among the charges against some.

Despite his pleas for fans to "imbibe the spirit of sportsmanship" in a response tweet, he's had little success calming them down.

To dispel the myth that elections aren't won on Twitter, they're eager to point out how many people have been swarming to the offices of Nigeria's electoral organization to register to vote for the first time.

However, this does not replace going to the polls on election day.

There is no doubting that Mr. Obi's campaign has gained steam in the months leading up to the election. Still, cynics point out that the absence of a national party structure supports the idea that an Obi presidency is feasible but exceedingly unlikely.

"The 100 million Nigerians that live in poverty [and] the 35 million Nigerians that don't know where their next meal will come" is his response. To win, he may only need to get half of them to vote.
 

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