Peter Obi’s quiet forays into the Muslim north
Several weeks ago, my 80-year-old paternal uncle, who is a community leader, called me to ask me who, between Atiku Abubakar and Bola Tinubu, he should vote for and ask for support. It was an odd request considering that in 2019 he resisted my plea not to vote or campaign for Buhari due to the danger a second term for Buhari would pose to Nigeria.
He apparently sensed that I was hesitant to make recommendations because the last time I did, he was hesitant. He was a true believer in Buhari even when overwhelming evidence showed that Buhari was not who he claimed to be. In response to my hesitation, he said he was asking the question because everything I had told him about Buhari had materialized.
If I was right about Buhari, maybe I would be right about the next president, he said. I don’t think that’s accurate. I don’t have a crystal ball to contemplate the future. I only predicted Buhari’s ongoing presidential disaster based on what was already happening, which his supporters like my uncle were wearing blinders on.
Anyway, I asked my uncle why he limited his choices to Tinubu and Atiku. He said it was because they were the only serious contenders in the race and he was having a hard time choosing between them.
I asked if he had heard of Peter Obi. He hadn’t. Not even remotely. And my uncle is not an uneducated country bum. Although he lives in the countryside in retirement, he is a UK-trained and politically active healthcare professional. At his request, I told him about Obi and said that Obi’s name was mentioned with Tinubu and Atiku in urban Nigeria.
Like a typical northern Nigerian Muslim, he could not overcome worries that an Igbo president would throw Nigeria into turmoil by using the instruments of federal power to declare Biafra, especially in light of the upsurge in Biafra movements and the integration of neo-Biafra. feelings in the Southeast.
I politely told him that he had mixed up his anxieties. The resurgence of Biafra movements and neo-Biafra sentiments in Igboland is the consequence of feelings of exclusion from the center among the Igbo people. Electing an Igbo person as president would eliminate Biafranism or push it to the margins.
Given the vast geographical distribution of the Igbos in Nigeria, I said, it is not reasonable to say that they do not want to be in Nigeria. An inward-looking island people who dislike Nigeria’s diversity and want to retreat to their own geo-cultural enclave would live only in their region.
Our conversation ended without any recommendation from me. Fast forward to last weekend. My uncle called to say he would not just vote for Peter Obi but campaign for him in the community. He said my siblings and cousins, who he said had been influenced by my writings to become Obi supporters, had convinced him that Peter Obi was the candidate to support in the 2023 election.
(To be perfectly honest, I had no idea that my writings were promoting Peter Obi’s candidacy because quite a few Obi supporters have insulted me in the past about what I wrote to his Although I have publicly declared my preference for an Igbo President in 2023 because I am convinced that this is the surest guarantee of Nigeria’s continuity as a united nation, I am totally non-partisan in this cycle electoral.)
I’m bringing my uncle’s story because it illustrates a trend I’ve been observing for a few weeks. Although there is still a great deal of indifference and in some cases resentment towards Peter Obi in the Muslim north, I sense a growing acceptance of his candidacy.
Another person I spoke to about Kano who says he is now warming up to Obi told me that several people he knows and interacts with in the Northwest are giving Obi a chance at the times due to the increasing intensity of injuries that Buhari inflicted on the people of the area. and the fact that the alternatives to Obi look like Buhari.
Tinubu’s health problems, frequent medical trips to London, and difficulties in communicating with the public are disturbingly reminiscent of Buhari. And although Atiku looks healthy and is obviously the most prepared presidential candidate, he is Buhari’s contemporary. Thus, his age counts against him, not to mention that 2023 is the year of a president from the south, as 2015 and 2019 were for a president from the north.
I don’t think easing the apathy – and hostility – towards Obi in the Muslim North will be enough to win him the plurality of votes there, but it might net him surprisingly higher votes than this what most people are inclined to expect. Of course, in electoral politics, predictions are often only valid for a week, and this is especially true for the 2023 presidential election.
There are broadly five electoral blocs in Nigeria: the northern Muslim bloc (which is sometimes not based on contiguous geography and may span all three subdivisions of the region), the northern Christian bloc (which is not is not always based on contiguous geography and may encompass a large part of the region), the southwestern block (which is entirely Yoruba and usually unaffected by religious identification, although this is changing), the southeast (which is entirely Igbo) and the southern ethnic minority bloc.
To win a presidential election, a candidate must win at least four of these blocks. No candidate, for the moment, dominates in four voting blocks.
Bola Tinubu appears to be dominant in the South West, although I feel his health issues are reducing his advantage there. Many people in the region who sincerely want him to be president fear that he will die in office and allow the North to regain power. Well, some northern Muslims had said that of Buhari (based on what happened to Umar Musa Yar’adua), and the man seems to be on the mend and looks healthier than he looks has ever been.
Atiku Abubakar seems to be the favorite among Muslims in the Northeast with potential to expand its reach to other parts of the Muslim North. His problem is that because he has always been liberal, cosmopolitan and not bound by religion, he does not excite northern Muslims who define their identity in religious terms.
This is precisely why he was more popular in the South (and in the Christian North) than in the Muslim North. But Peter Obi stole his thunder from his old electoral base, and that was the basis of a joke I saw on social media that says Atiku has all the votes he needs to be in the bag. president in 2023 – except Obi has the bag.
Obi appears to have a vote lock in the South East, South South and predominantly Christian states like Benue, Plateau and even Taraba. Christians in southern Kaduna and southern Kebbi seem more favorably disposed towards him than they are towards any other candidate. The main challenge to her popularity in the South East is that she may not translate to high voter turnout in light of the ongoing violence and threats of violence from the IPOB.
Muslims in the center-north and northwest appear to be the only uncommitted and persuasive electoral bloc, as they have no sentimental investment in any of the three main presidential candidates. They can swing in any direction.
Because Obi imposes himself, even imperceptibly, in these regions where he was hitherto unknown, we have to recognize that he is no longer the outsider he once was. In order to avoid a repeat of Buhari, critical citizens should ask Obi tough and introspective questions because he could be president.
For example, why did he allow the ASUU branch of Anambra State University to go on strike for more than six months and even go so far as to fire the Vice Chancellor of the school “because of his alleged romance with the university strikers” according to the daily sun January 19, 2011. How is he different from Buhari in this respect?
Why did he allow doctors in Anambra State to go on strike for 13 months resulting in many unnecessary deaths? The doctors called off their strike without Obi responding to their demands. And he implemented the “no work, no pay” rule when Anambra officials went on strike to demand to be paid minimum wage.
While serving as Governor of Anambra, he played typical Nigerian divide-and-rule politics. He played Catholics against Anglicans and even stigmatized political opponents by calling them “Yoruba”, according to Professor Okey Ndibe who has written extensively about him.
“It is equally appalling that a governor with ambitions for higher political office could not help but denigrate Mr. Ngige as a Yoruba candidate,” Ndibe wrote in his April 18, 2011 column. titled “Peter Obi, Akunyili and Political Madness.” “Even if we accepted the stupid argument that the ACN was a Yoruba party – so what? Is the governor allergic to forming political alliances with the Yoruba? Is he not aware that such calls for Low ethnic feelings would come back to haunt him if he ever seeks to be a political player at the national level?
It was prophetic. It doesn’t make Obi any worse than his opponents. But because he could be president, we should question him so as not to be caught off guard.