Times are dire for Africa’s biggest democracy, no doubt. In February 2023, the country faces a daunting hurdle that will definitely define her either as an elite captured pseudo-failed state or a nation-state with roots of citizens’ paramount interests. It’s a battle between Nigerian ruling elites versus the people. A class struggle of sorts—that has all the trappings of a do-or-die democracy. For a damning 62 years, Nigerian ruling elites plundered the state with reckless abandon, enriching themselves, families, cronies, oligarchs and foreigners through illicit siphoning of public funds and deliberate carnage.
Therefore, in the forthcoming Presidential contest, the elites represented by the All Progressives Congress Bola Tinubu and Peoples Democratic Party’s Atiku Abubakar are all up in arms against Labour Party’s Peter Obi, whose momentous rise has revolutionised even apolitical citizens wanting to take back their country from the ruling elites, who have been careless about the wellbeing of the people for so long. Thus, every shade, missiles, attacks, misinformation and propaganda are being targeted at no one but Obi. Though, innocuous, it’s a familiar trajectory in political campaigns and electioneering.
In an article published in Newspaper on Friday, August 12, 2022, by one Jesutega Onokpasa, titled , the author laboriously attempted to paint LP’s presidential candidate, Obi as an ineffectual presidential wannabe. Onokpasa argued back and forth while contradicting himself when he alluded that “Peter Obi is qualified to be president but I cannot see how he can become president nor how he can succeed.” He went on to assert that “Peter Obi simply does not know how to work with people and has never been able to assert himself as a political leader.”
The implication of the above quote in the piece by Onokpasa insinuates that Obi is politically ‘impotent’ and that the episodic cases of impeachment that characterised his tenure as the then Governor of Anambra State will be re-enacted if Obi eventually becomes the President. Onokpasa attempted to compare and contrast Obi and APC’s presidential candidate, Tinubu, who is Onokpasa’s benefactor.
For clarity, Mr Onokpasa’s article sounded like a thumbs up for a criminal state and applause for illiberal democracy, as practised then in Anambra State, a signpost of the challenges of political accountability. John P. McCormick in his work, ), opined that the crisis of political accountability in contemporary democracy is entrenched when an electoral system upends the power of the majority or majoritarian votes for the support of the ruling political and economic elites whose sole interest is self-aggrandisement and confiscation of public wealth. Onokpasa’s paymasters vividly fit that billing and description. For the records, when Onokpasa and his co-travellers cite Obi’s impeachment by the then Anambra State House of Assembly members as a ploy to downplay Obi’s political sagacity, they inadvertently project the LP presidential standard bearer as an astute democrat with the best temperament that adheres to constitutionalism and follows the rule of law. Erroneously, Onokpasa painted the said lawmakers and Tinubu as undemocratic and not willing to follow due process and the spirit of the law.
Further, Onokpasa’s comparison of Obi and Tinubu and how the latter was able to advance his political machinery is very laughable and smacks of a self-indictment of his principal, Tinubu. Obi, unlike Tinubu, has never been accused of cornering public funds, nor corruptly enriching himself. Now, let’s look at the records.
In 2007, weeks to the expiration of his tenure as Governor of Lagos State, Tinubu, propped up the then state assembly to promulgate the Public Office Holder (Payment of Pension) Law No 11 Official Gazette 2007 in which Tinubu, as a former Governor, was and till date is entitled to two houses in Lagos and Abuja; six brand new cars every three years; rapacious salaries and allowances running into millions of dollars, a phoney entertainment allowance, among other allowances such as house maintenance, utility, basic salary, personal assistants. These allowances as Frederick Douglas posited above are a clear case of oppression and robbery of the Lagos people. Sensing this broad-day robbery, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has been in court against Lagos State Government on this. Not done, Tinubu’s Alpha Beta Company is the chief tax collector in Lagos State with a humongous consultancy fee that runs into billions of dollars.
Not only that, in the 23 years, the APC national leader has been alleged to have appropriated the whole of Lagos State into a private estate; from the appointment of cronies, land, choice government properties and to the most daring draining pipes in state finances. Overall, it has been an outright and audacious confiscation of public wealth of the people, in which, Lagos is Tinubu and Tinubu is Lagos. What will then happen if Tinubu becomes the President of Nigeria? It will be the most dangerous clientele, state capture and pay-to-play administration in world history.
Now, let us flip the page on Obi. At the end of his tenure as Governor of Anambra State, all entreaties and persuasion were made to ensure that Obi promulgated a pension act for himself and other political goons in the state. He vehemently turned down the offer. They offered land and houses; Obi shockingly rejected it and has provided the letter of request and rejection to the public. So, why can someone who is accountable and transparent be Nigeria’s president at a time when leadership has become the country’s albatross? If the likes of Onokpasa care to know, Nigeria is sinking, collapsing, tagging along as the poverty capital of the world and high up there in ranking in the Global Terrorism Index, and speeding towards the precipice. Thus, Peter Obi represents the change that Nigerians long for to end the current catastrophic slide in the country. A reason that has continued to elicit and attract many Nigerians from different classes, tribes and faiths who see Obi as an altruistic and sincere presidential candidate for a better Nigeria.
Instructively, for Nigeria to take its rightful position in the comity of nations in 2023 going forward, Peter Obi is presenting himself as an honest, transparent, humble; and as candidate that has a citizens’ approach to governance, charisma, sound mind and age; a knowledgeable person whose ethos and value system represents accountability and transparency and Nigeria’s current demography. Added to that, Peter Obi’s presidential candidacy symbolises a cognate allegiance to social justice and development.
These are facts that the likes of Onokpasa should face squarely. In all, Peter Obi remains the only pathway to Nigeria’s rejuvenation and greatness in 2023 and beyond.