By Casmir Igbokwe
It was instructively funny listening to the Ashawo (harlot) girls of Abuja. In a viral video, the girls endorsed the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Mr. Peter Obi. They said if Obi was elected Nigeria’s president, they would stop their work, further their education and look for other better things to do. In another viral message, a young man from Bauchi, who graduated from the university some seven years ago but remains unemployed, expressed strong optimism that an Obi presidency would change the fate of people like him and turn their lives around.
These are just snippets of the hope and expectations of millions of Nigerians ignited by the emergence of Mr. Obi as a presidential candidate. There would have been serious apathy in this election, which comes up on Saturday, February 25, 2023, if he had not emerged on the platform of LP. The other two major options we have are nothing but six of one and half a dozen of the other. Not only are they too unhealthy for the job, their character, competence and integrity are questionable.
In this election, competence and character matter. Nigeria is on the edge of a precipice and needs to be rescued. There is no sitting on the fence. For too long, Nigerians have suffered the consequences of bad leadership. For too long, ethnicity and religion had coloured our voting pattern. Not anymore!
That competent man who can rescue Nigeria now is Mr. Obi. Here is a man who transformed Anambra State when he was governor, won many accolades for his efforts in building infrastructure and uplifting such sectors as security, health, education and many others. On top of it, he still left over N75 billion in the coffers of the state. No governor has done that in the history of Nigeria.
This is why he has received massive following anywhere he goes. In Kaduna, Edo, Plateau, Lagos, Ogun and even Borno and many other places, all you hear from his organic crowd of supporters are emotional chants of Obi! Obi! Obi! The love is massive. And that is why he has been leading in major opinion polls, national and international, conducted for this election.
Obi’s opponents know that the game is over for them. Hence, they are in panic mode and have resorted to concocting all manner of lies against him. The other day, they faked a petition purportedly written by one Pastor Frank Onwumere alleging misappropriation of a phantom N2 billion allegedly given by Obi to churches under the umbrella of the Christian Association of Nigerian (CAN). The whole thing turned out to be a huge lie from the pit of hell. Both CAN and Onwumere denied knowledge of both the money and the petition.
Witty and full of wisdom, Obi turns any negative remark against him into something positive. The presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, taunted him the other day in Anambra, saying, “The man who left here, he calls himself Peter Obi. We read in the Bible that before the cock crows three times, he will deny Jesus Christ. How can a man who cannot keep promise to God keep promise to the people?” Obi’s reply was that though Peter denied Jesus three times, the same Jesus found him worthy and built his church on him. “He is the rock on which Jesus entrusted the church. Entrust Nigeria to me and I will rebuild it. Datti and I are ready,” he said.
Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai, called him a Nollywood actor. He thanked el-Rufai and said the entertainment industry was one of the engines that would develop us as a nation and that he would focus on that and the Nollywood. “Since he said I am an actor, I’m calling on all those in the entertainment industry, including the Nollywood, to support me,” he added. When Atiku Abubakar said it would be a miracle for him to win the 2023 election, he recalled his miraculous achievements, especially his emergence as governor of Anambra under a party that was less than a year old then, and said he looked forward to the next miracle that would make him President of Nigeria in 2023.
This man has conducted the best campaign in this election. He has toured all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Sometimes you wonder where he gets the energy from. He can visit three states in one day, preaching his gospel of consumption to production and other things he intends to do if he is elected president.
Penultimate Saturday, being February 11, he was in Lagos for a mega rally. The crowd was unprecedented. This was despite the attacks on his supporters by hired thugs. Many of these supporters sustained serious injuries. Over 30 of them were said to have been hospitalized. A number of vehicles were also vandalized. Before these attacks, the traditional ruler (Baale) of Igbara community in Eti-Osa area of Lagos had threatened to deal with any resident who failed to vote for his party, the APC. Suddenly, Obi who has no structure has become their nemesis.
Elsewhere, there were also attacks on some political opponents. In Rivers State, for instance, the APC rally in Opobo and Port Harcourt came under attacks by hoodlums last January. A number of people sustained injuries. In Imo, gunmen razed down the residence of the spokesperson of the Coalition of United Political Parties, Imo Ugochinyere, recently and killed about four people in the process.
With the level of violence trailing this election, it has become apparent that desperate politicians will do everything possible to truncate the wishes of the masses. This is where security comes in. The Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, announced last week that over 400, 000 security operatives would be deployed for this election. This is a good step, but will the security men work with all their hearts and minds? Will they be patriotic enough to avoid being swayed by filthy lucre?
Past security arrangements were also massive. Despite that, people were killed and ballot boxes destroyed in some places. Over 1,149 people lost their lives in the 2011, 2015 and 2019 elections. Looking at the pattern of violence in the run-up to this election, one can predict potential flashpoints on the Election Day. Out of about 339 incidents of election violence recorded in 2022, a recent data from a non-governmental organisation, Kimpact Development Initiative, indicates that South-West leads with 99 incidents. South-East follows with 77 incidents. South-South recorded 56 while North-Central, North-West and North-East had 54, 32, and 21 incidents respectively.
The onus is on security operatives to be alive to their responsibilities. They should maintain absolute neutrality and deploy more men to the areas prone to violence. They know such places. The notorious ones are in Lagos, Rivers and Imo states.
Besides security, there are other factors that should come to play. Every voter, for instance, must shun vote buyers. Good enough, the money some of them stockpiled for this purpose has become useless with the Naira redesign policy. That is partly why some governors led by el-Rufai of Kaduna are desperate and have decreed that the old notes remain legal tender in their states contrary to the Federal Government’s pronouncements on the matter.
We must remain vigilant on the Election Day. Our duty does not end in casting our votes. We must also defend those votes by ensuring that nobody plays any hanky-panky from accreditation to voting and up to the transmission of results. Hopefully, it shall all end in praises. May we have a smooth, credible, free and fair election on Saturday! See you next Monday.
Re: Presidential poll and El-Rufai’s delusions
Before now, the Nigerian political history had witnessed some cases of situational irony where the most popular candidates for the presidential office didn’t make it. During the pre-independence era which culminated in Nigeria’s Independence in 1960, the Rt. Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe aka Zik of Africa, despite his popularity and cosmopolitan appeal, didn’t make the Prime Minister’s office which the actual powers resided even as he was later consoled with the ceremonial Presidency. In the 2nd Republic, Chief Obafemi Awolowo was the choice of the majority of Nigerians. Several artificial hurdles were placed against his presidential ambition including the proverbial two-third of 19 which rather paved the way for the assumption of office by an ‘unwilling’ and unprepared president. The very ugly situation repeated itself when the Hope ’93 Train of M.K.O Abiola was wickedly derailed by the usual forces of darkness even after Nigerians from all ethnic divides had given it to that philanthropist of all times. Casy, despite your optimism for an Obi victory which is also the general feeling of the Nigerian people, your submission also bears a conditional statement and belief that the ‘known political gunmen’ have already positioned themselves to foist the old order on the silent majority of Nigerians on the 25th of February 2023. What now appears to be certain in these uncertain times is uncertainty itself.
-Edet Essien Esq. Cal South, +234 810 809 5633
Dear Casmir, el Rufai’s attempt to belittle Peter Obi by saying he’s a Nollywood actor is valueless. Ronald Regan of USA was a Hollywood actor, yet he beat Jimmy Carter to become president.
-Cletus Frenchman, Enugu, +234 909 538 5215
Dear Casy, Igbo adage has it that any snake willfully sent to bite a target human being, shall strike it’s sender with its tail. Hence, there is no hiding place for the wicked, as noted in your column. El-Rufai and his co-travellers are reaping the fruit of their unholy plot hatched about eight years ago in an attempt to clinch political power. They thought the plot would continue in their favour only to meet a stone-wall this time as the President is feeling that he can no longer be led by the nose in the name of party loyalty. El-Rufai is just shouting hoarse because of what he was promised should their party’s candidate win the election which is likely to elude him because of the likelihood of their party losing the said election, all things being equal. Again, the President, within himself, knows that their party has a very poor product as a standard-bearer and, therefore, a difficult sell to Nigerians. I’m a staunch critic of the President for his very poor, disappointing performance, because I voted for him in 2015, but I have forgiven him on two grounds, to wit: (1) the signing of the new Electoral Act into law which has become operational. (2) His current neutrality and promise to create a level playing ground for all the candidates in the coming election.
–Steve Okoye, Awka, 08036630731.
Casmir, let the will of God and not that of men be done. May God speak to the good conscience of the electorate come Feb. 25th. All things being equal, el-Rufai may see ‘hell’ of a result when the results start trickling in on the 27th. Pride goes before a fall. Peter Obi is the ‘dark horse’ in the race. They are underrating him at their own peril which is an advantage to him. Bola Tinubu’s ‘emilokan’ philosophy is now going through the crucible or furnace of fire. Not comfortable about his perplexing situation, el-Rufai is now going on a face-saving mission to rescue Tinubu’s ambition that is about to derail or fall like a pack of cards. The efforts at the APC convention by those with itchy fingers who collected their own share of the spoils may become fruitless, as Buhari seeks to leave a legacy of organising a free and fair election to join Jonathan as a great and patriotic Nigerian leader. May Nigeria not go the way of a ‘captive Lagos’! May Tinubu never be able to say when he sleeps, Nigeria sleeps, when he wakes up Nigeria wakes up!
-Mike, Mushin, Lagos, +234 816 111 4572
- Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, February 20, 2023