Will Nigerians see more decisive actions from Obidients Movement in Guber,  States Assembly polls?

Obidients Movement

There is no gainsaying that the Obidients Movement has not made significant and giant strides in its goal of rescuing the nation from the old and self-serving politicians. This was evident in the presidential and National Assembly polls. Certainly, the youths are ready to perform the feat again in the gubernatorial and states House of Assembly polls on Saturday, March 18, if only INEC discharges its duties creditably.

By Goddy Ikeh

THERE are speculations that the controversies and mixed reactions that trailed the conduct of the presidential and National Assembly polls on February 25, 2023, may affect the conduct and assessment of the March 18 gubernatorial and State Assembly polls.

For the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Bola Tinubu and his supporters, the presidential election was free and fair, but the conduct of the election was rated below acceptable standards by some foreign observers, media organisations and institutions.

For instance, The Economist said a “chaotically organized vote and messy count” gave Nigeria a new president, while The Financial Times of London said in an editorial comment that our presidential election was “deeply flawed” and the winner “a wealthy political fixer.” The Guardian of U.K. in its analysis, described the winner as “an immensely wealthy veteran powerbroker trailed by corruption allegations which he denies.”

The New York Times described him as “a divisive figure in Nigerian politics.” Robert Rotberg, founding director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s programme on intrastate conflict, wrote an opinion for Canada’s influential Globe and Mail; its headline: “Bola Tinubu’s election is another triumph for Nigeria’s corrupt old guard”, while The Times of London said: “A wealthy kleptocratic ‘godfather’ of politics” and the CNN played a part of Bola Tinubu’s acceptance speech where he described what he got as “a serious mandate.” A CNN anchor then asked if it “was really a mandate” with less than 10 percent of the registered voters behind it. He must be wondering what kind of people are these?, while The Washington Post quoted Matthew Page, associate fellow with Chatham House’s Africa Program, as accusing INEC of making both deliberate and unintentional mistakes: “They raised the hopes about the election and its transparency, and then they dashed them. When the opposition says the process was broken, it’s hard to argue with them.”

And the foreign election observers from the US International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) summed up their opinion of the election as falling “well short of Nigerian citizens’ legitimate and reasonable expectations.”

Already, the presidential candidates of the Peolpes Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi of the Labour Party, LP, who were declared  second and third positions respectively in the result of the election have rejected the result and the process used by INEC to arrive at the result and have approached the courts to contest the result of the election.

While the nation awaits the proceedings in the election tribunal, Nigerians will not stop discussing and reviewing the performance of the Labour Party at the polls, which was largely driven by the Obidients Movement, which some political analysts have christened ‘Hurricane Obidients’. The Labour Party and its presidential candidate, touted as not having a structure and therefore will not win nor make any appreciable impact on the outcome of the polls, pulled a surprise. Apart from winning Lagos and Abuja and the required number of states, Obi said that he also scored the highest number of votes cast in the election and that he would prove it in the tribunal and the courts.

Meanwhile, the unprecedented performance of Labour Party and the impact of Hurricane Obidients in the presidential and National Assembly election across the country resulted in the failure of some state governors to move over to the Senate for their vacation.  Some of the governors, who contested for the senatorial election, either lost to the candidates of the Labour Party and other parties outside the two leading parties of the APC and the PDP. This development has really changed the political landscape and equation in the country.

Presently, there are fears in many states that Hurricane Obidients may sweep away some governors, who are seeking second term in office in the March 18 polls and that the governors, especially from southern party of the country, are determined to employ whatever means at their disposal to secure victory at the polls. Apart from the fate of the governors, millions of voters may shun the upcoming election because of the poor conduct of the presidential election by INEC and the fear of violence during and after the polls on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the governorship election in many states may not be easy to predict because of the entry of Labour Party into the political equation. Interestingly, the contest in Lagos state has been described as a two-horse race contest between the incumbent governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu of the APC and Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour of the Labour Party. According to some political pundits, in spite of the incumbency factor and the achievements of Sanwo-Olu in his first four years in office, the road to the seat of government in the state may not be a work over as was the case previously in the state.  It will be a tough battle and they are quick to add that the governor’s late innovative and campaign strategies of meeting and consulting many voting blocs, professional groups, churches, including the Igbos in the state, may enable him bridge the perceived gap between him and the young Labour Party candidate, Gbadebo, whose mother and wife are said to be Ibos. There is also the ghost of the #EndSars protests in Lagos state and the alleged role the governor played, which the Nigerian youths will never forget in a hurry.  

And for Gbadebo, who has been described as not having the requisite experience to govern Lagos, has received the blessing of Peter Obi, who has called on the members of the Labour Party and Obidients Movement to vote for him. Speaking on Arise Television recently, Obi said that the issue of Ghadebo’s age and experience was an advantage. According to Obi, Gbadebo, 40, was about his age when he became the governor of Anambra state. Obi added that the LB candidate is a Lagosian from a prominent Lagos family, who attended one of the ivy colleges abroad and that his integrity, competence and educational qualifications are what the occupants of the office need.

Speaking on his chances at the poll, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, said that the argument by his detractors that he does not have any public sector experience was baseless.

He argued that the achievements recorded by the Pa Lateef Jakande’s administration in Lagos from October 1979 to December 1983 surpassed that of the APC.

“Alhaji Lateef Jakande never had any public sector experience, but what he achieved in four years, the APC government has not achieved in two decades,” Rhodes-Vivour said on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily programme.

 “The visionary leader, Obafemi Awolowo, he had no public sector or governance experience but he moved the interest of the Yorubas to a level that people are still trying to aspire to. The fact is you must have empathy, capacity and courage to do the right thing.”

The LP candidate stated that youths, who are the new demography in politics, are interested in accountability.

“This government has run unaccountably for over two decades. They’ve empowered agberos, touts and thugs with so much violence. And they have not been brought to book.”

He also said the postponement of the governorship and state assemblies’ elections from March 11 to March 18 has not dampened his momentum and determination to become the next governor of Lagos.

Rhodes-Vivour said the people of Lagos want good governance regardless of the language a leader speaks or the tribe he belongs to. He noted that he is a proper cosmopolitan Lagosian having roots with the Yoruba people and having been trained in best institutions in the world.

Apart from Lagos State, the Labour Party is expected to perform well in Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu, Delta states, as well as some states in northern Nigeria. In addition, the rising profile of the Obidients Movement is gaining more recognition among the youths and other Nigerians, who desire a change in their state and the country. In Enugu State, an appeal has gone to the Obidients Movement to assist in dislodging the Ebeano Cult Completely” by some Church Ministers. According to the Enugu state branch of the National Network of Evangelical Ministers, NNEM, the biggest gift voters can give Enugu people this weekend is to join hands with the Obidient Movement, which drives the Labour Party, to vote out the controversial Ebeano political confraternity.

“The Ebeano cult is like cancer which has been metastasizing in Enugu since 1999,” the ministers stated in an unprecedented political statement on Wednesday, March 15, 2023, and signed by the state chairman, The Reverend Peter Anikwe, the secretary, Pastor Ephraim Ugwu, and the public relations officer, Pastor Ifeanyi Nnaji.

Accusing the Ebeano group of tremendous violence and greed on an industrial scale, the ministers noted that the only time Enugu has witnessed substantial progress since the return of democracy in 1999 was from 2007 to 2015 because “Governor Sullivan Chime heroically threw the desperadoes and bandits out of political relevance”.

And to ensure that there is no violence in the Saturday’s governorship and National Assembly election, INEC has assured Nigerians that the conduct of the election will free, fair and credible. INEC said it has on Tuesday, March 14, met with the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Elections Security, ICCES, in Abuja, ahead of the March 18 Governorship and States Assembly election.

The meeting, which was summoned by Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, Chairman of the Commission, was to review the security architecture of the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly election as well as brainstorm on how to leverage on the lessons learnt for the state government elections.

Addressing the committee members, Prof Yakubu said: “I wish to express the Commission’s appreciation to the security agencies and other members of ICCES for the professionalism of personnel and the generally peaceful conduct of the elections.

“We look forward to improved performance in the elections holding this weekend.”

According to INEC Chairman, the Governorship election will hold in 28 States of the Federation, excluding Anambra, Bayelsa, Edo, Ekiti, Imo, Kogi, Ondo and Osun States.

He, however, noted that the March election, which will be conducted in all the 993 State constituencies nationwide, involves more constituencies than the national elections.

While assuring the public of their preparedness, INEC boss revealed that the commission has held a virtual meeting with all the Resident Electoral Commissioners, RECs, in which they reviewed preparations for the state elections as regards election technology, logistics as well as security issues.

While calling on all candidates and their agents to respect the electoral processes, Prof Yakubu noted that the election “is a contest and not war” and thus, “they should refrain from acts of violence that may mar the elections or compromise the security of our personnel, observers, the media and service providers.”

In addition, the Obi-Datti Campaign Organisation has urged the members of the Labour Party not to play into the hands of those who want to promote violence so that they can manipulate the process and fulfill their desire of claiming victory through the back door.

Akin Osuntokun, Director-General, of the council, noted in a statement that those who plan to manipulate the election want to do so by pushing for ethnic discrimination when themselves are none indigenes of Lagos.

According to him, those fanning the embers of ethnic discord in Lagos are doing so out of fear just to avoid their party from being humiliated a second time.

He noted that in Lagos, the fear factor that being currently stoked and weaponised is that the Igbos would take over Lagos if Labour Party wins Saturday’s Governorship and State Assembly elections, and wondered how that will even be possible.

While calling on all political parties in the state to eschew politics of hatred and violence and celebrate the multi diverse nature of Lagos, Akin Osuntokun, said that it was difficult to find pristine communities or primitive communal societies in which everyone in the community is related by blood.

The Obidients Movement, no doubt, like the hurricane, pounded the shores and mainland of Lagos and swept the votes. They did same in about 10 more states and Abuja, The members are ready to do same in the gubernatorial and States House of Assembly polls on Saturday, March 18, if INEC discharges its duties creditably.