Peter Obi ’s presidential bid which has unsettled Nigeria’s conventional two horse race has left many pundits and observers scratching their heads.
The 2023 presidential election would have been between ex-Lagos governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu, 70, of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and 76-year-old ex-vice president Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
But the 61-year-old former governor; also the youngest of the three frontrunners is being credited for energizing an electorate base likely to record the highest voter turnout in recent years.
Who Then Is Peter Obi?
Born in Onitsha in 1961, Obi had studies in Lagos, at Harvard and at the London School of Economics, followed by a business career including management roles in several Nigerian banks.
Gaining experience from his family’s retail businesses, Obi will become his own boss importing everything from champagne, beauty products to baked beans. He also owned a brewery while holding major shares in three commercial banks.
Obi is a wealthy businessman from southeast Nigeria’s Anambra state. He is a Christian from the Igbo-speaking region and candidate of the Labour Party. Although Igbos are the third-largest ethnic group behind the Yoruba and the Hausa, an Igbo has never won the presidency since the return to democracy.
Obi’s tenure as Anambra state governor is a reference point for his accountability in public service with a reputation for frugality and integrity. He served from 2006-2014 as a two-term governor of Anambra state. He left huge savings in state coffers at the end of his two four-year tenures, a rarity.
His supporters point out that he invested heavily in education and paid salaries on time.
When he faltered as vice presidential candidate for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Abubakar’s unsuccessful 2019 campaign, he joined the Labour Party.
In a terrain dominated by PDP and APC, Obi’s growing popularity and social media appeal, rallying the younger electorate — mostly in their 30s is commendable.
Obi settled on northern Muslim, Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed as running-mate. His loyalists are nicknamed ‘Obidients.’
Prominent Nigerians, including Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2007), an elder statesman, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a celebrated author have all endorsed Obi.
Political analysts consider this election the hardest to predict since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999. Obi is the first third-party candidate to make a dent during a campaign, likely to push the race to a run-off for the first time in the country’s history.
Peter Obi’s Presidential Challenges
For all of Peter Obi’s inroads, critics reckon his popularity is only on social media and among young Nigerians, many of whom don’t have voter cards.
Also there’s talk his party lacks the geographical spread and political structure to win the vote, especially in the mostly Muslim north.
Under Nigerian electoral law, a candidate must win the most votes along with at least 25 percent of votes in 24 of Nigeria’s 36 states and in the federal capital, Abuja.
Peter Obi’s tiny Labour Party has no governors and only one senator. It also lacks the organisational capacity to get the vote out or to properly monitor the country’s nearly 177,000 polling stations to mitigate potential vote-rigging and other election-day tricks.
In a country where more than 500 languages are spoken and where its diversity has been a source of strive, income per capita has fallen and 90mn Nigerians live on less than $1.90 a day under incumbent president Buhari.
At least a third of the population is out of work and tens of millions hold precarious jobs in the informal sector.
Security is in an appalling state. During Buhari’s presidency, some 60,000 people have been killed by terrorists, criminal gangs or the army, according to data compiled by the Council on Foreign Relations.
Though the threat from Boko Haram has receded, the Islamic State of West Africa Province, an Isis offshoot, kills and plunders with virtual impunity in some northern states. Kidnappings and extortion have surged. Foreign investment has shrunk. Manufacturing base has also withered. Energy crisis is causing frequent blackouts.
Nigeria relies on petroleum exports for 80 per cent of government revenue, a structural challenge. But so much oil is stolen by criminals and corrupt state actors. Inflation is at 22 percent and a lack of cash during the ill-timed introduction of new bank notes is causing unease.
More than 10mn children are out of school. Once prestigious universities, including Ibadan, Ahmadu Bello and Nsukka can’t pay lecturers properly or maintain buildings. In Oct. 2020 members of the Nigerian army opened fire on EndSARS protesters in Lagos, killing at least 12.
Peter Obi School Journey
Peter Obi has completed executive education programs at the following schools;
Lagos Business School
Harvard Business School
The London School of Economics
Columbia Business School
The International Institute for Management Development
Kellogg School of Management of Northwestern University
Saïd Business School of Oxford University
The Judge Business School of Cambridge University
Allegations Against Peter Obi
Despite Obi’s famed frugal means of operating as Anambra state governor with evidence of leaving substantial funds in the state coffers, his name appeared in the Pandora Papers (2021), a leaked dossier of offshore wealth, which showed he had registered business entities in tax havens, failing to declare them as required.
The presidential candidate claims the money was legitimate and that he did not know he had to declare assets registered in family members’ names.
He was also accused of investing state funds, as governor, into a company he had dealings with. He denied any wrongdoing and points out that the value of the investment has since grown.
On this score, his two opponents do not fare any better. Abubakar was named in a 2010 US Senate committee report in connection with the transfer of $40mn in “suspect funds”. Tinubu had his assets frozen in the 1990s by the US government, only managing to settle the case with a payment of $460,000. Both men deny wrongdoing.
Peter Obi’s Electoral Message
Obi is promising pro-business policies and a bigger role for the private sector as well as scrapping a ruinously expensive fuel subsidy and freeing up the exchange rate.
Mr Obi repeatedly says he is not desperate to be president, which is ironic for a man who has changed parties four times since 2002.
He dumped the PDP just days before its presidential primary in May and the party went on to choose the 75-year-old former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar as its presidential flagbearer.
Peter Obi Personal Life
Peter Obi is a practicing Catholic married to Margaret Brownson Obi (née Usen) since 1992. The pair have two children; 30-year-old son Gregory Peter Oseloka Obi and primary school teacher Gabriella Nwamaka Frances Obi.
Peter Obi contested in the Anambra State Governorship Election as a candidate for the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) party in 2003. When his opponent Chris Ngige of the People’s Democratic Party, was declared winner he contested.
After nearly three years of litigation, Ngige’s victory was overturned by the Court of Appeal and Obi took office for governorship but months on he was impeached by the state house of assembly. Obi successfully challenged his impeachment and was re-instated as the governor.
For his second term on Feb. 7, 2010, Peter Obi beat Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo to serve an additional four years as the governor of Anambra State.
Peter Obi earned appointment as chairman of the Nigerian Security and Exchange Commission from President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015.
by michael eli dokosi/www.blakkpepper.net