By Sesugh Akume
Speaking with a friend who prefers to Peter Obi, the Labour Party presidential candidate, to be president strictly for the sake of representational justice (ie wanting a president from southeast Nigeria, for the sake of equity, fairness, and justice) I said but that can’t be the only reason.
I said though himself a chip off the old block he isn’t entrenched in the political industry and not that far gone to have no reservations on anything. That he at least pretends to be a departure from the status quo, when he talks about cutting waste and profligacy, converting ours from consumption to production, etc; and that his candidacy gives everyday people the sense that they are putting someone they want in the State House, not the usual oligarchs and plutocrats, and that by this maybe little by little the space will be cleared for really worthy candidates some day in the near future. To which the response was, ‘Well, recall that that was exactly what people thought of Buhari in 2015. Exact same.’ That was the end of the conversation. I had nothing further to say.
In my view, Obi shares more similarities with Buhari than many may be aware or like to acknowledge. First, the euphoria his candidature is generating is more like that Buhari did 2014/2015. Obi’s is by far more in comparison, but same excitement all the same.
Obi is dissimilar from Buhari to the extent that whereas Buhari lacks empathy to the extent of being a sociopath, Obi would not, for instance, sit pretty in Aso Rock in starched agbada aloof when people are experiencing flooding, as Buhari has done. His record shows otherwise.
Whereas I can wager that Buhari has made zero effort at self improvement in any area in the last 40 years, as I doubt he has read one chapter of a book or attended any course much less administered one, Obi on the other hand it’s obvious is a hungry learner and though I haven’t looked inside his bags he travels I know he is a voracious reader, and the record shows the number and frequency of courses he has taken. I also have to give it to him, when criticised he listens and makes adjustments unlike Buhari who gets offended and takes it personal.
Obi is another Buhari in at least 3 ways: he is increasingly coming across as one out of his depths and unprepared for the job, his supporters are projecting themselves on him and assuming what he has not committed to doing but filling in the blanks for him, and he has an army defenders of just anything he does how ever absurd it makes them come across.
Obi’s website which he just recently announced with fanfare has no meaningful content apart his and his deputy’s elaborate biographies, the newsfeed from his campaign Twitter account, some forms to fill to be a volunteer and the like. A prepared candidate ought to have had a website months ago even before party primaries and highlighting the key issues they care about and their proposed solutions and why. Having taken so long and then presenting a vacuous website shows but one thing.
I first noticed this red flag of unpreparedness when he picked his vice presidential nominee at the 11th hour. Why at the 11th hour when he has been planning to be president for years now? The candidate he w@@ turned out to be a placeholder to beat the deadline to submit the list, he was actually still looking for the real one. I thought even if a placeholder he should have had a vast network of picking such from the northwest among many options, not from the southwest portraying that his network and spread is limited.
Then came the present issue of his Presidential Campaign Council. It took forever to come up with one and on releasing the names it resulted in an anticlimax. Majeed Dahiru who was appointed chief analyst, policy and strategy wrote to decline his appointment. I mean, it took so long to come up with one but not the diligence to sort out everything with everyone first before announcing? What’s the difference?
On the campaign council are people whose names appear more than once, some wrongly spelt.
Then there’s John Enenche, a retired major-general who until recently was defence spokesman, who routinely insulted people’s sensibilities and who said the nothing happened at Lekki tollgate where scores of #EndSARS protesters were murdered by the army. He had said the images were ‘Photoshopped’.
Same thing happened when Buhari became president in 2015, it took him forever to come up with a list of ministers, everybody was looking of for the A-list of saints/technocrats he was cooking for 6 months, it turned out to be the same recycled politicians, people with confirmed criminal records, and others like that which made everyone wonder why it took so long to come up with such!
Obi has no campaign manifesto, in the same manner Buhari had none. Everything we heard came from his party of some campaign group. He was dishonest to own it at the time but quick to deny and disown as soon as he got in.
Up to now, Obi has no manifesto, no policy documents at all. He says his record in Anambra is all we need to imagine what he would do in office, and we should take his word for it! That his media interviews and public speeches suffice. He even said in his penultimate interview on Arise News that he UK has not written constitution but there’s one all the same. In the same interview, when asked how he’d clear the gridlock around the Apapa port he said being an importer himself and has suffered from it he has the determination clear it, just no word on the ‘how’ and again cited his record as Anambra governor. He forgets that Nigeria is not Anambra.
Buhari’s solution to solving the electricity crises was his body language (of ‘integrity’). And indeed a soon as he was sworn in we started seeing images of frozen bottles from freezers depicting how there was so much constant electricity bottles kept in freezers for chilling were freezing and breaking.
Today, however, there’s less electricity available in homes to consume than there was when Buhari came in with his ‘integrity’ and body language, and in the last 8 months alone the grid has collapsed at least 9 times leaving the country in pitch darkness. That’s what body language without a well-thought-out policy roadmap, properly articulated and documented, as well as a structural and institutional approach to solving problems and resolving issues does. It’s what Obi wants us to rely on: his body language, media interviews, and track record in Anambra!
One of his campaign spokespersons said Obi is the manifesto, a ‘walking manifesto’. To which I asked, ‘How can one print out this manifesto to read, study, interrogate, make annotations, and ask questions if any arise?’ How can a person be running for office with no written documents save what they have said orally in the media?
Supporters projecting themselves on their candidate
Like Buhari in 2014/15, Obi’s supporters have been made to create numerous images in their heads of what he would do, wIth nothing concrete written down for Nigerians to interrogate and look forward to, and even hold him accountable for.
When a politician makes no firm, verifiable commitment they owe you nothing in that regard. The images you create in your head are the lies you tell yourself not those the politician told you.
An army of defenders and excuse makers
The issue of Obi using ethnic slurs on someone a decade ago when he was governor arose and instead of condemning it, a supporter said it was ‘normal’ in politics! Also excused his poor treatment of workers on strike in his state, and downplayed aspects that couldn’t be denied or excused. On the terrible idea of having Enenche on Obi’s team someone said what Enenche said about the Lekki tollgate killings was part of his job, but same people condemn Buhari’s arrogant, insolent spokespersons, as though they aren’t ‘doing their ‘job’. The individual even compared the gentleman’s role to that of a newscaster who only reads a script given to them, the only points the person missed was that this individual was the head of defence communications, in this case the person in charge of the news, overseeing the editor, producer and the entire crew, and responsible for what makes it to the news and how it is rendered, not a newscaster. In any case, assuming he was ordered to insult people’s sensibilities with such crass utterances, even military people are responsible for the orders they obey, this was settled almost 20 years at the Nuremberg Trials before Enenche was born, almost 40 years before he joined the army.
This person also attempted to absolve Obi of poor judgement in such a critical decision, of having Enenche on the lost and of not reviewing it critically before release. That is how Buhari has been absolved of every single thing by his own supporters (who have graduated to worshippers) no matter how obvious his failure has been.
In 2015, the social and literary critic, Ikhide Roland Ikheloa, shouted himself hoarse from the rooftops that Nigerians were about to make the greatest mistake of their lives voting in Buhari, nobody listened. The 2015 race was a tough and emotional one, the atmosphere was charged and intense. The divide was steep. Those for President Jonathan saw nothing wrong he did and wondered why he wouldn’t be rewarded with another term, and saw Candidate Buhari as evil, an impostor. Those supporting Candidate Buhari only saw integrity, competence, uprightness, frugality, courage, change and the diametric opposite in President Goodluck Jonathan, wondering why a weak, corrupt, ineffectual president was even being considered as a candidate, of anybody cared about the very survival of Nigeria.
Pa Ikhide insisted that Jonathan was unworthy to be president, but in comparison to Buhari, he’d close his eyes and vote him then go to the toilet and vomit! As for Buhari, he was an absolute no no, he would destroy Nigeria, as he was an adult the first time Buhari was head of state, experienced his misadventure as an outright disaster and can never forget the damage he did. I found that the most objective assessment of the candidates, no one had to agree. He only needed to do his part and he did. Had those who voted Buhari listened, they’d have had a better appreciation of whom they were voting and what they were getting themselves into and having weighed decided and would’ve made room, prepared for the outcomes instead of being shocked and disappointed.
If as things are presently, and Obi emerges as president, those who would continue to have high expectations without appreciating the reality—(as others did with Buhari) and continue to project themselves on him; or those who have prepared to defend everything (like Buhari had BMC – Buhari Media Centre, and its variants to gaslight people) as against being vigilant citizens demanding and ensuring good governance, holding him to the highest standards possible—wouldn’t be out of genuine ignorance but of willful self-deceit.
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