If there is one presidential candidate in the country right now who appears to be enjoying massive youth following and publicity, it is the standard bearer of the Labour Party, Peter Obi. The former governor of Anambra State has been on a roller coaster ride in terms of his rising popularity and if you ask his ardent followers popularly called the ‘Obi-dients,’ they will tell you with unwavering optimism that their man, Peter Obi, will become the president of the country come next year. As far as they are concerned, it will be a smooth sailing ride for the Labour Party candidate to the Aso Villa come next year, even when the odds are obviously stacked against the realization of this dream.
According to many political observers, One of the biggest challenges facing Peter Obi and his Labour Party is the fact the party lacks the necessary structure needed across all the geo-political zones of the country to win a presidential election. Many political pundits have argued that to win at the national level, you need a national spread of structure and followers. They insist you cannot be a regional party like the Labour Party and its presidential candidate has been variously described as simply a south-east party, which is where it is likely to muster the handful of votes it will have to its name at the polls come 2023. Beyond party structures, some have also pointed out that Peter Obi lacks the experience, the capacity and the integrity to run a complex country like Nigeria and they often reel out facts available to them to support their standpoint. But perhaps Peter Obi’s biggest criticisms have come from within his kinsmen, especially the elites. They do not believe that Peter Obi will make a good president for the country because, according to them, his performance while in office as the former governor of Anambra State left a lot to be desired.
In the last couple of months since Peter Obi officially declared to run for president under the platform of the Labour Party, many Anambra elites have been coming out to speak against his candidacy and why they think he lacks the competence to rule Nigeria. One of the videos making the rounds lately is a Channels television video of former Anambra PDP Chairman, Dan Ulasi. In the video, the embittered former chairman could be seen speaking with Channels presenters and pointing out reasons why many Igbo Elites, especially those of Anambra extraction, are not happy with Peter Obi. First, he mentioned the controversy that arose over the exact figure left in the state’s treasury by Peter Obi for Willie Obiano, his successor. The figure touted by Obi was N75 billion but the Willie Obiano government made it clear that it was actually a paltry N9 billion that Obi left. This revelation angered many Anambra indigenes who felt insulted by Peter Obi’s antics. According to Dan Ulasi, the former PDP Chairman, Anambra State, Peter Obi could not convincingly explain to anyone how N75billion became N9billion.
Mr Dan Ulasi also went on to explain that the main reason why Peter Obi fought tooth and nail to bring down Willie Obiano’s government was that Peter Obi was claiming he had N7billion in the state’s account which was money donated to him by people for his second term. Reluctantly, the former governor Obiano was paying that money but when Peter Obi became overbearing, he stopped paying and that was where the conflict between the two gentlemen started. Not a few Anambra indigenes still hold this against Peter Obi to this day. They felt that for a man who was preaching integrity all over the place, stifling his successor and demanding a refund of state funds from him was, to say the least unthinkable.
Another reason the elites are not so excited about a Peter Obi presidency is that, according to Dan Ulasi, “Peter Obi split Anambra state religiously. We used to be a homogenous Christian state, now you talk about whether you’re a Catholic, Anglican or Pentecostal. That is where we are degenerating now and it’s unfortunate. And he, Peter Obi, started that politics.” Indeed, according to Ulasi, Peter Obi had disliked a governorship candidate from the party at the time he was concluding his tenure based on his religious inclination.
The former PDP Chairman of Anambra State also recalled that “while Peter Obi was governor of Anambra state, what was rife in Anambra was kidnapping, armed robbery. None of our big shots came home. But all through the first four years of Willie Obiano, there was peace and tranquillity.” He told Channels presenters that when he buried his father during Peter Obi’s tenure, each one of his prominent guests came down for the funeral with nothing less than 20 military officers as security escorts. He asserted that Obiano took the security issues seriously and was able to deal with them until the IPOB monster of Nnamdi Kanu reared its ugly head.
One of the many comments made by Peter Obi and his Obi-dient followers is that he does not have the businesses he runs. Evidence have come out to prove otherwise. According to Dan Ulasi, Peter Obi owns a company called NEXT and he is also possibly one of the biggest property owners in the country. A large chunk of Anambra state funds was said to have been sunk into NEXT. He is said to own some of the biggest shopping malls in Abuja run by his brother and he also owns all Shoprite establishments in Anambra.
Apart from Dan Ulasi’s revelations on Channels television, many Anambra elites who were based in the state at the time the Labour Party presidential candidate was governor will not forget in a hurry the 13 months of doctors’ strike in Anambra that reportedly led to the death of many patients in the state. This is why a few weeks ago when Peter Obi tweeted and said he was disappointed with the government for not enduing the ASUU Strike till now, somebody reminded him that during his tenure as governor of Anambra doctors were on strike for 13 months. Immediately, Peter Obi promptly deleted his tweet.
There was also the 6 months of Anambra State University strike. Many of the elites in the state have still not forgiven Obi for making their children stay home for over 6 months over a strike that could’ve been averted. The issue of seven years’ unpaid salaries of State Water Board workers was a most painful one. Over 260 of the workers were reported to have died during that period as a result of the trauma, hunger and poor health they had to endure.
Peter Obi is yet to respond to the Pandora papers allegation made against him by UK authorities. He was said to have opened secret businesses abroad with his kids’ names while he was governor of Anambra State. It was also alleged that during Obi’s tenure as governor, for 7 years there was no local government election in the state and there was IGR growth as well. He also recorded very little in terms of infrastructure. All of these are criticisms and allegations levelled against him by many of his kinsmen, especially the elites who insist he has questions to answer as regards his conduct and poor performance in office while he was governor of Anambra State.