There is no doubt about it, the profile and popularity of the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi, has shot through the roof in the past few weeks. Give it to the former Anambra State Governor, he has been able to warm his way into the hearts of millions of Nigerians with his often engaging arguments about his clear understanding of the problems of Nigeria and the many solutions he can bring forward to fix the myriad of problems. But what has perhaps gotten the attention of many Nigerians about this brilliant, stand-out politician is not just the fact that he appears supremely confident he can fix Nigeria if, given the chance, he also demonstrates a passion for Nigeria that is unmatched. Every time he speaks about the country and his desire to fix its problems, his passion flows through every word that comes forth from his mouth. And more and more Nigerians appear to be appreciating this fact about the Labour Party standard bearer as his support base and followership continue to swell by the day. Now, the word within inner political circles is that Peter Obi is no longer the ‘small fry’ political powerhouses thought he was, you underestimate Obi now, then, you do so at your own peril! If truth be told, the man has become the nightmare of all the other presidential aspirants and the fear of Peter Obi has since become the beginning of wisdom. Even at this very minute, content is circulating online about a Google conducted popularity ratings purportedly showing Obi as leading Tinubu and Atiku on the scale.
How did Peter Obi, the man everyone thought had no chance in the world of getting anywhere near Aso Rock suddenly become a major contender for the throne? How did the underdog many had dismissed as lacking electoral value with zero political structure emerge as one of the favourites to become the next president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria come 2023? How has he been able to tip the popularity scale and give the APC and PDP presidential candidates, Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar, a run for their money? Let us tell you.
Going by City People’s findings, one of the things that have clearly endeared Peter Obi to many Nigerians the most is the age factor. He is the youngest of all the three major front runners for the Aso Rock seat. Peter Obi is only 61 years of age while Atiku and Tinubu are 75 and 70 years old respectively. The mindset of many Nigerians at this time is that given the experience the country has had with the outgoing president, Muhammadu Buhari, who has spent a large chunk of his tenure going in and out of foreign hospitals seeking medical attention rather than addressing the many pressing issues hounding the country, Nigerians are wary of having another old and fragile president running the nation’s affairs. The thinking is that, given the plethora of problems Nigerians are contending with, starting from terrorism to kidnapping, banditry, inflation and a fast dwindling economy, it will require a younger and healthier president to navigate the country out of the raging inferno that’s about to consume it. Interestingly, a great number of those who didn’t believe before now that the age of the next president of Nigeria could be a deciding factor are now starting to switch camps, agreeing that with the mounting problems in the country, only a much younger president can get to the saddle and hit the ground running. This age factor, which is clearly on Peter Obi’s side, is a big threat to the other aspirants who are all way older than him. Unfortunately for them, it is a problem that’s out of their control.
Another reason why Peter Obi is increasingly becoming a threat to the two other top players in the race is Nigerians’ growing apathy and outright dislike towards the two existing major parties in the country- the APC and the PDP. Nigerians are saying the PDP ruled the country for 16 years and they had nothing to show for it in terms of major transformational change in the lives of Nigerians. The APC took over power and if you ask the man on the street, he will tell you life has never been more gruelling with the APC in charge. Sadly for the APC, they have not helped their own cause. If President Buhari had impressed Nigerians and delivered just about half only of all the promises made to Nigerians in 2015, it would not have been a hard sell marketing the party to Nigerians again for 2023. Nigerians are not just tired of the two parties, they are exasperated with them and can’t wait to see them exit the political space. This is why Peter Obi and his Labour Party are seen as a breath of fresh air coming in with fresh ideas to direct the affairs of the country and take Nigeria to the Promise land. If you ask many Nigerians right now, Peter Obi and the Labour Party are looking like the only political party right now capable of dislodging the ruling APC and that’s one of the reasons why more and more Nigerians are going for Peter Obi. And the other contenders are not finding this the least amusing, it is a big problem they have not been able to find a way around.
Possibly the biggest reason why the man called Peter Obi has become a massive threat to the APC and PDP is the unprecedented following he is getting from the Nigerian youths. Every youth in the country seems to have caught the Peter Obi bug. They idolize him. They call themselves the OBI-DIENTS. They follow him closely on social media and listen to everything he says, every tweet he makes and amplifies them. They cheer and applaud every word he says. They have become online savages. They take on anybody who speaks ill about Peter Obi and ruthlessly tear them apart. They want the man to be the next president of the country and they are not joking about it. For the first time ever in the history of this country, the electoral commission recorded a pretty sharp increase in youth participation during the voters’ card registration exercise. Every one of these youngsters has gotten his/her PVC and they brandish it gleefully on social media for everyone to see and understand that they mean business this time. According to INEC, 4.5 million youths have registered to participate in next year’s election and if you’re wondering who a large chunk of those 4.5 million voters will vote for, then your guess is as good as mine. This, more than any other thing, is the reason why other top contenders are starting to take Peter Obi seriously. They now realize he is a much bigger threat than they possibly imagined.
There are still a lot of people who believe and insist that the OBI-DIENT craze is nothing but a fad that will fade away possibly before the elections come next year. And that even if it stays till then, only a small percentage of the restless Obi youths will turn out for the voting proper. They will be too distracted with other youthful stuff and won’t have the passion or desire to go and queue in the sun for a long time waiting for their turn to vote. Will that be the case? Will the OBE-DIENTS abandon their beloved presidential candidate on the day he needs them the most? No one has the answers yet, 2023 is just a breath away…..