A mass movement has just begun. It is the type that will test the resolve or lack of it of Nigerians to change the way things are in their country. Mr. Peter Obi, the former governor of Anambra State, who until a few days ago, was a frontline presidential contender on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has switched camp. He is now carrying the banner of the Labour Party. Obi is in the new party to give full expression to his aspiration to be the President of Nigeria. His former party constrained him in no small measure.
But like William Blake, Obi will rather construct his own system than be enslaved by other people’s systems. The mass movement represented by Peter Obi is a clarion call. It aims at a radical displacement. It is an invitation to Nigerians to seize the day and use it to give their country a new and enduring meaning.
If Obi were just a politician in the strict sense of the word as we know it in Nigeria, his movement to a new party would have come without a whimper. It would have been glossed over as a non-event. But because he has a story behind his name, his action has stirred Nigeria’s political waters. It is eliciting excited discourses across the country. It is so because the man represents a new thinking. He is the apostle of a new order. He is making a case for a Nigeria that will work for all, particularly the youth. Obi took his dream to the PDP. But the party failed to convert it to advantage.
Following the mess that the APC administration has made of Nigeria, those who wish the country well had imagined that the PDP, which lost power by default in 2015, would stage a comeback in 2015 through dexterous politics. They had wished for a virile alternative that would halt the misrule of the moment. It was thought that the PDP would rediscover itself and give Nigerians a good reason to yearn for its return. But the turn of events does not bear this expectation out. The atmosphere in PDP has been fouled by the politics of zoning. In the course of the ding-dong battle for the soul of the party, the watching world has come to discover to its chagrin that the party has not weaned itself of those mistakes that cost it the presidency seven years ago. Nigerians have seen through the wire mesh of devious intrigues going on in the party. They are disturbed that the elements that decapitated the party in the 2015 presidential election with their tendentious defections have returned in droves to determine the new direction of the party. The impression they have left many with is that the party exists at their pleasure. They kill it when they want and also resurrect when it suits them. This is a poisonous streak that has not helped the cause of the party. It was in this dog-eat-dog situation that Peter Obi, like some others, found themselves. But Obi has since seen through the elaborate charade being enacted in the PDP and has decided to go in search of a new order.
Those who have bothered to pay attention to the Peter Obi persona will readily acknowledge the fact that what drives him is not the urge to occupy the presidential office. He has said it clearly that he is not desperate to be the President of Nigeria. Rather, he is driven by passion and patriotism. The country has lost bearing and is in dire need of redirection. Obi does not think that we should resign to this ugly situation. He pities the country and its peoples. He is particularly worried about the plight of the Nigerian youth. He knows that crime and criminality have taken over the land because the youth have been abandoned. How can a country find its bearing if the youth are abandoned and disoriented? The disconnect between the leadership and the youth population can cripple a country. And that is the real malaise that has held the country down. Obi, like other patriotic Nigerians, is worried about this state of affairs. That explains his passion. He wants to enthrone an order that will make it possible for the youth to take back their country. If he succeeds, he would have toppled the apple cart that has been holding the country down.
The Peter Obi magic wand is coming at a time the country needs it most. In Nigeria, there has been so much motion without movement. Leaders have come and gone. But none could be said to have succeeded in pulling the country out of the woods. The same is true of political parties. Bereft of any ideological leaning, political parties in Nigeria merely amble along. Their only strength lies in the seasonal battle for political offices. Nothing else matters once power is grabbed or missed. The real problem here is that of vision and passion. Most of those who have ascended the presidential throne so far did not plan to go there. Even those who made spirited and desperate efforts to get there got overwhelmed at the point of entry. The result is that Nigeria has been a joke all along.
But at no time in the country’s political history have things got so bad than now. The present leadership has been run over by contrary forces. The government has become a lame duck. It does not know what to do with the powers entrusted to it. This has brought about the despondency that pervades the political landscape. But the saving grace is that the people are resilient. They have not given up on their fatherland. That is why there is clamour for a new order. Before now, Nigerians anchored their hopes on what the two dominant political parties could offer. They had imagined that either of them could make the desired difference. But that has not been the case.
This is where a third force has become imperative. Nigerians have seen through the old order and they are convinced that hope does not lie in their actions and inactions. They now desire an intermediate force between the two opposing forces that have run the country down. Peter Obi and his politics, to all intents and purposes, represent this third force. He wants to bring about a new Nigeria. He wants to enthrone a paradigm shift. He wants Nigeria to be run efficiently. The real attraction to the Peter Obi quest is that he does not just have the ideas, he has the passion and the discipline to bring about the desired change. He is presenting Nigerians with an opportunity to reclaim their country. What they do with it is the choice before them.