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South East’s Support for Peter Obi: Tribalism or a Vote for Competence? – Aisha Yesufu

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By Aisha Yesufu

In Nigeria’s complex political landscape, accusations of tribalism are often leveled at different regions and groups based on their voting patterns. Recently, the South East has faced such criticism following their support for Peter Obi in his presidential bid. This narrative, however, overlooks a history of diverse political support from the region.

Historically, the South East has not confined its support to candidates from its own ethnic group. When Odumegwu Ojukwu, a prominent Igbo leader, ran for president, he did not receive unanimous support from the South East. Similarly, at the outset of Peter Obi’s campaign, there was skepticism about whether he would even secure significant backing from his home region, with many predicting he might only win in Anambra State.

Despite this, the South East is now being labeled as tribalistic for rallying behind Peter Obi. This accusation seems inconsistent when viewed against their political history. When the South East supported Olusegun Obasanjo, a Yoruba from the South West, they were not called tribalistic. The same applies to their support for Umaru Yar’Adua from the North, Goodluck Jonathan from the South-South, and Atiku Abubakar from the North. Their voting record has consistently demonstrated a willingness to support candidates from various regions and ethnic groups.

The current backlash appears to stem from the fact that Peter Obi, a candidate widely regarded as competent and capable, happens to be from the South East. The support for him is seen by critics as tribalistic rather than a choice based on his qualifications and vision for the country.

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In a political climate where regional and ethnic allegiances often overshadow merit, the support for Peter Obi can be viewed differently. If supporting a competent candidate from one’s own region is considered tribalistic, then perhaps this form of tribalism is what Nigeria needs more of—voting based on the capability and vision of the candidate rather than merely their ethnic background.

The South East’s support for Peter Obi should be seen not as an act of tribalism, but as a vote for competence and change. It highlights a desire for effective leadership and a move towards a more meritocratic political system. As Nigeria continues to navigate its complex political terrain, such narratives should encourage a more nuanced understanding of voter behavior across regions.

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