By now, it must have dawned on the chairman, editorial board of The Nation newspapers, Sam Omatseye, that his attempts to make the Labour Party (LP) presidential candidate, Peter Obi, the issue in 2023 elections, are puerile and dead on arrival.
He had in his latest piece on Monday, August 1, entitled “Obi-tuary”, unwittingly acknowledged the phenomenon that Obi represents, hence, literally wishing him dead to make way for his patron to become the President next year. Wishes cannot be horses, as they say. Nigerians have commendably responded to that misguided outing, situating Omatseye appropriately and telling him in bold terms what he is: a man-child.
By way of explanation, a man-child is an adult man who does not behave in the calm, serious or sensible way that you would expect from someone of his age. That is Omatseye. He deserves pity, not outrage, except that in his infantile tantrums he draws the image and reputation of the media and the country into the mud. It is hoped that he learns and grows or remains in his piteous stage.
More surprising, however, is that even those you would take as established political actors are also toeing that odious path of leaving the issue at hand and focusing on Obi. Since May 24, when Obi left the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and pitched camp with the LP to further his presidential aspiration, he has remained the agenda and topic for discussion by his opponents.
A Facebook social media commentary captured it succinctly the other day that, “when Obi makes television appearances or grants press interviews, he talks on the challenges in the land and how to go about them but when his opponents come on stage, they make Obi the issue”. The other day, when the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, was featured in a recorded television interview, his target was Obi, who he said only reigned on social media. Atiku, like the others, claimed that the LP standard-bearer is not firmly on ground in terms of structures and on that basis cannot cause upsets in the North, where, according to him, over 90 per cent of the voters are not on the Internet space.
The candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Rabiu Kwankwaso, made similar assertions, in fact, with a tinge of bigotry, stressing that the North would not vote for Obi. In Osun, the All Progressives Congress (APC) standard-bearer, Bola Tinubu, vowed that Obi and his LP supporters would labour in vain till they die.
These are clearly not the issues. They are distractions from the task ahead. Obi understands the antics and the agenda but has moved on, drawing from the wisdom of the ex-American First Lady, Michelle Obama, that when his attackers go low, he goes higher. He has added, “When they serve hate, we show love”.
That is the only way to remain focused and keep the eyes on the ball. So, the rants of Omatseye may not really matter.
There are, rather, more serious things to attend to. These are matters that border on development and corporate existence of the country, failing infrastructures, the welfare of the people and their security. Nigeria does not have the luxury of time for frivolities.
In his recent interview with Bloomberg, President Muhammadu Buhari claimed: “We will leave Nigeria in a far better place than we found it.”
Facts on ground in the last seven years of his administration do not support that. In the last six months, for instance, public university students have been out of campuses on account of the strike by the their teachers, under the aegis of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). They have cumulatively lost two academic years to the impasse since the inauguration of this administration.
Millions of Nigerians have within the period been thrown into extreme poverty, a fact that shows in the country wearing the odious tag of the Poverty Capital of the World. The national currency, the naira, has been in a free fall to the ridiculous level of over N700 to the Umited States dollar. Inflation and youth unemployment have been on all-time high.
Above all, insecurity has made life worthless for Nigerians. Daily, tens and hundreds of citizens leave the country for other climes because of the unceasing tide of insecurity and economic hardship. As we write, some Nigerians abducted from the Abuja-Kaduna-bound train on March 28 are still held by their captors, while government looks the other way.
These are the issues that should matter in the 2023 debate. The task ahead is enormous. Obi understands the situation. He has identified the problems confronting the country.
“Today, Nigeria tops the list of fragile, failing states and ranks third on the list of most terrorised countries in the world. We have, since 2019, become the world poverty capital. We now have an army of 50 million out-of-school children, out of which about 60 per cent of them have not been to school at all. Nigeria is now the most stressful country to live in, according to the stress level index”, he observed, recently. He has promised to make a change for the better.
His message resonates with the youths and other Nigerians who have borne the brunt of the failed leadership in the land. When, therefore, you see the youths queuing behind or shouting Peter Obi, it is not for the fun of it. They need action, they need change, a radical departure from a system that has held the country down for a long time and has reduced it to an object of mockery among other nations.
The youths are asking for a fresh breath, a new phase of leadership that will unbound their stifled energies and widen the frontiers of opportunities for them. The old order has failed them, undoubtedly. It is time to move on. In all parts of the country, the message is clear. On various platforms and social media networks, they are united in the punch line #OBIdient#.
It is not about Peter Obi as a person, his region of birth or faith. It is a movement that transcends ethnic or religious considerations. In fact, as my colleague, Ikechukwu Amaechi, rightly noted in one of his incisive articles, “It is about a people looking for an alternative to the status quo that has impoverished all and diminished their country, a people seeking redemption”.
In such a momentous march, the likes of Sam Omatseye do not count.