Optimists still believe that Governor Obiano might still vote for Peter Obi when such a vote really counts, if APGA does not field a presidential candidate.
The choice of Peter Obi by Atiku Abubakar accomplished two things. It tipped over the Atiku-sceptics to the Waziri’s corner. If he had the good sense to appreciate Peter Obi and is ready to work with a man of Peter’s work culture, then he must mean to work truly hard. Secondly, the choice brought back hope to millions of despairing Nigerians that, maybe, the nation has not been condemned to the inevitability of leadership failure and its dire consequences.
The popular stereotype, nay, legend, is that Igbos don’t vote. Atiku has given them cause to try to vote. They might vote for Atiku’s consistency in seeming to appreciate their situation. They might vote for Peter Obi’s sake. After all, he’s the Okwute (rock) Ndigbo, a man who does not quit, change or fold, a man who has wrestled lions and navigated Scylla and Charybdis
To the extent that both men, Atiku and Obi, symbolize first values, principles and the cardinal virtues of temperance, prudence, integrity, thrift, charity and enterprise, their ticket seems to be the design of Providence. People might, just might, start believing again, after what would appear like the doublecross of 2015.
Atiku deserves hearty congratulations for his wisdom. Even in the United States, the choice of a running mate is considered the first most important decision of the candidate. How well or how awfully he does in that choice is often considered a measure of his ability to make important judgments. In 2008, the choice of Sarah Palin was the beginning of the end of the McCain campaign, whereas Obama’s choice of Joe Biden was greeted with excitement. Biden would make up for Obama’s lack of foreign policy experience.
Palin, though a dyed in the wool conservative, was judged unqualified especially so after a disastrous press interview which revealed her shocking limitations.
There are Nigerians who did not know that Peter Obi would wind up as a leader of the PDP, who distrusted PDP deeply, and who think that if he could work in the party, even if he held his nose, that would be enough to renew their faith in the PDP. Thus the PDP would benefit by pushing Peter Obi as an icon and role model, a sign that the party is mending its ways.
Perhaps the greatest handicap of Atiku is that he doesn’t have the luxury and the time to be able to unveil his programmes and sell the character of the ticket to those who might not have known either him or his running mate. Not many Nigerians north of the Rivers Niger and Benue know even cursorily the political tribulations of Peter Obi. Nor would there be many who have gone through his resume and his record of achievements as governor of Anambra State.
The electoral time table permits less than three months of campaigning, which reflects the confusion of trying to run a Westminster time table in a presidential system. The US system permits a presidential candidate nearly two years to expose his talents and programmes. The story is told of when in the early 1970s, Jimmy Carter went to introduce himself to Iowans, and people were asking him “Jimmy Who?” Yet two years later he became President Jimmy Carter. That transformation cannot be done in the three months window permitted for campaigning by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). A Nigerian Barack Obama can never be discovered and turned to a president with the kind of time table designed for today’s Nigerian politics. At first I had thought it was designed to limit the cost of campaigns. Well, the shorter the campaign the less costly. But effectively the time table ensures that no candidate without high name recognition could penetrate the noise to get enough reckoning.
Nigerian presidential campaigns, therefore, need nothing else but money. The US presidential campaign needs money, but it is so physically punishing that it would have been impossible for Muhammadu Buhari to attempt to do it four times. It’s just inconceivable. Vice President Al Gore defeated in 2000, had a chance in 2004 but didn’t dare an encore. Senator John Kerry as energetic and determined as he was, didn’t try a rematch in 2008. The fear most Democrats had in 2016 for Secretary Hillary Clinton was whether she would survive a second campaign. No one is suggesting to her to try it again.
As for Igbos who nurse some misgivings about Atiku’s choice of Peter Obi, the US Vice President Spirow Agnew would have found more colourful words to describe them than “nattering nabobs of negativity.” The righteous indignation of Governor Umahi of Ebonyi State who substituted a positive statement issued on his behalf for a negative one will be remembered long after the February election would have been won or lost. The envy of a few ambitious politicians is understandable though not excusable. Yet even these negative signs would not mean the Igbos are divided on Peter Obi’s choice as running mate.
Peter Obi’s virtues are well known. His falling out with his former protégé, Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State, is well known, and optimists still believe that Governor Obiano might still vote for Peter Obi when such a vote really counts, if APGA does not field a presidential candidate.
The Igbos have been going through a cultural trauma since the end of the civil war. Part of it is the tremendous arrogance implied in the insinuation that the permission of someone or some people ought to be sought before Peter Obi is named the running mate of Atiku.
Yet in spite of the Caliphatization of Igbo land since 1976, the republicanism embedded in Igbo genes would continue to resist new-fangled feudalism mostly given vent by the worship of money that has debased Igbo values and robbed the people of true leadership.
Dr. Charles Soludo’s name was mentioned as the Igbo leaders’ preferred choice for Atiku’s running mate. Did they reckon on the compatibility of both men to work as a team? Most annoying is that the debate is not conducted in the Igbo fashion of village square discussion. May all those against Peter Obi’s choice as a running mate to Atiku stand up so Igbos can remember them when the time of reckoning arrives? Cowardly anonymous views fall short of an Igbo standard for debates.