Odibo: How Obi Phenomenon is Energising the Youth
Director of Media and Communications of the BIG-TENT for Peter Obi, the umbrella body of the Obi Presidential campaign organization, Charles Odibo, in this interview explains how Obi has become the most talked-about political figure in the country. Vanessa Obioha brings excerpts:
There is a growing buzz about some cause-related social issues being championed by the BIG TENT for Peter Obi, like the Clean-Up Nigeria project. What is it all about?
In some way, Peter Obi, who has unsurprisingly become the most-admired political figure in Nigeria today, has defined and set the tone for engagement in this forthcoming election. In words and deeds he is showing the face of the new Nigeria that we all desire, that it’s about peoples’ lives, their hopes, their dreams, and their aspirations. That’s what this Clean-Up Nigeria project engagement is all about. In terms of how the project engages with Nigerians, especially the youth who are the major drivers of the Obidient movement, it is designed to mop up and properly channel the energies of our growing Obi-dient youth population through various socially impactful SPEAK UP & CLEAN UP activities to promote sustainably organized youth led support rallies for Obi’s emergence as President.
Through Clean Up Nigeria, we have created a rallying point for the productive engagement of youth; it will serve as channel to support youth Speak-Up (Soro-Soke). Above all, it will enable clean up our cities, de-clog the drainages in support of the world climate month and beyond, and rid our environment of plastics waste. Clean Up Nigeria shows that the Obi presidency will be all about doing good and solving societal problems.
There is also another project called Doctors For Peter Obi. What is it all about?
In the Obi campaign architecture, the BIG-TENT has responsibility for vetting and endorsing all the numerous support groups that are daily volunteering to work for the ObiDatti movement. We encourage more progressive-minded groups to join us.
So, Doctors for Peter Obi and Medics for Peter Obi movement is one of such support groups. It is a grassroots outreach initiative of doctors and allied professionals who freely volunteered to support the presidential campaign of Obi. It is a non-profit, non-religious and non-ethnic initiative. It is open to all doctors who are of good character and standing in the community, and are known to be interested in the aims and aspirations of the initiative. So far, the group has over 7000 doctors and about 3500 Allied Professionals, totaling over 10000, in the movement at home, in over 20 states, and in the diaspora.
Already, the UK chapter of Doctors For Obi has concluded a 30-day fully funded medical outreach/sensitization campaign across the 16 LGAs of Taraba State in collaboration with the Taraba Doctors for Obi.
Clearly, you can see that the Obi movement is about collaborative and productive engagement, a mindset that today’s politics should not be about the candidates but about Nigerians, their dreams, aspirations, beliefs and hopes.
But there is still that feeling that the OBIdient movement has not cascaded the political firmament of the country, that Obi is not known in many parts of rural Nigeria, apart from city centres, where the social media savvy Nigerians are able to operate from their keyboards.
Let us first and foremost create some context here so that you can clearly understand that the jaded tantrums of the outgoing political class is because they are jittery and merely playing the ostrich. First, is the overwhelming turn-out in the just concluded INEC Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise by youth who earnestly desire to collect their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs).
According to The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), it recorded a total of approximately 12.3 million fresh registrants out of which 8.8 million, that is 71%, are youth, as at July 31, 2022 when it ended the exercise. Recall that this CVR started as far back as June 2020, but it was only after Obi dumped PDP and pitched his tent with Labour Party in June this year did the nation witness the unprecedented surge in voter registration. Take note also that since the return to democracy in 1999 this nation has never witnessed this sort of massive youth involvement. So, how can over eight million additional young Nigerians defy all the odds, in sun and rain, out of their own volition, choose to be major actors in the February 2023 election and you describe it as social media frenzy.
Also this, in the 2019 general elections, more than half of the registered voters (51.11%) were between the ages of 18 and 35, while 30% were between the ages of 36 and 50. So with an additional over eight million Nigerians, between the ages of 18 and 35 who have already registered to collect their Permanent Voters Card (PVC) for the 2023 elections, the youth percentage has further increased astronomically.
Another factor to note is the use of BVAS technology and the expected adherence to the 2022 Electoral Act which states that results must be electronically transmitted. Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), as you know, is an electronic device designed to read Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) and authenticate voters – using the voters’ fingerprints – in order to prove that they are eligible to vote at a particular polling unit. This will drastically reduce rigging of elections. As for vote buying, which is the forte of these misruling parties that brought us to this sorry pass, the youth who will outnumber their thugs at the polling units will truncate their anti-democratic plans. With this perspective, of verifiable youth numbers and involvement, does it in any way seem to you that Peter Obi’s massive followership is on social media only? Definitely, No.
But there is still the talk about structure which hasn’t also gone away despite the massive turnout at the OBIdients rallies across the country, ahead of the start of campaigns later this month.
You see, when we deflate one unfounded fallacy, they search for another and seek to hold onto it because they have nothing tangible to offer long-suffering Nigerians. They constantly exhibit the tendencies of drowning persons trying to hold on to straws, relying only on cheap and self-serving propaganda that distract from the issues that are plaguing the country, and on which only Obi is engaging Nigerians at home and in the diaspora, offering clear solutions while committing to measurable timelines.
Having said that, the multitude of youth who are organically growing the Obi movement is a structure because they will vote and defend their votes in all polling units across the country.
Do not also forget that the Labour Party and all the coalition partners in the third force have also aligned with the National Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) which have presence all over the country. These are formidable and real structures that will prevail when the chips are down.
The Peter Obi Movement, against some permutations has not stymied but seems to be gathering steam. What is it that ensures this upsurge in Obi’s popularity?
In a nutshell, it has to do with his issues-based messages, his persona, and his pedigree. Peter Obi’s message is clear and it resonates. It is the mindset of a true change agent. He tells the youth that it’s not about him and Datti Baba-Ahmed, but it’s about them, you and I, our dreams, aspirations, beliefs and hopes. He makes it abundantly clear that it’s about Nigerians and the government he will form in May 2023 working together to make things happen. His emphasis for the true change that endures is about focusing on our issues, our dreams, our beliefs and our aspirations.
Why do the youth whole-heartedly tend to believe him given that past leaders have made promises and failed, especially those who recently promised “change”
It’s essentially his pedigree, his remarkable life of exemplary prudent conduct in his private life and public service as former governor of Anambra state, for eight years. Unlike the other candidates, he is credible and has no baggage.
Before I delve into specifics, let me read out to you what a popular columnist in your paper, Dr. Chidi Amuta, wrote recently about Peter Obi. “He has spent the last few weeks stomping the nation, naming the many things that have troubled Nigerians for decades. He has shed his personal mask and assumed the mantle and face of spokesperson of every troubled Nigerian. It is not Obi but his message that has ignited an unfamiliar flame among Nigerians.”
Now to his pedigree. I shall attempt to list some of his outstanding accomplishments. Under him, Anambra state was rated the least indebted state in Nigeria by the Debt Management Office (DMO). During his tenure, Anambra was adjudged by the Federal Ministry of Works as the state with the best network of roads in the country having asphalted over 800 kilometres of roads.
Obi re-opened long-closed schools and returned Missionary schools to the original owners with a grant of N6 billion for their rehabilitation, distributing over 30,000 computers and internet access to over 500 schools.
With this transformational activity, Anambra state students for the first time achieved first place nationwide in the 2011, 2012, and 2013 WASSCE and NECO examinations. He also ensured the payment of over N35 billion in outstanding pensions and gratuities in the state since 1999.
Perhaps Obi’s greatest legacy in office was his financial prudence. He funded development projects without borrowing money from financial institutions nor raising bonds, and he handed over to his successor the sum of N75 billion in form of cash, local and foreign investments. I could go on, ad infinitum.
In terms of the big idea, what do you consider as Obi’s Point of View for the new Nigeria that he espouses?
It is evidently clear. It is an integrated thinking. For him, it goes beyond the tokenism that attends our attempts at building infrastructure, on the rent seeking that we have all come to regard as the way of doing business. The way forward for him is that all investments whether in the structure of the nation, the educational system, rail, power, roads, health, and security must answer one question: How will Nigeria be globally competitive in the new age – the post digital age? How do we enhance and release the creative energies of our people instead of turning on each other? This new thinking is a developmental future forward positioning as against politicking posturing. It is only Peter that can commit to this new thinking because he has embraced at his core, the concept of transparency in government and accountability to the people.
Do you really believe that Peter Obi and Datti Baba-Ahmed can win the forthcoming election on February 25, 2023?
Without any iota of doubt, based on the empirical evidence that I highlighted earlier, and the daily growth of the movement which unfolds before us, the answer is an emphatic yes. Come to think of it, have you ever seen an organic followership or involvement in politics by Nigerians, especially youths, as we see in the country today? Nigerians spending their money, time and other resources to organize, mobilise, engage, and convert voters, without asking to be compensated? As an example, a group of young people in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital are raising funds and mounting billboards for Obi all over the city. Guess what the message they put on the bill boards is – “It is the turn of our children’s future.”
But more important is the admonition and note of caution which Dele Farotimi, lawyer and human rights activist, gave on Arise TV, your sister station, very recently, and also published in your paper subsequently.
He said Obi is the only candidate that has energised the youth and giving them hope in this season and if that hope is dashed, or if the Nigerian state contrives to take away what, according to him, “appears to be the only reason that the Nigerian youth wakes up in the morning with hope in his heart then there would be reasons to be afraid, there would be several reasons to fear, because hope denied provokes violence.”