By Emeka Ugwuonye
I certainly felt that Peter Obi was the best of the Presidential candidates. But I knew from day one that it was a mission impossible for him to be President. There is no area in Nigeria where the best is allowed to lead – not in the military, not in the police, not in the academia, not in sports, not in business. In fact, everywhere in Nigeria, the best is not placed in the front. So, on what basis would you assume that Peter Obi would be the President simply because he was the best candidate? People wonder why I did not say so then. I did not want to discourage anyone. I saw the passion and excitement in the millions of disenfranchised Nigerians. So, I held my thoughts to myself. That was the mistake Governor Soludo made. He came out and said that Obi would not win the election. Even though Soludo was logical, I blamed him because I did not want him to dampen the mood and excitement of the people. Obi was the change the people wanted. There was no need trying to deny them the opportunity to seek that change.
INEC made series of blunders in not giving Nigerians a clear account of the votes. But that INEC mistake has also helped Obi and the Obidents. It left them feeling that Obi won the election. In other words, the Obidents felt that Obi won in the North West, North East and North Central. The bulk of Nigerian votes comes from those areas. In as much as I wish he won in the North, logical calculations told me that Obi did not win enough votes in the North to have clinched victory. But for the sake of argument, let’s say he won. Let us assume that Obi won the election. Are there other things that would have stopped him? Yes, the Nigerian factor is it. There are always additional factors that determine outcome of elections other than votes, especially as far as the third world is concerned.
People ask me why did I think that Obi could not have been declared the president even if he had won. I ask them to imagine the opposite, that the 2023 elections had made Obi the President. They also find it hard to reconcile what they know about Nigeria and the idea of the same Nigeria producing President Obi at this time. If Nigeria was as bad as we knew it, if it was as corrupt as we knew it, if it was as tribalistic as we knew it, etc, then it is logical to agree that no such corrupt, tribalistic system would produce a clean-cut president in a clean-cut election.
Does it mean that Nigeria is doomed, that we will never have a good leader like Obi? No! It only means that we are not yet there. If you are familiar with the history of Nigerian elections, you will realize that there has not been a general election in Nigeria that did not involve rigging. It was the massive rigging in the 1965 elections in the Western Nigeria that caused so much disillusionment that ultimately propelled some young officers to overthrow the government in January 1966.
Since the beginning, there has been rigging. However, one can see that despite the fact that we have not totally eliminated rigging, each election circle is better than the previous one. The reason the rigging in this last election became obvious was because of the improvement in the result collation system (the introduction of VMAS). Otherwise, it would have happened without being detected as much. The point is that those who seem so surprised that there was rigging in this election seem to be naïve. I factored that in from the beginning.
For any party to win presidential election in Nigeria, you need three things:
(1) Get enough votes
(2) Be able to resist rigging by others and violence by others
(3) Be able to carry out some rigging yourself.
How did Labor Party do on these three factors? Labor Party did well in No. (1). But APC did well in all three. I am not encouraging rigging. It is an evil thing. But I wished that Labor Party was able to do more on No. (2) as well.
As I said in my earlier posts, you take any situation as you see it. Even when your goal is to change that situation, you must first appraise it. It is an illusion to think that there could be a presidential election in Nigeria in 2023 and there would not be some rigging. It is like thinking that you could drive on any Nigerian road for 5 miles without a pothole. It is like thinking that Nigerian universities could stay open for 5 years without ASUU strikes and closures. I don’t know why you would believe that most institutions in Nigeria are bad, but suddenly assume that the institutions responsible for elections in Nigeria would be good. That means you are not being realistic. You are living in a dream country.
As for the pending petitions, the Supreme Court will not reach any judgment that will declare Obi the winner. The supreme Court may make pronouncements that will condemn INEC and declare certain things done by INEC wrong. But it is highly unlikely that it will not order Bola Tinubu to vacate office for Peter Obi to take over. You all need to get used to that most likely outcome. Having said all this, the court’s attitude will be different with respect to the Governorship elections. I am expecting that at the end of it, Governor Peter Mbah of Enugu State will be ordered to leave office. This is easy to understand. When it comes to governorship elections, the judiciary is not weak. As has happened many times in the past, the Supreme Court has sacked Governors for irregularities with the elections. So, expect that with respect to Peter Mbah.
What should Peter Obi do now? He should use his enormous influence to bring most of the other parties together in a form of coalition and straighten up the mega-party governance structure. That was how Tinubu was able in 2013-14 to bring all the parties together that formed the APC. Obi can form a stronger nationwide party that would give it a strong base in the North. Alternatively, his Labour Party should team up with PDP with Obi as its leader. That is the way Obi could be president in 2027, making Tinubu a one-term president. Obi really understood this, which was why he tried to team up with Kwankwaso, but that did not work out. Now, Tinubu will team up with Kwankwaso in the unity government he wants to form.
If PDP had zoned it to the east and selected Obi, Obi would have been the President today. If Obi had been able to team up with Kwankwaso, he would have been President today. No doubt Obi did well, but he came from a wrong angle. He came as the leader of Labour Party that had nothing to offer him and his only advantage ended up being his personal charisma. Unfortunately, that was not enough.