A Messiah or A Different Side of the Same Coin: Peter Obi and his Obi-dients


President Muhammadu Buhari’s (PMB) appeal to Nigerians was that he embodied change. For 16 years (1999 – 2015) under PDP’s reigns, Nigerian elected officials treat government positions as family property, squandered public funds, and mismanaged the economy, all the while acting as if they were above the law. The need for change became dire under President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration because of this blatant corruption, the rise of insecurity in the north, and an exacerbated slice of tribalism.


Who better to institute reforms  than Retired General Buhari, the “no-nonsense man” and former military Head of State with a legacy of his War against Indiscipline (WAI)? Buhari promised to fight against corruption by publicly prosecuting past corrupt government officials and stripping government offices of excessive spending. He was exactly the change most Nigerians collectively agreed we needed – Iron Hands.


Two terms and almost eight years later, Nigeria is in a more considerable rot; we are historically more indebted than ever, inflation has nearly doubled from 9.01% in 2015 to 15.63% as of 2021, and the exchange rates are a mess because of the constant devaluation of the Naira to offset local debts, insecurity is worse than ever with rampant kidnappings and killings, the north is a warzone as Boko Haram has publicly declared war on the Nigerian government and have started attacking its capital, Abuja. Nigeria is on the precipice of descending into chaos.

In 2012, when Nigerians became fed up with the Goodluck Jonathan’s Administration and took to the street in the Ojota Fuel Subsidy Protest, in 2020, Nigerian Youths protested against police brutality in almost all of her 36 states. The protest became more than a call to stop being profiled and harmed by the police and for a better and more accountable government. Citizens met it with more brutality that led to the death of some, injuries for many, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for most. There was a collective vow to fix Nigeria’s sinkhole through elections.

The Youths are convinced that the only way to put Nigeria on the right path is to elect a government for the people, of the people, and by the people, and for many, Peter Obi, the former governor of Anambra state and Labor Party’s Presidential candidate, represents that.

 It is easy to understand the appeal Obi holds; the 61 years old Obi is a younger and more charismatic candidate compared to those from the popular parties, whose candidates are arguably older – Tinubu-All People’s Congress (APC) 70 years and Atiku-People’s Democratic Party (PDP) 75 years.

Such sentiment might seem valid when not properly interrogated, given our experience with older political leaders, but it is not. To elect government officials based on youthfulness and eloquence rather than competence is a recipe for the disaster we have seen too often; take Yahaya Bello, for instance.

It is arguably not all of his appeals. There is his history in business; he held key leadership positions in top private firms in Nigeria like Guardian Express Bank, International Nigeria Limited, and Future view Securities. He also has a record for being the youngest chairman of Fidelity PLC.

Politically, Obi has less evidence of corruption compared to other candidates, with his legacy as Anambra state governor attesting to his investments in the state’s educational institutions and his sound financial management of the state’s coffers which led to him labeled as “stingy”.  Obi said, “At a time when many other Governors were leaving huge debts, I left the equivalent of 500 million dollars in investment as well as local and foreign currency, including $156 million in Dollar-denominated bonds”. Nigerian Debt Management Office rated Anambra a minor indebted state under his regime.

An uncorroborated allegation however lingers regarding the Pandora Paper scandal and accusations of Peter Obi having invested funds belonging to the state (Anambra) into his family’s company. Obi defended the charge by sponsoring the state money in numerous profitable businesses. Peter Obi offers a tepid weak defense, but for many of his supporters, also nicknamed “Obi-dients”his defense is  satisfactory. If we are to judge by their chosen nickname, perhaps we can understand how they can let it slide. “Obi – dient” is a word similar to obedience used to indicate compliance with an order or submission to another’s authority. It is the antithesis of any democracy.

It screams loyalty without reasoning, a behavior some of his supporters exhibit when any criticism of Obi is made either in good or bad faith. I fear that if he loses this election, it may re-enact the Buhari Vs. Nigerians’ situation where he gained cult-like followers that cannot criticize his administration.

Comparatively, Obi seems to live a different personal lifestyle from other politicians. In a birthday shoutout to Peter Obi on a Facebook post, Nigerian Author Chimamanda Adiche fondly commented on his frugality. She is not the first to publicly share observations of virtues like this that are scarce amongst the Nigerian political elite.

Personal virtues like this are admirable, but requires a cautious embraace because because it was also a virtue heralded by Buhari supporters of Buhari before he was elected into the Presidency. Also, it is curious as to why Peter Obi is in close allyship with members of the ruling political elites   if they share different ideologies.

Recall that Obi was the 2018 VP nominee for PDP on Atiku’s ticket, Atiku – a politician with several alleged cases of corruption.  As recently as June 2022, he publicly expressed support for Ekweremadu, Former Deputy Senate President, after he had just been arrested along with his wife for conspiracy to traffic a child.Though details of this event are yet to be verified, it is yet another red flag conveniently ignored by Nigerians who publicly support him. Nigeria needs a government divorced from our current political elites, and we need a government with radical ideologies and a detailed analysis of its implementation. Peter Obi, though he vows to upset the status quo, it is unproven if he can actually deliver on this promise. The rot Nigeria is today goes beyond inflation and bad economic policies. While a better economy is undoubtedly one thing we want, a total reform is what Nigeria truly needs.

Will history repeat itself, or have we learned to identify yellow flags for their potential to become red?

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