The news of Peter Obi’s emergence as Atiku Abubakar’s running mate was well received throughout the country especially in the South-East where people responded with joy, excitement and fanfare.
Aside from the fact that he is one of their own, many in the South-East had first hand information of Obi’s larger than life performance as the executive governor of Anambra State and felt he is a credible candidate for the position.
They have seen the laudable projects he completed, the investments he made in education, skills acquisition and human capital development. They are also aware of how prudently he managed the state’s resources – they know he came to Anambra State a poor state and left it richer than anyone ever imagined, least indebted of all the states in Nigeria and with up to 75 billion naira in the state coffers. These details are not lost on the rest of the citizens of this country who have also become enamoured of Obi’s unassailable reputation as an astute manager and a principled public office holder.
The news that South-East PDP leaders and governors have raised objection to the choice of Peter Obi did not go down well with most Nigerians. The jubilant mood of those in the South-East was instantly replaced with shock and dismay.
The people could not understand why their own political leaders should be the ones standing against the selection of their son as VP candidate. They are beginning to feel that their leaders are out to serve some other interest, not the interest of the people. This is unfortunate. The continuation of this regrettable saga may erode the trust between the South-East people and their political leaders.
Already, the ambivalent signal from the zone is giving the South-East an unwanted attention and portraying the zone in a very bad light. The political leaders of the South-East complained that they were not consulted before the choice was made and felt compelled to raise objections. However, before putting more weight on this stance the leaders should take the following into consideration:
The choice of Peter Obi is not a purely political one:
Two critical considerations informed the choice of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as PDP’s presidential flag bearer: his capacity to match and possibly beat Buhari in the political game and his capability to be a good president. While PDP is anxious to wrestle power from APC, they are also anxious to make a difference once power is theirs. They are desirous of giving Nigerians true and exemplary leadership in lieu of the poor example APC has offered.
In response to APC’s disastrous interlude, PDP wants to be the party that would enthrone good governance, entrench true democratic values and set the country on a permanent growth trajectory. Atiku was chosen as the most credible person to lead this charge. This same premise also informed Atiku’s choice of Peter Obi as his running mate. He did not choose Obi because of political considerations. He chose him because of the competencies and qualities he will bring to the presidency.
Since picking the VP is his prerogative, and convinced that the person must come from South-East, he did that quickly without succumbing too much to political or petty considerations. By so doing, he also made a powerful statement of intent: the era of using positions such as the office of the VP, the No. 2 citizen of the country, to settle political big wigs as APC did in 2015 is over; public officials in his government will be chosen based on their capability to deliver not as a way to gratify a few political elites. This is a most welcomed development, a development our leaders should take into account.
Their position does not reflect the position of the people:
The position of South-East political leaders does not resonate with the people of the zone. The news of Peter Obi’s selection as VP was received with great fanfare and joy by the people. Those of us on the ground can testify that. The discordant tune being sung by South-East leaders does not find consonance with the wishes of the people. To state it unequivocally, the people are not with them in this matter, and certainly would never be.
Going further to reject the candidature of Obi outright or work against Atiku/Obi presidential team in favour of some unpopular interest would no doubt be disastrous. The southeast will not follow them in any attempt to change course. Already the zone looks set to vote against Buhari because of what the people perceived as injustice, unfairness and double standard on the part of Buhari towards the zone.
They have not forgotten the Operation Python Dance in which excessive brutality was meted out to unarmed civilians in Aba and elsewhere. They are also convinced that Atiku/Obi provides a better alternative not only for the South-East but for the entire nation.
The fact that they were not consulted is not enough reason for them to form ranks against the wishes of the people who have not had a position as high as the Vice President come to the South-East in the past 35 years. The cost of such venture would far outweigh whatever gains anyone hopes to take from it.
The announcement of Peter Obi met the expectations of the generality of Nigerians.
It was not only in South-East that the choice of Peter Obi was celebrated; the rest of the country saw it as a welcome development. While the South-East was happy that he is one of their own, the rest of the country was contented and pleased with the credibility of the person chosen. Groups such as the Afenifere have endorsed and lauded Atiku’s choice.
Analysts and informed observers alike did not only attest to Peter Obi’s uncommon qualities, competence and capability, they also praised the dispatch with which Atiku put an end to speculations by promptly announcing Peter Obi as his running mate. With this prompt action, he has shown that he is not going to dilly-dally if he is elected president.
He has given the impression that he will not waste time to get down to the business of moving Nigeria forward. If this is the sign of good things to come, South-East political leaders should do well not to stand on the way.
Mr. Chijioke Mbaka is a public affairs analyst based in Enugu. He can be followed @Mbaka_Ogonnaya