Emerging signals indicate that these are not easy times for presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Mr Peter Obi in the Southeast and those who chose to join issues with him. Since winning the ticket of the relatively unknown LP and the unusual popularity and acceptance it is gaining, both Obi and his party have become the brand to loathe and court.
While Obi receives accolades across the country, there seems to be a different kind of thinking among some of his kits and kin at home, especially the political class who dread his upstart audacity and disruption he is unleashing.
These pundits cease every opportunity to doubt his aspiration. They see him as posturing for pecuniary rewards and that time is not ripe for a president of Nigeria to emerge from the southeast region.
The likes of former Anambra State chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Dan Ulasi; the senator, representing Enugu East senatorial constituency, Dr Chimaroke Nnamani, among others have taken turns to canvass against his emergence and why he should not be taken seriously.
While Ulasi has insisted that PDP should produce the next president from the north and dismissed Obi as “incompetent,”Nnamani prefers to spread his influence abroad, prodding Bola Ahmed Tinubu of All Progressives Congress (APC) and labeling Obi supporters as “noise makers”; a development that had elicited social media altercation between the Obi-dients and the Senator.
Conversely, apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndiigbo, which had before now championed the cause of presidency from Igbo extraction in 2023 have recoiled in its shell as leadership crisis has engulfed the body with members now speaking from both sides of their mouths on the presidency project.
Last week, Anambra State governor, Prof Charles Soludo joined the fray. In what looked like an effort to drive a nail into the aspiration of Obi and appeal to the intellectual base at home and everywhere, the governor lashed out at the core of Obi’s message to Nigeria, regarding his economic blueprint and profits from investments he (Obi) made as governor. Soludo had dismissed the investments as “worthless,” saying that despite the amount of money at the disposal of Obi as governor, he was bound to do more.
Apparently feeling that his first salvo failed to hit bull’s eye, the governor decided to make himself clearer in a letter that directly dismissed Obi’s aspiration as unrealistic and not in the interest of Ndigbo.
In the 4008-word letter, Soludo dismissed Obi, as a joker in the 2023 race, suggesting that he would only deplete the votes of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar of the PDP and widen the chances of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.”
Harping on what he intended as infidelity on the part of Obi as hopped from the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) to PDP and LP, which he described as “transit camp” for aspirants who lost primaries, the governor said Obi himself knows that he cannot win. He dismissed Obi as ambitious, and recalled his advise and offer for him to return to APGA to help rebuild the homegrown party and prosecute his presidential ambition if need be.
Soludo also took a swipe at Obi’s bullish supporters, whom he referred to as social media mob, just as he dismissed the projects of Obi as governor as substandard and his regime as one that inflicted poverty on Anambra people.
It could not be fathomed where things began to go awry for both men, who on the flip side refer to each other as “brother”. The few guesses that could be hazard are that Obi defeated Soludo in the governorship election of 2010. Obi was governor when Soludo joined APGA in 2014 to contest governorship election of the state. Against all odds, he was disqualified at the primary that threw up immediate past governor, Willie Obiano.
When Obi left as governor to join PDP, Soludo walked his way back into reckoning in APGA and joined forces with Obiano to ensure that Obi’s candidate in the governorship election of 2017, Dubem Obaze did not win. Again, when Soludo became the APGA candidate in the November 2021 governorship election, Obi had supported Valentine Ozigbo of PDP. Soludo, however, won the election.
But both men came together during the swearing in of Soludo in March this year. They actually embraced at the event. Obi as presidential candidate of LP has visited the governor to notify him of the development, seeking his blessings.
Few days after the visit, however, stories had gone viral of an alleged directive by the governor for his officials to work against Obi, giving the fact that APGA has its own presidential candidate. This was later denied and dismissed by the governor’s media aides.
The present attacks by the governor on Obi had pundits saying the earlier dismissed reports may indeed be true, that all is not well between the men. Many are also wondering what the governor stands to benefit in the war of attrition since he is not a candidate in the presidential election and not in same party with Obi.
Is the governor on a vendetta mission to pay Obi back for making him lose the governorship race at different times? Are there external interests that the governor is working for and why would he be so critical to the point of trashing a project of this magnitude; an opportunity that his Igbo people had longed for? These are issues that have set tongues wagging.
Former National Publicity Secretary, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Mazi Chuks Ibegbu told The Guardian that it was “needless pretending as if all is well with both men”, stressing that, “there is a bottled animosity that may have existed for years.
“Otherwise, why would Soludo with all his trainings and experience yield himself so cheaply to be used to destroy the same person he calls brother? Obi was governor more than eight years ago in Anambra; he has left APGA for LP and has moved on, why won’t Soludo move on? Does Obi being a president of Nigeria prevent Soludo from being the governor of Anambra State?
“I think it is the same Igbophobia in us. It is the same character of being used by others against our own people. This is what has held Igbo down. Obi is Igbo but has become the rave of the moment in his pursuit. He has not come to Soludo to beg for money for his project; he is not asking for another platform; he has not asked for the presidential candidate of APGA to step down, so why the fuss?
“Peter Obi is a symbol of attempt by Ndigbo to have a political say in Nigeria. Obi is a Nigerian project that has to do with justice and equity. It is however, unfortunate for Soludo to engage Obi at this time. Let me add however, that it is shocking and unbelievable and no matter his differences with him, the situation we found ourselves is one that is strategic. Nigerians want a change.
“Soludo is saying that it is not time for Igbo to be president and I should ask him when the time will be ripe? I am very uncomfortable with his stance and I will caution him to retrace his steps. It is a disastrous statement. Obi is not a saint but it is not left for Soludo to engage in this kind of war. Even if Soludo wants to be president of the country, he should finish his present term or resign to contest. He should be made to apologise.”
Similarly, Emeritus President General of Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazuruike reeled in shock over the outbursts. The lawyer, who insisted that he was terrified by the extent people of the region could go against their own, urged the governor to retrace his steps.
He said: “I am shocked but in a way relieved that the mask on face of Soludo is being unveiled. This is a case of the enemy within. It’s good for Peter Obi to know that this present governor is a wolf in the sheep’s clothing. There is no justification or reason except the sabo personality. Remember that Soludo was welcomed by all as part of the Igbo intelligentsia guiding us towards our goals. Soludo can only be compared with those who hurt Anambra State between 1999 and 2003.
“His main drive is to impoverish the state. The first 100 days indicates the tempo of a government. Presently, transport companies are groaning under stupendous parking fees.
“Today, Peter Obi is the face of a prosperous future of this country. He inspires the young and the young at heart. His chances are stupendous. His following among the critical young voters is amazing.
“INEC has the onerous duty of being determined to give us a credible election. Anything to the contrary will devour this nation. Bad election is horrible and destructive. The way forward is a purposeful and determined election, free and fair election which means a level playing ground.”
Former Pro Chancellor, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Prof Fabina Osuji said he was “thoroughly embarrassed” about the level of hostility being exhibited by Soludo towards Peter Obi, explaining that, “I cannot imagine the same person who benefitted resoundingly from the support of Umunna being the one to pull down his own brother who is enjoying overwhelming support elsewhere. I am truly ashamed of him.”
Osuji, who stated that many Igbo contributed to lifting Soludo to his present status, asked the Igbo not to allow the governor to get away with this.
“He should be made to withdraw all his damaging statements against Obi. There is still time for him to reverse himself in this matter. Ndigbo must not allow him to get away with this”, he said.
On their part, the Labour Party in the Southeast said Soludo should have employed the wisdom of silence, “even if he so much hated Mr. Obi, but for the sake of the Nigerian project stand with the mass of the people.”
The LP’s National Vice Chairman, Chief Sunday Okeke told The Guardian on Wednesday that the governor in a haste to rubbish the person of Obi, quickly forgot the investment and savings he made for the state, adding that “Obi saved for the future of his state (Anambra) N75b, $50m in each of the three existing commercial banks of today, and N3.5b in the International Brewery
“He handed over this investment to a new manager (governor), who has never denied knowledge of the investments. Whether the manager (governor) took good care of the investment is another day’s discussion. And the former handed over to Soludo, now Soludo is casting aspersions on Mr. Obi, nine years after he left office with verifiable savings and investment is uncalled for and condemnable by the entire Igbo race and Nigeria at large.”
Speaking on the implication of the current position of Anambra governor on Peter Obi, a Political analyst, Dr Eugene Okenwa, explained that no one makes progress when some of best supporters are singing different tune.
Recalling that a similar confrontation had arisen during that last general elections when Obi was Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s presidential running mate in the PDP, he said that such opposition voices would always find a way to truncate the collective will of the people.
“You will recall that even our governors who were of the PDP came up in 2019 to distance themselves from Obi on the guise that they were not consulted before he was announced as the running mate. These political leaders are not doing these things in the interest of their people. It is for their personal interests and that is why we keep experiencing marginalisation. During elections, they will employ every arsenal they can muster to change the will of the people for their benefits. I don’t expect the likes of Soludo to support Peter Obi in the coming election; I don’t expect even Chimaroke Nnamani to ask his supporters to vote for him; it is as bad as that.
“Take another look at the campaigns of the LP in the zone; you will discover an orchestrated plot to depopularise the party and those doing this are people whom we have taken as our leaders; whom we have elected to serve and preserve our interests; yet they are more fulfilled serving their personal interests,” he said.
He believes, however, that the current wave by the youths to take their destiny in their hands would cure these challenges and raise leaders that are not self-serving.