The Nigerian Voter is a series that seeks to understand the motivations that drive the voting decisions of Nigerians — why they vote, how they pick their candidates, why some have never voted, and their wildest stories around elections.
Editorial Note: The Nigerian Voter is a platform for Nigerians to passionately discuss policies and politics with little interference to individual opinions. While our editorial standards emphasise the truth and we endeavour to fact-check claims and allegations, we do not bear any responsibility for allegations made about other people founded in half-truths.
The subject of today’s “The Nigerian Voter” is Blessing, an IT professional in his early thirties. He also convenes the Take Back Naija movement, mobilising youths nationwide towards garnering support for Labour Party presidential candidate Peter Obi. Citizen spoke with him about his political journey and inspiration for birthing the group. He also shared how he felt about Obi not being declared the winner for the 2023 elections and his future goals with the movement towards the gubernatorial elections.
What made you interested in politics?
My interest in politics started in 2006 when I lived with my uncle. Then he was a councillor in his local government, and I often listened to him having political conversations about the Anambra and Enugu state governments in the parlour. We also listened to news stations on the radio and television frequently, as well as in newspapers. I also noticed that my uncle was calm, quiet and a good person all-round; yet he was in politics. This gave me the mindset that not all politicians were bad people. You could also find good ones too.
However, I started to get involved in politics in 2010 in the Anambra State elections. I was the deputy ward secretary of Nanka Ward 1 and my mum was the woman leader at the time. Since then, I either voted (from the 2011-2023 election cycles) or made sure I could sensitise people towards political awareness. I didn’t do all of this on a grand scale until 2021.
From 2011-2023, who did you vote for, and why did you vote for them?
I voted for Goodluck Johnathan in 2011. I can’t exactly say that it was a conscious decision. He was the preferred choice for most people in the South. This was despite the fact that I wasn’t a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) member then, but a card carrying member of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). The ACN candidate then was Nuhu Ribadu, but most didn’t think he stood a chance.
In 2015, I displayed my interest in Goodluck Jonathan again in the elections via social media. However, I couldn’t vote because I had just relocated from Anambra to Abuja, and I didn’t have the chance to transfer my Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC).
In 2019, I travelled to Anambra to vote for Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, and of course, I voted for Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) in 2023.
Which election year would you say you had your craziest election experience?
The 2023 election was my craziest because I played a major role in the elections.
What was this major role?
I was a convener for the Take Back Naija political movement in 2022. It was basically youths coming together to influence a change for good governance from federal to local government. The politics we played in Nigeria over the years had not really worked for Nigeria. Thus, we must shift from what we are used to doing something different.
The Take Back Naija logo [Twitter]
How did your movement influence this change?
We did this by making sure we scrutinised each potential presidential candidate and their antecedents. It was then decided that whoever we saw as our preferred candidate would be given enormous support. We would mobilise for his campaign, raise funds, advertise, arrange conferences etc. It then became our duty or mandate to help these candidates with their campaigns when they align with the people’s values.
After much deliberation, we concluded that Obi’s antecedents and his plans for Nigeria aligned with our values and represented the future kind of politics we wanted. Even the name for the movement came from one of his speeches where he said, “take back your country; it is your future they are toying with.” The campaign for Obi officially started in January 2022.
What did Take Back Naija do for Peter Obi?
As of January 2022, Peter Obi was still a member of the PDP with presidential ambitions. We then met with PDP delegates at Abuja in the form of a peaceful protest to convince them to elect Peter Obi for president. This was coupled with a social hashtag, #GiveUsPeterObi. We also organised the first nationwide one million man march for Peter Obi in May 2022 and erected billboards in major cities in Nigeria such as Port Harcourt, Lagos, Abuja and even some Northern cities such as Kaduna and Sokoto. We had radio jingles for him at the early stage of the campaign and many more.
Shortly after, Obi and his team resigned from the PDP to the Labour Party before the PDP primaries. We examined his previous speeches and broadcast critical soundbites on his plans for Nigerian citizens. There was also created a website for Obi and a Telegram community for Obi supporters in various locations across Nigeria. A press release was distributed while Obi was still a member of the PDP. In the press release, we told PDP delegates that we’d give at least ten million votes if they gave us Peter Obi (if he won at the PDP primaries).
Getting people to support the movement even after he left was easy because the man had a way of inspiring voters.
Is it your team that inspired the Obidient movement?
No one can fully lay claim to the “Obidient” movement, as it just happened organically. However, if there is anyone to be responsible for it, it should be Obi. Without him, the movement would not exist.
Fans of the ‘Obidient’ movement [Financial Times]
What was your reaction when Obi wasn’t declared winner of the 2023 presidential elections?
Personally, I didn’t feel bad because I knew that Obi was the true winner of the election. I also didn’t feel bad because I believed that we did all the things that we should do as young people towards the elections. We only over-trusted INEC in believing that they were going to do the right thing by not rigging.
How hopeful are you about Obi’s victory in court?
I don’t trust the court system, to be honest. Even if a ruling is given, executives don’t even obey. I don’t have faith in the judicial system, but somehow I believe that we can reclaim our mandate. This is because I know Obi to be a fighter and that God has ordained his path. Let the will of God be done. However, whatever happens outside now, I am at peace that we wrote our names on the right side of history.
Amazing. Are you voting for anyone in the gubernatorial elections on March 18?
Sadly, I wouldn’t be voting on March 18 because Abuja doesn’t hold governorship elections. The president can only appoint a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) minister. However, this doesn’t mean the Take Back Naija team rests on our oars. We’d be campaigning for Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour of the Labour Party because he is smart, honest and transparent. I like certain things he discusses in his manifesto such as transparency in Lagos and free medical insurance. For me, this serves as a breath of fresh air.