For one of Nigeria’s foremost political chieftains and former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, January 1, 2023, wasn’t just for the celebration of a new year. He also used it to finally announce his endorsement of the Labour Party (LP) presidential candidate, Peter Obi.
Labour Party Presidential Candidate, Peter Obi and Olusegun Obasanjo [Independent Newspapers]
His letter of endorsement titled “My Appeal to All, Particularly Young Nigerians”, came as a surprise for many Nigerians, as there had been debates on which candidate had his ticket for the 2023 elections.
But in hindsight, should this have taken anyone by surprise?
Obasanjo has been hinting at a ‘third force’ political party since he adopted the African Democratic Party (ADC) during the 2019 election race as a result of his dislike for the major parties, the All-Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
This is not to talk of his denial of All-Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu in October 2022 and dumping of his former vice-president and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Atiku Abubakar in December 2022.
However, Atiku’s lack of support isn’t shocking, as both men have been fighting for over a decade since the end of their presidential tenure in 2007.
Anyway, we read all the grammar in Obasanjo’s letter so that you don’t have to. Here are our key takeaways:
No candidate is a saint
“None of the contestants is a saint but when one compares their character, antecedents, their understanding, knowledge, discipline, and vitality that they can bring to bear and the great efforts required to stay focused on the job, particularly looking at where the country is today and with the experience on the job that I personally had, Peter Obi as a mentee has an edge”.
For Obasanjo, Nigerians should only see Peter Obi as the better man of the three candidates, as none of them qualify for sainthood.
This is a statement that can’t be argued with, with Tinubu’s many allegations of drug trafficking and thuggery in Lagos, Atiku’s long-standing record of corruption that amounts to trillions of dollars, and even accusations against Obi of a secret hive of businesses in the Pandora papers in October 2021.
“‘Emi l’okan’ and ‘I have paid my dues’ are the wrong mentality”
“Let me say straight away that ‘Emi Lokan’ (My turn) and ‘l have paid my dues’ are one and the same thing and are wrong attitude and mentality for the leadership of Nigeria now.”
Even though it was an endorsement letter for Obi, Obasanjo didn’t fail to throw some unapologetic shades at Tinubu and his archnemesis Atiku with two of their infamous statements, “Emi l’okan” and “I have paid my dues”. But why were these two claims made?
In case you’ve been living under a rock, Tinubu made the infamous entitlement claim, Emi l’okan (It is my turn) in June 2022 when the APC was considering another presidential candidate asides from him.
For Tinubu, this was an unthinkable act, as he has tried using political figures like Muhammadu Buhari, Nuhu Ribadu, and even Atiku to fulfill his presidential plans since 2007. And 2023 may just be his last chance.
In Atiku’s case, he feels he has “paid his dues” to Nigeria after a long track record of trying to be Nigeria’s president since 1993.
He came close by being Obasanjo’s vice-president from 1999 to 2007, but even that isn’t enough. For Atiku, the iron throne of Nigeria’s presidency should belong to him by all means necessary.
The TVCP Leadership Characteristics
Obasanjo’s ideas of a good leader fall under an acronym called T.V.C.P, which stands for Track record of ability and performance; Vision that is authentic, honest and realistic; Character and attributes of a lady and a gentleman who are children of God and obedient to God; and Physical and mental capability with the soundness of mind.
While he didn’t mention any names, he hinted that he has worked with all three ‘mentees’ in government at one point or another, and two out of these three have neither of these characteristics. We already know who they are.
Atiku Abubakar and Bola Tinubu
Let the past go
“Just let us agree to move forward together in mutual forgiveness, one accord, inclusive society, equality and equity. Together and without bias and discrimination, fear or favour, we can have Nigeria of one nation in diversity, in truth and in practice. Let us honour, cherish, respect and even celebrate our diversity which is the basis of our potential greatness and strength”.
Obasanjo’s cry for unity in diversity could first be interpreted as a cliche cry for help, but not if you understand the context.
It’s no news that ethnicity is a major factor for Nigerians when picking a presidential candidate. Despite Obi leading most of the presidential polls in 2022, a December 2022 poll by ANAP revealed that 38% of voters in the South West have refused to disclose their preferred candidate, mostly due to cases of voter intimidation.
In this area, Obi’s chances are looking slim as he hails from the South-Eastern region.
This is possibly Obasanjo encouraging Nigerians to move past the tribal bias and pick who they really want as their next president in February 2023.