Peter Gregory Obi has gone from a dismissed, little-known candidate to a household name in the race for Nigeria’s 2023 presidential election. Since May 2022 when the Labour Party (LP) candidate made the controversial switch from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), there have been rallies, lawsuits, allegations, and even a passionate and unified ‘Obidient’ force fuelling his campaign to become Nigeria’s next president.
On Day 4 of “The Candidates” presidential town hall series hosted by Daria Media in partnership with Zikoko Citizen, Obi appeared alongside his running mate, Dr Yusuf Baba Datti-Ahmed, to discuss their plans for Nigeria with the host, Kadaria Ahmed.
We highlighted some of Obi’s plans and what it means for Nigerians if he becomes president:
“Economy is the base of our problems”
For Peter Obi, the answer to almost all of Nigeria’s problems is transitioning from consumption to production.
The candidate said, “The economy is at the base of all our problems. Yes, we have security problems, but one can link it directly to the economy. When over 130 million people don’t know where their next meal will come from, one is bound to have a crisis.
“One needs to first and foremost look at food production, and how you can feed the country. The greatest physical asset in the country is the uncultivated land in the North.”
All of this sounds nice, but it takes close to two years for uncultivated land to be made suitable for farming. What exactly would Obi do before then? These were questions Kadaria asked but no specific answers were given.
“My government will be a government of national unity”
According to Obi “It’s my commitment to ensure the security of lives and property of Nigerians and ensure there’s a united Nigeria, through equity, justice and doing things following the rule of the law.”
To drive home his point about championing unity, he sneaked in a diss directed at the presidential candidate of the All Progressives’ Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, who recently vowed to “send Peter Obi back home” from Lagos to his native Anambra State.
“If you check our utterances, we’ve never said things like “let’s send Peter Obi back to where he’s coming from.” I’ve lived everywhere and I’ve maintained that no one should vote for me because I come from the southeast, or vote for me because it’s my turn, but go for our track record.”
Part of Obi’s unification plan includes “aggressively” pulling people out of poverty in the North. Despite not getting a concrete roadmap for how this would be done, it’s a welcome change to see a candidate in the town hall series highlight the poverty in the North. A United Nations (UN) report states that 70% of residents in the North-West live below the poverty line.
“Subsidy must go”
If Obi becomes president, fuel subsidy is going to be a thing of the past, as he doesn’t understand why a large chunk of Nigeria’s ₦6 trillion deficit goes into subsidy. He also believes subsidy is “organised crime” and should no longer be a part of Nigeria’s economy.
But what does it mean for Nigerians? For one, the cost of fuel and commodities in the market will rise since citizens would bear the full cost of fuel production. However, Obi plans to make sure refineries are up and running as soon as possible, so as to cushion the effects of pricing.
How well can this work? Only time can tell.
“The solution to IPOB’s agitation is dialogue”
Military intervention isn’t top of Obi’s list in tackling the separatist agitation of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Instead, he’s more interested in sitting with them for a dialogue.
According to Obi, “Everywhere in the country is full of agitation, which is a result of leadership failure over the years. There is nothing wrong with agitation. We’ll dialogue and discuss with everybody. The reason why IPOB is agitating is because of injustice.”
Well, we can only wonder how far dialogue would help here as IPOB members have already established the fact they don’t even want an Igbo president. What if IPOB doesn’t listen?
“I will declare a war on power”
Nigerians may have the chance to experience uninterrupted power supply, as Obi believes Nigeria has the capacity to transmit 12,000MW of electricity. He promised to fix the problem of transmission infrastructure to make this a reality.
The candidate also promised justice for middle and low-income earners for tariffs, as he plans to charge those who can afford and subsidise for those who can’t. At least, the days of seeing things like this are over:
Obi also promised that any of the privatised companies that could generate 100MW of power without licensing would be supported.
“I will pull people out of poverty”
For Peter Obi, the days of Nigerians struggling in the trenches are over, especially for owners of small businesses. How will he do this?
The candidate said, “People know that MSMEs are the foundation of every economy, even in the West. Big countries like China and Indonesia know this.”
When pressed for specifics, Obi promised to create fiscal and monetary policies with government grants through the Bank of Industry (BOI). But how useful will this be for new startups? The BOI only caters to startups with three years of acceptable track performance; not to mention the strict conditions beneficiaries have to pass.
If Peter Obi is going to address MSMEs, it should be looked at with a more critical point of view, and also with the consideration of “baby businesses”.