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OBI: THE ‘TRADER’ WHO CHANGED THE GAME

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DIRISU YAKUBU writes about the game-changing performance of the candidate of the Labour Party in the just-concluded presidential election, Peter Obi, who polled over six million votes

What started as a joke a few months ago has morphed into a national movement labelled by many as the third force expected to produce a new government in the next few years.

Not many gave him a chance when on May 24, 2022, he communicated to the leadership of Nigeria’s largest opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party,  his intent to resign his membership in pursuit of a presidential ambition on the platform of another party.

For Peter Obi, the enigmatic political figure loved by the young and the old in equal measure, the move meant it was time to unchain himself from the shackles of politics of the old order.

Riding on the wave of mass support, symbolised largely by youths tired of the system that had seen them toil for years with little to show for it, Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party in the just-concluded poll, has demonstrated the inelastic power inherent in true love. Spending less than a fraction of what the President-elect, Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party spent during the campaigns, Obi won in 12 states including Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory.

A few weeks before election, many pundits wrote him off, citing his “no shishi” (a candidate not given to monetary inducement) disposition as the reason only a few would eventually vote for him. How wrong they were!

His “no shishi” political philosophy singlehandedly changed the national campaign landscape where hitherto politicians used to shamelessly share money, foodstuffs, clothing, etc. Every politician became extremely careful not to be caught dolling out cash or gift of any kind to persuade voters to support him.

Born on 19 July 1961, Peter is partly Okonkwo, the main character in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart as his fame “rested on solid personal achievements.” At a relatively young age of 61, Obi has brought honour to the nation’s politics through a combination of hard work, honesty and records uncommon with politicians in this part of the world. Obi is integrity personified.

An alumnus of the prestigious Christ The King College, Onitsha, Obi studied at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, bagging a degree in Philosophy in 1984.

His quest for more academic laurels further took him to the London School of Economics and Columbia Business School, earning postgraduate degrees in Financial Management/ Business Policy and Marketing Management respectively.

Obi’s resignation from the PDP and pitching tent with a less fancied, less respected and less formidable Labour Party saw a meteoric rise in his political fortune. Few politicians and naysayers gave him a chance given the popularity of the two candidates of the political behemoths, the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party.

To worsen matters, Obi’s home state governor, Charles Soludo,  came short of writing the former Anambra State governor off when he declared the race a two-horse contest between Tinubu and Atiku.

Obi’s huge support base derives in part from the sundry youth groups made up of artisans, students, musicians, entertainers and social media influencers who deployed their mastery of social media to drum up support for him.

Unlike the support base of Atiku and Tinubu who were waiting for “logistics” to hit the streets to mobilise for their candidates, Obi’s supporters who dubbed themselves as ‘Obi-dients” used their personal resources to sell the LP’s manifesto to Nigerians.

On Twitter and Facebook, Obi-dients held several educational sessions, enlightening Nigerians on the dangers of pitching tents with the old order. Many heeded the message, which culminated in his impressive outing on Saturday.

Peter Okoye, one half of the P-Square musical group literally put his life into the Obi project, earning himself commendation and condemnation in the process. His fallout with Seun Kuti, a fellow musician and son of late Afrobeat founder Fela Kuti,  readily comes to mind.

Worthy of mention too is Mr Macaroni, skit superstar,  who never hesitated to remind anyone who cared to listen that he was for Obi in rain and shine.

With the political stage set, Obi kept his eyes on the ball towards the goalpost. He had garnered a worthwhile experience as a two-term governor of Anambra State. He was not a neophyte in the management of political stardom.

Peter Obi had contested the governorship election in Anambra state in 2003 on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance and ‘lost’ to PDP’s Chris Ngige. He challenged the victory in court and almost three years later, he was declared the authentic winner of the poll.

Seven months in the saddle, he was impeached in controversial circumstances. Not one to give up without a fight because of his belief in the rule of law, the soft-spoken Philosopher-King sought legal redress in court, leading to the nullification of the impeachment by the Court of Appeal on 9 February 2007.

In 2010, he won a second term in office beating PDP’s Charles Soludo (incumbent Anambra state governor).

Questions have been asked about who truly is the authentic political leader of the Igbo nation after the demise of Chukwuemeka Ojukwu. With many Ndi Igbo laying claims to that title, it was to Obi that Atiku Abubakar turned to in 2019 for his choice of running mate when he ran against Muhammadu Buhari in the presidential election of that year.

Full of experience and hindsight, as skeletal preparations for the 2023 presidential election began, Obi was quick to realise that the process for the selection of the party’s candidate would be anything but transparent in the PDP.

As a result, he communicated his intention in writing to the Iyorchia Ayu-led National Working Committee to resign from the party. He subsequently joined the Labour Party in a defection that can be described as one of the smartest political moves in Nigeria’s recent political history. Soon after joining, highly respected Pat Utomi, a Professor of Political Economy perished his presidential ambition for Obi, a huge testament to the latter’s rising popularity.

As can be seen from the February 25 Presidential election, those who wrote him off were forced to have a rethink when at the end of collation, Obi polled a total of 6, 093, 962 votes in 12 states comprising Edo, Cross River, Delta, Lagos, Plateau, Benue, Imo, Ebonyi, Nasarawa, Anambra, Abia and Enugu states.

It is shocking that the so-called behemoths,  Tinubu and Atiku, barely managed to win the same number of states.

Obi’s 25 per cent score of total votes cast has been interpreted as a statement of intent as many see him as a future president if he sustains the tempo.

Meanwhile, the Vice presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Datti Baba-Ahmed, who worked tirelessly with Obi with the aim of changing the face of governance in the country one and for all, has vowed to seek legal means to contest the electoral process that produced the president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.

Baba-Ahmed made the pledge at a press conference held at the party’s national headquarters in Abuja on Wednesday.

A livid Baba-Ahmed stated that LP was determined to fight the injustice that dashed the hope of distraught Nigerians through all legal and peaceful means.

This is even as the LP presidential campaign council claimed that the manner the Independent National Electoral Commission hurriedly announced the results and gave out Certificates of Return to both Tinubu and his running mate, Senator Kashim Shettima, reeks of collusion.

The development is coming barely 24 hours after Tinubu was announced as the winner of Saturday’s presidential poll.

The APC standard bearer polled 8,794,726 votes to defeat his closest rivals, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party and Labour Party’s Peter Obi by 6,984,520 and 6,101,533 votes respectively.

Baba-Ahmed decried that the election did not meet the minimum standard as prescribed by INEC guidelines and the Electoral Act 2022.

He said, “It is our position that the purported result did not meet the minimum criteria of a transparent, free and fair election. In addition to the most condemnable attacks, violence, voter intimidation and suppression, the election was conducted in clear violation of agreed and promised INEC rules and guidelines, the Electoral Act 2002 as amended, and indeed the Nigerian Constitution. As evident, the institutions of the state and leaders that were supposed to ensure the sanctity of the election, again and as in the past,  collaborated and colluded to subvert the will of the good people of Nigeria.

“Please be assured of our determination to fight the injustice that has been perpetrated on Nigerians through all legal and peaceful means. While painful, we implore you to please remain peaceful and calm. As our fight and determination for a New Nigeria is just beginning, we equally encourage you all to continue with the campaigns and vote massively for Labour Party in the forthcoming governorship and states house of Assembly election on Saturday 11th March 2023.

“Our Principal, His Excellency, Mr Peter Obi,  will in due course speak to you all and indeed the nation.”

In a related development, the Chief Spokesman for the LP Presidential Campaign Council, Yunusa Tanko, said the drama leading to the presentation of a certificate of return to Tinubu was a well-rehearsed script

“It was pre-planned. But, of course, we have just concluded a meeting with His Excellency Peter Obi and we are moving in our legal team who are compiling our pieces of evidence and results.

“There are other Civil Society Organisations planning to go on civil disobedience to show their displeasure in terms of seeking a political solution to the problem.

“The truth is that we are fighting the process and not necessarily those who have already been elected. The process must be fought to give resilience to those who hope to contest future elections. This level of impunity and shenanigans cannot be allowed to continue in our country. This is why this battle must be fought to a logical conclusion,” he stated.

On a call for a unity government in the new administration, Tanko said that the party was not interested in any of such moves.

He said, “We said that we are going to court. We are not interested in discussing anything on a government of national unity. What we have so far resolved is to head to the court for redress.”

Tinubu may have won the poll but there is no gainsaying that the  President-elect is fated to live henceforth in fear of the “little boy” from Anambra who exposed his vulnerability in Lagos for the first time since the return to democracy. He beat the famous Jagaban in Lagos, his hitherto fortress.

That’s not all. The man who prides himself as the landlord of the FCT, Senator Philip Aduda,  lost his tenancy of the Senate to Mrs Ireti Kingibe of the LP. Mrs Kingibe, a serial contestant of the FCT seat won only because Obi made it easier for voters to vote for anyone on the ballot on the platform of the Labour Party.

In the South-East, the quest of Governors Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and Okezie Ikpeazu to retire to the Senate after two terms in their respective Government Houses hit an impregnable wall as LP candidates won convincingly. The same for Abia State where the LP candidates had a field day by riding on the Obi fame.

In the South-South, Governor Ben Ayade’s impeccable English was not enough to win him a seat in the Senate. He lost to the Obi factor as were the likes of Tanko Al-Makura and Ndudi Elumelu amongst others.

He may have lost the election but only a political greenhorn will write off Obi going forward. Nigerians can’t wait for too long for this philosopher-king to take over the saddle at the centre to showcase the true essence of governance.

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APPEAL COURT SETS ASIDE OSUN TRIBUNAL JUDGEMENT IN ADELEKE, OYETOLA’S CASE

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The Appeal Court sitting in Abuja on Friday set aside the judgement of the Osun State Election Petition Tribunal that annulled the victory of Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party during the July 16, 2022, Osun State governorship election.

The Osun tribunal had annulled Adeleke’s victory and affirmed Gboyega Oyetola of All Progressives Congress as the authentic winner of the poll.

The PUNCH reports that the Independent National Electoral Commission had returned Adeleke as the winner of the poll.

INEC said Adeleke polled 403,371 votes to defeat then-incumbent Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of the APC, who got 375,027 votes

But Oyetola and the APC rejected the result of the poll and headed for the tribunal.

In its January 27, 2023 majority verdict, the Justice Tertse Kume-led tribunal annulled Adeleke’s victory and declared Oyetola the winner of the poll.

However, a minority judgment by Justice B. Ogbuli affirmed Adeleke as the winner of the poll.

Displeased, Adeleke and the PDP headed for the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal heard the appeal on March 13 and reserved its judgment.

But the court of Appeal on Friday set aside the tribunal judgement.

Meanwhile, the court proceeded on five minutes break and will deliver its final judgement after it reconvenes.

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RAMADAN: ATIKU URGES MUSLIMS TO SEEK SPIRITUAL GUIDANCE, PEACE

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Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has called on Muslims in Nigeria and the world to use the holy month of Ramadan to seek spiritual guidance and sacrifice for the cause of peace.

Abubakar, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential Candidate in the just concluded elections, gave the advice in a statement personally issued by him on Thursday in Abuja.

Abubakar, who welcome the Muslim faithful in Nigeria and across the globe to the year 2023 month of Ramadan, said the basic tenets of the holy month were about sacrifice and devotion in worship to God.

He said that for Nigerians, the fasting month at a critical time in the country and for individuals and as a people.

Abubakar said the month of Ramadan had come to all as a blessing from the Almighty with an opportunity for people to wash away their worries, doubts, and hopelessness.

“It Is quite clear that the essential principles of this holy month are what is needed to heal our wounds, both as individuals and as a country.

“First is the importance of sacrifice not just to our families and the people around us but to the cause of peace.

“Secondly, is the requirement of piety from us all in the worship of God.

“I, therefore, enjoin all Muslims in Nigeria and the world over to use the benefits of this holy month of Ramadan to seek spiritual guidance, as I wish us a happy Ramadan fasting,” Abubakar said.

He prayed God to count citizens’ sacrifices in this holy month as acts of worship. (NAN)

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ANGRY VOTERS BRUTALISE LAGOS CORPER OVER BVAS MACHINE FAILURE

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A National Youth Corps member, Jamiu Aremu, who was part of the ad-hoc staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission in Lagos State, has lamented over the brutality he suffered at the hands of voters protesting against the failure of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System to upload results during the governorship and state House of Assembly elections in the state.

Aremu, while narrating his ordeal to PUNCH Metro, said the encounter left him with swollen and bruised lips and bloodied eyes, among others.

It was learnt that Aremu, alongside other INEC ad hoc staff, were attending to votes at Polling Unit 082 in the Okota area of the state when they experienced difficulties in using the BVAS machine to upload the results.

In a bid to ensure transparency in the electoral process, the corps member said he asked party agents at the polling unit to follow him to the INEC office where he could get an alternative means to upload the results.

Noting that the party agents did not oppose the suggestion, Aremu said the voters protested against the suggestion and accused him of attempting to use the claim on the faulty BVAS to manipulate the outcome of the results.

He, however, noted that the angry voters descended on him as he and his colleagues attempted to leave the polling unit for the INEC office.

Aremu said, “At the end of the voting, I calculated the votes and I gave the party agents their copies of the result. The situation then became tense when we wanted to start uploading the results. I don’t know what happened to the BVAS machine, but it was complaining about the camera quality.

“This happened around 9pm and I assumed that it was because it was dark. So, I told them I could not upload the results and suggested that the agents should follow me to our centre so that we can get it done over there.

“Immediately I made the announcement, I left with my two other colleagues to join the bus. My colleagues thought I had joined the other bus but some of the voters cornered me and insisted that I must upload the result. I tried to call the military officers that accompanied us but they could not hear me as they also left with the buses.

“At that point, some people started slapping me; they collected my two phones and prevented me from calling for help. They also accused me of collecting N13m to claim that the machine was faulty.”

Aremu said the angry voter took him to a dark spot away from the polling unit to brutalise him, adding that it took the intervention of some policemen who stormed the premises to rescue him from the mob.

He added, “When the policemen arrived, they fired two shots and the people dispersed. That was how they were able to rescue me. It was not too long before the military men also came and that was how the police handed me over to them. They were the ones that took me to the INEC office in Oshodi Local Government secretariat.

“When I got there, I was told to go and treat myself and bring the medical bill. My face was swollen with a bloodied eye. I could not sleep that night as my body was aching. The following day, I went to a private hospital to treat myself but the INEC officials told me to get myself treated in a government hospital. When I eventually got there, I was told to get a police report which I did yesterday.”

The spokesperson for INEC in the state, Nike Oriowo, said the case was reported to the commission.

She said, “The Electoral Officer in Oshodi/Isolo Local Government said the corps member was attended to and given rendered support. She also informed him to come to the office on Friday.

“We told our officers during a meeting on Wednesday to look into the wellbeing of the corps members that were involved in the exercise. We will not allow any one of them who were maltreated to be left unattended. According to the electoral officer, the police have started investigating the incident.”

However, the state Police Public Relations Officer, SP Benjamin Hundeyin, could not be reached for comment as calls made to his number were not answered.

He had yet to reply to a text message sent to his mobile number as of the time of filing this report.

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