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OPINION: 2023 PRESIDENCY, OBI-DIENTS AND WEAPONISATION OF CHRISTIANITY

PETER OBI
THEWILL APP ADS 2

One thing for sure is that with the active participation of our youths in the 2022/23 general elections, politics in Nigeria will take a new dimension and never be the same again.

One of the first impacts or changes being foisted by Gen-Z is that politics has currently been pivoted from real life to virtual reality, where our youths rule the roost.

However, the game of politics will change when political campaigns commence next month (September), after the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, based on its election timetable, greenlights campaigns.

By that time, action would shift from online to real life, where the so-called old generation politicians, would reign supreme with mega campaign rallies coupled with the efforts of the foot soldiers-governors, legislators, ministers and a galaxy of other government appointees that would be embarking on door-to-door consultations with the electorate.

That is when there will be a test of the will of the bulging youth population in Nigeria that has unprecedentedly seized the political momentum by registering massively and obtaining their Permanent Voter Cards, PVC, with which they are planning to vote in 2023, in order to retire those that they refer to as old politicians, who they accuse of preventing them from benefiting from their common patrimony in the period that they have been at the helm of affairs.

As a pragmatist, l have pointed out to our youths in the past that the so-called old generation politicians that they intend to displace are like old foxes that can hardly be outsmarted. So they should focus on graduated take over with a possibility of achieving their goal in 2027.

That is because it would take more than the first cut, which is said to be the deepest, to dislodge the current political class from the political stage.

And l would like to assure our youths that some of the political grandees are willing to exit the stage.

At least Turaki Atiku Abubakar, presidential flag bearer of the PDP, has alluded to that in his recent public comments.

However, l am also obliged to intimate the youths that the elders that are currently bestriding the political space would prefer a proper succession plan, which l would like to admonish our youths to work towards negotiating with them, as opposed to planning to maliciously or malevolently kick them out as they appear to be planning.

Also, since members of Gen-Z appear to be so fixated on joining the new-fangled Obi-dient movement, of which the name of God is being invoked in vain as Mr Peter Obi’s emergence as Labor Party, LP, 2023 Presidential candidate, is being touted (in my view falsely), as a phenomenon endorsed by God; and a chapter in the Bible – Ephesians 6:5 – where the word obedient is mentioned is being used to justify the call for Christian’s to vote for Obi: l would like to stick to the trending ‘God’ narrative by leveraging data from Christendom in an analogy to drive home the point about the handicap that the Obi-dients face in their vaulting quest to catapult Obi into Aso Rock Villa in 2023.

According to a study published by the Vatican and also corroborated by Pew report, the population of Catholics all over the world is in the neighborhood of 17-18% of the world population estimated to be 8 billion.

“The Catholic churches form a denomination within Christianity and, with around 1.3 billion believers worldwide, are the largest Christian grouping.”

For the sake of this analogy, the old generation politicians in Nigeria can be likened to members of the traditional religion, like Catholics that have been around for over 2,000 years and the oldest institution in the Western world.

Conversely, Pentecostals represent about “8.3 percent of the world population. That means that one in twelve persons today is a pentecostal or charismatic Christian.”

The statistics above are drawn from the World Christian Encyclopedia, 3rd edition (2020), which states that there are currently “644 million Pentecostals/Charismatics worldwide, including all the members of Pentecostalism’s 19,300 denominations and fellowships, as well as all charismatic Christians whose primary affiliation is with other churches.”

And l would like for the purpose of this analogy to designate our youths or the so-called Obi-dients, as the Pentecostals that have been around for 50 years compared to the institution of Catholicism that is at least 2,000 years old.

When 1.3 billion Catholics, which l have likened to old generation politicians is matched against 644 million Pentecostals, whom l have tagged as our youths or Obi-dients, the old generation politicians more than double the number of Obi-dients.

The lesson to be learnt from the analogy above and what readers should ponder is: can the Obi-dients outnumber, outmanoeuvre or overtake the old politicians in Nigeria, just like that?

I think not!

Simply put, although in recent years, the number of Pentecostals in Nigeria has grown in leaps and bounds, it cannot eclipse the Catholics overnight.

So also would Gen-Z not defeat at the snap of the finger the old school politicians that have become entrenched.

That is the prism from which l am interrogating the Peter Obi quest to become the next number one Aso Rock Villa occupant in 2023.

As l have brought to the attention of youths in my previous interventions on the same issue, our youths should remember the dictum ‘old soldier never dies.’

In my reckoning, therein lies the dilemma after the conduct of a reality check on the feasibility of Peter Obi’s presidency in 2023 is made, and a question which our youths must ponder.

Of course, l am not by any stretch of imagination proposing that the youth phenomenon and Peter Obi effect on the 2023 general elections would not be significant.

In fact, the high impact is evidenced by the prevailing political evolution triggered by the injection of youths and Nollywood into the 2023 political milieu.

That by itself is likely to compel a run-off in the presidential election to be held in February next year, as no single political party may be able to win 2/3rd majority votes outrightly as demanded by the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria, which stipulates that for a party to be empowered and single-handedly be entitled to be the ruling party at the center, 2/3rd majority of votes must be won across board.

If that is the only difference that Gen-Z and Obi-dients would have wrought on Nigerian politics, when the hurly-burly is done and after the electioneering process is over, then they would have convincingly earned themselves the title of the heroes of democracy in 2023.

It may be recalled that before Nigeria’s independence from British colonial rule in 1960, general elections were held in 1959, but they were inconclusive, as none of the political parties was able to secure enough votes to meet the 2/3rd majority threshold which is a requirement in the constitution.

According to records, NPC garnered 142, while NCNC had 89 and Action Group, AG, won 73 seats. The numbers were not enough for each of the parties to form a government alone.

Consequently, a coalition government had to be formed between NPC, as the senior partner with Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa from Bauchi state as the prime minister, and Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe from Anambra state, as President, representing NCNC which was the junior partner.

My crystal ball tells me that a similar situation to what was obtained in 1959/60 may arise after the much anticipated 2023 general elections.

Should the above permutation materialise, history would not only be repeating itself, but there would be a fortuitous reset for our beloved country, politically.

While not being unmindful of the fallout of the Muslim-Muslim presidency ticket by the ruling APC and the riling up of Christians, who feel that they are about to be erased from Aso Rock Villa if APC is voted back with a Muslim president and Vice President, l worry about the consequences of weaponising Christianity by Obi and his supporters, who have been visiting churches – Dr Paul Enenche’s Dunamis church in Abuja and Pa Enoch Adeboye’s Redeem Christian Church of God Camp in Lagos – where men and women of God have been giving him rousing welcome and even as some online video footages of pastors have been trending, where they are quoting Bible verses to validate their support for the LP candidate.

Thus wittingly and unwittingly, the church is being dragged into the arena of politics in Nigeria, which in my view bodes no good to the body of Christ, as it might amount to desecrating the house of God and it could even set Christians and Muslims on a collision path. It has the tendency to exacerbate the negative energy which the APC standard bearer Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his running mate, Kashim Shettima, a Muslim-Muslim ticket is already eliciting.

Contrast Mr Obi’s cavorting with men and women of God in their sanctuaries alongside their congregation to the presidential candidates of the three other political parties – Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar and Musa Rabiu Kwakwanso, that are front runners and Muslims, but are not directly or indirectly campaigning in mosques.

Not even Peter Obi’s running mate, senator Datti Ahmed, also a Muslim is openly visiting mosques to lobby fellow Muslims, directly or indirectly.

I recognise and commend Mr Obi’s determination to appear detribalised by making his quest for the presidency a pan-Nigeria initiative, hence he has resisted attempts to make his campaign an Igbo agenda, by distancing himself from Ohaneze Ndigbo, Indigenous People of Biafra, IPoB and other Igbo-centric agendas, which is good.

Nevertheless, l would like to respectfully advice Mr Peter Obi’s camp to borrow a leaf or two from the 44th president of the United States of America, USA, Barack Obama, who avoided being cocooned into becoming or being cast as a black candidate during his run for the office of president in 2008, by dissociating himself from rhetorical comments about his race by the pastor of the church in Chicago, where he worships.

The deployment of that strategy helped in many ways to bolster Obama’s ‘there is no such thing as Black America, Hispanic or White America’ element in his famous speech to the Democratic Party convention, as he was commencing his race to the White House which he won in 2009.

Also, does the LP flag bearer’s romance with the churches not vitiate his strategy of detaching himself from the Igbos, and could it not pitch Christians who are showing an open preference for him against Muslims who may be wary and therefore cast their votes against Obi’s run for the presidency even when one of their own is Obi’s running mate?

Without a doubt, the presidential candidates of the other political parties who are Muslims are consulting and courting members of their faith, but in more nuanced ways.

Is there nothing in the approach of other presidential flag bearers to guide Obi’s camp? Can ‘Obi-Dients’ be less noisome and more strategic?

If Obi comes across to Nigerians as solely enjoying the confidence of Christians, how about Ifeanyi Okowa, governor of Delta state and vice presidential candidate of the PDP, who is also a Christian?

Would Christians ditch him?

Now, if per adventure Obi fails to win the presidency in 2023, would there not be a backlash of credibility issues in Christendom, since some pastors have been openly prophesying that God has ordained Obi to be president?

How can we avert a repeat of the infamous Father Mbaka prophecy about the 2015 and 2019 Mohammadu Buhari victorious run for the presidency and the saga of the charismatic priest thumping down Peter Obi on account of his alleged tight-handedness when he worshipped with him in the Adoration Centre in 2019, as the running mate of Atiku Abubakar for the presidency of Nigeria in 2019?

With all sense of humility, l urge the Christian Association of Nigerian, CAN, to please take note.

 

***Magnus Onyibe, an entrepreneur, public policy analyst, author, development strategist, an alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA and a former commissioner in the Delta state government, sent this piece from Lagos.

To continue with this conversation, please visit www.magnum.ng