Right now, the Nigerian political terrain is temperate. Not too hot, not too cold. I’m just having fun watching as the melodrama of the jostle for power among presidential hopefuls unfolds day by day; before it turns too sour to munch on. All I do now is to enjoy the sweetened comestibles of political campaigns that have not yet begun in full and flying swing. The wind of politics blowing today from the four corners of the Nigerian space is now either BATIFIED, OBIFIED, OR ATIKULATED. BATIFIED Nigerians are the ones in the bathtub of frenzied loyalty to the All Progressives Congress standard-bearer, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. At the turn of specific seasons of life and in set times buried in the exclusive knowledge of Divinity, humanity experiences the birthing of some special breed of beings who have been marked to carry out specific assignments on behalf of specific territories and nations. Bola Tinubu is one. A bawling voice in the wilderness of Nigerian politics. Those who love him are very many. Those who despise him are not few either. Tinubu’s BATIFIED battalion believes this season is the phat phenomenon’s turn to be made king. And it is increasingly becoming obvious that the duel for who wears the beaded crown next year may be between Tinubu and a rising challenger in the former Anambra State Governor, Peter Obi.
The OBIDIENT are Nigerian bow-wows, who want to hear nothing about anyone else but Peter OBI. They are fiery and feisty foot soldiers, and they have taken over the media space. The deaf everywhere hears them. In the North, they are knocking on doors. In the South, they shout. They are intentionally loud. They aren’t kidding around. They want power in 2023. Their desideratum is to see authority change hands from the old to the new. They see themselves as the new. As a matter of fact, they make Obi look new, though he has been around for a while, pitched his tents with three political parties for about two decades and is a household nomenclature, especially in the South. But don’t tell them Obi is part of the past. They will eat you up alive. Go and ask Femi Kuti, the Lagos-based Nigerian musician and the eldest son of Afrobeat pioneer, Fela Kuti. Femi’s unpardonable sin was to declare his support for no presidential candidate. OBIDIENTS launched and snarled at him threatening to raze the 60-year-old out of the tracks of history. OBIDIENTS aren’t joking.
While some are threatening fire and brimstones to raze any opposition, others are raising money. Obi is shovelling in cash running into billions of naira to prosecute his cause. A friend organising for Obi invited me to a fundraiser scheduled for Los Angeles soon. Another fund drive is scheduled for the end of the month in Houston. My friends, Obi is no mere noise. He is poised to steal the show from those who have always been showcased on the purlieu of power. His profile is rising in charms and chimes as his followership balloons. New converts drawn to his gospel are swelling in size. His tub-thumpers are from everywhere. They are young and old. Obi is making forays into unexpected cohorts. The cohort we built in support of Yemi Osinbajo during the party primaries now has more than half of the members swinging to Obi. And they are Yoruba, Igbo and all. They seem to have found a home in Obi’s tent. Obi has not changed talking populist economic sense. What he talks about appeals to ordinary Nigerians. How long the talk will sway Nigerians is what we aren’t sure of.
If anyone thinks these OBIDIENTS are only active on social media, and that’s where it will end, you may have another think coming. Some erroneously compare Obi with Omoyele Sowore and other past aspirants, who won Presidential elections on every social media platform, in many focus groups, and in many opinion polls but never won for real. Obi’s present standing army is different. The soldiers see themselves as table-shaking, history-making revolutionaries who cannot be stopped. These people are not building for tomorrow, they are pushing for power today. Will they get it? I don’t know. But this campaign is formidable. And treat them with kid’s gloves only at your perishing peril.
The ATIKULATED. They are bodacious backers of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, whom we heard live in Dubai but wants to rule in Nigeria. Where are they? We hear about a party in disarray and disillusionment. We hear the rancorous katzenjammer coming out of Port Harcourt where the state Governor, Nyesom Wike, beats his drum of dissension against his party establishment. But we are tracking all of these candidates. But Atiku is no small fry. The next Presidential election may be the most expensive in the history of Nigeria. The top three candidates are billionaires, including Peter Obi. A Tinubu supporter who pleaded anonymity told me that the real campaign for the presidential election has not begun. “We are combing villages and hamlets in the North and mobilising everywhere in the South. The months of embers begin in a week. We will shock you,” he said.
Which one of us sees tomorrow? What is going on right now, however, is that there is momentum for one of the candidates. What is momentum? It is a stratospheric movement of the moment. In physics, it is real. In politics, it is a metaphor. Momentum helps win an election. Without it, a candidate is vanquished. Momentum, however, is an unpredictable swinging pendulum. It is an unreliable friend and feisty foe. It may stand with you today and against you tomorrow. The best climatologists of politics cannot accurately predict the momentum. As of today, it is factual and for real that Peter Obi is mounting up with wings, with the momentum which is stoutly in his favour. But the election is a long, long time from now, especially when you are in the same ring with a man like Tinubu. And Obi and Atiku know this to be true.
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