Obi projected to win in February 25 poll
In the winter of 1979, a powerful Chicago political dynasty began to collapse. That January, a blizzard struck Chicago and effectively closed down the city; dropping a total of twenty-one inches of snow over a two-day period. Buses and trains did not run for days, residents could not find anywhere to park their cars, and plows took forever to reach neighborhoods — unless you were lucky enough to live on the same block as the city’s mayor, Michael A. Bilandic.
The city’s slow response to the debilitating storm was publicly blamed on Bilandic, setting in motion the events that would lead to the collapse of the powerful political dynasty in Chicago.
Angered by the poor handling of the snow problem and other issues, voters overwhelmingly voted against the mayor in the Democratic Primary in order to defeat the Democratic machine that had dominated Chicago politics for decades. Bilandic lost the mayoral election in a stunning upset.
Impending historic political upset
If events in the past few months are anything to go by, Nigeria may be heading for the biggest political upset in its democratic history. An underestimated third-party candidate that none gave serious thought to and was written off by political pundits, is almost certain to take the day at the Presidential election on February 25.
- Advertisement -
Nearly all polls have tipped Mr. Peter Obi of a fringe, little-known Labour Party as the likely winner. In two separate surveys conducted for Bloomberg News by Premise Data Corp, Mr. Obi maintained a healthy lead against rival candidates of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Mr. Bola Tinubu, and the main opposition, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP candidate, Atiku Abubakar. In similar surveys by other respected pollsters – NOI polls, Nextier, Stears, and SBM Intelligence, more than a tenth of potential voters indicated their preference for Obi over the established parties’ candidates.
- Presidential Election: Nigerians face obvious choice in 2023. Will they take it?
- Peter Obi finally releases manifesto with 7 point agenda
- Trending rare photo of a boy who climbed a billboard for Peter Obi
- Atiku to BBC: I will accept defeat in good faith
Why Obi is the ultimate beneficiary of this upset
Nigeria, the most populous black nation on earth and its largest economy is currently going through a rough patch and faces a bleak future. Many believe that since the established parties who had been in charge for nearly a quarter of a century seem to have run out of solutions, a new one could as well be invited to try. Therefore, many see the election of Obi as a path to a radical shift that could redirect the rudder of the country’s future through purposeful leadership.
Nevertheless, it is not so much because Obi is an outsider. In fact, many do not believe that he fits that label as he is also of the establishment stock and as recently as May 2022, was still a member of the PDP after he paired with Abubakar to unsuccessfully challenge President Buhari in the 2019 presidential election. So, he is not your typical new kid on the block, and when the February 25 presidential election produces him in this political upset, it would not be because he is an outsider, but because of a litany of woes, chief of which include a seriously ailing economy – rampant inflation, and unbearable cost of living, which has worsened living conditions.
- Advertisement -
Buhari’s failure and the impending upset
Most Nigerians cannot point to one thing the outgoing government did right over the past eight years. But even if one could point to one or two, the people are worse off today than in 2015 when the government came into power.
More Nigerians are poorer than ever. In fact, a survey commissioned by the government and released late last year showed that at least 133 million Nigerians live in some form of poverty. Another survey showed that bandits, terrorists, and kidnappers killed at least 10,000 people in 2022 alone. The government, unable to shore up revenue, has also accumulated debts at historic proportions. Therefore, by every measure, one is looking at a government that failed catastrophically.
The government’s failure is so bad that the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC Bola Ahmed Tinubu has hesitated to campaign on the party’s achievements. Instead, he has touted his accomplishments as a governor of Lagos from 1999 to 2007. However, even that strategy has not reduced his odds.
The upset will also owe largely in part to Obi’s character and leadership style, which clearly distinguishes him from a regular Nigerian politician. As Governor of Anambra State, he ran a very transparent and accountable government and left a fiscal surplus, the first in Nigerian history.
- Advertisement -
Election of the youth
However, his charismatic abilities were also underestimated. Obi, a trader, sure knew how to work for the crowd by diagnosing the problems and finding the right words to describe how they affected the people. This rare skill enabled him to articulate a vision that appealed to the youth and galvanise them to take an active part in the political process. Once, he accomplished this, it appeared that the job was done as the youth paid close attention and moved massively behind him. In fact, many believe that the youth demography will produce upset.
According to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC official figures, no fewer than 11 million youths completed a fresh registration ahead of the polls. A breakdown of the 93 million voters showed that 39.65 percent of total voters are young Nigerians aged 18 – 34, accounting for some 37 million voters. According to the Stears poll released a fortnight ago, the upset will depend largely on this demographic turning out in their numbers to vote.
Obi and press-the-flesh politics
However, the 61-year-old Obi has also managed to reach beyond the youth demographic. Younger than the candidates of the established parties who are in their 70s, he ran an energetic campaign, visiting internally displaced person camps in Benue, touring remote and conflict-ravaged regions like Southern Borno, Mubi, and Southern Kaduna, and activated market storms in densely populated markets in the South, engaging and appealing to voters.
This kind of press-the-flesh politics is completely alien to Nigerian political culture, so, his rivals did not anticipate it. This gave his campaign a unique feel and this further boosted his advantage.
- Advertisement -
A wise man once said that a camel will pass through the eye of the needle sooner than a great man can be discovered by an election. But Nigerians united by oppression and suffering, seem poised to defy this aphorism.