By Onyeka Okeke
Like most Nigerians, I have long been dismayed by politics. Not for its inherently immoral nature, so much as the way it is played in Nigeria. A game of thrones, riddled with avarice, treachery, falsehood, gerrymandering, and a savage, cutthroat, dog-eat-dog lust for power. Any wonder then that a fashion of kakistocracy has prevailed in the country for so long?
As Lyndon B. Johnson observed, “the vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.”
Enter Peter Obi, and for the first time in like forever a breath of fresh air appears to waft into what is largely a close, fetid ecosystem of leaches and bottom breeders. And, slowly, inch by inch, politics as we know it in this country, before our very eyes, is being redefined, both in its expression and general perception across the country, rekindling interest and hope in the electoral process and the country at large, even in places where such sentiments had long since died a natural death or lain dormant for ages.
But trust the establishment to seek to trample on this renaissance of the political spirit and will of the people, knowing, if left to thrive, it will inevitably spell doom for their political dynasties and wanton, luxurious lifestyles lived at the expense of the people. And so they rally and conspire against a man and his “structure-less,” and supposedly feckless, ambition to aspire for the highest office in the land, these foul parasites and low-lives, who for long have thrived in the gutters of political office, and their mouth-breathing cohorts and followers, on whose backs, like cheap substrates, they culture their dastardly whim and proliferate.
Even then, Marcus Aurelius admonished that: “When a bunch of known corrupt people unite against one man and spare no attempt to assassinate his character, blindly follow that one man!”
The latest of these basement dwellers to crawl out of the woodwork is a certain C. C. Soludo, onetime CBN and present governor of Anambra, whose rambling, vindictive piece titled, History Beckons and I will not be Silent (Part 1), had made the rounds on social media. An obvious hatchet job, heavy on pedantry and light on substance. The usual Igbo-bashing, erroneously comparative, subliminally self-seeking political diatribe – à la Chimaroke Nnamani. A political jobber, who in doing the bidding of his political masters, and in conjunction with his own Machiavellian pursuit of power, presumes to educate the Igboman against a supposed “political naivety,” while painfully neglecting to address the very instruments of repression and marginalisation, over time, raised against the Igbo tribe and its justly deserved candidacy for the highest office in the land.
But I digress, for this is not intended to be a rebuttal to the unfortunate Professor’s manifestly warped assessment of the political know-how of the Igbos. For just because a people, who had suffered the brunt of a civil war and a brutal and barely disguised political ostracism thereafter, under the guise of a systemic and conscious exclusion from the most marginal of grips on the levers of power in the country, have not produced the president thus far, does not, by default, make them “politically naïve.” If anything, the great strides made by these so-called vanquished people in every facet of the Nigerian life since 1970, in the face of unprecedented obstacles deliberately placed in their way by the Nigerian nation and devoid of any meaningful inclusion in the center, testifies to their irrepressible industry and singular self-application. Naivety, if it does exist in the midst of such a people, lies squarely on the doorsteps of the Igbo political elites, who are incurably venal and self-serving to a fault, and repeatedly sellout on the “Igbo cause.” Just for the records, the Igbos voted in OBJ, the only civilian president the Yorubas have had till date, when the west roundly rejected him. But in Soludo’s disturbingly abnormal and distorted submission the Igbos are supposed to understudy the purported political astuteness of their neighbours in the West among other regions. Ridiculous to say the least.
But, again, I digress, and I must, and do earnestly, apologise. But sometimes one cannot help but confront the crass suppositions and potentially harmful misinformation peddled by supposedly learned but in truth exceedingly ambitious, crafty men. But back to the Man of the Moment, Peter Obi! Remarkably, of all the accusations levied against this man by his detractors, and there are many, none has come out accuse him of misappropriation of public funds or genuinely gainsaid his character and uprightness. The foremost, if not the only, question adduced centers on the wisdom of his frugality (in the time of want, if we are to believe Soludo). And it is such birdbrained arguments which has put Nigeria where she is today, in the unenviable brackets of the beggarly nations of this world. In Okonjo-Iweala’s acclaimed memoir, Fighting Corruption Is Dangerous, she talks of how the likes of Amaechi and other governors had arm-twisted GEJ into sharing out to them the Nation’s reserves, against the advice of people like Peter Obi, who arguing to the contrary, sadly had his voice drowned by the selfish, reckless majority, and the rest is history as they say. It’s this same man who Soludo now ridicules and questions the circumspection of in saving for rainy days while governor of Anambra State, the proceeds of which his predecessor, Obiano, infamously squandered in his white elephant projects, the state owned airport inclusive.
Wisdom is profitable to direct.
Truth be told, I never thought I would live to see the day a politician will be queried for investing and not embezzling public funds! But here we are! Truly, wonders never cease. Peter Obi is repeatedly trolled for how his $12M investment is now worth $3M, as though he dictated to his successor how to manage (or mismanage) that investment. And come to think of it, how come no one is telling us how much dividend that investment has yielded in the span of over 8 yrs, and if the company, SABMiller, is still solvent or not. But Soludo “will not be silent, when history beckons,” and so has ended up stirring a storm in a tea cup to the hoped after detriment of his so-called brother! With relations of his kind, who needs enemies?
“When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you,” Winston S. Churchill tells us.
However, Okonjo-Iweala had this to say about the man, Soludo: “an embittered loser in the Nigerian political space” who is “so derailed” to “commit intellectual harakiri by deliberately misquoting economic facts and maliciously turning statistics on their head to justify a hatchet job.
“Soludo has shamelessly pandered to so many past leaders that Nigerians are asking one more time – what position is Soludo gunning for now?
“There is definitely an issue of character with Prof. Charles Soludo and his desperate search for power and relevance in Nigeria. Nigerians should therefore beware of so-called intellectuals without character and wisdom because this combination is fatal.”
Such morally reprehensible characters, sadly, are the people in the corridors of power in this country, and it is their likes who are particularly envious and afraid of the candidacy of Peter Obi and the movement which, even to the gentleman’s shock, has naturally coalesced itself around him like a pearl, to the utter chagrin of the establishment.
But bullies and inordinately ambitious men are known to incubate a great many inadequacies which propels their inherent viciousness and sadism, least of which, some might say, is not a dearth of moral fibre and character.
“If they do that to you, imagine what they do to me.” -Peter Obi
But we can hardly say we did not expect any of this. The political elites were not going to go quietly into the night. They are bound to fight back, and they are going to fight dirty; and already are. But one thing these vicious place-hunters grossly underestimate is the power of the will of the people. Soludo calls himself a “Republican” (by the way, the Igbos are an ancient democratic culture and are liberal in nature). I suggest he learns a thing or two from the American midterm elections and the projected “red wave” that never materialized, because the GenZ voted overwhelmingly for the Democrats. These elections, following the general trend across the globe, are going to be decided by the youths of this country, and guess who they are rooting for?
Nigerians, the old order is dead! The head of the snake has been cut, it is only its body that is thrashing about in the bush. Or why else would a bunch of supposedly seasoned politicians, with the entire machinery of the state at their disposal, be afraid of one man running on the platform of a “structure-less” party? Think about it? Soludo, who by his definition is a “Christian,” never said a word about the case of the alleged drug baron who is set to be on the ballot barring a major miracle, and has remained notably mute on the Halliburton-Dubai landlord, who returns every 4 years to participate in the country’s election only to hasten back to his domiciliary immediately afterwards. Soludo, who is after the “eternal” good of the Igboman, had nothing to say about the unconscionable injustice meted to the Igbos by a party they had consistently voted for since 1999. He talks of strategizing and reaching across the aisle, but in the same breath goes ahead to make fun of Afenifere and other sociocultural groups who have all endorsed Peter Obi. If he only sees alliances with corrupt politicians as the only true, meaningful association that the Igbos can enter into in the pursuit for a just place at the table, then I’ll refer him to the likes of Rochas Okorocha et al, and ask them, how their political alliances fared? But like a blind bat (pun intended) in flight in midday, just a day after the earth-shattering exposé on Tinubu’s alleged drug dealings by the irrepressible David Hundeyin, he strategically unleashes his campaign of calumny against the person of Mr. Peter Obi. Coincidence? Possibly. But if a witch cries at night and a baby dies in the morning…
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” -Mahatma Gandhi
Peter Obi will lose, Peter Obi will lose, they all chorus, like a murder of crows. And yet no one tells you how many times the career presidential aspirant, Atiku, or even the current president himself, Buhari, had lost elections in this country in the past.
Soludo said the Igbos gave Atiku a mere 1.6M votes in total in 2019, but he forgets the apathy of the average Nigerian and the Igbos in particular towards elections prior to this present dispensation. Elections whose results were, hitherto, largely predetermined and cut-and-dry. But just to show you the folly of the man, he then goes ahead to say there are over 60M Igbos (a ballpark figure that might even fall short of the true numbers), and fails to ask himself where these huge population of people resides. Certainly, not only in the five eastern states. Any politician with a fair number, let alone a near sum total, of the Igbo vote behind them is more likely than any of his or her peers to achieve the baseline of 25 % across a larger spread of the country, if not in all its states, everything being equal. But in the typical, self-denigrating fashion of the Igbo elite, Soludo dismisses and makes mockery of this unique and unmatched political strength available to the Igbo electorate at large. And to further showcase his “political naivety,” he fails to see that, irrespective of what the establishment might want you to think, Peter Obi is a pan-Nigerian project and the indisputable front-runner in this presidential race, and stands a far better chance than he ever will to becoming the President of Nigeria! In any case, I will rather vote wisely and in keeping with my conscience than I hold my nose to do the same for someone clearly flawed and unfit for the office. Regardless of whether my candidate wins or not, I would have done my bounden duty by my country and conscience.
So, ‘OBIdients,’ do not be dismayed by the likes of Soludo and his ilks; they are only doing the job they were contracted, and dare I say handsomely paid, to do. The power, the true power, resides with us, the people. And it is our prerogative to do with it as we please. And, yes, they may call us “obnoxious social media mobs,” tell them we are the monsters they created.
Dr. Onyeka Okeke, is a public affairs analyst