February 25 Countdown: How Far Can Peter Obi Go?

February 25 Countdown: How Far Can Peter Obi Go?

By Mike Odiakose

Since Peter Gregory Obi emerged as the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, LP, last year, his rating among the other presidential candidates took a gigantic leap and has consistently been on the number one position in online poll votings, pushing the presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar to the second place while the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu has permanently remained in the third position.

Since the political campaigns began late last year Peter Obi had the privilege of being welcomed by enthusiastic mammoth crowd of supporters, mainly made up of youths and women. It is believed that these supporters are not the usual paid crowds that Nigerian politicians hire to boost attendance at their campaign rallies.

Obi is perceived to be the choice of young Nigerians, especially the educated ones. He is very popular in the South South, South East, South West, North Central, minority states in the North, including parts of Kaduna state which incidentally is the state of origin of his running mate, Datti Ahmed. The support Obi has been receiving across tribal, religious and regional lines is not unconnected to his antecedents that preceded his entry into the presidential race. Many Nigerians who have been victims of misrule in the past decades see in Obi a leader they can trust with the keys to the treasury of the country without any fears that he will help himself to the commonwealth of the people.

Apart from women and youths, Obi has equally received the endorsement of notable Nigerians like former President Olusegun Obasanjo, South South Leader Chief Edwin Clark and some notable Yoruba leaders.

Last year the two labour centers, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), declared their support to campaign and do everything within their power to ensure that the Labour Party presidential candidate wins emerges victorious in the elections.

They declared their support in a separate speech made by their Presidents at the 10th anniversary lecture in honour of the labour veteran, late Conrade Pascal Bayau in Abuja

Delivering his speech, the former NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, said that Mr Obi is among the finest Nigerian and the first presidential candidate of Labour Party to be recognized by the labour Centre.

He said that the NLC will fully mobilize to ensure the victory of the party come 2023 general elections.

Wabba noted that it became pertinent for the organised labour to fully participate in campaigning to ensure that the candidate whose mantra will make life better for his members and Nigerians at large wins the election after the union realised that strikes and protests alone cannot change the narratives in Nigeria, especially as it concerns workers welfare and fair treatment to the working people.

On his part, TUC President, Comrade Quadri Olaleye, said that all the labour unions are pleased and are ready to work with Peter Obi and that the entire labour movement has accepted, adopted and will support, and ensure workers vote massively for him in the 2023 presidential elections.

Political analysts are of the view that another thing that is working in favour of Obi-Datti ticket is that Nigerians believe their campaign promises are not the usual rhetoric of average politicians and that they will implement their campaign pledges unlike some presidential candidates that have no blueprint for the revival and development of the country and may not even remember the promises they made to Nigerians as soon as they come down from the campaign podium.

However, in spite of Obi’s popularity in some parts of the country, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party is not yet connected to voters in some key states in the North, especially the North West that has the highest number of voters in the country. The Peter Obi momentum has not reached the zone less than two weeks to the presidential election. Some have said the Labour Party on whose platform Obi is contesting the presidency lacks the structure to win the national election and this may be the brutal truth, especially in the core North where the presence of the party is near zero.

According to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the Labour Party has no candidates in 28 senatorial zones, while the party also has no candidates for 128 House of Representatives seats nationwide. There are 109 senatorial seats and 360 House of Representatives seats that will be contested by political parties on February 25, 2023.

The 28 Senatorial seats that will not have the Labour Party on the ballot are all three zones in Borno state, Bauchi North, Jigawa South West, Jigawa North West, all three zones in Katsina state, three zones in Kebbi State, Kogi West, Niger North, Sokoto North, Yobe North and Yobe East.

Also, the party has no senate candidates in Bayelsa East, Bayelsa West, Delta North, Delta Central, Ekiti State, Lagos state, Ondo Central, and Ondo South.

For the House of Representative election, the Labour Party will be missing on the ballot in some constituencies in Bauchi state, especially in Bagoro/Dass/Tafawa Balewa, Darazo/Ganjuwa, Gamawa, Jama’are/Itas/Gadau, Katagun, Misau/Damban, Ningi/Warji, Shira/Giade, Toro and Zaki federal constituency.

In Borno state the Labour Party has no House of Representative candidates in eight federal constituencies of Biu/Kwaya-Kusar, Shani/Bayo, Damboa/Gwoza/Chibok, Dikwa/Mafa/Konduga. Jere, Kaga/Gubio/Magumeri, Kukawa/Mobbar/Abadam/Guzamali and Maiduguri Metropolitan.

In Gombe State the Labour Party will also not contest one federal constituency of Kaltungo/Shongom while in Jigawa state the party has no candidate in seven federal constituencies of Birnin Kudu/Buji, Dutse/Kiyawa, Gumel/Maigatari/Sule/Tankarkar/Gag Gwaram, Jahun/Miga, Ringi.Taura and Jema’a/Sanga.

The Labour Party has no House of Representatives candidates in seven constituencies in Kaduna state. They include Ikara/Kubau, Jema’a/ Sanga, KachiaKagarto, Kaduna South, Lere, Zango Kataf/Jaba and Zaria, the constituency of the Lbour Party presidential running mate.

In Kano state the Labour party has no candidates in five constituencies of Bebeji/Kiru, Doguwa/Tundun Wada, Gezawa/Gabasawa, Kano/Bunkure/Kibiya and Sumaila/Takai.

Still in the North West, the Labour Party will be mission on the House of Representatives ballot papers in 14 federal constituencies in Katsina state comprising of Batagarawa/Charanchi/Rimi, Batsari/Safana/Danmusa, Bindawa/Mani, Daura/Sandamu/Mai’adua, Dutsin-ma/Kurfi, Faskari/Kankara/Sabuwa, Funtua/Dandume, Ingawa/Kankia/Kusada, Jibia/Kaita, Katsina, Malumfashi/Kafur, Mashi/Dutsi, Matazu/Musawa and Zango/Baure.

In Kebbi state the Labour Party will not be fielding candidates in eight constituencies while the party will not be on the ballot for House of Representatives election in three constituencies in Kogi state. In Niger State the Labour Party will not contest in seven federal constituencies and in Plateau state the party will not contest in four constituencies of Jos North/Bassa, Kanke/Panshin/Kanam, Mikang/Qua’an/Pan/Shedam and Wase.

The party will not contest in two constituencies in Sokoto state; five constituencies in Yobe state and three federal constituencies in Zamfara state.

In addition to the large constituencies the Labour Party is not fielding candidates in the North, the party also has not candidates in seven constituencies in Ondo State; 24 constituencies in Lagos state; six constituencies in Ekiti state; one constituency in Edo State; two constituencies in Delta state; one constituency in Cross Rivers, Bayelsa and Abia States, respectively.

The absence of Labour Party candidates for Senate and House of Representatives in most of these key states in the North that have huge voting population may impact negatively on the fortunes of Peter Obi in those states during the February 25 election.

If the Labour Party had fielded candidates in these states, the party’s candidates will be marketing Obi as they go about their own campaigns and may even juxtapose Obi’s picture with their own on their campaign posters and other materials. There are reports that the Labour Party is totally absent in some of the interior areas in these states and the possibility of the party having Polling Agents in thousands of polling units is very remote as they don’t even have card-carrying members in most of the communities.

Political analysts believe unless miracle happens, that it will be very difficult for the Labour Party to score 25 percent of vote cast in most of these core Northern states especially Yobe, Borno, Bauchi, Jigawa, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara states. The Electoral Act provides that a candidate with majority score must have 25 percent vote cast in 24 states. Even if Obi gets the majority votes but fails to meet the 25 percent requirement in 24 states it means there is going to be a run-off election.

While Obi is being celebrated in the social media for leading in the online polls, over 95 percent of voters in key core northern states have no business with the social media but rather they are always with their radios that they are permanently tuned to Hausa Service of various local and international radio stations.

So far, Obi has not been able to penetrate the rank of Traditional, Political and Religious leaders in the core North. These leaders control the voters in the zone and whatever instructions they pass down to their people is almost evangelically adhered to by their people without question.

However, Peter Obi might make some inroad into the core North if he has the full support of leaders and members of the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, who are the owners of the Labour Party and TUC that endorsed him as their candidate since last year. Despite the declaration of the support for Obi, NLC and TUC leaders have been conspicuously absent at Labour Party rallies and other engagements. They have, so far, failed to show genuine commitment to the actualisation of flag bearer of the Labour Party winning the presidency. The Labour Party is the creation and offspring of the NLC and the original certificate of the registration of the Labour Party is domiciled in the national headquarters of the NLC. Also, a Federal High Court judgement by Justice G.O. Kolawole in March 2018 clearly establishes that Labour Party belongs to workers.

If the national leadership of the NLC shares Obi’s vision, they can mobilize their state chapters, especially members of the National Union of Local Government Employees, NULGE, an affiliate of the NLC, to work for the emergence of Obi as the next Nigerian president. The NULGE is present in all the 774 local government areas across the country. However, with barely one week to the February 25 presidential election, it is it is indeed a herculean task and doubtful if the NLC has enough time to mobilize its members to support the Obi-Datti ticket.

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