Nigeria: Rallying on to a Great Hope
An impossible country (where anything is possible) is on the march again
On August 26, 2022, a mammoth crowd of Nigerians trouped out onto the main road through the oil city of Port Harcourt in Rivers State Nigeria.
Like the midrib of an open leaf, this road divides Port Harcourt popularly called the Garden City into two. Like excited termites on their broken-up mound, their rendezvous was the popular Oil Mill junction at the outskirts of the city.
Never in the chequered history of Nigeria and the politics of its troubled people has any presidential candidate been so massively accepted by all.
Unlike past election seasons, when politicians used their own money to buy voters, Nigerians are the ones spending their money to promote their preferred candidate — Peter Obi.
The popularity of massively charismatic Peter Gregory Obi, an entrepreneur and former governor of Anambra State cuts across all the states of Nigeria. His running mate, Senator Yusuf Datti Baba Ahmed, enjoys mass acceptance. Their emergence rejuvenated the fortunes of the previously far-behind Labour Party.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu is the presidential candidate of the All People’s Congress (APC). The other prominent party, People's Democratic Party (PDP) has Atiku Abubakar bearing its flag. They have both contested for the presidency in past elections.
Peter Obi's support is among the teeming youth and other Nigerians. The two candidates of the other parties are seen as being culpable in the misfortunes that have befallen the nation in the reign of President Buhari (of APC). Nigerians longed for change when President Buhari took over from his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan (of PDP) in 2015. Now their experience has turned out to be like jumping from a frying pan into the fire.
President Buhari was ushered in with the slogan of an all-encompassing “CHANGE” mantra. Contrary to his promises, Nigerian’s fortunes have nosedived from worse to worst.
Nigerians who love their country are now struggling with the onerous task of taking their country back. This is our project. This is the daunting goal of teeming Nigerians.
Our people are hungry. Our longing is for a nation that works.
The emergence of Peter Obi has galvanized Nigerians out of apathy to register for their Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC). Previously far behind Labour Party has grown in multiple folds since Peter Obi emerged as the party’s flag bearer.
On August 27th, 2-million people rally through Port Harcourt, which was peaceful and well coordinated. Even the intermittent light and heavy rain did not stop the lively and enthusiastic participants. A growing mass of people defied the off-and-then-on rain, trekking over 8 kilometers to Isaac Boro Park to show their support for Peter Obi.
Unlike what happened during the #endSARS protests of 2020, the police and other security agents were in attendance. There wasn’t any harassment either.
Nigerians want to live together in peace
Through the years, the politicians and the powers that be have prevented us from achieving this lofty nation-building goal. During this rally, nobody care for his partner or asked where the other person came from.
Only one goal was paramount; “We must take our country back.”
At Oil Mill, a protester complained bitterly, “7,000 nairas can no longer do for my wife to cook soup for me and my family.” This is a country where the basic monthly wage for most salary earners is less than N40,000 per month. The nation’s currency, the naira, has fallen in value by over 150 percent since this government came into power. The unofficial exchange rate is over N650 to the US dollar.
Crossing the road to join other rally participants, another man complained almost in tears, “University students have been at home for over six months. The government is still refusing to negotiate with the lecturers because their children are attending foreign universities.” Popularly known as ASUU, the Academic Staff Union of Universities has been on strike for six months. Their grievances are, among other demands, non-payment of salaries and poor funding of the nation’s tertiary education sector.
Peter Obi is the most competent and morally above board among the three contenders. Many Nigerians regard his past tenure as the governor of Anambra State as being one of the best of any governor in Nigeria. On his past achievement records, he and his supporters confidently reply to you with, “Go and verify.”
Last June, I did a brisk job at an oil-rig location in Imo State. There, I met a brilliant engineer. He was a beneficiary of Peter Obi’s government in Anambra state. According to him, Obi’s government provided every secondary school in Anambra State with computer facilities during his tenure as the state’s governor. His being at the rig's location and working as an engineer was one of many testaments to Peter Obi’s past good governance.
Peter Obi appeals to the people with, “Go and verify”. By this, he meant that people should go and verify the claims of his past performance as governor. His supporters have also imbibed his principle of “We are not giving shishi”, meaning Peter Obi will not give any money to buy votes or gather supporters for his cause.
Despite his reputation and mass appeal, an army of detractors has risen up against him. Their goal is to discredit and paint him as a sectional, tribal leader. This is not true.
With the benefit of eight years of hindsight, the catalog of red flags that should have warned Nigerians against electing Buhari as president is now glaring at all Nigerians.
Sadly, this army of influencers who used to trumpet Buhari’s misrule is now supporting candidates many Nigerians consider to be of dubious reputations. This army of formidable and articulate social media uninfluencers is now brainwashing Nigerians to gloss over what they condemned in Buhari. Why? The suspicion is that the powers that be have bought these turncoats over with tons of wads of dollars.
Open your eyes, see what they are trying to hide from you
For every Nigerian physically present at that 2 million people rally in Port Harcourt, there are at least 5, 10, and 20 … who were not physically present.
Toward the 2023 elections, I presently have 10 PVCs queued behind Peter Obi’s bid for the presidency. No. I didn’t do multiple PVC registrations. Know this; my immediate and extended family has more than 10, 20, 30, … PVCs solidly queued behind Peter Obi and the Labor Party because of me. To that ever-expanding group, add my like-minded friends and growing cycle of influence.
Now add all aggrieved millions of Nigerians to that list. Across each of Nigeria’s geo-political zones, Peter Obi's support base easily runs into tens of millions of Nigerian registered voters.
His popularity has been growing like wildfire. This has nothing to do with his tribe or his religion. This tells Nigerians and all that when the right leader emerges, all Nigerians will jettison their ethnic, or tribal differences & queue up behind her or him. Nigerians have found such leaders in the unstoppable duo of #ObiDatti.
Only toxic leaders employ corrupting and illicit cash, divisive tribal and religious differences to advance their political fortunes. This trinity of evils has hindered Nigeria’s progress for far too long.
Now, Nigerians are on the march again. Rising hope.
Personally, I am not the “political type”. It surprised many of my friends that I took part in that rally. Like many other Nigerians, I am seriously annoyed, and I’ve resolved to vent and take my anger to the polls come 2023.
Towards rescuing and taking back our country, Peter Obi’s presidency comes 2023 is the goal all discerning Nigerians have in sight.
From the onset, I knew I won’t complete the itinerary to Isaac Boro Park — a distance of about 10 kilometers. I resolved to cover 2 or 3 kilometers and then take a taxi back home. Defying the off-and-then-on rain, others continued to the end of the long walk.
This wasn’t a rally exclusively done by only “poor people”. People spent their money to assist other participants in promoting Peter Obi Movement.
There were corporate vehicles, ambulances, support vehicles, and radio and television crewmen. It was also an opportunity for savvy business people to market various memorabilia — baseball caps, vests, T-shirts, towels, party flags emblazoned with their party’s flag bearers, and other “marketing” items to support their candidate.
As expected, traffic was sluggish on the “To Aba” side of the expressway. On the “To Port Harcourt” side, traffic and a massive flow of heads were crawling down to the park.
Contrary to what detractors who are constantly trying to downplay the irresistible Peter Obi train, nobody talked about your tribe or religion.
At Izzi Bus Stop, I met these two towering “giants”. We have never met before. But we instantly blended and took group shots to serve as reminders of our participation in the march. Two ladies joined us for a second shot with the #ObiDatti banner in our front. The young man’s smartphone has run out of memory. The lady’s phone battery has run out of juice. I took their phone numbers, promising to send them the shots. I did. And they replied to me with their thanks.
An open van lorry carried several participants. They were chanting, “Obi dey come o, Obi dey come o. Obi dey come o. I no ‘gree, I no ‘gree, stay for your house o.” Meaning, Obi is coming, Obi is coming, if you are not supporting him, stay out of the way.” You can replace the name of Obi with that of the popular PDP governor of Rivers State. That song was initially coined by the admirers and supporters of the highly acclaimed Governor Nyessom Wike of Rivers State.
At First Artillery Bus Stop, #OBIdients traffic controllers ushered rally vehicles up the bridge. Others continued trekking continued under it. Their meeting point was at the end of the nearly one-kilometer-long land-bridge.
Peacefully we marched our nationwide anger all bottled up. At least for now.
About halfway across the top of the bridge, the intermittent rain resumed in full force. Undaunted, the flowing heads of rally participants continued their long walk. Ahead, ahead they go. Their destination was Isaac Boro Park and there were at least 5 more kilometers to go.
From behind, another “rally man” caught up with me. He invited me to join him in his friend’s car — a Lexus salon. This guy is not poor by any means. Still drenched in rain, I sank into the luxury of the soft leather seats.
Outside, other marchers continued on their trip. Everyone has his own tale of tears and seemingly unending woes.
A conversation soon ensued. Hear him,
Me, I have never joined in a political rally before. We are just tired of what is happening in Nigeria. We must take our country back.
I reechoed his words in reply.
The downpour stopped less than 100 feet down the bridge. I asked my new friend to stop so I can disembark. “Thank you. I want to trek so I can take pictures of our marching troupe with my smartphone.”
The hardships and insecurity being inflicted on our country have left nobody in Nigeria untouched. One of my former managers, now running his own company, was there. Doctors in support of Peter Obi were there.
On that long march, you encounter graduates with two or more sound degrees. No job.
Traders and business owners can’t travel to rural areas to buy foodstuffs for resale to city dwellers. No thanks to the perceived government’s unseriousness at handling security.
Directly or indirectly, every Nigerian is feeling the heat of insecurity and violence that has engulfed their nation.
Nigerians rightly quip that “Kidnapping for ransom is the fastest growing business.”
And anybody can become the next unfortunate victim.
About three minutes later, the rain again resumed. Side kiosks, petrol stations and nearby garages afforded temporal respite until the rain stopped. Others, like me, pressed on. Before I arrived at my turning point at the next U-turn junction, the finicky rain has again stopped.
From there, I boarded a taxi back to our take-off point at Oil Mill junction.
The cry of one is the cry of all
In that rally, you will encounter many jobless Nigerians. Economic hardships have reduced Nigerians to paupers living from hand to mouth. A loaf of bread that sells for 250 nairas late last year now sells for 600 nairas. The prices of other staple foods are similarly rising daily. Relentlessly.
Every rally participant has a tale of tears and woes to tell.
In pieces and bits and through death by a million cuts, Nigeria is a country that consume its citizens. Every modicum of goodness you enjoy now is not guaranteed to last until next week. True.
Contrary to the window-dressing of the nation’s ills, our country is so vulnerable and fragile. There is no guarantee that petrol will be available at the petrol stations next week. (Two weeks after I first drafted this story, notorious petrol-station queues are back again.) The government has remorselessly announced that petrol, currently selling for N185 per liter will be selling for N462 soon.
Since its inauguration, the much-trumpeted CHANGE promised by the current government has been one bad turn after another. Just when you think you’ve seen the worst, another turn, worse than the last is just ahead of you.
Only those who are not feeling the heat gloss over the government's misrule. And to them, a rebuke comes from the mouths of those bearing the brunt.
Nigeria is a country that consumes its citizens. So much so that the citizens have coined the sad but true statement, “May Nigeria never happen to you.” This statement aptly described the disillusion and stark hopelessness of our people.
One time, a former co-worker came to visit me with a beautiful 2005 Toyota Highlander. Secretly, I admired him for his good fortune. Unknown to me, his fuel tank was going dry then. He had to request my help to refuel his car for his return drive home.
The common denominator everywhere is frustration. And yet more frustrations. Everywhere.
Nigeria is a country where the rulers look from behind to snatch any little bit of comfort you manage to scratch out of this most grueling nation. Case in point, the petrol you bought for N185 per liter last week is going for over N457 soon. Instead of improving the nation’s electric power supply, electricity distribution companies have increased their tariffs by over 150% in the last few years. Even then, many Nigerians like can only boast of less than 8 hours of public power supply every day.
It is easy for foreigners to be fooled by the glitter and the glamour of cars on our roads. The majority of these cars are second or third-hand used cars. Most of their owners are on the verge of personal bankruptcy. There are gas stations every one or two kilometers along most city roads. There isn’t any guarantee that those stations will still be open to serve customers in another 24 hours.
Rated as the 6th largest OPEC oil producer, Nigeria has virtually no running refineries. As reported by OPEC, virtually all of the country’s refined petroleum products are imported. This dubious feat ranks my country as the 17th largest importer of refined products.
Nigeria — an impossible country where anything is possible
A country that is heavily indebted to China, financed the building of a modern railway line to a neighboring country — Niger Republic. Most of the nation’s old decrepit railway lines are no longer running.
Despite the crumbling economy and the unending brazen state of insecurity, some Nigerians are still drumming support for this administration. Their goal, despite the tears and woes of our people, is for Nigeria’s wrecking ball of President Buhari’s ruling party to succeed in the forthcoming presidential elections.
If you do not believe in witchcraft, come to Nigeria and see those captured by its snare. Only bewitched and hypnotized citizens will insist on staying trapped in the deadly embrace of their oppressors.
Government apologists downplay our unending tears. They constantly remind you that the highest level of infrastructure growth ever witnessed by the country has been under President Buhari’s rule. Most of those same roads and railway lines are unsafe because of the activities of bandits and internal terrorists.
On 28 March 2022, a train bound for Kaduna from the nation’s capital city Abuja, was attacked by bandits. The bandits murdered some of the travelers. They took others as hostages. As of this writing, many of the victims as still in captivity — awaiting the payment of government ransom money to the bandits before they are released by their captors.
According to Peter Obi, the government negotiates and pays ransom money to terrorists and bandits but refuses to negotiate with the university lecturers' union — ASUU.
With the elections fast approaching, every week, more “million people” rallies continue across several cities. Like an irresistible flood, mass support for Peter Obi’s bid for the presidency of my troubled country keeps growing among our people.
Many of the participants are not people you will even associate with mass rallies or protests. Even with the falling fortunes, many of them are fairly well-to-do. Like me, the guy who offered me a ride out of the rain has never taken part in a mass rally or public protest before.
Many of my friends never believe that someone like me could ever be involved in a mass rally in support of a politician.
But, Nigeria is happening to me.
And like me, millions of my compatriots are feeling the ceaseless horrors of insecurity, pangs of hunger, runaway unemployment, and uncertain future.
Millions of distracting cynics abound among us as well. These naysayers believe that our rally and march for a re-birthed Nigeria under Peter Obi presidency is an exercise in futility.
Undaunted by their self-doubts, here is my answer to them;
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
(1858–1919), 26th U.S. President
These are the lessons I learned from the 2-Million People March in support of Peter Obi bid for the presidency of Nigeria come 2023.
Hunger knows no tribal, religious, or party affiliations. Nigerians are hungry. Nigerians are suffering.
Nigerians are weary of corrupt governments. Starvation and unimaginable suffering is stalking me and my compatriots daily.
Everybody, especially the youth, is massively longing for a change in the nation’s status quo. Our battle cry, “We must take our nation back.”
It is possible to unite this country. Only a clueless government intent on dividing-and-conquer policies will turn the citizens against one another.
The majority of Nigerians do not care about tribe or religion. This was evident in the #ObiDatti rallies going on every week in most of Nigeria’s major cities.
Nigerians of all ethnic, religious, and economic classes want a country that works.
A united Nigeria is better than a balkanized Nigeria.
Nigerians love their fellow countrymen and women. What we are looking for is a leader who will rally all to build bridges of unity based on justice, equity, and fairness. Nigerians have found such leaders in the duo of Peter Gregory Obi and Senator Yusuf Datti Baba Ahmed.
Nigerians look forward with anxiety and hope to 2023 presidential elections, there are three options that await us.
A flawed and compromised presidential election that produces unpopular rulers. Such an outcome will only result in either or both of two scary outcomes. The first outcome; our beleaguered country will then continue inexorably on The Road to Kigali. The second alternative, the nation, continues on the doomed ship, aided by an ill wind, heading into the woes of Venezuela.
Nigerians hope that the election's umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will conduct an unfettered, fair, and free election that will give us a president that Nigeria deserves. The hope and expectation of millions of Nigeria trouping in these #OBIdient rallies are that Peter Obi will emerge as Nigeria’s president come May 2023.
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