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Day Babachir Lawal took a bold stand for Obi/Datti

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The growing acceptance of the Obi/Datti 2023 Presidential ambition has continued to challenge mainstream political blocs, despite its branding as a project that thrives only on the social media platform

At the beginning of the battle for the 2023 Presidency, Peter Obi had wanted to actualise his 2023 Presidential ambition on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Obi, however, abandoned the PDP for the less-known Labour Party (LP), when he realised that the vested interests in the PDP would make his ambition difficult, if not impossible to be actualised in the party.

The decision to leave the PDP Presidential race “open” was a signpost that it the party was not ready to follow the zoning principle as enshrined in Article 7(2) (C) of its Constitution as amended.

Political pundits however believe that the growing acceptance of Obi may not be unconnected with his penchant for the sound articulation of Nigeria’s challenges and in-depth knowledge of how to resolve them.

Abuja-based legal practitioner, Osita Nwanjo, in his view, sees Obi’s age at 62, as a major factor also working in his favour, having been born on 19th July 1961.

He noted that Obi’s exit from the PDP was because “the party created rooms for the internal crisis that has continued unabated, by not zoning the 2023 Presidential ticket to the South.”

According to him, “Framers of the PDP Constitution and the party’s founding fathers had in appreciation of the diverse and heterogeneous nature of the Nigerian society, inserted Article 7 (2) (c), to make room for compliance with the Federal Character Principles as also enshrined in Section 14 (1) of the 1999 constitution as amended.

This section states that “The Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a state based on the principles of democracy and social justice. Section 14 (3) states: The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the Federal Character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity and also to command national loyalty thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or any of its agencies.

“They also believe that the issue of Federal Character should not be limited to governance only as Section 223 (1) (b) of the Constitution says, “The constitution and rules of a political party shall ensure that the members of the executive committee or other governing body of the political party reflect the Federal Character of Nigeria while sub-section 2(b) says … The Federal Character is reflected only if the members belong to different states.”

While noting that “Obi made the right choice, by leaving the PDP”, Nwanjo however, said that “even the die-hard optimists never gave Peter Obi and his co-sojourners in the Labour Party, any chance of advancing beyond his Igbo-dominated South East terrain.

This is why the recent endorsement of the Obi/Datti 2023 Presidential ambitions by former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal is viewed as a positive milestone for the Labour Party.

Before now, some critics had dismissed the Obi/Datti group, made up of mainly young political activists, students and youths as “only active in the social media platform.”

But Kachi Ononuju, a Public Affairs analyst, said:

“We had posited earlier that the Obi/Datti thing is a movement and not just a political party. Many more Nigerians are being attracted to it daily because they see it as being beyond Peter Obi.”

Suleiman Shuaibu, an Adamawa-based chieftain of the APC, while speaking with BDSunday, said the APC is worried over the growing popularity of the Obi/Datti group.

“We in the APC are not comfortable with the rate at which many young Nigerians are romancing with Peter Obi. The reason is that many see him as intelligent and the youngest amongst all the candidates,” he said.

But in a statement titled: ‘Why We Have Chosen to Endorse Obi/Datti Ticket’ the Babachir Lawal group, said the decision was taken after painstaking review and analysis of the alternative presidential tickets, “we now wish to recommend the Obi/Datti presidential ticket.”

According to Babachir Lawal, “As one of the foremost critics of APC’s single-faith presidential ticket and also in difference to those who have patiently waited for our guidance as to where to pitch our tent, after a painstaking review and analysis of the alternative presidential tickets, we now wish to recommend the Obi/Datti presidential ticket.

Read also: Nigeria needs people-driven constitution to function – Ozekhome

“We wish to briefly narrate a few reasons among many, why we have endorsed this ticket and commend it to all Nigerians of good conscience who desire justice, equity and a harmonious co-existence of all Nigerians across tribes, religions and geopolitical regions.

“Moreover, there is currently in circulation the fake news that I have thrown in my towel with the PDP. Nothing could be farther from the truth. To me, the PDP and APC are different sides of the same coin.”

The group described the APC same-faith ticket as “a deliberate, well-calculated plan to sow the seeds of religious and social discord among Nigerians. It is obvious that Northerners, in particular, are the intended targets and victims of this satanic plan.

“It is an indisputable fact that the whole of Northern Nigeria is currently mired in several intractable socio-economic problems due to the activities of several nebulous criminal groups.

“Agriculture, the mainstay of the northern economy, is all but abandoned because kidnappers and bandits have prevented people from venturing out of the safety of their homes.

“Interstate and intercity travel for either business or leisure have all but ceased not only due to un-motorable roads but more so for fear of kidnapping, armed robbery and other forms of banditry.

“Our rural schools have all but closed for fear of kidnappers. Government-owned universities have closed thus depriving the children of the already impoverished Northern masses access to affordable higher education.

“Thus, our out-of-school and idle children have become easy targets for recruitment by bandits and kidnappers. And there is no solution in sight.

“Then, out of nowhere, this man, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a renowned Yoruba-hegemonist, a man who championed the establishment of a Ministry of Regional Integration in each state government of the South-west geopolitical region which he bestrides as an emperor, and a man who was once quoted as saying ‘I do not believe in one Nigeria’ comes up with a Muslim-Muslim ticket knowing full well that religion is the underbelly of Northern Nigeria.

“APC’s same-faith ticket is a ploy to further sow discord among Northerners using the most potent weapon of social discord – religion. As Karl Max once said – ‘religion is the opium of the people.’

“Nigerians from all shades of the society must see this Tinubu/Kashim same-faith ticket as a proposal from the pit of hell that can only be conjured by the most Machiavellian minds known to man and therefore must be rejected wholesome by all lovers of our country and its nascent democracy.”

In their view, Tinubu’s Vice Presidential running mate, Kashim Shetima, did not perform better in the “eight years he presided over Borno State at a time when Boko Haram was overrunning the state almost at will and restructuring the minds of its victims against Christianity and western education.

“The kidnapped Chibok and Dapchi girls and many more are now slowly trickling out of captivity in the Boko Haram indoctrination camps fully Islamised and carrying children born into Islam in captivity – a true example of ‘mind restructuring’ if there ever was one.

“There is also this little matter of an allegation of a very close relationship or otherwise between the Vice Presidential candidate of APC and Boko Haram!

“And, which Christian can forget one Kabiru Sokoto the alleged Boko Haram kingpin accused of complicity in the Christmas bombing of St Theresa Catholic Church, Madallah that resulted in 44 deaths and 77 injured Christian worshippers?

“Or that the said Kabiru Sokoto was eventually arrested at his hiding place in the Borno State Government Lodge Abuja? Are Christians not justified in being scared of a government-run by this duo?

“Surely, APC’s same-faith ticket is intended to shame Christians and bestow on them and their religion a second-class socio-political status in their own country.

“In particular, it is a validation of the discrimination and oppression being meted out on Northern Nigerian Christians where they are now denied employment, promotion, contracts, and admission to read prestigious and marketable courses in government-owned schools simply on account of their religion.

“It is no wonder then that Alhaji Bola Tinubu thinks that the Bible is a book of jokes from which he can freely construct his ‘jokes’ like his ‘Poisoned Holy Communion’ and ‘Speaking in Tongues’ jokes.

“If he is man enough, I challenge him to ridicule the Holy Quran even once as he freely does the Holy Bible. This guy has no respect for Christians and Christianity at all.

“This APC ticket goes against the grain of Nigerian politics which in practice (if not in law) has always sought to achieve a religious balance in its politics and governance. It is worth noting that all the other seventeen political parties fielding presidential candidates have gone the way of established conventions and practices by fielding different-faith tickets.

“Truly, except for its incitement to social disharmony, there is no sense at all in APC’s same faith ticket.

“Furthermore, in our quest for justice and equity in the socio-political and religious space of the country, it is obvious that only the Obi/Datti ticket has the potential of speaking to the genuine clamour for power shift to the South-East and at the same time speak to the cry of marginalisation by our people of the South-East.

“Obviously, a Christian/Muslim presidency like the Obi/Datti one will be most appropriate at this stage of our political journey more so, since we are now transiting from a Muslim/Christian presidency.

“It will also achieve the regional shift of the presidency from the current NW/SW to a SE/NW presidency as popularly being canvassed. This is justice; this is equity. This is political engineering at its best and one that engineers peace and harmonious co-existence of the various socio-political and religious classes of our nation.

“Nigerians should also resist the temptation of being ruled by the same set of courtiers who are recycling themselves, their children and their friends in a monarchical fashion, in and out of government to the exclusion of other segments of the society.

“This trend has resulted in these disastrous consequences in which we now find ourselves – impoverished, unsecured, divided, severely underdeveloped and massively unemployed with a widening gulf between the rich and poor of the society.”

Babachir Lawal’s epistle is coming against the backdrop of a recent survey that has reinforced earlier reports that show Peter Obi leading other Presidential candidates, as the country counts down to the 2023 election.

The Obi/Datti LP scored 40.37 percent of the survey respondents, with Atiku Abubakar at 26.7 percent while Bola Tinubu is at 20.47 percent.

The independent survey was conducted by Nextier, a policy think-tank, which entailed a face-to-face poll of registered voters in rural communities in 12 states in Nigeria. The survey defined rural communities as local government areas without tertiary educational institutions.

The regional view provides a clearer definition of survey respondents’ voting preferences. Atiku Abubakar of the PDP leads in North West with 59.8 percent and in the North East with 50.3 percent, with Bola Tinubu as second in those regions with 25.4 percent and 27.2 percent, respectively.

Peter Obi leads in the North Central with 59.8 percent, South-South with 67.3 percent and South East with 94 percent.

The South West is the most contested region, with Bola Tinubu leading with 37.4 percent and Peter Obi in second place with 24 percent. About 19.8 percent of the surveyed voters in the region are still undecided on their preferred candidate.

Also, on the “net favourability” index, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party is at +17.3 percent; and Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress follows at 4.98 percent.

Peter Obi of the Labour Party garnered +30 percent, while Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party has the least net favourability among the four leading candidates at -8.70 percent.

A concerned observer recently urged Peter Obi to focus his campaign rallies in the north, especially the core north.

According to him, “From the current research evidence, many far northern states youths are not happy with the ruling party APC, neither PDP, and have vowed to vote against APC and PDP, they are fully aware now that the suffering of poverty and insecurity in their region are caused by both political parties led by their own brothers, majority of them are still undecided on who to vote.

“So my observation and conviction is that Peter Obi and Labour Party leaders should seize this opportunity of confusion and bewilderment among the northern voters to woo them to his side.

“The southern Nigeria are already covered for Peter Obi and Labour Party, even if Peter Obi didn’t campaign anywhere around southern Nigeria and 70percent of middle belt states he will win with a landslide victory, Peter Obi’s awareness in the south and some parts of middle belt states are so overwhelming, he should focus his campaign rallies attention to the north to make his winning in 2023 general election very easy and walkover against the opposition parties.”

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