It’s been quite a run of endorsements for Peter Obi these past few days. To borrow a football expression, he has scored a hat-trick of endorsements from former president Olusegun Obasanjo, Samuel Ortom and Edwin Clark. It could have been two keys if the IBB endorsement rumor had come true. But we know that in Nigerian politics, rumors often turn out to be true. So, speculatively, you may have a fourth IBB endorsement in the offing.
The endorsements began with Obasanjo’s 6 page new year letter specifically targeted at Nigerian youth. In it, he harangued about the degradation of the economic and material life of his compatriots, especially in the last seven and a half years. In the quintessential style of a senior politician, he avoided insults, but left hints here and there for the reader.
This letter is different from his past epistolary interventions after his term. He has less vile and judgment. The reason for this difference in tonality this time is the recipient. Past letters from him were addressed to his successors. But he chose to write to the young this time. How fatherly of him? After speaking out about the need to take back the country and strip minds of the tribal tendencies that have prevented the country from reaching its potential, he quietly slipped into his approval of Peter Obi’s candidacy in just two paragraphs. That was after he charitably warned that none of the contestants are saints.
But since the publication of the letter, the reactions have been torrential. Obasanjo’s supporters and critics have distilled the entirety of the letter into the endorsement. if you were a obedient, of course, you would celebrate the endorsement. If you were a supporter of either the All Progressives Congress or the Peoples Democratic Party, you would most likely make a straw man argument about how inconsequential the endorsement is. Like most reactions I’ve seen, you can speak ad hominem about Obasanjo and paint him as the worst villain in the history of gothic novels.
As someone who prefers to stay out of the way, it’s interesting to see the hypocrisy on all sides. For Obi and his followers, it’s interesting how they seem unaware of their cognitive dissonance. On the one hand, Obi blames Nigeria’s problems on current and former administrations. Yet he goes cap in hand to the Obasanjos, Babangidas and other who’s who of Nigerian politics to seek his blessing. Obi is supposed to be a break from the norm. Voting for Obi is supposed to be a protest against the political establishment. But how do you talk about the evil that the establishment has done yet, do you actively seek its go-ahead?
To be fair, that is unfortunately the nature of politics. To become president, he must dine with the devil to make a Faustian deal with his integrity, even though he has the best intentions for the people he wants to serve. It is the yin and yang of politics. This may not apply if you want to take a much more idealistic and radical path such as Omoyele Sowore. But it seems that Nigeria is not yet ready for that kind of disruption. OBIteeth for all their discontent with the system, they still have some faith that the system itself can uphold a messiah like Obi. But a little fraternizing to get the go-ahead from Nigeria’s so-called ruiners doesn’t hurt their cause, I guess.
Obviously, the letter was not well received by APC. Like an entitled child, they threw tantrums over an endorsement that is not theirs. But all of that smacks of hypocrisy. Despite their bad blood since 1999, APC presidential candidate Bola Tinubu led a delegation in 2015 to Abeokuta seeking Obasanjo’s blessings for Buhari’s ambition. Last August, Tinubu himself revisited Obasanjo in Abeokuta in the company of Femi Gbajabiamila, Bisi Akande and Nuhu Ribadu. What has changed since the two visits and the new year letter?
At a recent rally in Edo state, Tinubu, using his hackneyed food analogies, called Obasanjo an evil man. He added that whoever Obasanjo endorses is like poison. I find it absolutely fascinating how you can switch from a villain to a hero and back to a villain again in someone’s narrative depending on how helpful or not you are to their vested interests. And how often do we see this in politics?
APC supporters have argued that Obasanjo’s endorsement is worthless anyway. Niyi Akinsiju, the spokesman for the APC-Presidential Campaign Council, said that of the four living former military heads of state, Obasanjo is the only one who does not behave like an elderly statesman. For Adamu Garba, the endorsement is proof that Obasanjo is jealous of what Tinubu has built in 30 years. And the attacks go on and on. If he adds attacks from the PDP field, the list becomes inexhaustible.
Obasanjo’s sudden villainization is a testament to his wounded ego. All they can do is grab straws and launch ad hominem attacks. Things they would never do if the Ebora Owu had given their Jagaban the go-ahead from him.