The promise of a new era

By Angela Agoawike

The use of biographies for electoral campaigns dates back decades. Sometimes hastily written, a campaign biography provides highlights of the candidate’s life, introduces him to the voting public and, in doing so, provides insight into his aspirations for the highest office in the country.

The importance of a presidential campaign ‘biography’ is highlighted, among other things, by the creation of libraries to search for such books and store them for posterity, just as the Clarke Library at Central Michigan University in the USA has done. USA since the early 1960s.

Many politicians, such as former US President Jimmy Carter, published campaign biographies. As little-known governor of the US state of Georgia, “Why not the best?” it was published in 1976, during his quest for the US presidency. It was introducing him to Americans beyond Georgia.

Fast forward to now, and in Nigeria, Peter Gregory Onwubuasi Obi, Labor Party candidate, appears to be the man of the hour, in the upcoming presidential election, and the book: The promise of a new era by Chuks Iloegbunam, a prominent Nigerian journalist, tells his story.

Until now, presidential election campaigns in Nigeria have been characterized by the display of photos and videos of candidates and their surrogates stalking the economic and social spaces of less-privileged Nigerians (especially women), pretending to identify with them for fleeting moments while they reap photo opportunities for their campaigns.

The candidates, surrounded by their supporters, are seen taking over from mom grace fry up their delicious Akara (bean cake) at the roadside or cajole ‘Mama Joy’ as they take control of her fireside stool along the way, where she roasts corn to earn some money for her day’s meal. family.

They also visit one or two of the many camps for people maimed and displaced by the killings and general insecurity that has turned many Nigerians into refugees in their own country.

They (the politicians) do this in their attempt to win over goodwill and ‘harvest’ enough votes to propel them into the various public offices they are seeking.

Safe in their new offices and in the self-eulogies of how hard they had worked to get there, ‘Mama Grace’, ‘Mama Ibeji’ and others like them go about their daily routine of lifestyle while these men/women and their families feed on their collective commons, waiting when they return for another round of photography.

Nigeria’s presidential candidates hardly campaign on substance, or their philosophies about government and how their ideological beliefs will support their activities while in office.

For this election cycle, it’s fair to say that it’s no longer a business as usual as eating corn, frying akara and getting on tricycles are no longer a trend. In the run-up to the February 25 presidential election, Nigerians, especially young people, have taken the bold and courageous step of asking questions, questioning campaign promises and holding candidates accountable for their final years in public office.

How this twist has come about is essentially what Iloegbunam set out to capture in The promise of a new era. It is a book about Mr. Peter Obi, a former Governor of Anambra, a state that has captured the attention of progressive-minded and good-governance-focused Nigerians. Most importantly, Mr. Obi has captured the attention of the country’s youth, who have decided to actively participate in changing the status quo and, as they say, with Mr. Obi and Dr. Yusuf Datti Baba- Ahmed, a former senator and owner of one of Nigeria’s leading private universities, Baze University, representing their collective interests.

For the duo, through their candidacy, they demolished the existing political system and enthroned a substance-based campaign in less than 8 months of campaigning for the country’s highest office. This points to a weariness in people’s tolerance for corruption, nepotism, and ethnic and religious intolerance that the political class have used to exploit Nigerians. People have longed for something new and different.

He promise of a new era, dedicated to the “cause of fair, free, credible and transparent elections in Nigeria”, is part history, part biography of Mr. Obi and Dr. Baba-Ahmed. But above all, it is a campaign manual for the Peter Obi/Datti Baba-Ahmed campaign for the presidential election.

Throughout its eight chapters that cover 192 pages made up of Introduction; Obi Quotable Quotes, Intellectual Interventions which is a collection of opinion pieces published in Nigerian newspapers by notable columnists such as Festus Adedayo(Peter Obi as Rosa Parks from Nigeria); Ok Ndibe (Is it Peter Obi’s choice?);ferooqkperogi(Peter Obi Tsunami APC and PDP are underestimating; and Obi Nwakanma(Peter Obi: The return of Zikism); and a page of 6 indexIloegbunam introduces his readers to the many registered political parties, the intrigues of how they chose their presidential candidates, and the rise of Nigerian politics’s man of the moment, Peter Obi, as the standard-bearer for a hitherto little-known Labor Party (LP). , after his resignation from the Popular Democratic Party, PDP and his withdrawal from his presidential primaries.

by iloegbunam promise of a new era it is written from a point of knowledge and understanding of the person of Mr. Obi – the politician, the man and the merchant – as Obi prefers to call himself, despite having a degree in Philosophy from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. In fact, coming from a family of merchants, Iloegbunam makes his readers understand that trade is in Mr. Obi’s DNA (page 74). He has a natural gift for buying and selling, and it is through it that he built his fortune.

When Mr. Obi burst onto the national scene after the Supreme Court’s March 15, 2006 declaration that he was the duly elected Governor of Anambra State, three years after the election, many thought of him as effeminate. due to his soft voice. But for those who know him or have followed his political career since that day, Mr. Peter Obi’s outward demeanor belies his steadfast determination, which he deploys to get results from whatever he sets his mind to. He, too, embraces that resolve with conviction. This can be seen in the two court cases he initiated and won: the supreme court case that restored his initial term, and the Court of Appeals victory (February 9, 2007) that returned him to office following his impeachment. by a hostile legislature (Obi was an APGA governor while all members of the State House of Assembly were PDP members). He remains to date the only indicted Nigerian governor to have his mandate restored (chapter 3, pages 63-70).

When it comes to matters of corruption, which is synonymous with Nigerian politicians, Mr. Obi, the author infers, appears to be head and shoulders above his opponents, some of whom are persecuted on one corruption charge or another. This despite all the privileged and high-level positions that he has held in the business world as president of numerous banks and director of companies, (see Mr. Obi’s detailed CV on pp. 122 -126).

If, in fact, birds of the same feather fly together, it is therefore not surprising that Mr. Obi and Dr. Baba-Ahmed are on a joint bid for the Presidency. Like Obi, who as governor, we learn from the book, never allocated any land or property, and out of office, remains the only former governor in Nigerian history not to receive a pension, Dr. Baba-Ahmed also does not live off government. He is a highly successful businessman, academic and educator who established one of the best private universities in Nigeria. (Baze University, Abuja – see CV on page 132), in addition to having served in the Senate.

In the course of this election campaign, many people have dismissed Mr. Peter Obi as a tradesman vying for the presidency through a party with no party structures to guarantee him even third place on February 25th. They have described the army of young followers of his known as OBIteeth as a collection of “four people tweeting from a room”, in reaction to Mr. Obi’s massive online following.

The truth, as the book seems to portray, is that contrary to the above, the OBIteeth they seem to be everywhere (online and offline), with their movement born out of the desire to ‘take back Nigeria’ from the dominance it seems to be stifling. This, the book infers, is not lost on Obi, who has accepted and even projected this unusual Nigerian political alliance by declaring that “Datti and I are not disputing the president and vice president… you are disputing through us.” . Iloegbunam captures this unusual relationship between Obi and the ‘Obedientes’ in one of the tweets cited in the book: “My phone, my data, you don’t give me shishi, I don’t work for you; I work for Nigeria. If Atiku drags my candidate (which happens to be you) I will drag his babariga…”(page 48)

No wonder Obi in one of the quotes under Obi’s quotable quotes says that “I’m not desperate to be president; I am desperate to see Nigeria work, especially for the youth…”

Iloegbunam has brought Peter’s story to Nigerians, hoping to use it to rally support for Obi-Datti’s presidential bid. Are Nigerians listening to you? Are the youth ready? These questions will be answered on February 25, 2023, when Nigerians go to the polls to elect a president for themselves.

The book, of course, is not perfectly written or presented. His pro-Obi-Datti stance is not in doubt, just as it comes with some typos, misspellings, and innuendoes that may not be easily verifiable. Still, it’s worth reading if he’s in favor of a change in Nigeria’s quest for leadership and accountability.

Angela Agoawike, Member of the Nigerian Publishers Union (FNGE) is former Head of the Public Relations and Information Department (PRID) at OPEC, Vienna. She can be contacted through [email protected]