By Dele Alake
Nothing captures and portrays the crisis of credibility and integrity of the vast majority of a sectional intelligentsia than a recent piece by Dr Chidi Amuta titled ‘Peter Obi and the looming tyranny’. To some who thought Chidi was supposedly more cosmopolitan, liberal, less parochial and less paranoid, his vituperation is more revealing than concealing.
In the absurd and falsely alarmist apocalyptic piece, Amuta squanders valuable time and needless words lamenting an imminent tyranny of the incoming All Progressives Congress (APC) administration, which is entirely a figment of his fertile imagination. What a not insignificant number of Nigerians are bothered about today is not an alleged imminent or looming tyranny by an incoming administration that is only a matter of reckless conjecture but a fully blown intolerant, arrogant, abusive, toxic and insulting Obidients’ (Obidiots?) dictatorship that is already thriving in our midst.
Anyone who has dared express any view critical of or opposed to that of Mr. Peter Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in the 2023 elections, is immediately set upon by the unwieldy column of wild dogs who have labeled themselves ‘Obidients’ and constitute a lawless mob baying for blood on social media!
It does not matter how eminent and revered the personality under attack is or how logically incontrovertible his or her submission is, the Obi horde spares no effort and eschew no epithet or expletive, no matter how repulsive, to shred their reputations to pieces and tarnish images carefully nurtured over decades.
Most of the time the only offense of those who come under the ferocious and feral attacks of the Obidient mob is that they exercise their democratic right to disagree politically with a Peter Obi whose rabid supporters have come to see, portray and worship as infallible deity.
Now, tyranny or dictatorship is normally associated with those individuals, cliques or groups who utilize their control of state and governmental powers to harass, intimidate, oppress and suppress opposition and dissent. They are the proponents and practitioners of the one-dimensional narrative in society who can hardly tolerate alternative viewpoints and narratives. Pray, many have asked, if a group without control of and influence over state power like the Peter Obi clique, is so ferociously against the expression of a multiplicity of viewpoints now, what grave danger of descent to absolutism would Nigeria have faced had their man won the presidency?
That is the dangerous possibility that should bother Chidi Amuta’s mind and not his far-fetched and implausible rumination on a possible looming APC tyranny.
Like I said, many members of this sectional intelligentsia like Amuta find themselves walking an uncomfortable tight rope especially when it comes to dealing with the sinister menace that groups like the ‘Obidients’ have come to pose to society.
On one hand, as intellectuals, they are expected to be committed to expressing the truth and nothing but the truth at all times no matter whose Ox is gored. However, they are, on the other hand, first and foremost primordial, and believe they have a duty to protect the interests of their ethnic group.
It is instructive that there are scores of Yoruba intellectuals who fiercely oppose Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s politics just as there are several members of the Northern political elite who vociferously criticize Atiku Abubakar. But it is virtually impossible to find any Igbo intellectual of note critical of or opposed to Peter Obi even when some of them, like Chidi Amuta, are assumed broad minded enough to have spouses from other tribes.
The sad truth is that the Chidi Amutas of this world are, deep within them, in mortal fear of the Obidients mob and dare not express their real and honest views openly. They thus seek to ingratiate themselves with the “headless mob” known as Obidients so they don’t suffer the fate of a courageous voice like governor Chukuma Soludo of Anambra State who became the object of vicious attacks when he dared to predict last year that there was little hope of Obi winning the presidency.
Soludo was proved right even if Obi performed better than had been expected in the election. But in any election just like in a football match, it is not merely performing well that matters, but winning.
Even though he argues that there is no justification for allegations bordering on treason leveled against Obi and his Vice-Presidential candidate, Datti-Ahmed at various times by Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Ministry of Defense, Chidi Amuta is unable to pretend that there is nothing untoward in the utterances of those so accused. Thus, he writes that “Admittedly, there has been a few incensed and even careless statements by both the losing PDP and the LP. Peter Obi’s running mate, Mr Datti Ahmed, may have been a bit too emphatic and irreverent in his Channels interview on a matter that should be left to the judicial finality of the Supreme Court. But Mr Dino Melaye of the PDP has been even more unguarded. Not to talk of the serial indiscretion and incendiary incitements of Mr Femi Fani Kayode of the APC. Mr Bayo Onanuga of the Tinubu campaign has been even more vitriolic and dripping with ethnic hate in his choice of utterances”.
While implicitly admitting that Obi and Datti-Ahmed went overboard in some of their utterances with reference to Tinubu’s emergence as winner of the election, Amuta tried to exculpate them with reference to alleged utterances of members of the campaign teams of the APC and the PDP. Unfortunately, he demonstrates no logical equivalence here with regard to the two instances. The throwing of most times harsh and unsparing brickbats in the course of a political campaign is normal and understandable. However, to not only reject the outcome of an election but also go outside the stipulated constitutional channels of seeking redress for alleged electoral infractions as Datti-Ahmed in particular and members of the Obedient movement have done is a direct affront to national security and stability altogether.
Amuta is unable to cite a single utterance that can even be remotely tagged as treasonous by Melaye, Fani Kayode, Keyamo or Bayo Onanuga. But he cannot deny that Datti-Ahmed asserted emphatically on national television that the swearing in of Tinubu as President on May 29 would signal the end of democracy in Nigeria. He is aware that on the same television programme, the LP Vice/presidential candidate gave the distinct and undeniable impression that the judges’ decisions on pending election petitions before them must conform to his party’s views or be unacceptable. Neither can he be ignorant of the antics of a group of Obidients, most likely taking a cue from Obi and Datti-Ahmed, converging on the Ministry of Defense Headquarters and pleading with the military to intervene in the political process in reaction to the outcome of the elections!
Did Amuta expect any responsible and self-respecting government to keep mute and inactive in the face of such extra-constitutional provocations? It is unlikely.
For, he also writes that “In the heat of the campaign, some fringe elements of the Obidients movement may have overstepped the bounds of decent assembly in response to the hooligans of the APC in places like Lagos for instance. Even then, with the LP and the Obidients, we are dealing with uncharted territory. A popular movement that finds itself as the rave of the political movement has a capability to go overboard. But critics of the Obidients have hardly spared a thought for the many of them that were killed, maimed and seriously injured in parts of the country by APC professional thugs”.
This is nothing but an elaborate and manifestly dishonest attempt to justify the irrational extremism of the Obidients in response to the failure of Peter Obi at the polls. Amuta makes reference to alleged attacks by APC thugs on members of the Obidients movement in parts of the country but is silent on the several viral trending videos on social media showing attacks by LP agents on members of other parties in the South-East and parts of the South-South, a factor that largely explains the electoral dominance of the LP in these areas particularly in the presidential election.
Referring to APC members, Amuta comically asserts that “Party hawks and attack hounds are still busy insulting our public sensibility. They are berating, abusing and profiling their election season opponents. It as though the elections are not yet over”. If Chidi truly believes this, then he deserves nothing but pity and empathy. An otherwise brilliant mind has become so clearly disoriented by the outcome of an election that he so obviously desperately wanted his fellow ethnic man to win. For, his misplaced statement about the fictive aggression and violence of the APC members more accurately reflects what most people have come to see as the defining characteristics of the Obidient movement. Even in London, a staff writer of Time magazine, Astha Rajvanshi, has had to lock her Twitter account following vitriolic attacks on her by members of the Obidient movement. Her offence? She had written the citation of President-elect, Bola Tinubu, in the 2023 issue of the magazine’s 100 most influential people.
Chidi Amuta is of the view that “The period between a general election and the swearing/in of a successor administration ought to be filled with excited anticipation. It is usually time of pleasant speculations on the new faces that will soon grace television screens and newspaper front pages…For the elite, this ought to be a time to debate policy perspectives and options for the new administration”.
Possibly yet to emerge from the deep depression that Tinubu’s victory in the election has submerged him in, the writer is unaware that there is already great expectations across the land as regards the possibilities of the incoming administration.
There are already wide ranging debates on various policy options for the next government on fuel subsidy, monetary policy, electricity supply, restructuring and security among several others. The media is daily awash with speculations on which faces will feature as members of the new administration. If Amuta and those of his group persuasion decide to psychologically alienate themselves from this process, there is nothing anybody can do about it. It is their cup of tea.
The writer asserts that the APC is “consumed by an overwhelming sense of nervousness” and that “Instead of engaging the public in sensible debates about policy options and directions, the APC appears to have retreated into a perpetual campaign mode”. More than any other party, the APC and its presidential candidate presented their policy platform to various audiences in campaigns and Town Hall meetings across the country. The outcome of the elections was a validation of the acceptance by a majority of voters of the policy direction in which the party seeks to lead Nigeria.
It is rather the LP and Peter Obi that are betraying signs of nervousness as it becomes daily more evident that their petition against the election rests on fragile and slippery empirical and evidential grounds. Thus, Obi is suddenly talking about his being under pressure from mysterious and unidentified quarters to leave the country for his safety. Surely, the APC cannot be among those who want this. The party will surely want the LP candidate to be very much around in the country to pursue his petition in court to its ultimately futile conclusion.
Amuta wonders why Tinubu “has not disbanded his abusive and divisive campaign machinery”. It is certainly not any member of the Tinubu campaign that has been caught in an audio recording plotting with their spiritual daddies on how to pursue their election campaign as a religious war. It is evident that what Amuta desires is a visceral and funereal silence from the APC as the LP persists in trying to delegitimize an election it lost fair and square locally and internationally. He will not get what he wants.
The APC will continue to defend the credibility and integrity of Tinubu’s electoral victory with greater vigor, logic and determination than can be summoned by those who seek to discredit the election and destabilize Nigeria.
Indeed, the writer also seeks to cast doubts on the integrity and credibility of the election but cannot stop himself from celebrating the fact that Obi “thrashed Tinubu in Lagos, swept the Federal Capital Territory like a political hurricane leaving his rivals no room for even a 25% miserable vote score” and “ swept the whole of the South-East, South-South as well as the Middle Belt states of Nasarawa, Benue and Plateau”.
Yet, this is the same election he describes as massively rigged and unreliable. What contradiction! What dishonesty! What hypocrisy!
Still gloating about Obi’s impressive performance in an election he avers as rigged and lacking in credibility, Amuta contends that “From Nasarawa and Southern Kaduna, Obi and his rampaging political train menacingly eyed the conservative Northern bastions with the force of a powerful political message”.
This is self-deluding political fiction. Obi did not attain over all victory in any of the three geopolitical zones in the North. Atiku had the highest number of votes in the North-East and Tinubu emerged victor in the North-West and North-Central. Obi won in the South-East and South-South and could not muster even 25% of the votes in the North-East or North-West. There is no way he could have emerged as President.
Amuta writes rapturously about Obi’s rosy promises to the electorate and how superlatively he would perform if elected President. Until he provides the public with concrete and verifiable examples of Obi’s accomplishments as governor of Anambra State for eight years, it will be utterly time-wasting to engage his wild speculations.
Chidi applauds Obi for his feat in joining “a small party like LP and in less than a year transformed it into a serious power contender”. He is utterly oblivious of the fact that by March 18, Obi’s LP’s ‘roar’ in the February 25 presidential election had become not more than a whimper in the governorship and House of Assembly elections. The LP only struggled to win a governorship seat in Abia State.
There is a limit to which you can ride on ethnic and religious sentiments to build a viable and enduring political organisation in a complex polity like Nigeria, but, we cannot, and we should not deny Chidi Amuta his delusions!
(Alake, former editor of Nigeria’s National Concord newspaper, is Special Adviser to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the President-Elect)