October 7, 2022

By Wilfred Eya
From all indications, the 2023 general election will be different. Though conservatives may not agree that anything may change but some emerging realities are thawing at the status quo ahead of next year’s poll. The battle, unlike in the past, is not going to be a two-horse race between the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Already, the conversations around the election are not the usual run-of-the mill ‘jokes’ that Nigerians are entertained with every four year cycle. This time, the nation’s politics and electioneering may well witness the paradigm shift Nigerians have been waiting for since 1999.
As it appears, the Labour Party is the vehicle that would cause that radical disruption to the nation’s traditional political culture. Pessimists would wish it away but critical observers are in agreement that the party as symbolized by its presidential candidate, Mr Peter Obi, is provoking a new consciousness among the people especially the youth. Remember, the youth constitute about 60 percent of the nation’s population. The former Anambra governor is increasingly perceived in many quarters as the Third Force to break the jinx of power exchange between the APC and PDP in 2023.
Since Obi left the PDP, he has altered so many political projections ahead of 2023. Many believe that his decision to leave the main opposition party days before its presidential primary was a big blow to the PDP.
The former Anambra governor who announced his resignation in a letter addressed to the party’s Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu said developments within the party made it practically impossible to continue participating and making constructive contributions.
Many were not surprised when he joined the LP and easily picked its presidential ticket. That singular action in the perception of critical observers, showed that he is a man of his own convictions and principle who dares to be different.
In his emotional acceptance speech after emerging the LP presidential candidate, he charged Nigerians to take back their country in 2023. That was instructive and the message continues to re-echo in the consciousness of majority of Nigerians.
He regretted that Nigeria, Africa’s biggest nation, has become a laughing stock due to bad leadership.
Part of his speech reads: “History beckons. Nigerians remain hopeful for a national rebirth, which implies returning Nigeria to Nigerians – farmers, teachers and students, lecturers, artisans, workers, pensioners and over a hundred million poor Nigerians who are not sure where their next meal will come from.
“Our current dysfunctional system rewards unearned income and conspicuous consumption; allows university lecturers to remain on strike for months; keeps our youths at home; and owes pensioners, who gave their patriotic sweat and their youthful energy to serve this country.
“The despicable contrast is that those responsible for the mess – those elected to take care of them – have abandoned the national currency and are living in opulence and like kings, spend dollars to buy delegates as well as houses all over the world. “Meanwhile, they owe most workers, lecturers and retirees. Yes, our country stands hijacked by forces of retrogression. We are almost zero in all indices of development.
“As a result, our future, especially those of the youth and generations unborn, is in ruins. We have become a laughing stock among other nations, including African countries where we were once revered. As a party that represents the workers and masses of this great nation, we are people organised and working for our economic rebirth.”
Like he said in his emotion-laden speech, many critical observers also insist that with the malfeasance that has defined the nation’s electoral system, there is urgent need to improve the integrity and credibility of the electoral process.
It is in light of that, that many Nigerians are excited over the emergence of a Third Force, and a politician that would be the face of integrity and credibility in leadership and governance.
Following the obvious failure of the two major parties to reposition the nation, analysts agree that it is time to try another party. The Labour Party is gradually taking advantage of the void and tapping into the growing disenchantment with the political establishment in Nigeria represented by the two major parties, APC and PDP.
But the snag is that some pessimists still believe that despite the seeming resurgence of the LP, it lacks what it takes to make an appreciable impact in the forthcoming general election.
Many questions have expectedly dominated public discourse in that direction since Peter Obi joined the Labour Party and picked its presidential ticket. They include but not limited to the following: where is the structure of the Labour Party; does it have the money to fund the election and is it popular enough to beat PDP and APC in next year’s election?
But optimists believe that life evolves and that a lot of variables may have provided answers to the above questions. For instance, some argue that technology has largely taken care of the need for physical structure as a candidate or party may be in constant communication with members without meeting them one on one.
And the assumption is that the majority of those in the social media do not vote during elections but 2023 may be different considering the surging crowd of youths enthusiastic to get their Permanent Voter Cards(PVC) at various locations across the country.
For followers of his rising political profile, even though the LP does not have the required physical structure or finance to wrest the presidential seat from the two dominant parties but Obi’s persona has since elevated the party and attracted to it an unprecedented number of supporters and volunteers since its formation.
Not a few have observed that Obi’s supporters have not only completely taken over the social media space but that even a good number of traditional Nigerian politicians and voters are buying into the emerging narrative around the LP.
Daily Sun has observed that his supporters now cut across young and old people from different ethnic and religious divides.
The projection is that if 90 percent of his supporters register and are eligible to vote in the February presidential election, then for the first time, Nigerians may be in for surprises.
There is no gainsaying that the message of the LP candidate is resonating among Nigerians, many of who, are willing to even contribute in support of Peter Obi’s campaign.
Based on its growing popularity, there are those who insist that if the 2023 election is free and fair, the LP may be the party to beat. The expectations are that a lot of things would change this time unlike in the past when elections in Nigeria had always been characterised by vote-buying and intimidation, electoral violence, low voter turnout, snatching of ballot boxes and over-voting — from local government, governorship to presidential polls.
Analysts believe that the introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) would substantially improve next year’s poll.
A public commentator, Emeka Orji captured what may differentiate 2023 poll from previous elections. He categorized them into six factors and observed that many rely on history to predict what will happen in 2023. He said people make seemingly wise statements like “one of APC or PDP will win”, but noted that in reality, they have no idea what will happen.
He said: “Like they had no idea when Nigeria moved from a one-party to a two-party state just few years ago when APC was cobbled together to challenge the hegemony of PDP.
“In 2023 particularly, the vision is even more blurry. More blurry because of 6 unprecedented factors that will directly impact outcomes. And no one can claim to know how much these 6 factors (and their interplay) will influence these outcomes.”
Below are the factors Mr Orji listed:
“Courtesy of Nigeria’s new Electoral act, in 2023, your PVC will be stronger than it has ever been in the past. Rigging opportunities will be drastically reduced. In 2023, your vote will actually count more than it has ever counted before.
“The unprecedented long period to elections (8 months) provides opportunity for unforeseen strategic realignments.
“The dismal performance of APC in national governance, and the recycling and reshuffling of old failed politicians between APC and PDP, has left many disillusioned with party politics. The potential for protest votes is higher than it has ever been in our history. Protest votes against party politics. Protest votes against the 2 legacy parties.
“Nigeria has the highest number and percentage of youth that it has ever had. And these youth are awake and aware. This situation lends itself to revolutionary propositions. Don’t expect them to keep sitting down. Soro soke.
“Successful recent events have provided roadmaps and models on how mass mobilization could be achieved. Unprecedented events like the anti SARS protest.
“Finally, the 2 legacy parties have chosen as their presidential candidates, 2 very old men, widely viewed as very corrupt. And for the first time, 3rd party options are raising national consciousness and exciting citizens. Raising it so much so that INEC released a statement saying that new voter registration is experiencing a surge that is “unprecedented.”
In the same vein, one of the fanatic Diaspora Nigerians in support of Obi’s presidential ambition, Dr Odumegwu Agbo sent this reporter a message on Whatsap which purports that the former Anambra governor is not running a campaign but leading a movement.
The message explained that campaigns end as soon as the results of elections are announced but that movements continue thereafter which will happen in the case of Obi after 2023.
According to the message, campaigns are driven by politicians while movements are driven by the people, adding that campaigns are also driven by interest while movements are driven by convictions.
Part of the message reads: “In Campaigns, people follow a politician selfishly because they believe he/ she will win but in movements, the people follow selflessly because they believe the people will win.
“In campaigns, people follow a person while in a movement, people follow ideology, and
in campaigns, politicians tell the people what they will do but in a movement, the people know what  the person they are following will do.
“In a campaign, people who cast their vote believe they are doing a politician a favour but in a movement, they know they are doing themselves favour, and also in a campaign, politicians build structures but in a movement, the people build the structure and in fact, everyone is a structure.
“In campaigns, we rely on politicians to convince us to get involved, we have people with apathy but in a movement, people find motivation from within.  Everyone is bold.
“Campaigns come with a plan from day one but movements don’t.  They are spontaneous.  They build momentum that becomes the plan and campaigns are like T.V ads, politicians pay to get people in but a movement is like a premiership  match; the people pay to get in at their own expenses.
“In a campaign, people who oppose you or make a caricature of your campaign are usually confident but in a movement, people who oppose you or make caricature of the movement are scared of it.”
Frontline industrialist, Dr. Chike Obidigbo, had hailed the emergence of Obi as the presidential candidate of the LP, urging all Nigerians to join hands with the former Anambra governor to win the 2023 election.
In a statement, he described Obi’s emergence as a divine act of God and enjoined the people to rise as true citizens to take back their country.
“No matter how hard forces of retrogression try, nothing can stop an idea whose time has come. Obi is coming to mobilise Nigerians for social and ethical change”, he said.
Quote: “No matter how hard forces of retrogression try, nothing can stop an idea whose time has come. Obi is coming to mobilise Nigerians for social and ethical change”

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