December 3, 2022

The seed of discontent with the status quo, which was the denouement of the #ENDSARS protests of 2020, has metamorphosed into a movement for a change in the political structure of Nigeria, with the candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, as its anointed poster child.
What we have witnessed in recent months has been the blossoming of that drive for a people-oriented government into self-organised rallies and carnivalesque marches targeted at whipping up support and drumming up a massive backing for Obi’s candidacy under the incipient moniker the “Obidient Movement.”
It has seen what was born with the “Soro Soke” push for the proscription of the reportedly brutal and corrupt Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) become a revolutionary drive to bring about a new dawn of politics and governance enough to worry the septuagenarian political heavyweights of the two established political parties in the country.
What has been the major attraction to the Obi candidacy for the majority of the Obidient Movement, which is currently teeming with mostly a youthful demography and a working middle class equally disillusioned by the state of affairs, has been the 61-year-old’s perceived characteristic difference as a politician of impeachable reckoning, whose antecedents as a former governor of Anambra State between 2006 and 2014, serve as pointers to a frugal personality and an accountable and transparent manager of human and material resources.

In a political climate where most politicians serve to enrich themselves at the detriment of the people they are meant to serve, Obi comes across to many as someone who can stop the leakages in the nation’s treasury and revive the economy.
The fact that Obi’s political ideology is founded on cutting the insidious waste of the country’s resources by frugal expenditure that he practised as governor, on economic production rather than the ostentatious consumerism, and on the resourceful management and investment in key sectors, for economic growth and development, makes his candidacy a magnet for those who have decried these national issues from time immemorial.
As the election campaigns for all the political parties formally took to the road from September 28, 2022, the enthusiasm that characterised the ‘Obidient Movement’ has gained steam as was evident in the Jos flagoff of the Labour Party’s 2023 campaigns.
The fact that volunteer-sponsored rallies have spearheaded the promotion of Obi’s appeal across several Nigerian cities, including Makurdi, Calabar, Lafia, Port Harcourt, Afikpo, Owerri, Enugu, Auchi, Abuja, Kano, Ilorin, Abakaliki and Ibadan, is hinged on nothing more than a perceived rekindled hope in Nigeria’s turn for the better under a potential Obi presidency that will fulfill the lofty dreams of what a country like Nigeria can become if prudently led and with the best hands like square pegs in square holes.
Presidential candidates caricature
These supporters, who cut across previously decisive cleavages of religion and ethnicity, see in Obi a politician who is cut from a different cloth, unlike the corrosive political class that has foisted on the county debilitating educational and health systems, epileptic power supply system that has been inimical to industrial growth and development, a vastly diminished era of opportunities for employment and productive engagement for Nigerians and a huge infrastructure deficit that has been a clog in the wheel of the nation’s economic development for a very long time.
Yet, there are those who are not impressed by the canonisation of the ex-Anambra State governor and who will rather pitch their tents with either Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the formidable candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the candidate of the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as we countdown to the February 2023 general elections.
Even though Obi’s supporters point to the record of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which reported that it recorded a total of approximately 12.3 million fresh registrants out of which 8.8 million, that is 71 per cent, are youths, as at July 31, 2022 when it ended the exercise, to support the fervour that Obi has brought to the picture ahead of next year’s general election, those who are critical of the ‘Obidient Movement’ believe it is mostly noise and thunder, signifying nothing.
While they agree that Obi’s influence and the rallying cry for better governance that is energising his campaign is worthy of note to the point of elevating him to contention in the campaign, the threadbare nature of the Labour Party across the country is considered a major minus to win him the coveted Aso Rock seat.
The argument that “the people are the structure” which Obi has furnished as his answer to this negative fact of his campaign will not hold water across the dedicated army of party faithful across the wards, local governments, state government and national cohesion that opponents in APC and PDP can boast of.
Furthermore, those who sneer at the possibility of Obi’s emergence also question his antecedents, especially when juxtaposed with the political savviness of his primary opponents, who have amassed years of political experience at both local and national levels, which, they believe, dwarf anything that Obi can ever muster at the moment. They argue that his slim Anambra State resume is nothing compared to the might of Tinubu, who self-proclaimed his elevation of President Muhammadu Buhari to power and the political heft of the northern representation that Abubakar wields as a former Vice President, serial presidential candidate and the Turaki Adamawa.
Detractors also argue that there is nothing to provide guarantees that, as politicians have done throughout the country’s history, Obi will keep to his promises, should he be fortunate enough to win the presidential election or that he will not bring the agitation for secession of the Igbo to the front burner and see to the balkanisation of the country. It was within this matrix of divergent views that the recent polls and forecasts proposing to provide a feel of the pulse of the voting population about how they will vote in February 2023 sparked to life a new category of debates and opinions.
Of the polling and forecast results available so far, the three most pertinent have been those organised for Bloomberg by the San Francisco, California headquartered Premise Data Corp, for the ANAP Foundation by NOI and by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), an arm of The Economist of London. While two of these three have given victory to Obi (Bloomberg and ANAP), the EIU gave it to Tinubu with nothing yet going for Atiku.
In the Bloomberg poll premise surveyed 3,973 Nigerians selected from quotas developed by age; gender and location across the country’s six geopolitical zones between September 5 and 20 with an app-based poll. The results were then weighed against the original quotas to ensure national representation and of the 92 per cent of participants who had decided how to vote, 72 per cent named Obi as their first choice. This was a landslide victory over his opponents as Tinubu only garnered 16 percent of decided voters with 9 per cent for Atiku.
In the ANAP poll, Obi led again, with 41 per cent of those polled opting for him while Tinubu and Atiku were tied at 25 per cent each. However, the forecast of the EIU, which was not a poll, was in favour of Tinubu with the assured claim that the controversial Muslim-Muslim ticket, which was heavily considered to be a major dent on Tinubu’s chances in the predominantly Christian South, did not weigh heavily on the outcome of the elections.
The poll gave Atiku a less favourable chance due to the potential of losing likely voters to Obi in the South East, South-South and South-West and the ongoing tussle the Atiku camp is presently engrossed in Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, who has not only refused to endorse him but also waging an internecine battle against him.
What the publication of these polls and forecasts achieved was to evoke fiercer arguments, debates and contrary opinions about whose campaign will prevail over the other and why there is little to nothing in the polls that did not favour them, but everything to celebrate in those that did. As much as all of these are part of the process, I have to counsel that all parties must be wary of the results of these opinion polls.
Without asking that polls be completely discountenanced, pollsters themselves warn that their results be taken with the allowance of some margin of error. That is why I am urging all sides to be wary from the onset. There is no shortage of examples to demonstrate how polls get it wrong at times for a variety of reasons, even as there are examples of precise polling to cite as well.
Polls conducted around the United States in the months and weeks before the November 2016 election suggested that Democratic contender and frontline presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, would win handily only for the outsider, billionaire Donald Trump to evoke shock across the world because, in the end, while the popular vote was correctly predicted by the pollsters, they fell short in crucial swing states, which helped Trump to win the Electoral College and become President against all odds.
As digitally astute as the Americans are, majority of the polls failed to correctly nail the outcome of the elections and it was a situation that very nearly repeated itself in the last elections where Trump performed better than the polls suggested in Democratic and Republican strongholds before the incumbent Joe Biden edged him out via mail-in ballots and the determination of young progressive voters determined to wrest control from the Make-America-Great-Again (MAGA) crowd.
Nigeria is even worse for polling than America. The app-based poll applied in the polling by Bloomberg definitely did not accurately represent the voting bloc of Nigeria because the vast majority of these voters are not of the digitally savvy demography and there is a majority of single-language speakers, who do not understand a word of English, but are more than capable of communicating in their local dialects and language and are well-versed in the voting process because they never miss an opportunity to exercise their rights to vote.
These set of voters take a cue from their political leaders on who to cast their votes for. This is because Nigerians, across the length and breadth of the country, are notoriously difficult to poll from a distance, as the Bloomberg poll did. A lot of the voting public, who will actually come out that day with their PVCs to determine who will run the affairs of the country for the next four years, at the very least, will not be directly involved in these polls and that is why those who depend on them for actions around their campaign must heed my call for caution.
What I know for certain will determine the next occupant of Aso Rock is the candidate that the majority of voters pick. That is why we must await the verdict of the voters and not be complacent by the carnivals of rallies, marches, sizes of the crowds and opinion poll results. These polls will obviously give us an idea of where things are with the pulse of the segment of the nation, but it is far from a complete picture of the events around the election campaigns and Nigerians of all classes and statuses must not relent in their attempts to pursue the campaign for their candidates, regardless of what the one poll or the other says.
My candid counsel to the campaign organisations of the three main political parties – the APC, PDP and LP and their supporters – is to continue to work and mobilise the citizenry because it is the ballots counted at the polling units on Election Day that will ultimately decide Nigeria’s next President. That is what matters and that should be the utmost in the hearts of everyone involved.


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