Obi And Nigeria’s Face Of Change
By Emeka Alex Duru
You may need to understand the attachment of an average Jew to Jerusalem to be able to appreciate the clamour among Nigerians, especially the youth and the vulnerable, for change in 2023.
Among the Jews, there is the nostalgia for Jerusalem. Wherever the Jews are, they are conscious of their roots in the City. This is why when they propose a toast, they end it with “in Jerusalem next year” – an expression of hope to perform the act in the city in future.
Many of those who express this desire may not have been to Jerusalem and may never do in their life time. But the attachment is there.
For Nigerians, the traumatized citizens who have been serially abused and abandoned by successive leaders over the years, 2023 holds a lot. It is not just another election year. It is for them, a call for social revolution of sort, a watershed; a defining moment to change the trajectory of the country’s history and chart a course for the better.
The youths are in particular, the arrow heads of the momentum. From the east, west, north and south, they are united by the burning desire for change. From their unusual surge at Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) voter registration centres, they exhibit the enthusiasm to take their future in their hands.
The next election, particularly the presidency means a lot to them. They either win it or lose it. For this, they are not taking chances. Their animation approximates to William Shakespeare’s lines in his great work, Julius Caesar, where he wrote; “There is a tide in the affairs of men; which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures”.
Nigeria is at such critical juncture, presently. With daunting security challenges in all parts of the country, deplorable infrastructure base, widening corruption index, crippling economic uncertainties manifested in youth unemployment, dwindling fortunes of the national currency and debilitating poverty among the people, the country is without doubt, on a sorry curve.
When therefore you see the youths queuing behind the Labour Party (LP) or shouting Peter Obi, its presidential candidate, it is not for the fun of it. They need action, they need change; a radical departure from a system that has held the country down for a long time and has reduced it to an object of mockery among other nations.
The youths are asking for a fresh breath, a new phase of leadership that will unbound their innate abilities and widen the frontiers of opportunities for them. The old order has failed them, undoubtedly. It is time to move on.
In all parts of the country, the message is clear. At various platforms and social media networks, they are united in the punch line #OBIdient#.
On the field, the clamour resonates, as they manifested the other day, marching through Lagos, Rivers, Ogun, Abuja, Enugu, Anambra, Kano, Abuja and far away Australia where a lone marcher joined, in an exercise, mobilsed on Twitter with the hashtag: #1MillionMarch4PeterObi
Edo State governor and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, Godwin Obaseki brought it nearer home while addressing his party men, during the week.
He said; “The mood of politics in this country is changing. I am sure that in all our homes here, we have so many people who call themselves OBIdients. I don’t know if you have them in your home. Just ask them which party will you vote for, they just say OBIdient. I hope you understand.
“They don’t want us, they are not talking about the APC or PDP. What they want is alternative. And they are more in number. They are the ones that queue for PVCs (Permanent Voters Cards). But they are not looking in the direction of the PDP or APC. All they want is an alternative, just something different”. That speaks a lot.
The nearest to the momentum was in the days of the struggle for political independence from the colonial masters. In many parts of the continent, then, there were leading lights that the people looked up to. We had them here in Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (Zik of Africa),
Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello. In neighboring Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah stood out among his peers. So also did Jomo Kenyatta in Kenya and Julius Nyerere in Tanzania. They were the champions of their time and torch-bearers for their people.
Till he died some time ago, my father never ceased to reminisce on how, as youths, they virtually stayed awake all through the night to catch the first bus or lorry from Orlu to Owerri, Enugu or Port Harcourt, to listen to the great Zik (as he usually called him), each time he was around.
In Ghana and Kenya respectively, when Nkurumah and Kenyatta were on trial by the British colonialists, the people saw in their travail an assault on their collective resolve for freedom. Some of the youths were prepared to die for them. That was the extent of solidarity they accorded them.
These leaders did not take the people for granted. They knew that in standing out for leadership, they were taking up huge burden; burden of galvanizing the people and focusing them on the path for national rebirth and development. It was not a job for the faint-hearted.
That is the challenge for Obi in stepping out for the 2023 presidency. The task ahead is enormous. The system, he admits, is broken but can be fixed. He has identified the problems confronting the country. “Today, Nigeria tops the list of fragile, failing states and ranks third on the list of most terrorised countries in the world. We have, since 2019, become the world poverty capital. We now have an army of 50 million out-of-school children, out of which about 60% of them have not been to school at all. Nigeria is now the most stressful country to live in, according to the stress level index”, he observed in one of his outings, recently.
He has rightfully identified unemployment among the youth and insecurity as major problems of the country. He has promised to change the situation.
Obi has repeatedly stressed that he is not desperate to be president but desperate to see Nigeria change for the better- from consumption to production. That is the message, a true mark of statesmanship. The rest is for the INEC and other agencies involved in the 2023 elections to ensure that Nigerians vote and their votes count.