Emmanuel Aziken in this piece reviews the growing crowd of OBIdient Nigerians supportive of the 2023 presidential aspiration of Mr Peter Obi.
Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State may have cut a pitiable figure last Thursday as he sat in one of the pews of the Cathedral of Assumpta, Owerri at a clerical event of the Roman Catholic Church.
As he was introduced a round of applause swept through the congregation and quickly died down. Following him, the presiding clergy now introduced Mr Peter Obi, the former governor of Anambra State and a deafening applause swept through putting to oblivion that which welcomed Uzodimma.
Indeed, it needed the intervention of the presiding cleric to bring the congregation to stop.
As a riposte, the cleric said he knew that the congregation wanted to be OBIdient. The action of the congregation last Thursday is reflective of the growing agitation behind the 2023 presidential aspiration of Mr Peter Obi.
The OBIdients as they identify themselves have been reported to be doing outlandish things to project their man in a way that reminds us all of what is called youthful exuberance.
One Abuja lady with twitter handle @jojoNitq has reportedly dropped her boyfriend for refusing to see the light in Obi and preferring to remain with the old order.
What had started as a social media phenomenon is now growing traction on the ground. Uzodimma indeed should know.
Days earlier, the first OBIdient senator in the land emerged when Senator Francis Onyewuchi representing Imo East joined the Labour Party riding on the popularity that Obi’s advent into Labour has given the party.
Besides Onyewuchi, a number of leading political actors within and outside the Southeast have also joined Labour to the extent that the party is bound to get reckoning in the Southeast in 2023.
Besides Uzodimma, another governor who should feel concerned or indeed has expressed his opinion on the increasing agitation of the OBIdient Nigerians is Governor Godwin Obaseki.
Speaking after the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP came third in the Ekiti State governorship election, Obaseki expressed concern that the mainstream political movement could be thrown out of reckoning with the agitation of the OBIdient Nigerians.
Given that he has been displaced and his supporters have become Internally Displaced Politicians, IDPs, the thought of Governor Obaseki becoming the first OBIdient governor in the country may not be farfetched. With the Dan Orbih led machine in charge of the PDP structure in Edo State, and the APC not an option, Labour could be a place of refuge from the storm ahead for him.
The reality is that what many had considered as a social media phenomenon is turning into a movement with the increasing determination of many of Obi’s adherents to make an impact on the ballot.
It is no wonder that the majority of those registering for their Permanent Voter Cards, PVCs are OBIdient Nigerians.
Indeed, in a way as never before, some Nigerians who had in the past stayed away from partisan politics are even identifying themselves with Obi.
Aisha Yesufu the sacrificial activist has for the first time to the knowledge of your correspondent endorsed a presidential contender in the person of Obi. Many others in the arts are also doing so to the shock of some political machine operators.
Rivers born Tonto Dikeh, Pete Edochie, and a number of celebrities have already identified themselves as OBIdients. It was, however, surprising that the same Tonto Dikeh has now been named as the deputy governorship candidate of African Democratic Congress, ADC.
On Twitter the OBIdient enthusiasts are everywhere to the extent that they are bullying otherwise reputed cyber tormentors like Reno Omokri who now mentions them in adjectival terms.
It is no surprise that established political actors are now considering Obi as a threat.
It is perhaps in realization of his threat that those who yesterday took him as irrelevant are now courting him. Nyesom Wike whose friend Chris Uba, undermined Peter Obi in Anambra, received Obi for hours last Wednesday. Just weeks back in the thick of the PDP primary campaigns Wike did not bother to see Obi even when he came to Anambra.
Wike must have learnt his lesson because Mr Chris Uba that he backed to grab the PDP structure in Anambra did not have a single national delegate given that the delegates were already aligned to Chief Olisa Metuh and other stakeholders.
Another man who despised Obi is Rev Ejike Mbaka. His criticism of Obi’s supposed stinginess stirred a wave of adulation for the former Anambra governor as it inspired the beautifully crafted story from Bianca Ojukuw of the former governor turning down a $3,000 suit only to handover the money for same to her charity.
What benevolence could be more than that? Instead of further nailing Obi, Mbaka helped to popularize his credential and he did so at the cost of his pulpit ministry.
Mbaka has now apologized.
For the first time in a generation Nigeria’s political contest could turn into a three-way-race if Obi is able to sufficiently mobilise the momentum that is now coming his way into electoral weight. That is if he is able to harness the enthusiasm on social media and in the Southeast and push onto other grounds.
Osun State governorship election is nearby, and given the time ahead for him he would make more reckoning if he is able to galvanise his base in the state to show himself as really a phenomenon.