*By Iheanyi Ezinwo
The Presidential Candidate of Labour Party in Nigeria, Peter Obi, is seen by many as the most suitable candidate to succeed the out- going President Muhammadu Buhari. For this reason, he has been freely endorsed across party, religious and tribal lines. The first was from Afenifere, foremost socio- cultural organization of Yoruba people , South – West Nigeria.
Then from former President Olusegun Obasanjo, and then one of Nigeria’s leading lights in the legal proffession, Chief Afe Babalola, among others.
Most recently, a widely circulated open letter, said to have emanated from Nigeria’s immediate past Minister of Science and Technology, Prof. Ogbonnaya Onu, had sought to persuade the president to endorse the Labour Party Presidential Candidate.
In the opinion of the author of the letter, electing
the two most influential candidates referred to as “henchmen of
Nigeria’s ageless corrupt oligarchy… is an errant sin”, and the president was urged not to consider any of them as his successor because of their alleged corrupt background.
Dr. Onu further listed Peter Obi’s youthfulness compared to others; his clean records in public service, as well as his detribalised disposition and good understanding of the economy, as factors placing the Labour Candidate ahead of others.
While we agree with the former Minister that Peter Obi represents the face of the new Nigeria that most citizens are yearning for, we disagree with his call on Buhari to endorse Peter Obi of the Labour Party. That will amount to anti – party activity, and no rationale leader will do that even if he is not comfortable, for any reason, with the candidate of his party.
What every Nigerian should insist on, is a free and fair election, and ensuring that the right environment, as well as machinery are put in place for the citizens to freely choose his successor and other leaders at state and national levels in Febrauary and March this year.
In principle, the president has given a guarantee that he will not interfere with the processes and outcome of the elections. While some citizens may have their reservations over the president’s assurances, his antecedents provide sufficient grounds for objective observers to trust President Buhari to keep his promise.
Whatever personal prejudices that the president may have, it is our considered opinion that they will only influence his personal decision on who to vote for, and nothing more. He cannot go against the grain of party loyalty to endorse a candidate of another party even if he prefers the Labour Candidate.
The onus is therefore on Peter Obi and his supporters, to reach out to the voters with a view to convincing them on why he should be preferred over and above others.
The truth remains that, Mr. President has just one vote, which, when taken in isolation, cannot make Peter Obi or any other candidate for that matter, the President of Nigeria.