RECENTLY, there have been increased conversations on the need for Nigeria to have an “off-ramp” out of its problems. In other words, a way to divert the Nigerian train heading toward a catastrophic end and return Nigeria to a relative sense of normalcy and restored hope. Peter Obi is the off-ramp.
Let’s face it, in the past, Nigeria has been through many missed historical off-ramp opportunities to return the country to a place of unity, hope, and economic progress. But, despite many missed opportunities, Nigerians moved on. At this point in history, ignoring another chance to put Nigeria on the right path may be the last nail in the coffin. So, stay with me as I make the argument.
Remember the June 12, 1993, election? Its annulment was a missed opportunity. Let me review the situation in Nigeria back then to understand why it was a missed chance for Nigeria’s unity and progress. In 1993, Nigeria entered the Second Republic with hope, even in the throes of a military dictator. And it was evident that the people sought an opportunity to choose their leaders.
At this point, democracy seemed to be the missing component in the lives of Nigerians who otherwise enjoyed a booming economy. So, when Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, IBB, began transitioning to civilian rule, it was heralded in Nigeria and worldwide.
For many international observers, the 1993 presidential election remains the most credible election in Nigeria. It was an election that transcended ethnic, regional, and religious bigotry. It proved that Nigerians wanted a country where merit and credibility formed the basis of winning. But when IBB annulled the election, the aspirations of Nigerians and the foundation for transparent democracy once more eroded.
Since then, tension in Nigeria has doubled. Religious, ethnic, and regional conflicts are on the rise. As a result, the country is now one of the world’s most violent and ungovernable countries. However, the truth remains that Nigerians are good people searching for responsible leadership and role models. For Nigeria, this period is a critical point in history. It is time to get it right, or any mistakes will tip things overboard to the end of no return.
But once again, providence has offered Nigeria another off-ramp to avoid a catastrophic crash. Moreover, there are apparent similarities between MKO Abiola’s and Peter Obi’s appeal to voters: they represent a chance for new beginnings for Nigerians. Also, history will record that MKO Abiola and Peter Obi were chances to get things right.
Understandably, democracy is the process of campaigns and elections. So, I am not making a case for Peter Obi to become the shoo-in candidate. However, because the fate of Nigeria is in the balance, candidates must commit to a free and fair election. It is the only way to ensure Nigeria survives, assuming it misses the opportunity of allowing the best candidate to lead as it did with MKO Abiola.
There is another good reason Peter Obi is Nigeria’s off-ramp from disaster. He is an excellent alternative to the growing crescendo of a violent revolution. Politics obscure this truth. But the ever-increasing anger among Nigerians makes it evident that a change is needed, either peacefully or violently.
“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” John F. Kennedy said this on the first anniversary of the Alliance for Progress on March 13, 1962. This statement seems to capture the point that I am trying to make. But unfortunately, the status quo in Nigeria goes to an unbelievable extent to make change impossible, even when it is evident that the people want change.
They have set up structures to make change impossible. But in this instance, an excellent way to encourage a peaceful revolution is for the candidates to commit to a free and fair election. Sadly, they have managed to sell these to the Nigerian people as political structures. They are not. They are frameworks set to perpetuate a status quo that puts Nigerians in peril. So, when you hear that Peter Obi has no political structure to win, it means that he does belong to the status quo.
But the idea that Peter Obi has no structure to win is laughable. Anyone who says that may be missing the point that Obi’s campaign is about dismantling deep-rooted corruption. It has developed all the trappings of a revolution but a peaceful one. Historically, revolutions do not rely on similar structures as the one it is meant to change. They are usually a spontaneous call for change.
Finally, regardless of how Obi’s campaign turns out, win or lose, many of us are encouraged by the support he gained from Nigerian youths. It shows that they are aware of their stolen dreams. In the end, Peter Obi has set up a political framework that others can improve on. For this, I say he is already a winner.
Odunzen is a public affairs analyst