In his 6 November, 2023 remarks on the 26 October, 2023 Supreme Court judgment on the 25 February, 2023 Presidential election petition, the Presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Mr. Peter Obi, said that he attended Christ The King College (CKC), Onitsha. On the college’s website, it is declared that “The college provides equal educational opportunity for all qualified students without regard to race, religion, creed, color, age, and physical disability, natural or ethical origin.” In a proud recollection of the values of the institution, Mr. Peter Obi remarked as follows: “As students young lads at CKC, Onitsha, we were taught values and admonished to always ‘choose the harder right, instead of the easier wrong.’”
Now, has Mr. Peter Obi lived true to the noble values enunciated on the CKC website? Has he shown a preference for “the harder right” in his political choices in relation to the 2023 Presidential election? Well, as they say, talk is cheap. Rather than pursue his Presidential ambition on a very broad and tasking platform, he hamstrung himself with the simplistic option of pandering to ethnic origin and religious affiliation. He chose the “easier wrong” of appealing to religious and ethnic sentiments. This self-defeating choice has come to be signposted by his infamous exhortation, “*Church, Take back your country*”, and the dangerous-to-ignore indiscretion of declaring that the 2023 Presidential election was going to be “a religious war”. Having held himself up as an ethnically and religiously provincial Presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi had no chance of winning that election in Nigeria’s highly plural society. And he really did lose.
In the press conference, Mr. Peter Obi also harped on “public opinion”. Specifically, he remarked as follows: “the Supreme Court exhibited a disturbing aversion to public opinion just as it abandoned its responsibility as a court of law and policy.” But, what really is “public opinion”? Is it the set of views of the most vocal or most privileged segment of society, whether they are in the majority or not? “Public opinion” is a nebulous concept, and has the tendency to be hasty, superficial, flippant, inconstant, stereotypical and factious. In contrast, law is the product of a process that is characteristically very painstaking, deeply deliberative, appreciably methodical, highly reflective, sharply focused and generally consensual. Since public opinion is the raw material from which the law is forged, law may be regarded as refined public opinion. It is therefore misplaced to be hankering after public opinion in the administration of justice in the Presidential election petition.
Looking to the future, Mr. Peter Obi declared, “Our mission and mandate remain unchanged.” I thought his experience in the 2023 election should have counseled a different course of action. Judging by the fanciful things he said about himself in the press conference, Mr. Peter Obi has a beautiful self-portrait, and it must be making him, and his followers feel good. However, as Williams Shakespeare in his play Julius Caesar says, “And since you know you cannot see yourself, so well as by reflection, I, your glass, will modestly discover to yourself, that of yourself which you yet know not of.” The images in some of the mirrors held up to the LP Presidential candidate are those of an unrepentant ethnic and religious bigot.
Now, would Mr. Peter Obi be basing his new aspirations on the same unruly platform he has always had? The same kind of people Governor Chukwuma Soludo referred to as the “headless mob”? Those whose conduct exemplifies the English proverb, “The mob has many heads, but no brain?” Are they the same people Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka called “nattering nitwits”? Between the headless mob, the brainless heads and the nattering nitwits, Mr. Peter Obi’s fate had been sealed in the past. Can they change his fate moving forward?
The omens are not good, because when these followers of his have harangued and savaged other people in the past, Mr. Peter Obi has maintained a conspiratorial silence. Making this point clearer, the Merriam-Webster English dictionary defines “conspiracy of silence” as “a secret agreement to keep silent about an occurrence, situation, or subject especially in order to promote or protect selfish interests.” This is not a confidence-building measure in a plural society. Incidentally, Hon. Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad (rtd) whom Mr. Peter Obi referred to with aplomb in the LP leader’s press conference, notes that the first step for a society to set out really quickly down the drain is taken when “the society overlooks evil”.
Is Mr. Peter Obi’s optimism fact-based? How enduring will the Obi mystique be? Time will tell. Meanwhile, it is noteworthy that in the Presidential election, the LP candidate had 6,101,533 votes on 25 February, 2023 and led in eleven states and the Federal Capital Territory, but at the Governorship elections on 18 March, 2023, the LP won only the Abia State governorship seat. That obviously does not indicate a rising prospect. Mr. Peter Obi’s upbeat press conference has its psychological and emotional value. But it does not invalidate the Alfred Einstein principle that you cannot be “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
Professor Kehinde Yusuf,
Chairman, Programme Committee
P-BAT Academics and Professionals,
writes from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.
E-mail: [email protected]