Two things made the sudden rise of Peter Obi possible. One is his larger than life image of an incorruptible persona, and two his non-shishi-giving pose. At the first instance when he was running mate to Ababakar Atiku, nothing much was known about this man apart from the fact that he was a two-term governor of Anambra state who gave the state a certain level of stability after Ngigegate. Even though he is alleged to have invested Anambra monies in a family concern, he is said to have saved the state some money.
From this very brief discussion, we shall be looking at how these two factors that catapulted Peter Obi to the pinnacle of Nigeria’s political consciousness will be his Achilles heel in the coming days, that is, IF he becomes president.
First is the idea that Obi does not give Shishi, that is, he is not in the habit of throwing money around for stomach infrastructure, or to influence or gain political respect and acceptance. Whilst this may be true, we can subject that assumption to some analysis to find out that Peter Obi is merely riding on the crest of very cheap populist inclinations. Part of the reason why he was seconded to Atiku Abubakar in the first instance as running mate under the PDP was that the price was right, and he could afford to be on the ticket.
In 2022 though, the price was almost N100million, and Peter Obi decided that he was not going to pay such an outrageous fee just because he wanted to serve his people either as president or vice president. It was that singular move of his, and the subsequent decision to pitch tent with the Labour Party, LP, that shot him to the limelight. Those who analysed this move of his were the downtrodden masses of our people who saw in him as a different species of political configuration, and who seemed to project their disgust for the huge sums being spent to oil the political process – and this is in spite of the sufferings in the land.
Another reason most people sing the Obidient mantra is the perception that Peter Obi is incorruptible. Of all the political actors on the stage today in Nigeria, he appears the most untainted and almost without any scandal. This has steered people who should know any better endorse and promote him as publicly as they can. But is there any one person alive without a scandal, a secret or a dark side?
There’s that idea about Peter Obi not giving shishi that’s not vey right or coherent. It is not right and coherent because politicians are often in the habit of giving shishi. This is how it is and it is without exception. If Peter Obi is an exception, then he comes across as a counterfeit riding on the back of cheap political rhetoric. We say this not out of spite (we have no reason to be spiteful) but in the fact that politicians, (and again without exception) are horse traders. They are in the business of trading this for that, are mostly involved in a bargaining. A politician mostly has a machine that he must oil, and part of the deal involves buying the metaphoric oil for his machine. After oiling his machine, he realises that he would be making concessions, talking to other people and to put it simply be closing a deal. Is there any situation where you make a deal or a pact with someone and money would not part ways – either in cash or kind?
As we write this, the Republican party in the United States has been unable to choose a speaker. Eleven times, they have voted, and eleven times, they have been unable to come to a compromise. Even though Kevin McCarthy is largely favoured to emerge as speaker, there are still those even within his party seeking concessions, making deals and therefore involved in seeking to get something from the incoming speaker before they select him as speaker. That’s how politics is, and the scenario we have just painted is playing out in the most advanced democracy in the world.
And therefore, IF Peter Obi eventually wins, the romance between him and his supporters will be short-lived. They will find him making deals, forging alliances outside his own political circumference and these deals will involve giving shishi. If he really has the interest of Nigerians at heart the way he professes, that may be why he may give more shishi so as to meet the high bar he has set for himself and his constituency.
To expect him to remain on the elevated horse he rode to power would be naïve and self-serving. Our projection would be that as president, Peter Obi would dump the Labour Party. We do not make this projection carelessly but refer to the Olusegun Mimiko scenario of 2007. After his party the PDP refused to give him the ticket in 2007, Mimiko contested the Ondo governorship under the LP. He did not win but went to court and won in 2008, and then ran back to the PDP thereafter. He is not alone among those who have used the LP as a springboard to achieve their political ambitions – there have been Andy Ubah, Ayodele Fayose, Femi Pedro, Timi Alaibe. It will not be different with Peter Obi.
The problem with his supporters, and how they will help him miscarry is in the perception that Peter Obi is somehow an emperor or a king who will issue decrees that will banish our sufferings forever. We do not agree. Recall that in 2015 after President Buhari became president, he declared a war on corruption. But he found out that this is not the military era or 1983, and that the enormous powers he once wielded as a head of state are now shared by the National Assembly and the courts. He found out to his utter consternation that apart from the courts as well, he had to wade through Olusola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara, leaders of the representatives of Nigeria. At that time, much of the perennial lacking in the luster that was the hallmark of the Buhari administration was the allegation that he refused to give these two gentlemen their shishi. After both men lost their bids to return to the National Assembly, they were replaced by a duo seen more as rubber stamp, men whom the president gives their shishi and who just look the other way for President Buhari to have his way.
Therefore, a Peter Obi presidency will be one giving the most shishi in Nigeria. And again, we do not make this assertion frivolously. One taxi man who ferried me home yesterday said that while he is likely to vote for Peter Obi as president, his other votes would go to either the PDP or the APC depending on how close those candidates are to his village.
And arising from this, we have often asked the horde of Obidients – apart from Peter Obi who they know as a non-shishi-giver, do they know the chap seeking to be their governor, their representatives at the National Assembly and those seeking to be councilors seeking election under the platform of the Labour Party? IF Peter Obi becomes president, how in God’s name will he work with a National Assembly or the courts, likely to be populated by and with people who do not share his non-shishi giving philosophy?
Etemiku is publisher of WADONOR…cultural voice of Nigeria.