The sky does not seem bright for the Labour Party as its prospects going into the September 21 governorship election in Edo State suffered a major blow recently following the Edo Obidient Movement’s withdrawal of its support for the party and its candidate, Olumide Akpata.

The Obidient Movement, a formidable force in Edo State politics, while announcing the withdrawal of its support, reiterated that its involvement with LP during the 2023 general elections was largely based on its support for the party’s presidential candidate, Peter Obi.

The Obidient Movement emerged as one of the many support groups for Obi during the 2023 general elections owing to Obi’s credentials and antecedents in public office. But today, the group is singing a different tune.

Addressing journalists at the NUJ Secretariat in Benin City, the Edo State capital, the group’s spokesperson, Ikhuenbor Figo, insisted that LP has failed to impress as the alternative to the two main political parties in Nigeria.

It passed a vote of no confidence on the Edo LP primary election process, alleging that the leaders, both at the national and state working committees, the local government areas, and ward executives are guilty in what it described as disgraceful and unpatriotic activities before, during and after the primary.

“We completely disassociate ourselves from the Labour Party and its candidate for the Edo 2024 governorship campaign, street rallies, and fitness walk,” he said.

The Obidient Movement also called on Obi to sanitize the leadership of the LP ahead of the 2027 presidential elections.

“While assuring His Excellency, Mister Peter Obi, of our continuous support for him, we advise that he provide leadership in the Labour Party and do a thorough review of the party leadership and purge themselves of all contaminating symptoms ahead of the 2027 general election,” Figo said.

The group said it would unveil the political party and candidate it would be backing for the Edo governorship election in the coming weeks.

This decision, articulated by the movement’s leader in Edo State, possibly carries substantial implications for both Akpata’s candidacy and the overall prospects of the Labour Party in the state.

The rejection of Akpata by the Edo Obidients signifies a seismic shift in the political landscape of Edo State. This movement, which unarguably played a pivotal role in propelling the Labour Party to unprecedented success in the 2023 presidential election in the state, has now completely distanced itself from the party’s gubernatorial candidate in the state. This move has raised concerns about the viability of Akpata’s future campaign strategy and the potential loss of a crucial support base.

Understanding the Obidient Movement

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The Obidient Movement can be described as a social and political mass movement that evolved to ensure the electoral victory of Mr. Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of Labour Party in the 2023 election. The movement cuts across every strata of Nigerian society and exists in all the geopolitical zones of the country. Members of the group also exist abroad among the Nigerians in the Diaspora.

A thorough understanding of the group shows the group’s unrestrained and special preference for Obi, who is almost seen as its ‘political messiah’ in the Nigerian political landscape.

Obidient Movement and the 2023 election

The final results released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from the 36 states and the federal capital Abuja during the 2023 presidential election showed that President Bola Tinubu of the APC garnered about 36.6 per cent or 8.79 million of valid votes counted, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the PDP trailed behind with 29.1 per cent or 6.98 million of valid votes, while LP’s Obi received 25.4 per cent, or about 6.1 million votes.

In Edo State, the Labour Party surpassed all other parties in the state, showing the Edo Obidient Movement’s huge support for Obi. The Labour Party, buoyed by the support of the Obidients, emerged victorious in 12 out of 18 local government areas in Edo State, far ahead of the APC and the PDP. LP won the presidential election in Igueben, Esan Central, Esan North-East, Egor, Esan South-East, Esan West, Uhunmwonde, Orhionmwon, Ovia South-West, Oredo, Ikpoba-Okha and Ovia North-East, while APC won in six LGAs of Owan West, Owan East, Akoko-Edo, Etsako Central, Etsako West and Etsako East.

According to statistics from the result sheet uploaded by INEC in Edo State, APC polled 144,471, PDP polled 89,585, while the Labour Party garnered a total of 331,163 votes.

The Obidient Movement not only influenced the presidential election but also the National Assembly election. The scenario led to the making of history in Nigeria as ordinary politicians who had no fame were elected into office just by grace of being in the same party with Obi.

This electoral success, coupled with the movement’s influence in securing legislative seats, solidified its status as a potent political force. The Labour Party through the Obidient Movement climbed up the stairs to become the third force in the Nigerian political landscape.

What lies ahead

Now that the movement has disassociated itself from the Labour Party and its candidate for the Edo State 2024 governorship election, it does not inspire much hope for the party going into the election. The hope of possible victory for the Labour Party riding on the back of a repeat of the ‘Peter Obi effect’ in the forthcoming Edo 2024 election may have been extinguished. The absence of the ‘Peter Obi effect’, which propelled the Labour Party to prominence in last year’s election, poses a significant challenge to the party’s electoral fortunes in the upcoming governorship race.

Political analysts say the Obidient Movement’s withdrawal of support is not just a symbolic gesture; it reflects a tangible loss of electoral strength for the Labour Party in Edo State. With the movement’s widespread influence among voters across various demographics, including youth and non-voting populations, its withdrawal of support could significantly impact the Labour Party’s prospect at the polls. It perhaps signals a broader sentiment of disillusionment with the Labour Party’s leadership and strategic direction in Edo State.

However, most of this is still in the realm of conjecture. The ramifications of the Obidient Movement’s decision will only unfold on September 21 when the chickens come home to roost.