PATRIOT, PACIFIST: Interrogating Peter Obi’s Speech

EXPRESSO 》By Steve Osuji
Why did it take Peter Obi all of 10 day to speak up? This of course,  is the first point to note. In the rise and ebb of historic moments, timing could be everything. Like a surfer, you must catch the wave of events at its crest or lose the moment for good. This is why not a few Nigerians were troubled about Obi’s silence after the  Supreme Court  “miscarriage” on the last Presidential Election even though he is generally believed to have been robbed of the mandate.
One day passed. One week passed. Many began to see his silence as golden; as the best answer for the pervasive folly of the moment. But the occasion demanded not for silence. It is an exquisite moment in history that must be properly interrogated in order to help history annotate it.

Responding after 10 days may seem rather delayed and could even be construed as an absence of proactive thinking. Remember that the Labour Party, through its chairman, responded same day the judgment was pronounced.

 But the delay in the candidate’s response must be viewed from Peter Obi’s patriotic and pacifist nature. Obi-dients are made up largely of Nigerian youths. They are aggrieved and angry. Rightly so. Were Obi to mount the rostrum immediately after the miscarriage,  one misconstrued word,  an emotion-laden pause or the glimmer of an unshed tear in his eyes could trigger an unintended violence that was bound to lead to  loss of lives and property.

Obi is not bound to violence… that is one object lesson he has been trying to teach Nigerians. Ultimately, violence destroys, it never builds, it doesn’t edify. Obi seems to have taken care not to coax angry Obidients onto the streets. Abuja could be reduced to rubbles in a few days  if current latent angst is transported onto the streets. Obi has said for umpteenth time that he’s not desperate to be president,  he’s desperate to see Nigeria rise to her place of destiny among the comity of states.

But Obi left a strong word for the judiciary to chew. In the fourth of the 17-paragraph address, he says:

“Setting legal issues aside,  the Supreme Court exhibited a disturbing aversion to public opinion just as it abandoned its responsibility as a court of law and policy. It is, therefore,  with great dismay that I observe that the court’s decision contradicts the overwhelming evidence of election rigging, false claim of a technical glitch, substantial noncompliance with rules set by INEC itself as well as matters of perjury, identity theft and forgery that have been brought to light in the course of this election matter. These were hefty allegations that should not be treated with levity. More appalling, the Supreme Court judgment wilfully condoned breaches of the constitution relative to established qualifications and parameters for candidates in presidential elections. With this counter-intuitive judgement, the Supreme Court has transferred a heavy moral burden from the courtroom to our national conscience.  Our young democracy is ultimately the main victim and casualty of the courtroom drama.”

Disambiguated, this judgment that affirmed a president not qualified to contest in an election ab initio has seared the soul  of our nation. While the justices will live with this infamy to the end, they have opened a dark, twisted epoch in Nigeria’s history.
The second point to note is that Obi has lived his talk that we don’t have to pull Nigeria down to build her; all we need to do is  dislodge the failed old order of leaders who have captured the state. The old order seeks to push Nigeria into the abyss; unto  violence, destruction and even division into tribal enclaves. That is the last stand of the unconscionable old order holding Nigeria and most of Africa hostage. In their megalomaniacal grip of their various countries they never let go until they have cannibalised the polity and rendered it not fit for human habitation. Obi is not a warlord fighting for an enclave to rule over. He is a believer in the Nigerian state; he believes Nigeria can be built to become among the greatest country in the world. He believes Nigeria’s problem is not her geography nor her numerous tribes. He knows that Nigeria’s problems are located among the worst kind on leaders who have seized her space.

Obi knows that the dampened spirit and  disappointment occasioned by  bankrupt institutions,  especially the electoral body and the judiciary may well present an opportunity for a violent change, but of course there’s always an alternative in every situation. 
“ The revolution is postponed, “ Obi profoundly proclaimed to Nigerians yesterday. “This is not the end of the journey,” he added, it’s indeed the beginning.
His believe in a new Nigeria remains unshaken, he said and that New Nigeria is not a journey, but a destination.

“We are now effectively an opposition,” he said. And this must be the crux of his address. Opposition politics had long become extinct in Nigeria. Politicians over time only canvass their stomach and therefore, only seek opportunity to join the gravy train of the ruling party. Obi’s Labour Party has plaintively declared to stand in the gap for Nigerians; to provide the guiding lights for true opposition in Nigeria’s political space.

There’s a compelling need for a strong opposition, he said, LP will provide an anchor for all Nigerians left behind by the present system. It will provide checks and balances, “we will carry our messages to all nooks and cranny of Nigeria,” he averred.
He noted that the nation has heard Labour Party loud and clear and that the party will not drop the gauntlet. “We will continue to canvass good governance, transparency, rule or law, and aggressive production to drive poverty reduction… and most important,  Labour Party will participate robustly in coming elections.

Finally,  though the speech could have enjoyed more elegance and grandiloquent crafting, the thoughts are noble and indeed, statesmanly. It may now be said that here comes a true patriot, the type never seen before on these shores…

The author, Steve Osuji

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