Peter Obi, Oseni Rufai And The Import Of An ‘Inconsequential’ Manifesto, By Rotimi Akinola

If care is not taken, Labour Party candidate Peter Obi will degenerate from the darling of the 2023 election to a comic relief fit only for punctuating our elongated predicament.

I’m seriously warning any serious-minded Nigerian who cares to listen that this seemingly serious former Anambra governor could turn out to be a serious joke.

Visit INEC registration centres and see how young Nigerians are lining up under harsh weather conditions to get enlisted for voter cards. The candidates these young men and women have seemingly decided to pitch their tents with must repay that energy with a serious presidential campaign.

Obi’s current run of form reeks of unseriousness. And his latest interview, the one he had on Sunday with Oseni Rufai, was indicative of this flippant trajectory.

Our favourite presidential candidate was commended for his brilliant ideas and asked if he’d be articulating them in a policy document, aka ‘manifesto’. Obi’s response drew my laughter and I began wondering if his entire campaign wasone big joke many were yet to appreciate.

“When people talk about my manifesto and my this, I’ve done it somewhere. I don’t need to go and start putting glossy papers,” Obi said when Rufai pointed out that people were asking to see his manifesto.

Obi said people should go to Anambra and see what he has ‘practicalized’ there and consider it a precursor to what he would do if elected president. He then outlined some of Nigeria’s problems. When asked how he would fix the problem, Obi said ‘go to Anambra’.

“But you’re still going to give us a document,” Rufai insisted. Obi continued to insinuate that such would not be necessary because those who provided manifestos in the past did not deliver on their promises.

“How are you going to fix it,” Rufai asked about the problems Obi outlined regarding education. “Of course, go to Anambra,” Obi said. They did a back and forth until Rufai, I want to assume, decided it was better to allow the candidate hang himself.

A repercussion of Obi’s laughable disdain for a policy document was exposed when the candidate was asked about restructuring and state police. Instead of providing a coherent answer, he just rambled from one anchorless idea to another.

Obi becomes president tomorrow and says we should just trust him and let him run the country without a constitution? If you think that is an exaggeration, you didn’t follow the political campaign of Nigeria’s worst president.

Nigerians were disillusioned with the Goodluck Jonathan administration, and rightly so. But Muhammadu Buhari and his package managers from the South were able to misdirect that public discontent behind a Cinderella candidate who has now been in Aso Rock for almost eight years without publishing a single manifesto. We are the consequences.

When Buhari began implementing his ‘unmanifestoed’ agenda, his own wife had to cry out that her husband had been hijacked by two men who were swimming against the tide of the ruling party’s platform.

If we don’t start holding Obi accountable now, we won’t be able to do if he is elected president. And a manifesto provides us with an avenue to begin evaluating the ideas of a president wannabe before they are implemented.

If Obi’s insistence on the irrelevance of a manifesto is a joke, he needs to come out within the week and make that clear so that we can start taking him for a clown. Any failure to commit to releasing a manifesto before next year’s poll would amount to an insult on the millions of young Nigerians who are sacrificing flesh and blood to register to vote just because Obi is on the ballot.

All he needs to do is sit down with his team of experts and put some coherence into his ideas, and then put those ideas on paper. Any serious candidate who isn’t a placeholder for either of the monster political parties would not find this task unneeded.

Obi should be very careful. The anger on the streets has, thankfully, been converted into the political energy we all have been calling for. Young Nigerians are ready to vote. If Obi messes this up, the love many have for him can easily morph into its antithesis.

Congratulations to him for performing excellently well as a two-term governor. But Nigeria is not Anambra. You cannot run a country as complex as ours on ‘go and verify’. If that’s all you’d say to those asking for a manifesto, then there is no difference between you and the ancestor who holds sway in Lagos.

Any crowd that doesn’t see the merit of this argument may be suffering from another variant of Buharideenism. And the stakes in 2023 are too high for that kind of deadly joke.


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