When the PDP stole Peter Obi’s mandate in Anambra, the same rage and disappointment that Nigerians express today, hovered over Anambra like a dark cloud of hopelessness.
It was very obvious on the streets, in the markets, in public places where people gathered, they voiced out their despair, the denounced the fraudulence and dubiousness of the electoral process.
Many gave up soon afterwards and seeds of political apathy began to take root gradually.
Peter Obi had suddenly appeared on the highly turbulent Anambra political scene, young, urbane and speaking with very “unmanly voice”. It was some kind of disruptions buy one that seemed awkward and didn’t really appear attainable based on the initial reality of Anambra politics and the prevailing circumstances.
He also had this gentle demeanour that deceived many people to write him off as a pushover, just another greenhorn and not the “tough guy” that was needed to battle the behemoths and leviathans of Anambra politics – chiefly ,Chris Uba , many other political strongmen, and the billionaires of the state. This fight, it was later revealed extended to the Aso Rock.
However, there was something inexplicably appealing about this naive – looking man that instantly endeared him to the people. He was hitherto unknown but, for the first time, Anambriarians saw very colourful political posters of a relatively young man in suit, (not agbada or Senegalese) with no logo of any political party, asking very piercing questions that every Anambra person understood immediately.
One of such posters read like this ,“Is Anambra state cursed or are we the cause?”
The question evoked a medley of emotions in the heart of the people. They wanted more from this man. They yearned to know who this new kid on the block was.
Also, for the first time, they saw a politician who simply addressed himself as a “Mr” and not “Chief or Dr, etc. as they were used to seeing. Another unusual and interesting thing that happened then was that many other aspirants for other positions in Anambra state started using his photograph on their own political posters. This had a profound effect as it attracted passers-by to take a look-because of Peter Obi.
People stood every time before these posters to read this message. It cut through to the heart, it also hurt because everyone who read it understood the message perfectly, could relate to its essence and it demanded a serious action.
That action was what Anambra people took massively on April 19, 2003 ,and in a state already controlled by the ruling party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party(PDP),they voted Mr Peter Gregory Obi who was from a new unknown party called All Progressives Grand Alliance(APGA).
It was a landslide victory just like what happened on 25 February 2023. And just like in February, that mandate was stolen by the PDP who had fielded Dr Chris Ngige as their flag bearer.
Dr Chris Nwabueze Ngige, was sworn in as the governor and took the reins of power on May 29, 2003.
Realizing that the people knew what happened at the polls, were greatly disenchanted, and being a medical doctor, Dr Chris Ngige “palpated” the pulse of the masses which read “anger and distrust”, and also knowing that Peter Obi was in court to challenge the electoral heist, quickly “Hit the ground running”.
Ngige actually did hit the ground, or so it appeared because many interesting events unfolded immediately.
This story bears a perfect resemblance to what is happening today in our political space.
What happened next?
Ngige started building roads, visiting traditional rulers, going to schools and he was always on Anambra TV telling Anambra people what was happening in government. For the first time, many roads in Anambra started having deep gutters/drainages on both sides to carry the surface waters off the road surfaces. It was novel and inspired excitement across the state. He was fondly called “Ọnwa” (the moon), which soon became his preferred name by the people.
Ngige was apparently doing these to swing the people to his side, to douse the anger, to extenuate the electoral fraud that produced him and ultimately to make people forget about Mr Peter Obi, the authentic and rightful candidate that they voted in as their governor.
The events playing out today by the newly declared president, looks exactly like what Chris Ngige was doing in Anambra state and Anambra people can relate well.
Dr Chris Ngige was fighting a three-pronged war and needed to do all he could to have the people on his side.
First was a battle for legitimacy, to win the people. Secondly, he was also fighting to keep off his political godfathers who had an iron grip on him and wanted him to be their puppet, a mere figurehead, weak governor who took orders from political gangsters.
Thirdly, he was also palpitating seriously because his fate as a governor hung in the balance as Peter Obi was still in court to challenge the elections and his return as the governor.
What is happening in Nigeria today is reminiscent of Anambra state of 2003. It is not new but the story needs to be told for more patriotic Nigerians, especially the younger ones to be aware and stand strong. This story is to encourage you to keep holding on and never give up, nor be deceived by rushed flurry of activities being pushed out by the state-controlled media .It is all a charade, a smokescreen that is purposed to shift attention and possibly allegiance from what you knew to be true . It is an attempt to blackmail and gaslight you into doubting the truth you knew.
They tried it in Anambra but, unfortunately did not succeed
Back to our story…..
As Ngige continued all these ‘good works’, Anambriarians began to take interest in what was happening in government because, it seemed like for the first time a governor man was actually talking to them directly and promising tangible things.
People called in from some of the most remote places. Ngige would describe the area, ask a few questions and tried to show the people of that area that he knew them very well and was “one of you”.
This phone-in conversation was held every week in Igbo Language. Anambra people started looking forward to this event where the people had a chance to hear their governor talk to them in their local language directly.
It was exciting.
This gave them the freedom to express themselves as much as they wanted and the experience was amazing for Anambra People.
People started loving him and allegiance started shifting. Even some of his most followers began to question their own beliefs.
His many projects started shifting some people’s minds towards Ngige; even though hen they knew that Ngige stole the mandate of the man they truly voted. Ngige was fighting to draw the masses towards himself and maybe, to retain his position.
The praise-singing started and was very loud.
At a point, many people started gradually to forget Peter Obi and his mandate. They saw what Ngige was doing and it loomed very large to them, especially the roads and the schools that got reopened. At a point even some of his party men left because they lost interest in the case. They saw it as a lost cause and viewed Peter Obi as wasting his time.
Peter Obi continued to go to court and at some point, was going all by himself.
Many people started to suggest that Obi should just let Ngige stay on as the governor,’after all he is working already ‘. They wondered what else Peter Obi was coming to do that Ngige was not already doing. The people who said this included some of his followers and people who knew that he was brazenly cheated out.
The same is happening today on a national scale and for those who witnessed the game in Anambra; it is simply a clear case of déjà vu.
Prior to this time, schools in Anambra state had been closed for over 2 years of Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju, who was tied up, literally by the same political godfathers who were now having Ngige in a chokehold.
Anambra state Schools were overgrown with bushes. Some of the school pupils and students went to learn some trade, some became criminals and others simply wasted away at home.
Pensioners, teachers and civil servants were dying. Bad roads littered the state. Political assassinations happened and Anambra also had just come out of the horror of the ‘Bakassi Boys’ and their crude security style.
Ngige was always drumming it into the ears of Anambriarians that “government has money”.
What this meant to the ordinary man on the streets was that “I have come to help you with this government money by working”, he made them to believe in government again and to know it was their right to expect.
As this continued, Peter Obi’s party members and many more of his supporters gradually began to drop out along the way, many left him because they “after all, Ngige was already working and people are happy. Why not let him continue?’’.
Tinubu seems to be playing the same script, talking tough and taking some decisions that dazzle some portions of the Nigerian population. And even some people who could see through the hollowness of the activities, somehow believe that a miracle could happen by the government even it was illegal and unconstitutional. ‘May Tinubu’s government favour me and my family’ is one of the deluded prayers uttered by some Nigerians, especially supporters of the government.
Unsurprisingly, some of Peter Obi’s supporters are already mouthing the praises of the new administration, even when they knew that their mandate was stolen by the same government.
To them, the reality of all the Peter Obi promises which they cherished at first is becoming dim and paling out. They’re beginning to believe that even though the All Progressives Congress (APC) stole their mandate, the government could somehow ‘perform’.
Some have voiced this sentiment openly, believing they were playing a better politics and being mature.
As it was in Anambra, Mr Peter Obi is seeing all these and he knows what is happening but, he is not deterred.
It’s beginning to feel like the reaction of some core ‘Buharists’ immediately after his inauguration in 2015, when they began to claim that Buhari’s “body language” had stabilized and increased the electricity supply in the country. And many other ridiculous claims that were pushed out in the media to give the government a n image of a having come with the silver bullet.
Tinubu is fighting a big battle for legitimacy; he’s fighting for acceptance, to win the hearts of the masses. And he can do anything possible to achieve it.
He knows that the people are aware of the electoral heist that just happened to bring him to power and that majority of Nigerians have not accepted him yet.
Will this Chris Ngige déjà vu work for Tinubu?.