By John-Paul Okeke
THE choice of former Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, as the vice- presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, has been greeted with widespread optimism among Nigerians of various standings.
One of the striking features of Obi’s emergence is how it defied political logic and calculations at a time popular permutations considered a South-West VP candidate as one that will best serve the opposition’s quest to reclaim power in 2019.
But as it turned out, the choice of Obi proved not only wise, but from all indications, a master-stroke as millions of Nigerians, irrespective of ethnicity, religion and even political persuasions, have totally embraced the choice.
This is what obtains when competence, pedigree and governance are accorded primacy over clannishness and politics. Indeed, Atiku acted with the wisdom of Solomon, and his party can go into the next election confident of victory in a free and fair exercise.
But why has Obi’s candidacy generated such wide acceptance? This question is very relevant considering that the Vice-President’s position was never known to excite significant public interest, at least in the context of our local politics.
If anything, that position has always been perceived, rightly or wrongly, as a mere appendage to the office of the President – as with the deputy governor of a state – with the incumbent merely performing a “yes-sir” kind of service to the number one.
Against this backdrop, the people’s excitement over Obi’s emergence must have stemmed from something special; and that is very easy to ascertain: Obi’s pedigree speaks of a man with a different approach to leadership and human relations in general.
Much has been written and said about how the little politically-known Obi emerged to seek the leadership of Anambra State at the highest level, and which he got (not before he had scaled some formidable obstacles mounted by the forces of old), and of course, acquitted himself creditably on the job.
Little wonder his exploits as the Governor of Anambra State has become a paradigm; a case study in the art of governance, especially in the context of a system steeped in decay. Fully aware of this fact, Nigerians rejoiced on hearing the news of Obi’s emergence.
They believe, rightly, that light has appeared at the end of the tunnel; that a new dawn will come with him as the number-two man. Though he would only be the Vice-President, his teeming admirers nurse no scintilla of doubt that this shrill-voiced technocrat and administrator is bringing something radically different to the table.
They are hoping for a vice-presidency fundamentally unlike what they have known in this country.
At a time the nation is in deep economic crisis with petroleum, the bedrock of our economy, fast losing its attraction and place in the global development architecture, no less a manager is needed than one who has proven to be extraordinarily creative, innovative, prudent and thrifty. The manager is Peter Obi.
His continuously updated knowledge of national and global economic affairs and direct involvement in corporate and financial management as a private sector player, makes him an inimitable choice for not only rescuing our sinking economy in the short-term, but also for charting and implementing our long-term goal of transiting from a developing economy to a developed economy.
In spite of all this pedigree, however, some persons may not be too pleased with Obi’s emergence as running mate to Atiku. Being a true democrat of proven record, Obi totally respects all tendencies, including those adversarial to his cause.
He nurses no grudges against anyone, but remains focused on contributing to human and societal development. But, from known trends, today’s critics will eventually turn to admirers tomorrow. Truth will always prevail.
But then a word must be said about the initial opposition to Obi’s emergence as the VP candidate from a section of the political class. Those South-East politicians that did so might have their personal reasons but the truth is that Igbos must no longer be seen as the very architects of their political exclusion.
Must we always give others reasons to believe that we are disunited and lack fraternal love? If the whole idea of the South-East/Igbo advocacy is to secure the welfare of our people, we must support our best to represent us at the highest level realistically available to us today — the VP position.
You don’t go into battle leaving out your best fighter just for some sentimental reasons. If Obi has distinguished himself as the best among our living political leaders, then he is the most suited to take on that position. Anything to the contrary is mere pandering to mediocrity. Time is here for Igbos to stop crying marginalisation and grasp the opportunity laid before them.
Be that as it may, it is gladdening to observe that the opposition to Obi’s choice eventually turned out to be an unpopular one that it ought to be. The people know their leader! Little wonder its proponent quickly toed the path of wisdom thereafter. Now that the storm is over, all eyes must be on the ball.
The ultimate goal is the president and the vice-president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, respectively, come February 2019. It is worth achieving. It is achievable.
*Mr Okeke, a political observer, wrote from Enugu, Enugu State.