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By Emmanuel Aziken

The 2023 presidential election was yesterday turning into a cyber war between leading supporters of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar and his Labour Party, rival, Peter Obi.

Meanwhile, All Progressive Congress, APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, still undecided on his running mate was yet to join the fray. In any case his options were further limited after Mr Obi picked former Senator Datti Baba-Ahmed from Kaduna State as his running mate.

The choice of Baba-Ahmed it was believed in political circles, could make Tinubu to again weigh the options before him on picking a running mate from the Northwest, the region with the country’s highest voting population.

Yesterday evening, the name of Mallam Nasir El-Rufai as a possible running mate was being thrown up again. The Kaduna State governor Saturday Vanguard gathered is being pushed by a very powerful figure in the Presidential Villa but Tinubu was said to be dilly-dallying on it, partly in consideration of the past eruptions by El-Rufai against him and partly by the solid support from his favourites in the Northeast.

The cyber war between Labour and PDP was launched by supporters of Obi, with a petition to twitter to ban Atiku’s associate, Reno Omokri from twitter. Omokri became a popular target for Obi’s supporters, mainly youths from across the country who identify themselves as OBIdient Nigerians, after he was accused of issuing a tweet aimed at inflaming ethnic war in the country.

Saturday Vanguard reports that as at 6.30 p.m. yesterday the petition launched in the morning and titled Ban Reno Omokri from Twitter had garnered more than 60,000 signatories with a goal of 75,000 signatures.

It had started with an initial goal of 15, 000 signatories that was met within hours

Saturday Vanguard reports that Reno Omokri who had in the past been known for his acerbic interventions against the APC and its candidate, Tinubu, had been accused of redirecting his guns towards Obi upon perceptions of the rising threats coming from the Labour candidate against Atiku.

Besides the increasingly expanding support base among youths in the country, Obi is believed to be entering the forthcoming campaign with a solid support from the Southeast states. That envisaged support is believed to be at the expense of Atiku and the PDP who had in the past easily carried the region.

Omokri, who served as an aide in the Goodluck Jonathan presidential villa was an early supporter of Atiku’s, well before the presidential primaries.

He had also severally reprimanded Obi’s supporters who he had in the past accused of being abusive towards anyone against their man.

The conflict got messier after Obi appeared on an Arise TV on Thursday where he responded to issues concerning the botched alliance between his Labour Party and Rabiu Kwankwaso’s New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP.

Omokri in responding to the interview had in a tweet on Thursday evening said:

If I were Kwankwaso, I would do a voiceover of Peter Obi Arise interview in Hausa. Let everyday people in Kano and the Northwest listen to him describe Kwankwaso and other Presidential candidates the way he did. Such hubris! You are a pilot. They are mere drivers?

However, Obi’s supporters saw it as call to battle describing it as incendiary with potentials of creating ethnic discord in the North. They were particularly furious that Omokri who is from Delta State but speaks Hausa fluently and lives in California had translated the tweet on Kwankwaso into Hausa.

On Friday morning, a petition asking Twitter to ban Omokri was trending on the social media platform and had as 6.00 p.m. yesterday generated signatories.

The petition read in part:

Given the historical relationship between the northern and eastern parts (PeterObi hails from the east) of Nigeria, both tweets from @renoomokri have a massive risk of inciting ethnic violence in the northern part of Nigeria and subsequent reprisals in the east, especially since Kwankwaso has a huge following in the North and Peter Obi has a following in the east.

Ethnic violence against the people of eastern Nigeria perpetuated in the northern part of Nigeria was one of the things that led to the Nigerian Civil war. Since then there have been multiple reports of ethnic violence in various parts of Nigeria. A lot of them are targeted at Ibos. In the east, some violence against northerners have occurred too.

 For @renoomokri to make such tweets to his 1.7million followers given the history of Nigeria is not only reckless and dangerous, but it is also extremely callous to try and stoke ethnic violence for political gain. @renoomokri is very knowledgeable about Nigeria’s history so he knows this only too well.

Surprisingly, the Obi phenomenon was also believed to have now brought former enemies such as Omoyele Sowore and Omokri together.

Sowore was one of the few to have openly backed Omokri against the OBIdient canvassers of the Labour Party candidate yesterday.

By mid-afternoon yesterday, Sowore, presidential candidate of the African Action Congress, AAC issued a tweet in support of Omokri urging the petitioners to take it down.

There is a petition circulating on @Change against Nigerian social @media personality @renoomokri, this    petition asking @twitter to ban Mr. Omokri are largely signed by @PeterObi supporters. I condemn this digital resort to mob justice by those behind this particular petition,” Sowore said as he urged the petitioners to take it down.

Meanwhile, Omokri who was initially tempered in the morning came back fully in a series of tweets accusing Obi and his supporters of launching a personal attack against him.

In a voice note, he urged the OBIdients to redirect their energies towards the APC and the Buhari government which he claimed had mismanaged the country.

Omokri warned that if anything happens to him that Obi should be held responsible.

Further in a series of tweets he lambasted Obi’s supporters saying that Obi as president would enthrone a dictatorship worse than the Buhari government.

The threats are too much. My life is at risk. If anything happens to me, my wife, my children, or siblings, the world should hold Peter Obi responsible. He has raised a horde of intolerant and violent Obidients who just want to replace Buhari’s tyranny with theirs!

Other Nigerians are observing what you people are doing to me. I reiterate what I said.

Peter Obi was wrong to describe himself as a pilot and other Presidential candidates as “mere drivers”. The people of Kano heard it. The North heard. Other Nigerians heard it!

They dont want to save Nigeria from Buhari. They want to replace his tyranny with their own Obidient tyranny. One where freedom of speech is dead. Look that them. They have branded ANYONE who does not support Peter Obi as an “enemy of Nigeria”. Is that what we want?

Who were the people insulting, abusing, and threatening other Nigerians before Peter Obi? Think! You know. Are you still seeing them? No. There is a reason why. They just changed their name from what you once knew, to Obidients.

They changed name, but not behaviour!

Look at their strategy. Propaganda, insults, abuses and threats. They have always had a well oiled social media propaganda unit. They are organised cyber bullies. They criticise others, but don’t want to be criticised. They are worse than Buhari and his Buharists.

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.