The Obidient movement has awakened the consciousness of a generation of young Nigerians who see hope in Peter Obi’s candidacy for the Nigerian presidency. The movement will outlive the election regardless of the result, writes Augustine B. Aboh and Obasesam Okoi.
On 11 February 2023, teenager Yusuf Alami stood in front of a car carrying Labour Party presidential candidate Peter Obi with his arms outstretched as the candidate smiled at him through the car’s sunroof. The photo went viral as a symbol of the love Obi’s supporters have for their candidate. That day, Yusuf was among thousands of enthused young people who flooded the streets of Lagos chanting political slogans of hope, resilience, and inspiration. They, like many others, believe that Peter Obi’s candidacy heralds the dawn of a new Nigeria.
In the past ten years, Nigeria has suffered enormous economic hardship and numerous security threats which have created a mood of national despondency. Peter Obi’s candidacy for president is a reaction to that mood and dissatisfaction with the major political parties and is reshaping the nation’s political landscape.
Peter Obi is the former governor of Anambra and previously had a career in banking. His campaign emphasises visionary and accountable leadership as essential for fostering an environment of creativity and innovation to encourage national productivity. He espouses values such as transparency, accountability, and respect for diversity. He also actively encourages young Nigerians to become participants in the political process.
Ahead of Saturday’s election, Nigerians are dissatisfied with the traditional ruling parties due to growing concerns about corruption, insecurity, and poor economic performance. Political leaders from both parties have been implicated in high corruption scandals while the country’s corruption ranking has worsened. While the economy struggles to recover, soaring prices, unemployment, and inflation are having dramatic consequences for Nigerians across the country.
Yusuf Alami’s actions encapsulate the aspirations of a deprived, battered, and oppressed generation who see a glimmer of hope in Peter Obi’s governance philosophy and whose platform has incontrovertibly reawakened the political consciousness of young Nigerians.
The 2023 presidential election will help shape the path to social reconstruction or create the conditions for a descent into chaos. As Damon Wilson, president of the National Endowment for Democracy, noted transformation in Nigeria “matters and can have a real impact on the development of democracy in West Africa, across Africa, and around the world”.
Whatever the result, the election will go down in the annals of Nigeria’s political history as one of the country’s most keenly contested. When people look back on it, they will focus on Peter Obi’s defection from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the Labor Party in May 2022. Under Obi, the party swiftly emerged as the third political force riding the wave of its army of youthful social media supporters and the creation of the Obidient movement. This political movement has, over the past few months, not only unsettled the two dominant parties—the PDP and the All Progressive Congress (APC)—but has also engineered an unprecedented upsurge in voter registration. Nearly 10 million people have registered as voters for the first time, 84 per cent of whom are under 35 years old.
The Obidient movement organised massive nationwide rallies prior to the political campaign window to raise awareness and increase political education. The movement constituted itself into a powerful political force that raised the stakes dramatically through its campaign for democratic change. The latest polls suggest the balance of power may be shifting even in states the PDP and APC consider their strongholds.
The Obidient movement has reawakened national consciousness to the failings of governance, while simultaneously reviving the hopes of Nigerians, particularly the youth, in the possibility of political change. According to Ebenezer Obadare at the Council for Foreign Relations: “Whether he wins the presidency or not, Peter Obi has already changed the course of Nigerian politics for good”.
A new wave of consciousness
One of the legacies of the Obidient movement is the new wave of consciousness spreading across Nigeria that has increased youth participation in politics. Nigeria’s youth had previously lost trust in an electoral process they perceive as marred with corruption. The Obidient movement has, through its campaign for a better Nigeria, revived their interest in political participation.
Young Nigerians have shaken off their complacency and are demonstrating their unwillingness to accept another round of political failings. The movement’s political mantra, “a new Nigeria is possible”, has been a rallying call for Nigeria’s newly politically conscious youth. It is not surprising that the youth who are primarily driven by their admiration and fealty to Obi are also united by their disgust with the country’s failing leadership and the hope that their votes can contribute to the process of birthing a new Nigeria.
Regardless of whether the Obidient movement translates into electoral victory or not, it has been successful in inspiring a generation to be politically conscious. That is a great victory for Nigeria’s democracy.
Photo credit: Wikimedia used with permission CC BY-SA 4.0