Columns & Opinion

Obi-pendence and its Democratic Implications By Tony Osakpamwan Agbons

In the article, “Nigeria: Colonization” published in 2009, Katie Graham wrote, “Nigeria was colonized by the British. In 1884 at the Berlin conference (where the Scramble and Partition of Africa by European powers took place) the British targeted Nigeria because of its resources. The British wanted products like palm oil and palm kernel and export trade in tin, cotton, cocoa, groundnuts, and so on”. The British accomplished the colonization by using its military. Although there was strong resistance from natives against the British, it was all crushed by the British. As a result, the trading post at the Niger River was created and the British economic rule was maintained over the colonies exploiting Nigerians. The Harvard University blog, Religion and Public Life, in an article titled, The Colonial Era 1882-1960 stated inter alia, “British colonialism began under the pretence of policing the slave trade. Britain outlawed slavery in 1807 and pushed for forms of “legitimate commerce” such as palm oil and cotton, and in so doing developed an internal infrastructure to facilitate these markets.”

According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, to prevent any united opposition to its authority, the British adopted a divide-and-rule policy, keeping Nigerian groups separate from one another as much as possible. Traditional authorities were co-opted in the north. In the south the British occasionally created a political hierarchy where there had been none before; in most cases they ruled through those who were most malleable, whether these people had held traditional positions of authority or not. Sir Fredrick Lugard set out the principles of the administrative system known as “indirect rule” except in the east where “direct rule” was in place. Essentially, local government was left in the hands of the traditional chiefs, subject to the guidance of European officers. Native institutions were utilized and interference with local customs kept to a minimum.

It was therefore with pomp and pageantry that Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief when the Oyinbo colonial masters handed over power back to Nigerians. Prime Minister Sir Tafawa Balewa took the reins of leadership and Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe became the ceremonial President of the country on 1st October 1960. In the last 62 years, the sacred first day of the 10th month of the year is celebrated by Nigerians. The day reminds us of the beginning of our nationhood and liberty from the British colonial masters who held sway as Lord Spiritual and Temporal’ for over a hundred years. The 62nd edition of Nigerias independence however took a different turn in the year, 2022. Instead of the usual speeches and goodwill messages from political leaders (rulers) at all levels to the citizens, it was the citizens this time sending a strong message to the political class/elite. The message was clear from North to South. The 2023 elections is not going to be business as usual. The Nigerian people are ready to take the destiny of our country in their own hands. Enough is Enough!

Yes, we got independence from the British masters 62 years ago. However, what the mass of the Nigerian people said by the ‘show of force’ with the rallies across the nation on 1st October 2022 was simple and clear. Now is the time for Obi-pendence from the wicked, satanic hawks who have held Nigerians down by the jugulars in the last six decades and especially in the last 7 years. Early this year, February 2022, to be precise, I penned a piece titled, The Symphony of Democratic Immorality. I alluded to the apathy of Nigerians to the political and democratic process. In that piece, my summation was that Nigerians must come together irrespective of political party affiliation and send the current crop of wicked, inhuman politicians to oblivion using their PVC and the instrumentality of the ballot box. The piece highlighted that politics is a game of numbers and we the people need to take active part in the political process. The write up went further to admonish Nigerians; “As a people let us stop the blame game, ranting and complaints over a problem we can easily solve collectively. No doubt about it, politics can be a dirty game, but in politics, lies the salvation of our shared nationhood. It is often said, “After God, the next most powerful force is Government”.

It is eight months since that publication, and we can see that the dynamics of Nigeria’s politics and political temperature has changed. Alas, the Nigerian people are awoke! There is a new vibe in town. The political vibration has come with a new lexicon. It is now a popular word on the lips of Nigerians. OBIDIENT is the new catchphrase across the length and breadth of Nigeria. There are several variants of the word. OBIdiently, Obidiency, Obi-ism, Obicracracy, Obi-volution, to mention but a few. Nigerians now exchange pleasantries with, I greet you OBIdiently! and folks ask themselves, “Are you OBIdient?”. No doubt, it was the Obidient effect that caused the astronomical surge in the recent new permanent voters’ card, PVC registration exercise which ended in July 2022. Many Nigerians who had vowed not to have anything to do with politics and voting made a U-turn. What then are the unique characteristics and implications of the Obi-pendence mega rallies that has enveloped Nigeria? What are the implications in the dynamics of our political firmament come the 2023 presidential elections? Is the much talked about 3rd force finally upon us?

The Obi-pendence rallies has unique characteristics. It was organic, and people driven. The crowd was not rented, nobody was coerced or forced to join, and no one was paid a dime (shishi) to join the rallies. The political establishment – APC, PDP are right now scared to their teeth. They are feeling jittery down their spine and wondering how a structureless (in their mind calculation), group of only 4 people in a room are gathering momentum of this magnitude across the land effortlessly without shishi. The bravado, confido, and creativity with which Obidients are churning out messages on both social media and on the ground is breath-taking. The Obi-pendence rallies were driven by a critical mass of Nigerian middle class, youths, professionals, students, artisans, market women/men, social media influencers, amongst others. The middle class and the youths especially who have been non-challant to politics have thrown their hats in the ring. They are sick and tired of the status quo and want a change for a better life. They (this group of Nigerians) have got the engine to take back our country from the clutch of the current political hawks bleeding and feasting on our commonwealth. The old, recycled politicians are in for a rude awakening. They are in for a seismic shock come February 2023. A political tsunami awaits them.

The implications of the Obi-pendence rallies in our democratic space is going to be sweeping. In the Obi-Datti ticket, Nigerians see Patrons of the National Association of Stinginess. These men are frugal, and prudent in resource management. They are both allergic to reckless spending of our collective patrimony. Stinginess is engraved in their DNA. Under their watch, no kobo will fall, and they will not give ‘shishi’. Since Obi-Datti will not take from the Treasury, nobody will take from the Treasury. Since they will not waste, nobody can waste. Obi-Datti will do this by creating and entrenching a system that blocks leakages and sleaze. The unique selling proposition, USP of the Obi-Datti combo is their simplicity, antecedents, track record of public service, honesty, transparency, integrity, sense of purpose, and seamless connectivity to the ordinary people. We can all see it. We can all feel it.

In Obi-Datti, the average Nigerian sees himself and one of their own. Although financially endowed, Obi-Datti speaks the simple language of the ordinary people. They can feel the pains of millions of Nigerians living in abject poverty. Everyday Nigerians can relate to Obi-Datti. Nigerians believe them and can feel them. Their campaign mantra of; “to move our country from a consumption to a production nation” is a symphony that resonates in our ears. The Obi-pendence rallies have rekindled new vibe. vigour, belief and hope to our politics. It is something that has not happened before and a new experience for the citizens of this republic. Nigerians can dream again. The apathy we showed in the past to politics has evaporated. We the Nigerian people are ready to distil our civic responsibility from every democratic contaminant previously resident in our molecular flora.

We are primed and well positioned to take back our country. We are however not naive to think it is yet Uhuru. Yes, the Obi-pendence rallies were hugely successful, but the Obidient movement is not taking its eyes off the ball. We will not rest on our oars until the Obi-Datti ship docks at destination Aso Rock, Abuja. If you desire a better Nigeria for yourself, your children and generation yet unborn, make sure you collect your PVC at the designated INEC local government collection centres. Our PVC is the lethal weapon we need to free ourselves from the poverty, corruption, insecurity, unemployment, bad governance, hunger, frustration, and depression in our country. Like the struggle for independence from the colonial masters in 1960, Nigeria must be freed from the grip and shackles of corrupt, self-serving politicians pressing down its neck. Obi-pendence is certainly the way to go in 2023. A New Nigeria is Possible ipso facto!

Dr Agbons is founder of the Institute of Good Governance

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