Since former Anambra state Gov. Mr Peter Obi was nominated the running mate of the 2019 PDP Presidential standard-bearer, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, so much meaningless noise is spurred by his candidature. What is more worrisome is the exhumation or somewhat re-appraisal of his eight years tenure as Governor as imagined stamp of his splendour.
Also, Obi’s admirers feel he is unblemished and spotless. So, there is the desperate attempts to equate the administration of Nigeria, with Obi’s governing of his state. Irrationally, Obi’s whatever perceived perfection as Governor is lifted and imposed wholesale as his anticipated success in leadership of Nigeria if his party ever wins the presidential ballot at all.
Obi’s acolytes foist a provoking angelic portrait on him from this conviction. But it is far from the truth. While serving as Anambra Governor, Obi exhibited the known and cherished arbitrariness peculiar to some Nigerian leaders. The idea of painting him with saintly sentiments is therefore extremely faulty.
Therefore, it was not out of context for Kaduna state Governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai to punch at one of his numerous innate flaws, when he branded Peter Obi a tribal bigot. It understandably provoked the ire of his minions but did not necessarily obliterate the truth.
Gov. el-Rufai twitted on Friday, November 9, 2018, that former Governor Peter Obi surprisingly justified on national media his detention by the SSS in a hotel for 48 hours in 2014 under the pretext that ”El-Rufai has no business being in Anambra State as it is not Katsina State!”
And trust el-Rufai who leaves nothing to chance. He sued the SSS for unlawful detention and got awarded N4 million damages. The aftermath justification of the act by Peter Obi was irrelevant.
But it chills to the marrow that a leader of Peter Obi’s status failed to see the unlawful infringement on the fundamental human right of a Nigerian, evident in unlawful restriction of freedom. Obi never saw it a nightmare on the victim simply because he (Obi) subscribes to the theory of ethnic supremacy, to say the least, unfortunate.
So, what completely tainted Obi’s nationalistic posture and rubbished his reputation was the conspicuous imputation of a clannish slant as reflected in the phrase that Anambra state is not Katsina State. It betrayed Obi intention and why he swore never to appreciate el-Rufai’s plight over the unlawful incarceration.
If Gov. el-Rufai is presumed to have committed an offence, he is solely answerable to it, as prescribed by Nigerian laws. It does not extend to any member of his ancestral lineage or make them complicit. One can imagine what Peter Obi had on his mind when he mouthed this negative profiling of an entire state or tribe on account of his hatred of one person from the region. He demonized the people of Katsina state and probably, the entire North to satisfy his tribalistic ego.
Nigerians hate to be reminded of their sordid past and unpardonable blunders. Whatever interpretation or perception of Gov. el-Rufai nursed by Obi in this instance had antecedents. It only manifested on a prominent figure like el-Rufai to fascinate national attention. Obi’s intolerance of Northerners, especially, the Hausa/Fulani folks is legendary.
As serving Governor of Anambra State, Mr Peter Obi allegedly made life hellish for the Hausa community in his state. The mosque at Onitsha was allegedly demolished on his orders and when the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III came visiting, he also snubbed him.
Obi’s draconian measures against Northerners, and ethnic bias in the Onitsha bridge head clean-up, where Hausa petty traders were targeted, forced them out of the state en masse. He knows himself as an unrepentant ethnic bigot.
Today, faced with the reality of a playback of the wretched events and payback time for yesterday’s wrong steps, Peter Obi impulsively denies everything. But when you recall his stereotyping of the Northerners in the Gov. el- Rufai’s illegal detention by the SSS, his compulsive denials are merely remedial and have failed to blend.
These actions and pronouncements’ have sold Obi out as an ethnic xenophobe, who is trapped by his own foibles. It is not enough for Peter Obi to list his security aides who were Northerners, but recline from reeling out statistics of how he patronized or empowered the Hausa community in his state, he is claiming love belatedly.
Elsewhere in the North, Igbos are patronized with appointments as coveted as Senior Special Assistants to the Governor, in addition to numerous multi-million contracts. Could it have been a bad idea for Obi to replicate the same in his state?
And Northerners are not the only victims of Obi’s apartheid proclivity. As a staunch Roman Catholic faithful, Obi sees other Christians outside of the catholic fold as sinners and lesser worshippers of God Almighty.
Therefore, if today Gov. el-Rufai screams that Peter Obi is a tribal bigot, it can only be properly understood in the context of his perception of non-tribes while in Government House, Awka. It is a sharp contrast with what Gov. el-Rufai does with non-tribes domiciled in Kaduna state. He is not doing it because of the possibility of today probing Peter Obi.
He has engaged many contractors from other states, who are working for the state. Under el-Rufai, Kaduna state has non- indigenes in the holding key political appointments. But on the contrary, Obi has no such records of service to flaunt in public space when he served his tenure as Governor.
This penchant of Gov. el- Rufai has other historical examples. When he served as the FCT Minister, he never discriminated against any ethnic group but fairly engaged all ethnicities to work for the collective development of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
Peter Obi is devoid of such nationalistic tendencies. And it has been part of his life. Obi forgets easily that his chains of businesses are exclusively administered by his kinsmen, but he gets patronage from all Nigerians to stay afloat.
So, morality places a duty on him to reciprocate by patronizing other ethnic groups too. But it is innately embedded in Obi’s consciousness to despise and derogate other ethnicities in Nigeria.
Obi is a poor example of the emerging political leadership elite from the Southeast region. And to think he hails from Anambra, a state which has produced great Nigerian nationalists and stands as the cradle of Igbo identity is shameful enough.
The PDP Presidential running mate is advised to pick a cue from the likes of Gov.el-Rufai who are the younger generation of emerging leaders from the North groomed by President Muhammadu Buhari. The President has never ceased drumming it into their ears to see all Nigerians as their constituency, which should reflect in both official conduct and private lives.
For Atiku to have found favour in Peter Obi, ignoring both southeast political and traditional leadership is an indication that they are in perfect accord on this score. It’s obvious that if leaders like Atiku/Obi with such bias idiosyncrasies’ rise to the pinnacle of Nigeria’s leadership, it beckons to unmitigated disaster. Everyone must fear for the kind of country Obi and Atiku intends to build.
The pair of Atiku/Obi know the lapses of their candidature on the discriminatory tendencies they have sustained over the years. And it’s clear, the ticket is being haunted by this ghost of intolerant disposition to others, which explains their constant sermons, on the imaginary division of Nigeria under the Buhari Presidency.
But if they have failed to chain their bigoted convictions at the lower rungs of leadership, is it possible to effect same on the larger Nigeria? Nigeria must rise up to defend their country against ethnic champions, who are stealthily plotting to snatch and destroy their unity and oneness.
Molokwu is a public affairs commentator based in Lagos.
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