The admiration for banker-turned-politician Peter Obi and his impact in the 2023 general elections has elevated the Labour Party, LP, to the third force in Nigeria.
Although the Labour Party, LP, presidential candidate was the second runner-up in the February 25 poll, Obi was arguably the most popular despite running against veterans with agelong ambition.
The impressive showing of the LP distorted a seeming established order where only two parties dominated presidential, governorship and state elections.
Obi’s followers have become the main opposition, with more Nigerians demanding leaders to be accountable, showing interest in politics, voting, and other national matters.
The wave charged millions to register and collect Permanent Voters Cards, PVCs, a commitment that made the LP perform well in 12 states, including those the ‘big parties’ dominated for years.
Obi’s victory in Lagos State confirmed residents preferred him to ‘landlord’ Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Tinubu was declared President-elect on March 1 after scoring 8,794,726 votes; Atiku got 6,984,520 votes, while Obi polled 6,101,533 votes. Opposition agents protested at the national collation centre in Abuja.
They cited over-voting, manipulation of results, Bimodal Voter Accreditation System malfunctioning, and the widespread violence condemned by local and international observers.
More than 90 million citizens were expected to vote at 176,846 polling units, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The Obi revolution, backed by youth-led ‘Obidients’ whom rivals characterise as ‘mob’, played to the advantage of LP candidates across the nation.
In Kaduna State, a commercial motorcyclist (Okada rider), Donatus Mathew was declared winner of the House of Representatives seat for Kaura federal constituency.
In the Eti-Osa federal constituency election in Lagos, LP’s Thaddeus Attah defeated PDP’s Bankole Wellington (Banky W), and Babjide Obanikoro of the APC.
In the Federal Capital Territory, Ireti Kingibe won the Senate seat, defeating PDP’s Philip Aduda. To put differently, a female politician retired Aduda, who remained unshaken even after the APC triumph in 2015 and 2019.
In Abia, a former bank chief Alex Otti is the Governor-elect, after failing under the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, in the last two general elections.
Furthermore, the LP now occupies eight senatorial and over 30 House of Representatives positions, meaning it would be the third in rank when the 10th National Assembly commences.
In Enugu, the LP lost the governorship election just by about 3,000 votes. Chijioke Edeoga, who is the party’s candidate, is now before the tribunal seeking justice over the alleged stolen mandate.
Going by the current form, the party is expected to benefit from defections while its flagbearers will be among the frontrunners in Anambra, Bayelsa, and Imo governorship elections.
Meanwhile, Obi is at the tribunal after rejecting the results, claiming he scored 25 percent of votes in at least 24 states, and that Tinubu was not qualified to run.
In an interview Sunday night, LP Presidential Campaign Organization spokesperson, Yunusa Tanko assured that the momentum would be sustained.
“We are the third force. The next thing is building a formidable team that will change the narrative. Nigerians should expect something different because the party is ideology-based,” he said.
On the case at the tribunal, the chieftain accused Tinubu of time-wasting, lamenting how difficult it was to serve him the court papers.
“They had been running from pillar to post to avoid being served but we have done that through the party and are ready for proceedings,”
However, Tinubu’s associates, including ex-Minister of State for Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro have cautioned the proponents of an interim national government.
At a Ramadan lecture in Agege, the former Ambassador to Ghana said those seeking cancellation of the May 29 inauguration were trying to turn the country into a banana republic.
“They are daydreaming. There is no perfect election anywhere in the world. For anyone that is not satisfied, what is next is to go through the judiciary,” he stated.
National Coordinator of South West Agenda for Asiwaju, SWAGA, Dayo Adeyeye equally condemned the calls for a temporary administration.
“Interim government will not happen. The results have been declared; we have a President-elect. Despite the Muslim-Muslim ticket, we were able to elect a leader. This election is the best since the return of democracy in 1999.
“The one conducted by Obasanjo in 2007 was the worst, Yar’Adua had to apologize. Nigeria has been moving out of the era of impunity. If people try to do voter suppression, you can’t blame INEC, blame politicians,” the ex-minister said.