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(COVER) Peter Obi, Biggest Winner of 2023 Elections

Powered by Peter Obi and the Obidient Movement, the Labour Party is the giant killer in the 2023 general election, writes Akani Alaka.


Labour Party or more appropriately, Peter Obi proved analysts who had predicted that the 2023 election will be different from all the ones that have been conducted in the country since 1999 right. Obi contested as running mate to former vice president Atiku Abubakar under the platform of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP in the 2019 general election. But he pulled out of the contest for the 2023 presidential ticket a few days before the primary to join the Labour Party, a party that had before then only produced a few members of the state and national assembly members and a governor.
He emerged as the presidential candidate of his new party on 30 May 2022. Many politicians, analysts, and members of the two leading parties had dismissed Obi’s presidential ambition, citing the fact that his new party did not have the structure necessary to win the election nationwide.
True, LP, unlike the other two major parties, did not have footsoldiers in form of governors, lawmakers, and other party chieftains that will help sell the ambition of Obi across the 176,846 polling units across Nigeria.
Obi, a former governor of Anambra State had tried to ally with former Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso led New Nigeria’s Peoples Party, NNPP to gain a foothold in the North to gain a foothold in Northern part of the country. However, the alliance failed.

The Allure Of Peter Obi

Nevertheless, Obi’s ambition gathered momentum with buy-in from a large segment of Nigerians who believe that he is quite different from the other politicians. Obi had earned the support of many with the narration of how he cut wastage and shunned ostentation and stealing of public funds as governor of Anambra State.
He had also spoken of his achievements as the governor of Anambra State including leaving the state without debts but with huge savings at the end of his tenure. Obi especially attracted the support of young, social media-savvy Nigerians, who tagged themselves ‘Obidients’ and took upon themselves the task of selling the candidacy of the Labour Party’s presidential candidate without collecting ‘shishi’. The Obidients thus became a structure for Obi, organizing rallies and processions across the country in his support. They also drove massive registration of youths to vote in the election.

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The LP’s presidential candidate also benefitted from the desire of the South-east part to produce Nigeria’s president as well as a revolt from Christians across the country against the Muslim-Muslim ticket by the APC. Obi had also embarked on a vigorous campaign across the country.
However, it became clear that Obi is a social media sensation when polls and surveys conducted by local and international organisations begin to put him ahead of Bola Tinubu of APC and Atiku Abubakar of PDP in the race for the successor of President Muhammadu Buhari.

The Powerful Third Force?

However, results of the February 25 presidential election as declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC showed Tinubu, the candidate of Nigeria’s ruling party, APC won with a total of 8,794,726 votes.
The candidate of PDP, Atiku Abubakar came second in the election with a total of 6,984,520 votes Obi came third with a total of 6,101,533 votes. While Tinubu won the election in Rivers, Borno, Jigawa, Zamfara, Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Niger, Ekiti, Ondo, Oyo, and Ogun states, Atiku was victorious in Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Kaduna, Gombe, Yobe, Bauchi, Adamawa, and Taraba states. He also won in Osun, Akwa Ibom, and Bayelsa states. On the other hand, Obi won in Edo, Cross River, Delta, Lagos, FCT, Plateau, Imo, Ebonyi, Nasarawa, Anambra, Abia, and Enugu states. In effect, while the PDP and APC won in 12 states, Obi won in 11 states and the FCT. But even more significantly, Obi defeated the APC in Lagos, the first time an opposition party will be winning in the state winning since 1999.
He also defeated the PDP across the South-east states where the party had consistently won the presidential election since 1999. Outside of the five states of the South-east, Obi also won in Edo, Cross River, Delta, and the FCT.

To The Tribunal

However, Obi rejected the result, insisting that he won the election. Speaking about 24 hours after Tinubu was declared the winner, an emotional Obi said he would challenge the results of the election in court.
“Let me reassure the good people of Nigeria that we will explore all legal and peaceful options to reclaim our mandate. We won the election and I will prove it to Nigerians,’’ he said while noting that he believed the process through which people come into any position was more important than what they do (in office) thereafter.
True to this assertion, Obi has filed a petition against the election. In the petition, he prayed the court to either declare him the winner of the election or order a fresh election, in which Tinubu would be excluded from participating.

Giant Killers

However, regardless of the outcome of the petition, analysts said Obi has already emerged as the biggest winner in the election. For one, he changed the tone of the campaign with the different candidates being forced to discuss issues and engage more with the electorate in the election cycle.

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Aside from the over six million votes he recorded in the election, his party also won in Lagos, Nasarawa, Plateau, Delta, and Edo states where there were sitting governors of the APC or the PDP. The Labour Party also swept the entire five South-east states under the control of APGA, PDP, or APC.
Though the party succeeded eventually in winning only the governorship seat in Abia in the March 18 election, the candidates of the party in Lagos and other Southeast states were the front runners.
Indeed, Gbadebo Rhodes Vivour and Edeoga, the candidates of the party in Lagos and Enugu had alleged foul play, vowing that they would challenge the outcomes of the gubernatorial election in court.
But it was in the National Assembly elections that the Labour Party proved a real giant killer with the displacement of entrenched PDP lawmakers across the country.
In Lagos, an ‘unknown’ Labour Party candidate, Thaddeus Attah stopped Jide Obanikoro, son of ex-minister and renowned Lagos politician from returning to the House of Representatives on the platform of Eti-Osa Federal Constituency. It also took Labour Party’s Ireti Kingibe to kick out Philip Aduda who has been in the National Assembly since 2003 as representative of the Federal Capital Territory.
In Delta State, Labour Party’s candidate, Ngozi Okolie stopped the bid by the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Ndudi Elumelu for a fifth term in the battle for Aniocha/Oshimili Federal Constituency of Delta State. Also, the Deputy Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha (APC) was stopped from returning to the House for a fifth term by Amobi Ogah of the Labour Party.
Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, was a three-time member of the House of Representatives before he was elected to govern Enugu State in 2015. He had hoped to return to the Senate through the Enugu North senatorial district at the end of his tenure on 29th May.
But he was stopped by Okey Ezea of the Labour Party. Also, the long stay of another former Enugu governor, Chimaroke Nnamani was ended by Kevin Chukwu of the Labour Party. Indeed, the Labour Party won every other National Assembly position in Enugu leaving only Enugu West Senatorial District won by Osita Ngwu and Nkanu East/West won by Nnolim Nnaji for the PDP.

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In the same vein, the Labour Party won two out of the three senatorial zones and almost all the House of Representatives seats in Anambra State.
The Labour Party’s blitzkrieg in Anambra led to the exit of senators Uche Ekwunife of (Anambra Central), and Stella Oduah (Anambra North) from the upper chamber of the National Assembly.
While Labour Party went into the 2023 election with many not giving it a chance, it emerged as a party that can no longer be ignored. Just like analysts had predicted the biggest loser to the strides of the Labour Party in the election was the PDP.
A combination of the votes of the PDP and Labour Party in the presidential election would have led to a massive defeat for the APC. When Atiku was asked before the election if Peter Obi was a threat to his ambition, he said, “I really don’t expect the Labour Party to take many votes from the PDP as people are speculating. They have no structure at all levels, with no governor and lawmakers. It will take a miracle for Labour Party with no structure in the grassroots to win the election.”
But Atiku confessed after the election that Obi took the votes that normally should have gone to him in the South-east, South-south, affirming that the PDP is open to allying with the Labour Party. But that offer may be coming too late.