A Tale of Two Men and the Burden of Conscience

By Jude Atupulazi

One is supposed to be the beloved of Nigerians; reason why he was ”voted” in as the president of the country. The other is not supposed to be loved, having finished a ”distant third” in the Presidential Election. But what I do not understand is why every time the other man who came third goes anywhere, crowds of people jostle to hug, touch or have pictures with him.

He does not even have any retinue of security aides dogging his steps or milling around him. He is as free as air and is at home with his people, especially none partisan people, including kids. But the other one who is supposed to be enjoying the goodwill of Nigerians is screened out from the people.

No one gets near him because he is seemingly afraid of his own shadow. He is always surrounded and serenaded by armed security personnel. This was also the case even before the election, in case you want to argue that he is now the president and deserves security.

The day he was declared the winner of the presidential election, was like a day of mourning for Nigerians. If any sounds were heard on the streets, they were the sounds of sorrow such as sighs and groans. When the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal upheld his declaration by INEC as the winner of the presidential poll, Nigerians were sadder still. Not a whimper was heard on the streets of the country from Sokoto to Mgbidi.

What followed the final judgement given by the Supreme Court, only but confirmed the disenchantment of Nigerians with what had been playing out since the initial declaration of Tinubu by INEC as the winner of that election.

The scenario we have now reminds me, first, of the scenario in 1983 after the then National Party of Nigeria, NPN, contrived to rob Jim Nwobodo of the popular Nigerian People’s Party, NPP, of his victory in the Guber Election of the then Old Anambra State. After that election and while the matter was in court, Chief Christian Onoh, the man declared winner by the electoral umpire, was literally booed any time he appeared in public, while, conversely, Nwobodo was hailed wherever he was seen.

Another similar scenario played out in the New Anambra State after the 2003 Guber Election which saw the then ruling party at the centre, People’s Democratic Party, PDP, rigging in Dr Chris Ngige against Peter Obi who won the election with a landslide.

Ngige was booed in the early days before he was seen to be doing well by the same public later and who started hailing him as the Messiah. At a point, many forgot that Obi was still in court. But in those early days, while Ngige was booed, Obi was hailed anywhere he was spotted.

Jump ahead to 2023 and it’s same scenario all over again. Obi who ran on the platform of the Labour Party, LP, was and is generally seen as the winner of that election but INEC contrived to place him in the third position, while Bola Ahmed Tinubu who was/is believed to be the one that came third, was placed first. But any public outing by both men will quickly reveal who won. It also reveals that the people know whom they voted for.

Across the various cities of Nigeria, all Obi needs to do is to pop up there and pandemonium will ensue as everybody will be part of the mad rush to come within touching distance of him. This makes one wonder how Nigerians would have reacted if Obi had been declared the rightful winner of the last Presidential Election.

Just the other day, the occasion that gave rise to this piece, Obi was at Nsukka in Enugu State to visit a school. The way the students erupted in wild jubilation when they saw him was a sight to behold. One of the pictures which I have included in this story said it all. Schoolchildren struggled, shoved and strove to touch Obi who was swallowed up in their midst. The smiles on Obi’s face showed a man at home with his people. There was no single security personnel in sight and there was no question of Obi being afraid.

Even when he was the governor of Anambra State, he often went into crowds of people without his security aides. He always seemed oblivious to fear, leaving those in charge of his security to be the ones fearing.

Although the 2023 Elections have come and gone, with losers and winners announced, it is easy to think that Obi is the winner of the presidential poll the way he smiles at and mixes with the people who always go gaga on seeing him. Conversely, Tinubu, the supposed winner of that election, has been carrying on as if he was the one declared third. This goes to show that no one can lie to himself; for, despite all the braggadocio one’s conscience will always tell one the truth.

The ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, can pretend all they can, make all the noise they can and threaten others any way they can, they know deep down that Nigerians roundly rejected them and the reason was very simple.

Who, apart from political appointees, would have voted for APC after what the party and Muhammadu Buhari did to Nigerians? Who among those states ravaged by killer herdsmen would have voted for a party under which government no single arrest was made of those who killed them? Who was that Nigerian who suffered untold hardship under Buhari, would have wanted APC back under any guise? But here is APC telling us that the long suffering masses of Nigeria so much loved them that they voted for hardship to continue, for cluelessness to continue and for corruption and disdain for the rule of law to go on unabated.

But the people’s mandate was thwarted and the bitter pill that is APC forced down the throats of the Nigerian masses. This is no thanks to the corrupt INEC and the more corrupt judiciary. Today, the people in Aso Rock are living in pretence and going about as though nothing happened. But Nigerians will not forget what happened, least of all the little children, the market women and the poorest of the poor. That is why they will always go gaga, whenever they see the man they voted for who is Peter Obi.

For sure, Obi has become the open conscience of the nation, the man on whose mention of his name APC will go into a silent fit while putting up a false bravado. They laugh outwardly but cringe inwardly. Obi is sleeping easy and seemingly having the fun of his life. Just have another look at the picture above where he is in the midst of schoolchildren and look at the picture of the man they say is your president and draw your own conclusions.