B Afolabi Aribigbola
T he long anticipated 2023 general elections which many placed very high hope on have come and gone but left some surprises and unanticipated changes in patterns of voting and election outcomes. Surprisingly too, the elections brought out new tendency and a formidable movement that has been termed the third force, the ‘Obedients’ movement. The movement capitalizing on the gains of the EndSARS uprising of 2020 threw up serious challenges to the existing old order of conducting general elections in the country. The movement made notable significant impacts and in roads into areas exclusively reserved for some group of politicians in the past. For instance, their Presidential candidate defeated the eventual winner of the Presidential election in his home state and traditional stronghold of Lagos.
Unfortunately, the recent general election in the country like the previous ones have further revealed the hollowness, emptiness and lack of guiding principles and philosophy driving societal politics and change. It is crystal clear that majority of Nigerian politicians are out for what they can gain and not what they intend to contribute to the society. This is what explains the easiness by which politicians when they lose out in their present party will move to another one or will engage in inter party politics as witnessed by several politicians during the recent elections.
The Labour party and particularly the resurgence of the ‘Obedient’ movement in the political equation of Nigeria on the just concluded 2023 general elections seems to escalate political activities, tension and growing polarity between and among the regions, religions as well and the older and younger generations of Nigerians. The consequence has been to pitch them against each and escalate the existing tension, mistrust and gaps existing despite efforts that have been dissipated to bring the people together in the past. The new movement instigated intensified and more robust vociferous campaign in all parts of Nigeria. The movement that appeared like a colossus utilizing or relying on the formidable force of the youths as a fallout of the EndSARS crisis is an attempt to wipe out or swallow the existing political arrangement created to dominate and share political office among the elite and privileged people of the country to the detriment and exclusion of the majority of people of the country.
Since the emergence of the so-called Obedient movements and their escapades across the length and breadth of the country, I have been keenly observing and studying them as a novel development that has the potency, if faithfully and sincerely incubated and hatched, to change political activities and outcomes. I have pondered and mused over their emergence as a formidable group trying to shape and reshape the existing order of arrangement of political gladiators and occupants of political office that have hitherto been reserved for a select group of Nigerians. Essentially, one has been trying to fathom out what the movement represent and how it was able to regurgitate and shake the entire political landscape of the country in a very short period with serious efforts to dislodge those that claimed to be the owners of the country.
Thus, I tried to look more critically at the Obedient movements, their apologists, supporters as well as core supporters, to discern whether they are a different set of politicians from the existing fluid groups. Fluid in the sense that one can be in PDP toady, move to APC the next day and only to return to APC as demonstrated by the former Speaker of House of Representatives. They are for butter and bread politics without direction because of lack of principles and ideology. Where principles and ideology are important, such uncontrolled jumping from one political party to another is rare because they will not fit into the other group.
Indeed, many of the major political gladiators in Labour Party as we have it presently were dissidents or individuals that had lost out in exiting major political parties that are seeking relevance in other smaller parties that often times lack national spread. They may not in real sense subscribe to the principles and tendency of the Labour movement. For instance, the former and present Director General of Labour Party campaign organization were staunch members of the PDP. Also, the Presidential candidate of the Labour Party moved from APGA that provided the platform for him to be Governor of Anambra State from where he moved to the PDP and contested for the Vice President of the country before moving to the Labour Party. In addition, the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Candidates of Labour Party are big time property and business owners. They are therefore not likely going to subscribe or believe in proletariat movement or struggle. They just wear the toga of the proletariat to deceive the masses to earn their support.
Of course, I listened to Peter Obi on Arise television where he argued that the Obedient movement transcends Labour Party and that they are found elsewhere beyond the party. If truly they are found everywhere, what are the guiding principles and ideology? Are they together just for the purpose of seeking and obtaining political power or just to register their dissatisfaction with the existing system that seems not to have future plans for upcoming generations? Are they held together just because they are youths not minding the fact, they will soon become elders or senior citizens or they were bound together by the harsh economic reality which poverty has thrown on them by the ruling elite and their cohorts whose overwhelming goal and activity is to continue to amass wealth at the expense of the masses?
The present crop of the leadership of the Labour Party cannot be exonerated from the malady and socioeconomic crisis to which the ruling class has bestowed on Nigerians. Suffice it to opine that the Labour Party is not a product of any well thought principles and action plan to take Nigeria out of the doldrums that it has been taken to over the years The above indicate that the Obedient movement like other political groups in the country lacks definite ideology and specific directions as how to tackle the multivarious mounting problems confronting the country.
As a new and vibrant youths movement, one would have loved to see a new trend of activism devoid of regional, religious and sectional colorations designed towards changing the hitherto squared political system that allocates overwhelming resources to the few select ruling class at the expense of majority wallowing in poverty to a more humane system that will ensure better equitable distribution of the national resources. The emerging obedient movement seems not to be concerned with this humongous problem. Rather, their overall concern has been to remove the old politicians and replace them with people in their fold. Afterall Peter Obi and his Vice-Presidential candidate and other gladiators in their fold were not just part of the old order, but were enriched, sharing the resources of the country. A notable successful trader like Peter Obi and property owner like his vice cannot be expected to change the old order of resource distribution in the country. They cannot liquidate a system that they are part and parcel and which produce them in the first instance easily.
Therefore, Nigerians and particularly youths, if desirous of safeguarding the country and their future, might need to look beyond the present movement that is deficient in principle and ideology necessary for socioeconomic transformation of Nigeria. Also, the movement is fast becoming a regional, religious and ethnic one that can no longer be relied upon to change the negative narratives of the country.