By Nnanke Harry Willie
The Peter Obi brand has been having a fairy-tale boost since the beginning of the current election cycle. Now fondly referred to as PO, the Obi brand is facing a litmus test as to whether it can transpose its formidable online persona into the real world where it really matters.
His genial, likeable personality notwithstanding, Peter Obi is regarded by critics as a successful entrepreneur and fantastic manager but a poor politician. They point to his loss of relevance in APGA after his term as Anambra Governor and his being sidelined in the PDP in the contest for the presidential ticket earlier in the year as reasons Obi may not have what it takes to use an otherwise fringe party like Labour Party to actualize his presidential ambitions.
Critics also say that Obi will lose the presidential race because he has no structure. Conventional electioneering principles will actually agree completely with the dismissive stance of the critics. Obi and his supporters have however insisted that ‘the people’ are his structure. In truth, it portends grave danger for the Obi brand if he has not started working assiduously on laying the foundations for a successful presidential run by having ‘legs-on-the-ground’ in the 774 local government areas in Nigeria. An anonymous and amorphous ‘people’ will certainly not cut it. They need to be properly harnessed, tooled up, organized and strategically deployed to deliver the votes.
Incidentally, Obi doesn’t need to look too far. The Labour Party is actually a ‘blood relation’ of Nigeria’s labour movement and it has members all across the country. The camp needs to mobilise all organs of the Labour Party and organized Labour to achieve his presidential dreams. The camp also needs to create cells and platforms along clusters, towns, local government areas and state lines; deploying a hybrid of virtual and physical connections. The mantra should be ‘being Obidient is good but being Obicentric is better’.
Obi would need an effective strategy and plan for messaging, attraction, conversion and retention that will ensure that the Obi brand and what it represents is broken down for the mass of voters in every inch of the Nigerian political space. Anything less will mean that he is indeed building his campaign on quicksand, not a solid foundation (or structure) as alluded to by critics.
Obi has enjoyed quick wins with the youth with his message of cutting down wastages and leakages from governance and using his successful application of those principles as Governor of Anambra State. His new message of “Consumption to Production” resonates well with discerning Nigerians. His media team has done a great job of pushing out old and recent videos on social media where Peter Obi is captured in his elements talking about his positive transformational records in Anambra and proferring solutions to current Nigerian challenges. The next stage is to give snippets of how he will handle specific sectors and issues.
Peter Obi’s demeanour, carriage and delivery are some of his positive attributes but the videos and other positive social media materials that have inundated the virtual world are not enough. Obi will do well too, however, either avoid his tendency to reel out figures to illustrate his points or he should go around with relevant notes and aide memoir containing such figures and relevant information. Cramming up and reeling out all those figures will not win him any prizes. Too many times, critics have claimed to have fact-checked those figures and claimed that they were wrong. This has led to other camps starting off the caustic “#ObiTooDeyLie” riposte.
To be fair, the vast majority of enlightened Nigerian youth have adopted Peter Obi as their candidate, leading to an avalanche of prospective voters overwhelming INEC across the country for months. The Obi camp must push INEC to ensure that all new registrants receive their Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs) in good time for the elections. Without a doubt, as much as 75% of those new registrants are rooting for Obi. The camp must fight against voter-suppression activities at every stage: registration; PVC collections; uncompromised registers; election day violent suppression by political thugs as well as vote-buying and post-election rigging. It must be some people’s job to be on top of all of these across the country.
Obi has been doing well to meet the ‘Power Brokers’ in the country, even meeting with leading figures in the other political parties. This is very good. However, Obi should by now be grooming an effective pool of surrogates within the Labour Party and in his campaign team. Doyin Okupe, launched himself very well into the job at the start of the primaries but Obi needs many more and they must all be on message at all times. Luckily Obi also has a suave and intelligent running mate (Datti Baba-Ahmed) who is bringing tremendous value to the ticket and he has been weighing in occasionally on topical issues.
Financing a successful campaign is herculean, apart from the grants given by INEC, a lot more needs to be generated to take care of the necessary and basic needs of everyone, including volunteers’ logistics from the national down to the states’ level. This could be too much even for a billionaire. The Obidients have been calling for approval for a GoFundMe account. It would actually be interesting and indeed necessary for Obi’s camp to chart this untested course. Obi must allow his followers to give ‘Shishi’ to their cause.
There have been concerns about Obi’s security. It is absolutely not misplaced. Obi is the symbol of what promises to be a revolution in the Nigerian political landscape. The youth want to take charge and take their place at the Nigerian table. They want a new path which could lead to the retirement of a generation of older politicians. They need a new set of ethos and values to drive the positive transformation of Nigeria. They want to take back Nigeria and put their future into their own hands. Obi seems to encapsulate all these and more for them, but those who have benefited from the old system will do everything to maintain the status quo. It is feared that they could try to remove Obi from the equation by hook or crook. Peter Obi’s camp really needs to take his security very seriously.
Let me leave it here for now.
Nnanke Harry Willie is the Audacious Brand Champion