Peter Obi: Social media support for LP candidate unsettles presidential aspirants
Since last week when the news broke on the defection of former Anambra State governor, Mr Peter Obi from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the Labour Party, LP, there has been growing support for the former bank chairman, with a lot of support across social media platforms.
First was that in Anambra State where Obi pulled out of the PDP, after a glaring plan to frustrate his effort to clinch the party’s ticket for the presidential election, many members of the party also dumped the party, including its bigwig politicians, its aspirants and very many supporters, all running to the Labour Party, for the simple reason that Obi has moved on.
Upon the news of Obi’s resignation, what one can describe as mass resignation hit the party, with Mr Valentine Ozigbo, PDP’s governorship candidate in the November 2021 governorship election in Anambra, who is running for Senate, withdrawing from the race, but failing to announce his resignation from the party. Apart from Ozigbo’s withdrawal, Hon Valentine Ayika, Hon Tony Nwoye and Hon George Ozodinobi, all former members of the National Assembly are among those who also withdrew from their aspiration and resigned from the party.
As at then, a source within Anambra PDP, however, said that more prominent politicians in the State will still dump PDP in the coming days. The source said it was in anger that Peter Obi left the party, as Uba and others were working to humiliate him in the State, even as he battled his fellow presidential aspirants.
“More people will leave before the end of this week. It is true that PDP in Nigeria has problems, but the problem of Anambra PDP is far more than that of the national. It is still the reason they have not held a primary election for any position, till today. The plot is for all Obi’s line up to move en mass, and join the Labour Party, from where they will give PDP a fight,” the source said.
Exactly as predicted, more people are still leaving the PDP for the Labour Party, but the worry is now not only that of the PDP, but has spread to the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and all who have interest in the coming election.
Currently, one can say that if online support can win presidential elections in Nigeria, Mr Peter Obi is already comfortably coasting to victory in the 2023 presidential election.
For example, on all social media platforms in the country, there have been all manner of support for Obi by Nigerians who believe he is the best man for the job. There have been comedy skits, political posts by ordinary Nigerians who have shown support for the former governor. Among them are social media posts, which have stated that even if Peter Obi joins ‘end of the year party’, ‘end of discussion party’, ‘party after party’, they would still vote for him.
Such cult followership is enough to send jitters down the spine of any other political party, especially as during the first 48 hours of his defection to LP, the server of the party’s website was reported to have broken down as a result of huge traffic, as people registered to become members of the political party.
There have, however, been varying views on the followership Obi is gaining on the internet, as some people have stated that following on social media may not translate to physical votes during the election. But a rights activist, Ejike Mba, who spoke to our correspondent is of the view that it is from forming opinions on social media that people build the determination about where to vote.
He also stated that such open declaration for Obi on social media may also influence people who do not have a stand yet, while also stating that there is absolutely no truth in the insinuation that social media votes do not transform to physical votes for candidates.
He said, “If you ask me, the best thing that has happened this year is the acceptance of Mr Peter Obi to run for president, and as if that is not enough, he quietly exited the PDP and moved to a less known party when it became obvious that PDP was bent on frustrating him. I’m a supporter of Peter Obi, and there is no way people can tell me that the kind of cult following he is enjoying today can not translate to positive support during the election.
“Let me tell you, the people that are not happy are people that are in the ruling political party, APC. If you are someone who uses Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or even WhatsApp, you will see the kind of comment people are making about the personality of Obi. In 2015, APC and it’s candidate, Muhammadu Buhari had the same kind of acceptance in the social media, but the only difference was that while the APC and their propaganda arm induced people to make post that were positive about Buhari, the case of Peter Obi is that after visiting a lot of places on the platform of the PDP and also presenting his case and arguing in television shows, people today see him as the man who cuts the shape of the kind of president that can bring hope to this country.
“Have you not seen Peter Obi being mobbed at airports and other public places? Don’t you see the kind of support people are showing to him? The good thing is that unlike the APC, which stage-managed the kind of Buhari they wanted us to believe in, especially through social media influencers who they paid, the case of Obi is that genuinely, people are making positive videos, comments and posts about him because they are convinced about what they want.”
Speaking on the possibility of Obi’s support base which is the youth staying with him through the election, a journalist, Mrs Ify Nzebo said: “Most of the fight is for Obi to fight. Just like people have been saying ‘there is no polling unit in social media’, I still believe that with all the campaigns, people are more politically aware today than they were in 2015 and in 2019. A lot of people have realized the power of the PVC, and they are going all out for it.
“I’m sure the youths will come out enmasse to vote for Obi as they have also been supporting him, but what I’m definitely not sure of is that any of those youths will want to stay behind and protect their votes as they usually say. As for coming out to vote, people will vote Obi enmasse, but if in the case opposition political party decides to use violent thugs to rig the election, most of the youths will rather want to be safe. Thankfully, from what we have heard, the new Electoral Act may not permit such use of violence to rig elections this time.”
On the willingness of the north to relinquish power, Mba said: “Many people have been talking about the willingness of the northern oligarchs to cede power to the south, and they too have shown it that they are not willing. That is why after eight years of two tenure, the north is still not willing to have power zoned to the south. PDP has also confirmed it by electing Atiku Abubakar as their candidate, making Peter Obi’s exit from the party a very good move.
“But one thing I know is that, this could be the very opportunity for the real Nigerian people to choose their own president, irrespective of the options placed before them by a cabal. I’m already sure that the APC will also elect a northerner as candidate, but it is up to the voting public to choose who to vote for. Already, Peter Obi is sitting pretty because this will be the first time that someone outside the two big parties is posing a threat to the big parties, and also being positively believed to have the chance to win.”