2023: Obi leads Tinubu, Atiku in fresh MTI poll
Obi, Tinubu, Atiku

By OBINNA EZUGWU

The Obidient rallies being embarked on by supporters of Mr. Peter Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party, has become the high point of pre-campaign period as the other major parties are making frantic efforts to truncate the rallies and the awareness and popularity they have brought the party.

Labour Party, from relative obscurity, has emerged, courtesy of its presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, as the poster boy for the quest for a new Nigeria; a departure from the status quo. But with the rave has also come a number of controversies, as many in the opposition camp continue to pick holes with what has become a threat to the country’s establishment.

A mass movement, supporters of the Labour Party and its presidential candidate, Mr. Obi, whose decision to pitch tent with the party after being crowded out of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), is marking a turning point in Nigeria’s democratic journey, have continued to hold rallies, with thousands turning out in Abuja, Enugu, Niger, Plateau, Anambra, Oyo and elsewhere in the country, to march in support and create awareness.

Saturday’s rally in Abuja, the country’s capital, saw mostly the youth population turn out in their thousands, as the Obi movement continues to gather momentum.

But campaigns in public by political parties is billed to officially commence on September 28, 2022 as provided in Section 94(1) of the Electoral Act 2022, and many have expressed reservations with the mass rallies of the Obi supporters, as is the case with nearly everything else the Labour Party candidate does, or fails to do, from his visits to churches to the move by his campaign to raise funds from Nigerians in the diaspora via crowdfunding.

“Obi’s supporters are breaking the law,” argued Wale Ogunade of Wale Ogunade Chambers, Lagos State, and president, Voters Awareness Initiative.

Ogunade, however, conceded that the supporters are not necessarily asking for votes, but only creating awareness, and therefore, cannot be successfully challenged in the law court.

“I understand that they can make the argument that they are not soliciting for votes, but are only creating awareness,” he said. “In that sense, they have not done anything wrong.”
On Thursday, September 15, nine lawyers and a certain Wale Lawrence asked a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos State to stop the party, its candidates and supporters from conducting a rally tagged ‘#Obidatti23 Forward Ever Rally’ on October 1, 2022, or any other date in Lagos State.

The 10 plaintiffs specifically urged the court to restrain Obi, his running mate, Yusuf Baba-Ahmed, Julius Abure, Labour Party chairman, and their loyalists from holding the rally until the hearing and determination of their motion on notice of September 12, 2022.

The nine lawyers are AdedotunAjulo, Salamatu Lewi, Hakeem Ijaduola, OgunbonaAkinpelu, Owolabi Oluwasegun, Mogbojuri Kayode, WuyepNadom, Dimimu Mabel and Kolawole Salami.

The first to 10th defendants in the suit marked FHC/L/CS/1729/2022 are Obi, LP, Baba-Ahmed, Abure, the Inspector-General of Police, Commissioner of Police, Lagos State command, Director-General of the Department of State Services, Lekki Concession Company Limited, Attorney-General of Lagos State and the Governor of Lagos State.

In their ex parte motion filed before Justice Daniel Osiagor through their counsel, DadaAwosika (SAN), they prayed the court for four reliefs.

One of the reliefs read, “An order of interim injunction restraining the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th defendants; their associates and loyalists from conducting the scheduled EndSARS rally tagged as the ‘#Obidatti23 Forward Ever Rally’ on October 1, 2022, or any other subsequent date, at the Lekki toll gate until the hearing and determination of the Motion-On-Notice dated September 12, 2022.”

Justice Osiagor directed the plaintiffs to put all the defendants on notice and adjourned on the hearing of the substantive motion till September 23, 2022.
The plaintiffs, by their originating summons filed on the 9 of September, 2022 listed 12 grounds upon which the judge should grant their reliefs.

Evidently, the lawsuit is part of a spirited attempt to stop pro-Obi rally in Lagos, the turf of Bola Tinubu, All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate.

Obi’s opponents, had at the start, dismissed him as just a social media rave that would peter out in due course, but with each passing day, the movement gets stronger, and evidently, those who had dismissed him before now are taking notice.

In line with their stance on power shift to the South East in 2023, such sociocultural groups as Afenifere, PANDEF, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Middle Belt Forum under the umbrella of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF), have since endorsed Obi.

Speaking in an interview with Arise TV on Friday, Dr. PoguBitrus, president of Middle Belt Forum, noted that the forum was part of the facilitators of Obi’s decision to join Labour Party.

“We’re supporting his (Obi’s) candidacy. We assisted in his emergence. We decided that for fairness, somebody from the Southeast should come up. We contacted our brothers from the Southeast, the OhanaezeNdigbo and other Southeast leaders. Many processes went through, and Peter Obi had to leave the PDP for Labour Party.

“Irrespective of political party, ours is a struggle for better Nigeria, and the better Nigeria we see can be guaranteed his candidacy, and with him as president of Nigeria. So we’re supporting Peter Obi to be president because we believe that he’s the person with the capacity to rescue Nigeria.”

Dr. Pogu boasted that the Labour Party candidate would sweep votes across the Middle Belt, should votes be allowed to count in 2023.

Widely supported by youths across ethnic divide, Obi has continued to trounce the more traditionally fancied contestants like Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar in various opinion polls.

One of such polls commissioned by Anap Foundation revealed fortnight ago that 21 per cent of the electorate are proposing to vote for Obi in 2023, with 13 percent each proposing to vote Tinubu and Atiku, while Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) came third with 3 percent.

The poll, however, said 32 percent of respondents were undecided, which leaves the race wide open. Regardless, Labour Party continues to make a statement, but not without criticism.

“What Labour Party is doing is not different from what other political parties are doing with their candidates,” said OkeyOkoroji, Constitutional lawyer and former All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) governorship candidate in Lagos State.

“Obi didn’t campaign, but nothing under our law stops Nigerian citizens from moving from place to place to create awareness and enlighten Nigerians about things they need to do to improve our country.”

With the level of support he is attracting, Obi has also continued to be subjected to intense scrutiny by those opposed to his presidential bid.

The former Anambra State governor continues to be subject to intense criticism at every turn. His visits to David Oyedepo’s Living Faith Church, Paul Enenche’s Dunamis Church and the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) in recent months, had set off a wave of criticisms, with his critics accusing him of trying to create religious divisions in the country.

Similarly, the plan by his campaign to raise funds from Nigerians in the diaspora through crowdfunding was severally criticised, with a support group for Bola Tinubu, the Tinubu-Shettima Connect, demanding that Obi and his running mate be disqualified from the 2023 election, even as it set off legal arguments.

Indeed, even his university certificate, last week, became subject of controversy, with many alleging that the certificate shared on social media to disprove a false speculation that he graduated with Third Class from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, was forged because it was signed on a Saturday.

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