Months after his ambition was dismissed by those who now view him as a threat, Peter Obi, the Labour Party's (LP) candidate for president, is entering the February 25 election as a frontrunner and performing well in polls.
On May 30, 2022, just days after leaving the People's Democratic Party, Obi became the LP's flagbearer.
He served as Atiku Abubakar's running mate in the 2019 election. At the Abuja special convention, Atiku Abubakar once again won the PDP's 2023 presidential ticket.
In a speech after defecting, the former Anambra governor decried how those who should take care of people’s welfare were spending dollars on delegates, turning Nigeria into a laughing stock.
The popularity of the 61-year-old former bank chief surged after he joined forces with the LP, and a section of the youth demographic took his ambition as a personal project, campaigning on and off social media.
Replying to mockers who said the LP has no “structure” (offices and members in 774 local government areas), Obi’s followers, known as Obidients, usually describe themselves as the structure that would mobilize the grassroots.
Obi, known for his “from consumption to production” advocacy, promises to fight corruption and insecurity, create jobs and a conducive environment for businesses, and improve education, healthcare, infrastructure, and the economy.
The candidate has received endorsements from prominent individuals including former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Benue Governor Samuel Ortom, Yoruba leader Pa Ayo Adebanjo, Ijaw leader Edwin Clark, and Prof. Pat Utomi, among others.
Obi, whose campaign is led by Obasanjo’s associate Akin Osuntokun, also has the support of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF), which comprises Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF).
Daily Post findings show that most of the polls so far have put Obi ahead of Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP.
The Nextier SPD poll released on February 5 indicated that Obi leads (37%), ahead of Atiku (27%), and Tinubu (24%).
On February 7, Lagos-based data company Stears announced Obi would win with 41% of the votes, ahead of Tinubu (31%), Atiku (20%), and others “as long as Nigerians follow through on their stated intent to vote.”
“Obi gets 41% of the vote, holding a lead over Tinubu based on the model’s predictions. "In a low voter turnout scenario, Tinubu edges the vote,” the researchers asserted.
Similarly, a poll by Bloomberg on February 10, declared Obi the preferred choice of the majority of 2,384 (66%) respondents scoring, declaring their support for him while 18% support Tinubu and 10% want Atiku.
The San Francisco-bbased data company used stratified sampling based on age, gender, and location across Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones to ensure national representation.
The results showed Obi has higher numbers among male and female citizens, particularly ages 18–24 and 25–34.
Earlier, the result of the We2Geda Foundation poll on September 17, 2022, showed Obi ahead of other contenders with 51% of the votes, former Vice President Atiku with 25%, and ex-Governor Tinubu with 19%.
In September and December 2022, ANAP Foundation/NOI Polls said 23% of voters were rooting for Obi, 13% for Tinubu, and 10% for Atiku. In the third ANAP poll released on February 15, Obi was ahead with 21% of voters, followed at a distance by Tinubu with 13%, while Atiku and Kwankwaso had 10% and 3%, respectively.
Not surprisingly, the opposition rejected the figures, accusing the pollsters of bias. They maintain the polls were designed to make Obi look highly rated even outside his geopolitical zone.
In response to Nextier, the Media Director of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Bayo Onanuga chastised the public policy advisory firm for turning itself “into a Nigerian Gallup Poll or Ipsos.”
He said it is ludicrous that the study projected a clean sweep of the South-East region with over 90% of registered voters and also put Obi ahead of Tinubu in the six South-West states, including Lagos.
“Assuming without absolutely conceding that Obi will enjoy home advantage, we then wonder why the pollsters thought the factors that will propel a landslide victory for Obi in the South-East will not work for the APC candidate in his own South-West base,” Onanuga said.
Speaking to Channels TV, Kwankwaso, a former Kano governor, dismissed a poll that predicted he would get only 6% of total results in the North-West, boasting that the NNPP has “locked northern Nigeria.”
He said, “Even a madman knows that I’m over and above six percent or even 60 percent." We have seen the in-house figures of PDP and APC, and they dare not bring them out. Do you see any poll from northern Nigeria?”
He added: “Those polls come from the south, and the media that is propagating that fake information is mainly from that part of the country." Polls are on the telephone. Over 90 percent of my supporters don’t know about Twitter or social media. "Go to markets in Kano, Rivers, Wuse (Abuja), and Sabo (Ibadan).”
Valentine Ozigbo, Obi’s special adviser on technology and strategic alliances, said in a statement to the Daily Post that the results of the polls mirror the campaign’s internal polling and called them “a natural outcome” of an inspiring candidacy.
According to him, “Peter Obi is the only candidate taking his message to the hurting masses." Peter Obi goes where even government officials fear going, like Southern Kaduna, Biu, relief camps in Benue, Abuja, and other places where Nigerians live on the margins of society.
He further noted: “It is only natural that after decades of uninspired leadership, Nigerians would embrace a candidate who comes with a fresh message, who has the character to deliver on his promise, and the track record to back up his claims.”
More than 93 million citizens are expected to vote at 176,846 polling units in 774 LGAs, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
From someone who seemingly had no future in the 2023 presidential election just hours after the PDP primary in 2022, Obi, in six months, has become the candidate to beat.
Now, Nigerians are contemplating that he might finish Saturday’s race as the proverbial "dark horse."