By Law Mefor
An obituary is for the dead, not for the living. So, no matter how one looks at Sam Omatseye’s ‘Obi-tuary’ on Peter Obi and the movement Obi’s entry into the 2023 presidential race has become, it is all about a death wish. It rhymes with nothing else. Yes, death for the Peter Obi movement and possibly for its progenitor, Peter Obi himself is Omatseye’s underlying deep psychological wish. To clear the doubts, a death wish is a desire, often unconscious, for the death of another person, toward whom one has unconscious and terminal hostility.
Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks, says the Holy Bible. Omatseye’s obituary metaphor is running deep and calls attention to his inner motivation and the motivation of the camp he speaks and writes for. It calls for Peter Obi to beware! History is replete with great presidential candidates who never finished the race. Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan and the rest probably didn’t have any Omatseye to warn them.
Psychoanalytic psychologists have tried to interpret the inner motivations of humans, especially how they deal with their morbid and rabid fears. The primary assumption of psychoanalysis is the belief that all people possess unconscious thoughts, feelings, desires, and memories that must gain perspectives if a man will live well and survive. Psychoanalysis therapy thus aims to release such repressed emotions and experiences by making those unconscious impulses conscious. It is only by having a cathartic (i.e., healing) experience that the person can be helped and ‘cured’. That is what this treatise hopes to achieve for the likes of Sam Omatseye – help them to regain perspective, confront reality and do less shadow-boxing.
It is hard to imagine that if such characters can slip Otapiapia or Sniper into Peter Obi’s meal or cause a fatal accident, they will not. Obi constituting himself unexpectedly into a Third Force is not good for the Tinubu camp where Omatseye holds court for both the man and his media space. Omatseye is a senior writer with the Nation, a newspaper long set up for the realisation of the lifelong ambition of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as the proprietor himself told the world.
The problem is that nobody predicted the national acceptance of Peter Obi and his phenomenally growing chances of emerging as the nation’s President in 2023. Both Tinubu and Peter Obi, two leading contenders to become Buhari’s successor, are from the South divide, and Atiku Abubakar is arguably the only main contender from the North. (Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso is by far a fringe player and does not appear to constitute any danger to Atiku in the North). The implication of this equation is what is yielding up the nightmares experienced in the Tinubu camp, which the Omatseyes of this world do not know how to deal with.
Tinubu’s strategists know that if Peter Obi takes a substantial portion of Southern Nigeria’s votes, Tinubu’s ambition will simply vanish into thin air since Atiku may not need more than 30% of southern votes to emerge. The camp knows that Tinubu cannot connect well enough with the core Northern Muslims and proposed a poisoned chalice namely, the Muslim-Muslim (M-M) ticket, and compelled Tinubu, possibly against his wish, to swallow it.
But Kassim Shettima, used to cure the fatal glitch, is vying for the No 2 position and Atiku for No 1. It remains to be seen how Shettima being on the APC ticket will reassure the core north of its strategic interest in the Tinubu presidency and make them vote for No 2 rather than for No 1 who will be the President of the country. Tinubu’s camp seems to be coming to accept this inconvenient truth rather late in the day, and in a fit of misplaced aggression, charging out at Peter Obi as the obstacle.
Not long ago, the likes of Omatseye said the South-East/Igbos had no viable presidential candidate. But since Peter Obi took the stage by storm and stirred up a political movement, the song is changing. Omatseye is now labouring to erect a correlation between Peter Obi and the Biafra struggle. The hatchet writer says the Biafra agitators have adopted Peter Obi as their ‘new chief priest’ while abandoning Nnamdi Kanu. Tarring the Peter Obi movement with the Biafra struggle brush is reckless and despicably desperate, and aims to discredit the record set by Obi, and malign the entire Igbo race, a people of a population of about 50m, which is arguably the largest in Nigeria.
If Sam Omatseye’s hate speech and diatribe against Ndigbo do not constitute Igbophobia and xenophobia, tell me what does. Yes, Omatseye presents Ndigbo as a people without savvy – indeed a story of savages – all for the reason of the Biafra struggle undertaken by some Igbos to call attention to the marginalisation and enslavement of the Igbo people since the end of the civil war, which was bitterly waged against them by Nigeria and her global allies, to exterminate over 2m persons while the genocidal war lasted.
One understands that Omatseye is Itsekiri, a small minority ethnic group even in Delta State. Itsekiri is an integral part of the Niger Delta, a zone enmeshed in militancy for over 2 decades, a struggle which claimed a renowned writer Ken Saro-Wiwa in the dark Abacha days. Niger Delta militancy and the Biafra struggle bear much resemblance. One then wonders why Sam Omatseye, who has no record of condemning Niger Delta militancy, would criminalise the Biafra struggle and present it as a reason why no Igbo man should be elected the President of Nigeria.
But somebody wrote that what ‘stomach infrastructure’ (apologies Peter Ayo Fayose) cannot do does not exist. Omatseye is under contract as a Tinubu chief attack dog. The old man’s lifelong ambition to become the president of Nigeria must be realised even if it means destroying the reputation of the Igbo ethnic stock and its very best such as Peter Obi. But Igbos are by far too resilient and by far too endowed.
Yes, Igbos are unapologetically Biafrans and have sympathy for the Biafra struggle, just as the Yoruba are Oduduwa and Hausa Arewa. Though most Ndigbo want a restructured Nigeria and not a sovereign Biafra state as Omatseye insinuated, if Biafra is imposed on them as a default and resultant sovereignty, they will not only survive but will match the Asia Tigers in no time and Sam Omatseye should know this.
He also needs to be reminded that Ndigbo are more committed to the Nigeria project and nation-building than any part of Nigeria, including his wonderful Itsekiri people( no offence meant). Ndigbo are therefore no less Nigerians than any ethnic group in Nigeria and therefore entitled to lead the country in the capacity of president, more entitled than Tinubu who once publicly declared that he does not believe in Nigeria.
Biafra agitation is legitimate and likely to continue until federalism is restored to Nigeria, which was the structure agreed between Nigeria’s founding fathers and departing British colonial masters. A Peter Obi presidency will not stop the agitation for a restructured Nigeria by Biafra agitators, Oduduwa republic agitators and the agitation for an Islamic republic championed by Boko Haram and invading terrorists who have laid siege to the nation’s capital territory unless social justice and equity return to the nation’s polity.
So, Omatseye and his cohorts need to dig deeper to find more plausible claims to help their principal become President. They know the many odds stacked against the proposed Tinubu Presidency. The said odds that should pre-occupy his helpers are brought into reckoning by Tinubu’s inglorious past, not by Peter Obi. It bears repeating that Omoteyes should pay attention to resolving the age, health, drug, EndSars deaths at Lekki Tollgate, Muslim-Muslim ticket and integrity questions hanging over Tinubu’s head like the Sword of Damocles, not the Peter Obi movement or Biafra agitation that is quite remote.
•Dr Law Mefor is a Senior Fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thought; Tel.: +234- 905 642 4375 E-mail: [email protected]; follow me on twitter:@DrLawMefor.