Peter Obi is the hottest contender in the 2023 Nigerian Presidential Election

  • As the 2023 Nigerian Presidential Election approaches, Peter Obi of the labour party has emerged as the leading contender, garnering widespread support among the youngest voters. 
  • His potential victory could signal the end of the two-party dominance of the All Progressives Congress and the People’s Democratic Party. 
  • Obi’s main campaign focus is combating corruption and addressing pressing security challenges.

Why is Peter Obi’s heat level Hot?

Answer: The third-party candidate is currently leading the voting polls of the 2023 Nigerian Presidential Election with a 10-point advantage

Leading up to the Nigerian Presidential Election on February 25th, voting intention polls place Peter Obi ahead of the two candidates from the traditionally dominant parties, Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC). A survey conducted in early December revealed that 23% of voters were inclined to vote for Obi, with 13% indicating their support for Tinubu and Abubakar ranking third with 10%.

Obi, a former state governor and vice-presidential candidate for the PDP in the 2019 general election, left the party to run for the Labour Party. He is the first third-party candidate to present a real challenge to the long-standing dominance of the ruling APC and the PDP since the return to democracy in 1999. His campaign is driven by a desire for real change in Nigeria, and in a short amount of time he has built a broad base of support through a clear vision for tackling the country’s pressing issues.

Obi’s two terms as governor of Anambra State were marked by substantial improvements in state finances. He developed a reputation as a competent administrator after making Anambra the least indebted state in Nigeria, the state with the best network of roads, as well as investing heavily in progressing and modernising the healthcare and education infrastructure, all without borrowing money from financial institutions or raising bonds.

Who is changing Obi’s heat level? 

Answer: Peter Obi is the preferred candidate among young Nigerians and has received endorsements from important political figures.

With his message of progress and change, Obi has successfully appealed to voters under 30, a key voting demographic for this election, by communicating that he is distinct from his old-guard rivals. The average age of the population is 18 years old, and according to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), 84% of registered voters are 34 years old or younger. Substantial support from the youth may serve as a major advantage and give the candidate a competitive edge in the election.

The “Obidient” movement has been actively campaigning through a variety of means such as rallies, street marches, and online campaigns on social media. The Obidients are a continuation of the #EndSARS protests of 2020, a grassroots and decentralised movement that called for the end of police brutality. Aisha Yesufu, a renowned activist and co-founder of the #BringBackOurGirls movement and participant in the #EndSARS campaign, publicly endorsed Obi as her first-ever endorsement of a presidential candidate.

Obi’s campaign has gained the support of not only the youth, but also from prominent political figures. Olusegun Obasanjo, a former Nigerian military leader and civilian president in 1999, has declared that Obi possesses the necessary attributes to effectively address the current issues facing the country. In recent weeks, Obasanjo has been actively seeking support for Obi’s presidential bid by lobbying prominent Nigerian elders across the country.

Most recently, Benue State governor Samuel Ortom (PDP) has also joined this endorsement campaign.
Critics of Obi view the success of the Labour Party as driven by social media hype and allege that the passionate Obidients use emotional manipulation and engage in cyberbullying against Nigerian celebrities who support other candidates. Additionally, they accuse the group of promoting ultra-tribalism – based on ideology rather than ethnicity. The same way Obi’s popularity has quickly grown, it could deflate and collapse if his volatile supporters turn against him.

What is driving Peter Obi? 

Answer: Obi promises to address corruption, tribalism, terrorism and crime

Obi resigned from his PDP membership after participating in the party’s presidential primary, citing the prevalence of massive bribery of delegates and vote buying and an organised group within the party working against him as reasons for his resignation. As a result his campaign has been particularly focused on combating political corruption.

The Nigerian electorate has lost faith on the two-party system, especially considering that Abubakar was implicated in a bribery scheme in a 2010 US Senate Committee report, while Tinubu is alleged to have embezzled billions of naira in Lagos State revenue for personal and political gain and had $460,000 believed to come from heroin trafficking, forfeited by the US government in 1993.  Obi has no major scandals, although he was mentioned in the Panama Papers leaks regarding his involvement in offshore companies.

If elected as the next president, Obi’s biggest challenge will be addressing the increasingly complex security issues that Nigeria is facing. In a recent address at Chatham House, Obi characterised the country as a failing state in need of new political leadership. The problem is so dire that there is even a risk of the election being cancelled or postponed due to recent threats. In the south-east, a separatist movement is agitating for a breakaway state, while in the north-western region, armed Fulani gangs known as “bandits” are terrorising local communities.

The north-east region is a constant cause for concern, with Boko Haram and an IS-linked affiliate continuing to carry out deadly attacks in an already 13-year conflict. Central Nigeria is experiencing clashes between herders and farmers and the Niger Delta region is affected by piracy and illegal oil bunkering gangs, resulting in environmental and economic damage. Moreover, urban centres throughout the south are plagued by politically-connected criminal confraternities, known as “cults”, such as the Black Axe.

However, combating corruption, terrorism, and crime are common issues championed by all political candidates. For instance, despite Muhammadu Buhari’s campaign emphasis on transparency, security, and economic growth, his campaign goals were not met. Critics of Obi accuse him of exploiting the idealistic young population by making unrealistic promises and label him as a populist and demagogue. Although some of the systemic problems may be resolved, the most deeply ingrained issues will persist, particularly if the state governors do not cooperate with him.

What does this mean for you?

Answer: Obi’s election would result in a new political landscape in Africa’s largest country

This new political development is the materialisation of a yearn for genuine change and progress in Nigeria. An end to the two-party system could help shift towards merit-based leadership, where leaders are chosen based on qualifications and abilities rather than political connections or ethnic affiliations. Obi has openly criticised tribalism and religious sectarianism in the country, but again, “uniting Nigerians” is a very common claim – almost a buzzword during electoral campaigns. Furthermore, as a Christian Igbo, if he does not gain support from Yoruba and Hausa-Fulani elders he will not be able to form a nationwide party structure and it will prove impossible to compete with the well-established APC and PDP. 

Obi’s election could also lead to a more plural and representative political landscape, with the need to form alliances among multiple political parties, resulting in a government that can better address the diverse needs and concerns of the Nigerian people. Obi’s presidency could also benefit Nigeria’s standing on the international stage. His “Afrocentric” foreign policy aims to balance national interests with ECOWAS obligations and enhance technological prowess for improved diplomatic influence. As the “giant of Africa“, most populous country of the continent and largest producer of gas and oil, Nigeria is a crucial player in the region and an improved international standing could bring benefits to the entire continent.

However, while a successful governorship is a positive factor for Obi, it does not automatically equate to success as a President on the national and international stage. In contrast, the opposing presidential candidate Bola Tinubu holds a commanding presence in Nigerian politics. His status as former governor of Lagos, the economic hub of the country, and a member of Yoruba royalty adds to his political prestige. Despite being currently ranked second in the polls, Tinubu’s finely tuned political machinery could prove advantageous in a potential second round of elections, potentially attracting greater support from business interests and international actors.