They referred to him as a “social media president” when they were criticizing him. They implied that social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok served as his covert political organization. To everyone’s surprise, Peter Obi of the Labour Party blew away the competition on election day. The People’s Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, received more than six million votes, but he came in second (PDP).
Mr Obi claims he won the election and has petitioned the court to overturn Bola Tinubu’s victory as the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Atiku was interviewed by a journalist the day before the election to find out if he thought Mr Obi’s political party had a chance of taking the presidency of Nigeria. He paused for a moment, smiling and shaking his head negatively before responding, “They claim they have 100 million supporters online but you saw what they scored in Osun” (governorship election of 2022). It’s true that 90% of Northerners do not use the internet.
Many people shared Atiku’s view that Mr Obi’s political organization had no chance of winning even a local government election in any state other than Anambra State, let alone the presidency. According to their theory, a sizable portion of his fanbase was virtual.
How, though, did Mr Obi’s “structureless” Labour Party outmanoeuvre the established opposition parties in so many states?
Peter Obi addresses supporters at a campaign event in Lagos. To quote the great Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivor (in
The results of the presidential election revealed a deep-seated identity crisis in the country: a fierce but covert struggle between Muslims and Christians.
Having fought hard to secure the APC presidential nomination, former governor Bola Tinubu was then faced with the difficult decision of selecting a northerner as his running mate. Even though he himself is a Yoruba Muslim from the South-West, he ultimately decided to pick Kashim Shettima, a Muslim from the North, in order to appease the region’s Muslim majority.
His choice of a running mate caused an uproar. It was seen as an insult to Christianity and its many followers in Nigeria by many locals. They spoke out fiercely against the Muslim-Muslim ticket and vowed to teach Mr Tinunu a painful lesson in politics. Mr Obi cunningly took advantage of the Christians’ resentment by courting them into their churches.
The Labour Party’s presidential candidate broke the law by campaigning at the 14th National Conference and Jubilee Celebration of the Catholic Charismatic, Delta State, in November 2022. Mr Obi, in front of the massive congregation, pleaded for their help.
Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, speaking in Enugu.
“I’m asking you to vote for me because I will turn around Nigeria, I want to build a Nigeria where the son of nobody will become somebody and a daughter of nobody will become somebody,” he said.
Before that, in July, he joined Pastor Paul Enenche for the Judgement Praise Night Worship, and in August, he made his first trip to the Redemption Camp for the 70th Annual Convention of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, where he was met with a standing ovation.
According to Section 92(3) of the Electoral Act 2022, political campaigns, rallies, and processions; as well as the promotion, propagation, or attack of political parties, candidates, or their programmes or ideologies; shall not be held in places designated for religious worship, police stations, or public offices.
The Christian lobby was effective.
Mr Obi was successful in his campaign thanks to the constant advocacy of Christian leaders. Openly supporting him, many pastors urged their hundreds of thousands of congregants to get their voter registration cards ready so that Mr Tinubu, the Muslim-Muslim candidate, would be publicly embarrassed on Election Day.
Preachers’ videos urging their congregations to support the Labour Party in the upcoming presidential election went viral. While there were videos of Islamic clerics publicly encouraging their followers to vote for Mr Tinubu, Mr Obi’s campaign was the one that dominated the Internet and was seen as overwhelming by many onlookers.
Overall, while Mr Tinubu courted northern Muslims by playing the Muslim-Muslim card, Mr Obi presented himself as the leading Christian candidate for president.