Anthony Obi OgboColumnsNigeriaOpinionObism—The test of translating a movement into electoral victory votes

“The duo of Obi and Datti Baba-Ahmed remains the most qualified team that could steer this country in a different direction. However, a possible victory hangs on how this movement could strategically circumvent a dysfunctional balloting process and navigate past the finish line of electoral victory.” ―Anthony Obi Ogbo


During a strategic group meeting of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) held shortly before the 2015 election at a castle on Puerta Vista Lane in Houston, TX, Hon. Dan Ulasi, a strategist with the party at the time, shocked his party enthusiasts when he hinted that their flagbearer and incumbent, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, might not make it to the next tenure. According to Ulasi, with time running out, the campaign was not organized on the ground, did not weigh the electoral map options, and had no strategies to counter a possible ballot mishandling. A few months after this prediction, the Jonathan regime crumbled like a soggy, oil-drenched Ijebu fried plantain.


Thus, one of the major reasons Goodluck Jonathan fell in the 2015 presidential race was his campaign’s inability to explore on-the-ground winning strategies. Overconfident and blind to ideas, his team relied on three major factors: a rousing social media blare, the power of incumbency, and public hatred for his archrival, Muhammadu Buhari.

Currently, Nigeria is faced with yet another chance to turn over a new regime leaf. At the forefront of Nigeria’s politics is the Peter Obi movement tagged Obism. The subject, Peter Gregory Obi, a businessman and politician who served as the Governor of Anambra State two separate times, is the Labour Party nominee for President of Nigeria in the 2023 presidential election. Obi’s campaign supporters gradually metamorphosed into an inspiring political movement, spreading across the nation like wildfire. Most passionate about this cause is the younger population. They took their excitement to the internet and infiltrated social media with campaign literature, including videos, catchphrases, and memes.

While all core supporters of Obi might be classified as “Obidients,” it must also be noted that in reality, there are just two categories: the Obi campaign strategists and the Obidients. The campaign strategists within the Peter Obi Support Network (POSN) are result-driven individuals focused on creating working avenues to get Obi elected. Armed with good funds and the right message, they remain the foremost support network that is crowdfunding for Peter Obi’s presidential campaigns.

In contrast, the Obidients are desperate do-or-die fanatics blind to the complexities of prevailing political terrain but driven by emotions and unquestioning enthusiasm born out of frustration over the country’s decades of economic, social, and political meltdown. They are good, too, but often embarrass their candidate with messages incompatible with his electioneering ideology.

They are uncontrollable and flood social media platforms with video clips and poster messages conflicting with or perhaps contradicting what their candidate stands for. For example, the campaign understands the “Igbo fear factor” in Nigerian politics and has been working hard to portray its candidate as an ethnically blind figure who would unite the country. In sheer contrast, some Obidient fanatics are busy spewing messages about the inevitability of electing Obi as bait to win the Igbos into the national fold—an approach that might attract mistrust and fear among voters of northern swing states. Similarly, they have played into the hands of the opposition by unintelligibly engaging in social media tribal wars that further portray their candidate as a tribal leader.

Organizers must not be confused between an ideological movement and running a political campaign

Obism or “Obidience” is a movement, yet organizers must not be confused between an ideological movement and running a political campaign in Nigeria—a nation with a terrible electioneering record. The success of any mobilization structure for political advancement must entail strategic planning, organizing, fundraising, and mobilization of individuals.

Without a doubt, Obism is trending. Yet there are concerns about carrying the momentum beyond the current emotional excitement, social media buzz, and sometimes, annoying bombastic optimism. Do not get me wrong. Those lines are still influential in building and sustaining a campaign. However, strategies are yet to be seen for taking advantage of this movement and pushing momentum through the finishing lines of electoral victory. Just yesterday, at a mega rally in Houston, Texas, a supposed spokesman for the Obidient repeatedly announced that voters should ignore parties and vote for individuals—an indication that those fanatics are clueless about where the campaign is headed.

The Obidient fanatics have also bastardized his “shishi” ideology. “We no dey give shishi” is an anti-bribery maxim highlighting the candidate’s ethical decency in a country where corruption is an anthem. Unfortunately, the Obidient fanatics have pushed this mantra beyond the lines, discouraging prospective campaign workers, performing artists, and media platforms with a fictitious belief that the campaign is structured only to employ volunteers who would use their own money and resources.

There has to be alignment to sustain a winning approach. The campaign strategists could bring the fanatics into the fold and curtail their excesses by facilitating their campaign messages and other strategic advances to align with their electioneering mission. Actors, actresses, and performing artists must not be dissuaded by the “We no dey give shishi” mantra; rather, they must be engaged with attractive cash rewards to lead the grassroots voter mobilization drive. Polling booths are located neither on Instagram nor TikTok.

Polling booths are located neither on Instagram nor TikTok.

Just yesterday, one day before the closing of the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise, some hoodlums stormed the facility of St. Brigid Catholic Church Ijesha Lagos, where thousands of late registrants gathered and made away with all the equipment and materials. There was also similar news in several parts of the country, especially in the Southeast. The campaign must mobilize groups to monitor and coordinate polling locations before the election, to deter opposition vandals from election day ballot-snatching surprises. It worked in Edo’s previous gubernatorial race.

The candidate, Obi, has virtually traveled through the entire nation. Yet, it is worrisome that two other major rivals, Atiku Abubakar (Peoples Democratic Party) and Bola Tinubu (the All-Progressives Congress), are not vigorously campaigning. Both candidates, who are richer than Nigeria, have a history of buying their ways through any process and have successfully demonstrated this on many occasions.

The duo of Obi and Datti Baba-Ahmed remains the most qualified team that could steer this country in a different direction. However, a possible victory hangs on how this movement could strategically circumvent a dysfunctional balloting process and navigate past the finish line of electoral victory.

Let us be clear about Nigerian politics. Knowing Nigeria is one thing. Understanding its intricate politics requires unique competencies unavailable on Google. Nigeria’s political setting transcends the electoral process and often entails inconceivably crooked ballot handling. The three most crucial winning structures are facilitating and sustaining an on-the-ground poll army, strategic coordination of electoral maps, and the ability to counter ballot mishandling and falsification of ballot figures.

In the electioneering trade, a movement represents an ideology, a campaign is a project. Team Obi could use this movement to build a winning campaign.  It may sound unprofessional, but to tear through the walls of Nigeria’s electoral challenges, the Obi campaign must, at some point, play dirty. The capacity of this approach will not be discussed in this article, but as the African Ancestors would caution, to pound food on the mortar or to pound on a bare floor is a choice.

♦Publisher of the Guardian News, Journalism and RTF Professor, Anthony Obi Ogbo, Ph.D. is on the Editorial Board of the West African Pilot News. He is the author of the Influence of Leadership (2015)  and the Maxims of Political Leadership (2019). Contact:

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