Peter Obi’s exit from PDP reaffirms his unpopularity in the party [Pulse Editor’s Opinion]

Barely three days to the Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential primary, one of the frontline aspirants, Peter Obi dumped the party his fans strongly believed would seal his presidential bid.

Peter Obi.

Obi in a statement released shortly after the news of him leaving the PDP broke said he decided to leave because of the recent development within the party.

Whether this development is a right or wrong move for the former governor of Anambra is a different conversation, but what is clear to many political analysts is that within the PDP, Obi is not a popular political figure.

This may be a fallacy to many politically naive people who equate social media fame to party popularity in a country like Nigeria where an aspirant’s political clout is judged by how many hands he has shaken across the country.

Until 2019, when the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, picked him as running mate, Obi’s political clout was rigidly tied to Anambra, the state he governed for eight years.

Even in Anambra, Obi is only seen as a former governor who is believed to have done his best to manage the resources of the state judiciously but did little or nothing to exert his political influence after the end of his administration.

As a matter of fact, whatever the former governor left as a legacy in Anambra state in terms of education, infrastructure, and every other thing that recently became a campaign reference for his presidential bid, has been reduced to a mere political narrative because Willie Obiano, Obi’s successor failed to build on those achievements.

In Nigerian politics, a governor who desires to retain his political influence and respect is not expected to disappear from the radar. He only stays out of office but remains in power.

He expands his structure, pulls the strings in his party, and has a say on the political affairs of the state as a political stakeholder. This is what many ex-governors do to remain politically relevant in their states.

Obi failed in this regard and this may be down to two things. It’s either he does not understand the game, or the successful businessman who is adjudged to be a gentleman does not want to get his hands dirty in the kind of games you see in Nigeria’s political arena.

Whatever the case is for Obi, the fact remains that the former governor chose to make himself a lightweight politician who could not exert his political influence even in his state.

Apart from being a former governor, Obi has never in his political career taken up a national assignment either as a minister or as a head of an agency of the federal government.

Ignoring the urge to seek national recognition by becoming a minister, a senator, or even a god-father often time amount to political suicide for ex-governors, because somehow, national recognition contributes to political profile, popularity, and influence beyond their states.

Occupying a ministerial position is the main reason the former minister of transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, believes he is more qualified than other presidential aspirants of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Amaechi has been parroting this sentiment in his presidential campaign and he’s not doing so just to fawn himself. As a two-term minister, he has met more politicians and shaken more hands than Obi.

His ministerial appointment offered him an opportunity to be in the news and faces of Nigerians every day.

And according to a former Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida, a presidential aspirant should be someone whose name and popularity is widely acknowledged across the country.

Based on this assumption, a popularity contest between Amaechi and Obi would swing largely in the former minister’s favour because obviously, he has more political friends across the country.

Obi who joined the PDP in 2014 knows he is the least popular among the frontline presidential aspirants in the party, and this may be one of the reasons he dumped the PDP.

Frankly speaking, Obi is not gaining attention over the 2023 presidency because he is the best thing to happen to the PDP since 1998. Rather, his popularity in the presidential election is predicated on social media conversations, which in truth is insignificant in Nigerian party politics.

In my recent piece about Obi, I asked two questions and I am asking again. What has Obi been able to influence within the party since his last political outing in 2019? Who are his allies in the PDP?

Some presidential aspirants have locked down some states for themselves ahead of their party’s presidential primary, and if Obi believes this is the right time for him to dump the PDP, then his action only confirmed the assumption that he is a lone ranger in the strongest opposition party in the country.

His claim that he dumped the party because of recent development within the party might be vague, but it attested to the fact that he had read the room, and he saw what many Nigerians already knew about his party's upcoming primary election.

The former governor has the choice to go home or try again with another party, but whatever step he chooses to take is going to be a defining moment in his political career.

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