19 February 2019
Peter Obi, the vice presidential candidate for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was governor of Anambra State from 2007 to 2014. Obi won two terms as governor under the banner of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
However, towards the end of his second term he was making moves towards the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who were in control of the federal government at the time. Obi was plotting with the PDP without the knowledge of his party and in the hope of being appointed aviation minister at the end of his governorship by then president Goodluck Jonathan.
Jonathan then hiked the pump price of petrol, claiming he was removing subsidies on the product. This prompted a huge outcry across the country with demonstrations in several cities. A well-respected journalist in a newspaper owned by the Anambra State government then penned a piece suggesting that Jonathan’s fuel price increase would have made sense if there was a corresponding increase in the minimum wage and salaries of workers who bore the brunt of such increases.
The opinion piece incensed Obi to the extent that he ordered the journalist and the editor to retract the article and write a grovelling apology to Jonathan. The journalist refused on grounds of journalistic integrity and freedom of speech. But Obi, conscious of how this could lead to a backlash from Jonathan and affect his chances of becoming a minister, was offended by both the article and the refusal to withdraw it.
He suspended the journalist without pay and then fired him. Sadly for Obi, he never got his ministerial appointment he was lobbying aggressively for as Jonathan lost his re-election bid to the Muhammadu Buhari in 2015. This incident demonstrated that Obi, despite his patented pretensions, had little time for democratic ideals such as free speech and he had a tendency to abuse his position in a brazen manner by punishing a state employee for daring to have an alternative opinion. Obi loves to flaunt his Catholicism, which plays well in his state that is majority Catholic. But it appears that for him criticism of the policies of a regime he supported and jeopardising his chances of being appointed a minister are unforgivable “sins”.
The sad irony is that such dictatorial tendencies are what most Nigerians would associate with President Muhammadu Buhari, a former military dictator that Obi and his presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar are hoping to defeat in Saturday’s rescheduled election.