By Michael Abu
For a party that is increasingly turning itself into a third force in Nigeria, Wednesday December 14, 2022 appeared to be a day of reckoning for the Labour Party as it was forced to call a suspension on its presidential campaign rallies.
The party in an announcement said the scheduled presidential campaign rallies in Ekiti and Ondo States had been put on hold.
The suspension came after what many have described as the fiasco on Tuesday of the campaign rally in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital.
Before the Lokoja fiasco, the Labour Party with its horde of trenchant supporters popularly known as Obidients had been everywhere, especially on social media, announcing themselves as the new face of politics in the country.
In postponing the rallies in Ekiti and Ondo States scheduled for December 15 and 16 respectively, the party, in an announcement on its official twitter page, said, “Due to some unavoidable and unusual circumstances beyond control, our earlier scheduled Presidential Campaign Rally in Ekiti & Ondo for 15th and 16th December, 2022 are hereby POSTPONED. New date will be announced. We regret the inconveniences caused by this.”
What those unfortunate circumstances were, were, however, not made known.
It is nevertheless open to guess that after basking in the momentum and enthusiasm from mostly youths in previous rallies and on social media, Kogi appeared to puncture the narrative of a surging national party. After boisterous rallies in Owerri, Ibadan and a few other states with tens of thousands of supporters, Lokoja, Kogi State appeared to have disconcerted the Obidients.
So what may have accounted for the derailment of the Labour Party rally in Kogi?
Officials of the party have sought to blame bureaucratic procedures in the arrangement for the township stadium from the Kogi State Government.
Dr Shina Byron-Fagbenro, Director of Operations in the Obi-Datti Movement, speaking on Channels Television’s Politics Today programme on Wednesday, December 14, 2022, a day after the uncelebrated rally, confessed that the rally was not well attended. He also sought to blame a number of logistic considerations in part due to the overzealousness of some government officials for the failure.
It is, however, worthy of note that he acquitted the Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, and by that measure, the State Government, of allegation of sabotage as alleged in some quarters.
“I can assure you that the governor said that he didn’t know that we were being delayed,” he said.
However, what he didn’t say was that in Kogi State, the arguments that had fuelled the Obidient movement appeared not to have found traction.
With a populace apparently satisfied with the good governance that they have benefited from the Yahaya Bello-led administration, it was not difficult to understand why the new gospel propagated by the Labour Party failed to find grip in the hearts of the people of Kogi State, especially the youths.
Against the new narrative of the New Kogi State that is now the cynosure of critical analysts, the gospel of change that has been central to the Obidient Movement appeared to have fallen flat. It was definitely not surprising, given the radical transformation of Kogi State in the last seven years in virtually all sectors of endeavour.
Even the opposition in the state know that the Governor has set a new pace in the development of Kogi State, which his successors must work very hard to keep up with.
With the health infrastructure being boosted through the 300-bed reference hospital in Okene, the Specialist Hospital in Lokoja and ultra modern Prince Audu Abubakar University Teaching Hospital, Anyigba, it is not surprising that Governor Yahaya Bello is set to turn Kogi State into a centre for medical tourism. That aspiration apparently resounds with the Obidients’ chant of turning from consumption to production at least in the area of medical services.
Remarkably, as the news of the Labour Party campaign rally fiasco emerged in national news reels, it was accompanied with the fact that Kogi State had emerged the Best Performing State in the World Bank-supported Accelerating Nutrition Results in Nigeria (ANRiN) project, outshining 10 other states assessed for the project’s Community-Based health project.
The state government received the Certificate of Achievement as Best Performing State: Community-Based Nutrition Service Delivery (NSA Performance +DLI) at the 6th ANRIN Implementation Support event, held in Abuja.
Such awards and honours for Kogi State, including the World Bank’s SFTAS award for fiscal transparency and accountability, have been the hallmark of the New Kogi State under Governor Bello with even more honours accruing in education and security, among others. It was as such not surprising that the message of the Obidient Movement did not find traction in Kogi State.
Even more as an ancillary is the fact that the Obidient Movement has drawn most of its support from the youth population. However, Governor Bello is the National Youth Coordinator of the Tinubu-Shettima Presidential Campaign Council. So for the youths of Kogi State who have found pleasure in the Governor, the resonance of the message that has fueled the rallies in other states appeared not to have found bearing with them and hence their apparent lack of concern when the Labour Party presidential campaign berthed in Lokoja.
Michael Abu, a seasoned journalist, was the Chief Press Secretary of Arch. Yomi Awoniyi, former Deputy Governor of Kogi State