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There is a campaign to portray Peter Obi as a bigot – why it matters

Politics

There is a campaign to portray Peter Obi as a bigot – why it matters

Former Governor of Anambra State and Vice-Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peter Obi, has denied allegations that he demolished mosques and drove Hausas out of Anambra State while he was governor.

Backstory: Obi has described the allegations as “sheer fabrication, wicked and inhumane”. In addition to destroying mosques, Peter Obi is alleged to have disregarded the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III and drove Hausa people away from Anambra. According to his accusers, Obi subsequently shunned attempts at mediation by the then Minister of Finance, Dr. Shamsuddeen Usman.

In response to questions from journalists at Southern Sun, Lagos, Obi denied the allegations and pointed out that rather than focusing on resolving the plight of several millions of Nigerians, members of the opposition seem to be busy spreading hate speech and false accusations.

  • On destroying mosques: “As a matter of fact, the mosque at Onitsha was destroyed before I became governor.”
  • On ignoring the Sultan’s counsel: “The irony of this concoction is that I have been a friend of His Eminence, the Sultan, right from my first year at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in 1980 through his tenure as Nigeria’s Defence Attaché in Pakistan till the present. The fact is that the visit of his Eminence, during which I was alleged to have snubbed him, was purely a courtesy call. After which I personally accompanied him to see the Obi of Onitsha, Obi Alfred Achebe with whom he had a meeting. I also requested His Eminence to visit the Hausa community in the state during which I offered to rebuild and subsequently gave them the funds for that purpose.”

Why It Matters: Obi is generally regarded as a man who performed well as governor of his state, so attacks with regards to competence are unlikely to stick. However these ethnic and religious accusations are usually the most effective in multicultural societies like ours. Certainly, these allegations are not going away any time soon. Another reason why these stories may prove detrimental to the PDP ticket is that Atiku Abubakar is himself frequently derided as not being “Fulani or Muslim enough”, especially when compared to someone like President Muhammadu Buhari who has always been a fierce defender of Shariah and Fulani interests. The accusations against Obi, whether true or not, are likely to feed into the existing sentiments against Atiku in the North where he is desperate to make inroads.

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