Just as the Labour Party and the Obi/Datti campaign team have recently found out, in carrying out any workable plan, inadequate funding can be a major source of confusion during electioneering.
Ninety days to the presidential poll on February 25, 2023, over two months after campaigns officially kicked-off, hundreds of support groups informally and collectively known as the ‘Obidient Movement’ and the Obi/Datti campaign team are at daggers drawn over financial support.
Recall that THEWILL had reported in our October 30 – Nov 5, 2022 edition that the Obi Campaign was in big trouble over funding. Till date, the situation is yet to improve, thus giving room to anxiety and doubts in the minds of patrons of support groups, their deputies and representatives.
After making efforts to independently mobilise support for the party at the grassroots level, the financially exhausted groups had threatened to withdraw their support for the Obi/Datti campaign until the Deputy Director of Campaign of the Presidential Campaign Committee, South, Chief Anagbe Kentebe, intervened to calm frayed nerves.
As a follow-up, the Labour Party presidential candidate, Obi, was said to have held a zoom town hall meeting with the aggrieved groups during which he expressed gratitude to them for “joining the fight for a just cause” and promised to convene similar meetings every two weeks.
Three weeks after, no such meeting has been called, thus leaving the problem unsolved. Then on Monday, November 21, 2022, matters assumed a different dimension. It happened at the Nigerian Guild of Editors forum in which Obi made references, among other things, to campaign funding and his relationship with the ‘Obidient Movement.’
In response to the question that his followers may react violently if he lost the election, Obi said, “My followers and supporters? I do not know them. All these people who call themselves ‘Obidient,” I don’t know them.”
On campaign funding, he said, “I am going to set up a team to manage donations. As of today, nobody will say he is the one funding Peter Obi. I am funding myself. The people who believe in our cause are responsible for all those things you see happening everywhere. I have assured them they are doing it for the right cause. As of today, nobody has given me one dollar. If it comes, I will take it and manage it judiciously.”
In a reaction to these developments, a convener of one of the big support groups of the Obi/Datti campaign, Movement for Change Worldwide, Mr March Oyinki, told THEWILL that, “Apart from funding, the main problem now is that there is no reporting channel, a sort of hierarchy within the Labour Party that responds to the yearnings of the ‘Obidient Group.”
For instance, Oyinki disclosed that a Support-for Obi/Datti WhatsApp group, an umbrella platform for 232 conveners of support groups, is more or less a talk shop.
“There is no flow of information. Only the admin gives orders. There is nobody to talk to. Yet, these groups have national grassroots reach across the country. We are in the field, doing grassroots mobilisation. When we want to give feedback or make suggestions, we are blocked by the admin.”
The Administrative Manager of the WhatsApp group, Barrister Nina Atanor, is alleged to interface with the groups only when the party’s campaign team is moving to their respective states and even then to, “send a representative to come collect a few T-Shirts that do not go round a quarter of members of support groups there.”
It is said that when the campaign team is in a state, she would call the conveners of support groups to send representatives to come for the collection of ‘inconsequential’, campaign materials. Many complain that campaign posters, banners and billboards of the Obi/Datti campaign ought to have flooded every place in the country to match up with the growing popularity of the candidate in the party.
PAINTING THE TRUE PICTURE
The Chief Spokesperson of the Obi/Datti presidential campaign committee, Malam Tanko Yunusa, agrees that there is some anxiety in the camp of the party, but he describes it as the people’s eagerness to make contributions to the campaign, arguing that the insinuation that the candidate said he did not know the ‘Obidient Movement,’ was taken out of context.
“How can that be? Obi named his branded plane after ‘Obidient people’. That is the highest level of recognition for his supporters. What he meant to say was that he did not know the members of the movement physically.”
On funding, Yunusa described the party’s presidential candidate as frugal in spending, adding that Obi made it clear that he was ready to work with genuine donors, just as support groups were generating funds for themselves.
Yunusa used his Kano home state as an example where groups voluntarily generate donations to assist unit-to-unit soldier canvassers who will also man the 420 polling units in the state during the upcoming election.
A spokesperson of the Obi/Datti group, Ms Ndi Kato, who was one of the few supporters that accompanied Obi to the Editors’ Monday Forum concurred.
“As a public figure who meets many people, he may not know me physically, but I recall all the occasions we have met. The reference to ‘Obidient’ was meant to be figurative,” she said.
COMPLAINTS FROM SUPPORT GROUPS
Investigation shows that support groups started complaining on Friday, October 28, 2023 when the National Chairman of Labour Party, Julius Abure, unveiled the rejigged list of the presidential campaign council, in Abuja. Funding and the composition of the Council unnerved many leaders of the support groups who felt left out of its composition.
Many leaders of the Obi/Datti support groups that travelled to Abuja for the inauguration of the PPC on that day felt let down and exploited after they were told by the National Chairman of the party, Julius Abure, to ”Go and source funds.”
The Convener of some of the big groups with a presence in many states and local government areas across the country confided in THEWILL, on the condition of anonymity, that Abure’s response to their request for financial support had angered them.
Many of them, who had been spending money on grassroots campaigns via contributions, were shocked to hear the LP Chairman tell them to go and source funds.
Abure, during the inauguration of the PPC, urged members of the party to look for funds for the campaign because the presidential candidate did not have the funds to run the campaign alone.
“The presidential candidate of the party cannot fund the presidential contest alone. Therefore, all of us here have the responsibility to solicit funds for the campaign,” he said, after the installation of the PPC on Friday in Abuja.
Some of the leaders who claimed they boycotted the party’s mother of all campaigns in Oyo last week, said what they want is support for logistics, such as money to hire megaphones, pay for rented apartments used in convening meetings, which can range from N20,000 to N30,000.
“When the million marches were recently organised, my group and 13 others donated N400,000 each to support the project. We are not complaining about raw cash handouts. But let our principal be committed to our support, just as we are supporters of his cause. During our last town hall meeting, for example, some group leaders complained that their accounts for receiving donations were blocked by the banks and the money, surprisingly, returned to the donors. They wanted Obi to intervene. That is the kind of support we are looking for.”
In anticipation of trouble ahead, the PCC has scheduled a meeting for Monday, November 28, 2022 in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.
Malam Yunusa disclosed to THEWILL that the General Secretary of the PCC, Mr Clement Ojukwu, has scheduled a meeting with the aggrieved groups. He absolved Barrister Atabor of any wrongdoing about her administration of WhatsApp group for supporters of the presidential candidate.
According to him, Atabor cannot act without instructions from the PCC. That is why we are calling for a meeting on Monday to resolve outstanding issues. Otherwise, the party’s campaign team is going on smoothly with their assignment. He urged the aggrieved support groups to be patient.
Mr Oyinki of the Movement for Change Worldwide supports the talks for change in the relationship between the PCC and the support groups.
“When I read about what the candidate said about the “Obidient movement,” I thought he meant to say that he was unable to identify each of us individually. He cannot claim that we are not committed to his campaigns and the cause for him to emerge as president. It must be teamwork.”
Despite Obi’s campaign’s shortcomings, his candidacy appears to be giving the two main political parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, a lot to chew on as we begin the countdown to the February 25, 2023 election.