As LP crisis festers, Peter Obi’s romance with north raises 2027 permutations

• North can’t be swayed by superficial gestures – northern elders
• Only a formidable northern vice will help him, says CNG
• It will be difficult to dislodge Tinubu’s support base in north, Abdullahi insists

With his recent visits to northern communities, it appears that Peter Obi, the 2023 presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), has begun laying the groundwork for a potential run in the 2027 presidential race even before the starting signal is sounded.

After the Ramadan began in March, Obi visited numerous mosques in northern Muslim communities in Nasarawa, Niger, Kebbi, Bauchi, Gombe, Sokoto and Kaduna states before the fasting period concluded. In the course of the tour, the former Anambra State governor commissioned multi-million naira boreholes in some of these states, making political observers reason that the LP chieftain has started a mission to boost his popularity among Muslim voters ahead of the 2027 elections.

But Obi’s visit to these northern states is coming at a time his party is embroiled in a series of leadership crises.
Recall that prior to the 2023 election, the presidential candidate of the LP, who defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), enjoyed massive support among urban youths. But he failed to make inroads into the Muslim majority states in the North, as the results of the election announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) indicated.

The Guardian investigation revealed that lack of votes in the North highly affected his chance to emerge as the winner of the fiercely contested election. In the 2023 presidential poll, Obi won in 11 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Most of these states are in Southern Nigeria. He won in Enugu, Lagos, Nasarawa, Delta, Imo, Ebonyi, Anambra, Abia, Plateau, Edo, Cross River and FCT.

Although he came third in the election based on INEC’s official results, he filed a case at the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPT) in Abuja to challenge President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s victory. In the petition, which he filed alongside his party, he alleged that the poll was marred by various forms of corrupt practices such as over-voting, votes suppression and non-compliance with the provision of the Electoral Act in various states.

He disputed the results announced by INEC in Rivers, Lagos, Taraba, Benue, Adamawa, Imo, Bauchi, Borno, Kaduna, Plateau, Ekiti, Oyo, Ondo, Osun, Kano, Katsina, Kwara, Gombe, Yobe and Niger states.

He lost his case at both the PEPT and the Supreme Court. But analysts observed that the former governor has established the viability of a third-party candidacy, something that the entrenchment of the two strong parties – the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the PDP – had made highly unlikely. But what factors led to Obi’s defeat at the poll even though he had garnered a cult-like followership among the youth?

Judging from the pattern of the presidential results, it was clear that he performed poorly in core Muslim states in the North. According to the results announced by INEC, President Tinubu scored 8,794,726 votes. His closest rival, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP scored 6,984,520 votes to emerge second in the election. Obi got a total of 6,101,533 votes while Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) came fourth with 1,496,687 votes.

In terms of regional spread, the North-west had the highest number of votes with about 6.6 million votes, followed by the North-central with above 4.5 million votes. The South-west, with about 4.25 million votes, placed third while the North-east followed with about 3.4 million votes. The South-south had 2.85 million while the South-east had 2.2 million votes.

Obi won two regions (South-east and South-south) while PDP’s Atiku scored more votes in only one region (North-east). Obi trailed Tinubu in the North-central while Atiku came second in the South-west and North-west. Overall, Tinubu scored 37 per cent of votes in the elections. His main challenger, Atiku, got 29 per cent of the votes while Obi scored 25 per cent.

Interestingly, out of 10 million votes cast in the core Muslim states of North West and North East, Obi merely garnered 665,289, a paltry 6.7 per cent, leaving Tinubu and Atiku to take a large chunk of the votes. Thus, his victory in the South South and South East couldn’t propel him to clinch the Presidency.

Pundits reason that his campaign team has gone back to the drawing table, which is evident from his recent visits and romance with the northern communities.

Datti Baba-Ahmed,

In addition, there are many who think that Obi’s choice of Datti Baba-Ahmed from Kaduna State was not considered strong enough to attract critical votes from the North during the election.

Picking Baba-Ahmed did not add much to Obi’s electoral weight judging by the results. For instance, Baba-Ahmed lost his polling unit in Tudun Wada, Zaria Local Council of Kaduna State to Atiku, who scored 102 votes. Tinubu came second with 98 votes while Obi got 54 votes. Kwankwaso secured 11 votes. In his entire council area, Baba-Ahmed delivered less than 4,000 votes, compared to Atiku’s 60,000 and Tinubu’s 40,000.

While some political observers believe that Baba-Ahmed failed to deliver a reasonable amount of votes to Obi in the North, there are those who think that Obi’s itinerary during the presidential campaign did not quite feature so much of the core North.

To them, the former Anambra governor concentrated on the South with occasional forays into the North Central zone.

However, while speaking during a live interview programme before the presidential election, a former Governor of Kano State and presidential candidate of the NNPP, Kwankwaso, had revealed that northerners won’t vote for the candidate of the LP due to the secession agitation in the South-east. According to Kwankwaso, the northern electorate believes in one Nigeria and would always vote for northern presidential candidates.

But analysts believe that the reason touted by the former Kano governor could not be the major hindrance that affected Obi’s poor outing in the North.

Another issue, according to analysts, is that before the presidential election, there was a strong disaffection among the leading members of the LP in the North. Just days to the election, chairmen of the party across the 19 states in the region claimed that they were marginalised by the LP at the national level. A case in point was when the chairman of the party in Gombe,

Alhaji Sani Abdulsalam, on Wednesday, February 22, 2023, barely 24 hours to the poll, alleged that when it came to funds distribution to prepare for the election, he and his colleagues were nowhere. They had also threatened that Obi would lose the election if the needful was not done in time. Obi eventually lost and seems to be working very hard to overturn the result in future elections.

However, some northern stakeholders who spoke with The Guardian argued that the success of Obi’s outreach efforts hinges on several critical factors.

Firstly, they observed that the perception of his actions among northern voters would play a crucial role. According to them, while genuine philanthropy can foster goodwill, there is a risk of his efforts being perceived as politically motivated.
Another factor is that Obi is likely to face stiff competition from rival candidates, especially the president, who though has not announced his intention to contest the 2027 elections, would also be vying for northern votes.

The stakeholders noted that to stand out, the former Anambra governor must differentiate himself through a substantive policy agenda that goes beyond donation of relief materials. They also noted that another issue would be his choice of running mate, saying that a formidable northern politician is critical for him to have a chance in core northern states.


Spokesperson of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, who said Obi’s current move and romance with the North is strategic, noted that it was unclear whether his interventions would actually resonate with the people of the North and help him secure their support in the 2027 elections.

He posited that Obi’s donation of boreholes and other relief materials to northern communities was not enough to win over the hearts and minds of the people.

Suleiman said: “It must be noted that while making gestures such as donating boreholes and relief materials may attract some level of goodwill from the people, it is not enough to win over the hearts and minds of the North.

“The people of the North are looking for a leader who truly understands their needs and is committed to addressing the issues that are affecting them on a daily basis. Simply throwing money at the problem or making token gestures will not be enough to earn their trust and support.”

Noting that the North is not a monolithic entity that could be easily swayed by superficial gestures, Suleiman maintained that “states within the North has their unique set of challenges and priorities, and any candidate seeking their support must be able to show that they have a deep understanding of these issues and a concrete plan to address them.”

He added: “Simply making donations without addressing the underlying issues will not be enough to win over the people of the North.

“It is also important to consider the political landscape in the North and the sentiments of the people towards the current leadership. Many in the North are feeling disillusioned and frustrated with the state of affairs in the country and are looking for a leader who can bring about real change and progress. Peter Obi must be able to demonstrate that he is that leader and that he has a vision and a plan to address the issues that are of concern to the people of the North.

“Ultimately, the success of Peter Obi’s interventions in the North will depend on the sincerity of his efforts and his ability to connect with the people on a deeper level. It is not enough to simply make gestures; he must show that he is genuinely committed to improving the lives of the people and addressing the challenges that they are facing. Only then will he be able to build a strong political base in the North ahead of the 2027 election.”

Insisting that the North made a mistake in voting Tinubu in 2023, Suleiman noted that it was unlikely that they would repeat the same error in the future.

“They have learned from their past misstep and will strive to select a candidate who can unite the country and govern in the best interests of all Nigerians.Moving forward, the North will be more cautious in selecting a candidate for the Presidency.

“They will prioritise someone who is seen as more inclusive, less controversial and more aligned with the interests of all regions of the country. The mistake of supporting Tinubu in 2023 has taught them the importance of unity and consensus in selecting a candidate for the highest office in the land,” he added.

National Coordinator of the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), Balarabe Rufai, described Obi’s gestures as a welcome development that would close the doors for some political missionaries who want to term him as a regional politician or somebody who is only interested in the southern part of the country.

According to him, the move would give him an edge if he decides to contest the 2027 presidential election.
He, however, advised the former Anambra governor to be circumspect while searching for a northern politician to serve as his running mate.

Rufai stated: “As I have been saying, Peter Obi has started very well from escaping to contest from a regional party, which is APGA, to a more national party, which is LP. That has made him a national figure.

“Unfortunately, he started well from the party level, but from the beginning of his campaign before the presidential poll, he inclined to going to churches and pastors who were advocating and campaigning for him.

“I think to my understanding that was what made him not to be accepted in the North, most especially Muslim dominated areas. But with what he’s doing now, I think that will give him an age when it comes to the 2027 elections.

“The move will make him more Nigerian and be acceptable all over the country. But the most important thing for him to do is to look for a very strong politician in the North to make him his running mate. By the time he is able to secure a very formidable, competent, accepted politician as running mate, I think the story has come to an end.

“For example, if he agrees with, let’s say, somebody like Kwankwaso, a very formidable political leader in Northern Nigeria on how they can work together, I think the rest will be history.

“Secondly, it’s very important for him to come out with a new message that will be acceptable by Nigerians. As it is, Nigerians are really in comatose. If anybody can come up with a very competent message that Nigerians will understand, I think the rest will be history.”

President of Northern Consensus Movement, Dr. Awwal Aliyu Abdullahi, said although the LP chieftain was making frantic attempts to contribute to the development of Northern Nigeria, it won’t guarantee him northern votes in 2027.

Abdullahi, who is also a security expert, said the former Anambra governor needs to do much more than just building boreholes.

“That will not give him votes,” he stressed. “He needs to truly reach out to those that matter. When I say those that matter, I mean those at the grassroots, the elders, traditional institutions, political leaders, marketers, the youth and women leaders. This is a very big thing that he needs to do a lot of work on.

“He has to sit down, come up with a Marshall Plan if at all what he is doing is politically inclined. And you and I know that what he’s doing is politically inclined. I’m also monitoring and I saw what is happening. In fact, one of the boys that are doing that for him is my boy. I don’t want to mention such a thing because of so many reasons.

“The main thing is that for him to achieve what he is intending to achieve, it has gone beyond just building boreholes. As I said, he needs a Marshall Plan. He needs to do a very serious reach out. He needs to get to the political grassroots of the North or people that are truly at the grassroots.”

Abdullahi, however, expressed doubt that Obi’s outreach to the North this time would be able to dislodge President Tinubu’s political structure in the region.

“To be honest, it will not be significant. First, the President has a political party that has ruled this country for nine years and that political party has every possible stretch and spread that a political party is supposed to have.

“Apart from that, the president has also tried to build his own independent structure before that of the APC that he is working on or leading Nigeria with right now. So, he is combining the advantage of having a political party that has ruled for nine years and still ruling; and which has a very widespread to the lowest of the low as far as Nigeria is concerned and also having his own personal structure.”

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