Election: Reckoning with Peter Obi as a force in market engagement and mobilisation

The Vice Presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Peter Obi, has been on the move, ever since Atiku/Obi campaign trail hit the ground. However, the sort of mobilisation and campaign he would rather engage in may not always make it to front pages of newspapers and it is understandable. A lot of people have come forward to posit questions; where is Obi? The traders’ favourite politician; Peter Obi, has, in fact, been all over markets in Nigeria, engaging and speaking to all traders, while amassing high-level goodwill, without spending a dime. Why does he have this unique affinity to traders? Is it perhaps related to the fact that for a long time, he, himself has been a trader?

Obi grew up in a largely business-oriented family. His family owned one of the foremost supermarkets in Onitsha as at then. Obi would go to school and as well, help out at the shop. Guess what? Obi has grown that family supermarket in one part of Onitsha, into a shopping mall having branches across Nigeria. While Next is a family business, Obi for a while has had the opportunity of running it and growing it. Now you see why and how Obi at all times, have the traders at heart?

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Obi’s grassroots mobilisation is targeted at traders. In all of his market sensitisation in the South East, South West, South-South and North Central, he makes sure to tell the traders of what importance it is to vote for a better Nigeria. Half of the South-East voting bloc, for instance, is made up of traders and apprentices. This massive sensitisation, by Obi who has a stellar reputation in the South East, is what exactly the Atiku/Obi campaign needs. Recall that these are people that will usually vote their conscience as they do not answer to the government of the day in any way.

Obi’s choice of markets in Lagos and Abuja is strategic, considering that those markets control up to two million PVC and getting them alerted to what needs to be done, is definitely a huge part of the campaign. Lagos is a battleground. However, it is not in the PDP’s winning equation. His visits to major markets in Lagos like Ladipo, Balogun, Alaba and the rest, will always make the needed difference, considering that people love him and listen to him.

Obi understands his target voters and has been able to consolidate them while eating deep into opposition territory. The election is in three days and the people of Nigeria will have to choose between business-oriented candidates, or not. The mindset of a trader is one that enables him or her make it without direct government assistance. As such, the Atiku/Obi ticket which believes in giving an enabling environment to private businesses is indeed well suited for the traders and will definitely enjoy their support.#

— Ozoemena Nonso, an analyst writes from Lagos

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