Peter Obi delivers a masterclass in religious cosplay

Peter Obi is no doubt setting a standard for performative politics.

Many Nigerian politicians have mastered the art of taking advantage of the people they swear on oath to serve, unfortunately, the masses don’t see the politics, instead, they relish the optics and ignore the antics.

The crudest form of this antics manifests before elections, when politicians pretentiously act like the masses, visiting artisans’ workplaces and eating roasted corn in public, after years of making life difficult for small-scale traders.

This shenanigan is what we as a people have come to believe and identify as the cornerstone of grassroots politics.

But Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party in the 2023 election, is dismantling this standard and refining the performative aspects of Nigerian politics.

If the roasted corn and plantain-eating politicians descend from their high horses — from which they look down on the people — they’ll learn a lot from Obi’s political theatre.

What’s Obi doing differently?

You’ll notice that following his outing in the 2023 general election, the former governor of Anambra State seems to have realised his mistakes and has stepped up his strategy to endear himself to more Nigerians and gather support from different communities.

A glimpse of that strategy was seen in a viral video of his religious adventure in a mosque in Nasarawa State.

The video, which highlighted Obi’s humility and his readiness to serve showed him sitting on the floor like the other congregants of the mosque and spoon-feeding a kid sitting by his side.

While the congregants — kids and adults — gathered around him, watching the humble VIP in their midst, Obi delivered the purpose of his visit, one spoon after the other, without slipping in politics.

Dressed for the occasion, with his mahmudi cap matching his black kaftan, Obi blended into the environment like a chameleon, leaving no inkling that he is a practising Catholic.

Explaining the purpose of his visit to the mosque, Obi said he decided to immerse himself in learning the experiences of Nigerians observing Ramadan and to provide support to those facing hardship.

The primary purpose of my visit was twofold: to immerse myself in learning about the experiences of our people, particularly during this special time of Ramadan, and to provide support to those facing hardships during these challenging times,” he said.

Obi is not desperate to lead Nigerians

For those who might view his visit to the mosque from the lens of politics, Obi before arriving at the mosque had cleared the air that he is not desperate about leading Nigerians.

Hours before his pilgrimage to the mosque, he had visited Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State. During a conversation with the governor, he said he’s not desperate to lead Nigerians — and you can’t but agree with him.

If you don’t agree, permit me to help you understand his move. If Obi was so desperate, he could have joined the mosque’s congregants in prayers after breaking fast with them.

No one would have stopped him from observing at least two raka’at of Taraweeh if he had wanted to do so, after all, he was dressed for the occasion.

The optics would be bad but it won’t take away the fact that he did it out of the urge to learn about the experiences of Nigerians.

He did that last year, attending church services, praising and worshipping God with all sorts of denominations. That’s the stuff of leaders who are willing to serve but not desperate to lead.

Obi is no doubt setting a standard for performative politics, and if his efforts to unite Nigerians continue, it won’t be surprising if he heads to Mecca for a lesser hajj to affirm his spiritual solidarity with his Muslim supporters.

It’s possible, innit?

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