The 2023 presidential election holds today and residents of Agulu community, in Anambra state, are gearing up for a poll that may seal their fate for the next decade. Agulu is the ancestral home of Peter Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP).
Over time, Obi has attracted a cult following on social media and among the youthful population of the country, especially from the south-east state where he was governor for eight years between 2006 and 2014.
Armed with the ticket of a less prominent party, the businessman has mounted a major opposition against the big two — Atiku Abukabar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) — at a time the idea of a third-force contestant seemed unlikely.
A PEEP INTO AGULU
Petty traders in the community were already awake to begin their daily businesses as early as 6:30 am. Farmers, with baskets and cutlasses, walked the community’s tarred roads interspersed by palm trees and cassava plantations as chirping creatures and hooting owls sang their tunes into first light.
For natives of Agulu and south-east where people of Igbo extraction are the ethnic majority, Obi offers hope of having the first president of Igbo descent since the return of democracy in 1999.
Agulu community, which subsumes a total of 20 villages, has prominent men and women in politics, industries, academia, making it a major district to look out for when results roll in. It’s a 32-minute drive from Awka, the state capital.
Forming a major roundabout that ushers visitors into the town is a giant statue of Dora Akunyili, the late erstwhile director-general of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) whose war against counterfeit drugs in Nigeria shut down many open-air medicine markets.
Further down is a bridge leading across the famous Agulu Lake, a go-to spot for traditionalists seeking out the spiritual guidance of a popular chief priest around the area.
As with suburb areas, the air in Agulu on February 24, a day before the election, is calm and inhabitants are quick to voice their enthusiasm to throng the polling units in support of Obi, whom they termed “the son of the soil”. When engaged in a light-hearted discourse about the candidate’s chances at the polls, they couldn’t hide their optimism.
“It’s Peter Obi direct, whether they give me money or not,” Chima, a polytechnic student in Nwaagụ, said.
Obi’s home, located in Amatutu village, has two structures that blend in, hardly announcing itself as a property belonging to a prominent Nigerian politician contesting in the 2023 presidential election.
“We were suffering before Obi became Anambra governor but things changed during his rule,” said Chukwudị, a motorcyclist who lives in Nwaagụ, a community located five minutes drive from Obi’s house.
“Peter Obi must be president for us. He’s the only candidate that can solve the problem with Nigeria. We see him as a true leader and believe he will replicate his success in Anambra on a nationwide scale.”
One of the residents, who identified himself as Chukwudi said he is hoping that if Obi wins, the food crisis in the country will become a thing of the past.
Potable water seems to be a major headache in this community as mini trucks ply the streets and bush paths to supply households for as much as ₦10,000 and ₦15,000.
Transporters and bikers at the Nwaagụ roundabout shuttling between Onitsha and Upper Iweka beckon on passengers for patronage, some openly lamenting how the fallout of Nigeria’s currency redesign and failing mobile banking channels threaten their livelihood.
“Look at Nigeria. We were once a country of positive reference. Now, we’re a people without hope. Any Nigerian who fails to give us this man at the polls does not wish this country well,” one of them stated.
Picking his teeth after a meal in a local eatery, a voter, Ikenna, said: “Agulu is secured. We will protect our votes.”
Agulu enjoys a vibrant youth society that intervenes in disputes and frowns at socially unethical practices, a fact evidenced in signposts at major junctions that read in Igbo: “no performing of fetish rituals”.
For the people of Agulu, all is at stake. And it is with this in mind that these locals prep for the big election day.