Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie sure knows how to capture a moment. The great Nigerian novelist yesterday broke her relative silence about Nigeria’s 2023 elections to endorse Peter Obi, the popular presidential candidate of the Labour Party. She addressed an affectionate open letter to the 61-year-old, who was governor of Anambra, the southeastern state she hails from.
In the long note, shared on her Facebook page on the occasion of his birthday, she called Mr. Obi “my dearest big bro.”
“I will never forget your kindness to my beloved parents,” she wrote. “Thank you for the respect you showed them, for your many visits to Abba, where you gave to Daddy and Mummy the most precious gifts: your time and your attention. Thank you for walking this still-unbearable journey of grief with my siblings and me.”
She wrote about “how you regaled Daddy and Mummy with your stories until we started joking about your obsession with the ‘GDP of Malaysia.’ But your obsession spoke of hope: your hope for Nigeria, your belief in what Nigeria could be. A belief that has always been practical, grounded in numbers and in reality.”
She shared an anecdote on his famous frugality. “I remember when you came to support me as I was being honored by the United Nations Foundation in New York, and I teased you about the inexpensive hotel you were staying in, and you shrugged and said, ‘it’s just a place to sleep, why do I need to be in an expensive place?’”
She highlighted his generosity. “And then only days later, you once again exhibited your incredible generosity to the causes you believe in, and it reminded me of all the hospitals and schools and churches you have supported over the years, and often without fanfare. You have always been clear about what your priorities are, what matters to you, what you believe should matter, and that is deeply admirable. I have always admired your humane pragmatism, how you are willing to talk to almost anyone if it will bring about a good outcome.”
Obi is the favorite of young Nigerians, who refer to themselves as “OBI-dients.”
Adichie praised him for believing “in certain ideals without being an ideologue. And how you see people as people, knowing that human value is not measured in material terms”; and for “your honesty and your humor. For your willingness to acknowledge flaws, yours and others’, knowing that nobody is perfect. For your fuss-free kindness and your humility that is never performative.”
Adichie said she is inspired by Obi’s “intellectual curiosity, your eagerness to learn, your genuine love of education (which is why you sought out, and honored, Daddy all those years ago when you learned that he was Nigeria’s first professor of statistics.)”
The Open Country Mag cover star continued with a tender, affirming touch. “Sometimes it is the simplest of language that captures the most complex of things, and so I will end with simplicity: You are a good man. You are loved. You are appreciated. May your eyes continue to light up when you talk about the lovely confident Margaret (Thank God she agreed for you!) and your lovely children, A and E. May joy follow you and yours always.”
She then ended with the bang many people had been waiting for. “Mummy called you her ‘first son,’ my siblings and I call you our ‘big bro,’ and I cannot wait to call you ‘My President’,” she wrote. “I cannot wait for February 25, 2023, when I, with personal pride in you and with hope for what Nigeria can become, will cast my vote for you and your running mate, Senator Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed. Chukwu dube gi. God Keep you. With love, Chimamanda.”
Peter Obi’s decamping to the Labour Party in May turned a relatively unknown party into an overnight favourite with young Nigerians online. “I invite all Nigerians to join me in taking back our country,” he said then.
Running against him for president are the PDP’s Atiku Abubakar, a former Vice President of the country and a 2019 presidential candidate who then had Obi as running mate and whose reputation dipped after retracting his condemnation of the Islamist fanatical killing of a student, and the ruling APC’s Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos State facing charges of corruption and ill-health. Obi is the youngest and his two terms as governor of Anambra State are considered to have set such high standards for governance that, for most young Nigerians, it is him or no one else.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of the first major celebrities to endorse Peter Obi.