Peter Obi

Like Chavez, Like Peter Obi: The Dilemma of Deciding Popularity from Populism

By Abiodun-Oni Taiwo

The Peter Obi: ObiDatti Movement- Political popularity and populism are two distinct concepts that are often used interchangeably, but they have significant differences, especially in the African context. Political popularity refers to the widespread support that a political leader or party enjoys from the general population, while populism refers to a political ideology that emphasizes the idea of “the people” against “the elites” and often involves using simplification and emotional appeals to garner support.

In Africa, genuine political popularity is often earned through the delivery of tangible results that improve the lives of the citizens. For example, a political leader who is successful in reducing poverty, creating jobs, and improving healthcare and education services is likely to be popular with the people. Such a leader may have a broad base of support that cuts across ethnic, religious, and socio-economic lines. Genuine political popularity is usually a reflection of the trust that the people have in their leaders and the belief that they are working in the best interests of the citizens.

On the other hand, populism in Africa often takes the form of politicians who make grand promises to the people but do not deliver on them. Populist leaders often use slogans and emotive language to appeal to the masses and gain support, but they do not have concrete plans or policies to address the issues they promise to solve. For example, a populist leader may promise to eradicate poverty overnight, but without a well-thought-out plan, such promises are likely to fall flat. Populist leaders also tend to play on the fears and frustrations of the people and blame the problems of the country on scapegoats such as foreigners, ethnic minorities, or the elites.

Furthermore, populism in Africa is often driven by self-interest and personal gain rather than a genuine commitment to serving the people. Populist leaders may use their position to enrich themselves and their close associates, rather than working to improve the lives of the citizens. This often leads to widespread corruption and undermines public trust in the political system.

In conclusion, the difference between genuine political popularity and populism in Africa is clear. While political popularity is based on the delivery of tangible results that improve the lives of the citizens, populism is driven by grand promises and emotional appeals that often lack substance. It is important for citizens to be discerning and to hold their political leaders accountable for their actions, to ensure that they are working in the best interests of the people and not just using their positions for personal gain.

Examples of populist leaders in history and the kind of emotional statements they made

a. Hugo Chávez (Venezuela): Chávez was a charismatic leader who rose to power on a wave of populism in the late 1990s. He often made emotional appeals to the poor and working-class, positioning himself as a champion of the common people against the elites. He was known for making statements such as “I am the people” and “I am the poor.”
b. Juan Perón (Argentina): Perón was a controversial figure who rose to power in the mid-1940s. He was known for his populist rhetoric and his ability to connect with the working class, whom he referred to as “descamisados” (shirtless ones). He made emotional speeches that emphasized the importance of social justice and equality, promising to help the poor and working-class.
c. Silvio Berlusconi (Italy): Berlusconi was a media tycoon who rose to power in the 1990s and served as the Prime Minister of Italy three times. He was known for his flamboyant personality and his ability to connect with the masses through his use of humor and catchphrases. He made emotional appeals to the people, promising to restore Italy’s greatness and to bring back the “good old days.”
d. Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Turkey): Erdogan is a current leader of Turkey and a former mayor of Istanbul. He is known for his charismatic and emotive speeches, which often evoke nationalistic sentiments and religious piety. He has made statements such as “I am the voice of the nation” and “I will fight for the rights of my people.”

On the African front, the following persons are considered by verifiable standards to have been populists:

e. Julius Nyerere (Tanzania): Julius Nyerere was the first President of Tanzania and a key figure in African independence movements. He was known for his populist rhetoric and his commitment to socialism and African unity. He made emotional speeches about the importance of African solidarity and the need for a new kind of politics that would put the people first. However, Nyerere’s policies eventually led to economic decline and widespread poverty, and his legacy is now seen as mixed.

f. Muammar Gaddafi (Libya): Muammar Gaddafi was the longest-serving leader of Libya, who ruled the country for over 40 years. He was known for his charismatic personality and his use of emotional appeals to rally the masses. He often made statements such as “The Revolution is not a Bed of Roses” and “The Revolution will continue until all people are free.” Despite his initial popularity, Gaddafi’s rule eventually became authoritarian, leading to widespread human rights abuses and a decline in the country’s standard of living.

g. Mobutu Sese Seko (Democratic Republic of Congo): Mobutu Sese Seko was the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo for over 30 years. He was known for his charismatic personality and his use of emotional appeals to connect with the masses. He often made statements such as “Zaire is for all Zaireans” and “The People’s Republic is for the People.” However, Mobutu’s rule became increasingly authoritarian, leading to widespread corruption and economic decline, and his legacy is now widely seen as negative.

h. Idi Amin (Uganda): Idi Amin was the President of Uganda from 1971 to 1979. He was known for his populist rhetoric and his use of emotive language to appeal to the masses. He made statements such as “I am the King of Scotland” and “I am a Military Genius.” However, Amin’s rule became increasingly authoritarian and was marked by widespread human rights abuses, leading to a decline in the country’s standard of living.

These leaders and many others have used emotional appeals and simplification of complex issues to gain widespread support from the masses. While their speeches may have resonated with the people at the time, it is important to critically examine their policies and actions to determine if they have delivered on their promises and if their leadership has had a positive impact on the country and its citizens.

Populism is a political ideology that emphasizes the idea of “the people” against “the elites” and often involves using simplification and emotional appeals to garner support. Some people may consider Peter Obi to be a populist leader because of his political views and rhetoric, while others may not see him as a populist leader based on his policies and actions.

In order to determine if Peter Obi is a populist leader, it is important to examine his political views, policies, and actions. For example, if he has made grand promises to the people without delivering on them or if he has used emotive language to appeal to the masses, then he may be considered a populist leader. On the other hand, if he has a track record of delivering concrete results that improve the lives of the citizens, then he may not be considered a populist leader.

The former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, recently declared his candidacy for the 2023 presidential election, sparking a wave of support from frustrated young Nigerians and those dissatisfied with the performance of the traditional politicians from the two dominant parties. However, the momentum that started as a trial amongst a section of Nigerians Igbo has now no doubt become a nationwide phenomenon, fueled by widespread discontent with the status quo.

While Obi may not have the numbers or national reach to win the election, his enthusiastic supporters are not only building castles in the air, they are also dressing him in borrowed, saintly robes and aggressively attacking anyone who disagrees with them.

Any attempt to scrutinize Obi’s record as governor from 2006 to 2014 is met with insults, and the fact that he has not called his supporters to order is a sign that he is enjoying their fantasies.

I often say this to any OBIdient who tells me he supports Peter Obi because of his competence to name one single achievement of his as Governor and not some ridiculous award from an NGO.

a. Was he able to reduce poverty in Anambra State ? NO, poverty increased by 58%

b. Did he undertake any infrastructural regeneration or renewal in Anambra? NO, Anambra is the Erosion capital of the world

c. Did he improve on the State’s internally Generated Revenue ? NO, his predecessor did by 157% and his successor by 300% but he by a miserly 3%

d. Was he democratically inclined? NO, he never conducted LG elections in 7 yrs.

e. Did he move Anambra from Consumption to Production? NO, he imports every thing his businesses sell and even the Hero Beer domiciled in Anambra is produced in South Africa and imported to Nigeria.

f. Which of his legacies outlasts his tenure? NONE, the current Gov. of the State has called his purported investment of the sum of N1,955,535,247.00 (an equivalent of approximately $12,616,356.43 at the then average CBN exchange rate of N155.00/$1) as worth next to nothing.

Shockingly, Peter Obi is now touted as an economic genius with the magic wand to turn around the fortunes of the Nigerian state. My question is, Has he done it before, How do you know he can do it?

Obi’s inconsistency is also a cause for concern. He once vowed never to leave the APGA, yet he has now left the party for the PDP, and then for the Labour Party.

His supporters, dubbed the “Obi-dients,” use emotional blackmail and cyberbullying to promote their candidate, but they fail to realize that the 2023 presidential election cannot be won through bullying and lies. Surprisingly, many IPOB sympathizers who previously called for Nigeria’s disintegration have joined the Obi bandwagon, using threats and insults to market their candidate.

If we are keeping it a buck, the OBIdient movement have through their methods of engagement on social media widened the already widened ethnic and religious gap apparently domiciled in the country’s fabric

Despite eight years as governor, Obi has not won any election in Anambra State since his tenure ended. He was able to install his protégé, Willie Obiano, but the two fell out within months, with Obiano accusing Obi of making monetary demands and interfering in government. Since then, the state has had two more governorship elections, in which Obi failed to install his preferred candidates. He now has no political allies, including former governorship contemporaries, political appointees, and former commissioners, to support his presidential ambition.

In conclusion, Obi lacks the capacity, political structure, and efficiency to win or govern Nigeria. He cannot list any significant achievements from his two terms as governor and should be held accountable for the allegations against him, including his alleged role in the Awkuzu SARS incident, the investment of state resources in his family business, and the allegations made by the former governor of the state.

Some of OBI’s populist Remarks/Antics

a. Campaigning only in the christian dominated areas of the different northern States

b. Church Please take back your country

c. The average age of my party’s ticket and Chairman is 65 while the other ones we don’t even know their age.

d. Focus on only the youths. The entire campaign is built on the youths, forgetting the aged and the very young.

e. Spurious statistics to compare Nigeria’s situations to other countries to project Nigeria’s dire situation which have mostly come out false

f. Manifesto is a mere glossy paper. But later went on to release his after a latch back.

g. I have only one shoe to palpate his poverty but he is a billionaire

h. My house is a three bedroom flat

i. My children dont have cars and i cannot buy car for them

j. My daughter teaches in a secondary school

k. We no dey give shishi

The list of the emotive statements is endless. While some of these statements are true and seem very normal, within the Nigerian context, they may not necessarily be devoid of surreptitious attempt to appeal to the poverty sympathy of Nigerians. Nigerian ‘youths’ are anti-establishment and glorify poverty. They see wealth as mostly ill gotten even though they themselves do not mind to have same.

Answering the Question of whether a populist is a bad person

While populist leaders may be able to connect with the masses and generate support through emotional appeals, their policies and actions may not always align with the best interests of the people or the country. Populist leaders may make unrealistic promises or use slogans and emotional appeals to gain support, but without a concrete plan or the necessary resources to deliver on those promises, they may fail to deliver tangible results for the citizens.

Furthermore, populist leaders may also resort to authoritarian measures or undermine democratic institutions to maintain their grip on power. They may play on the fears and frustrations of the people to rally support, but this can also lead to the marginalization of certain groups and the spread of hate and division. Populist leaders may also be more likely to engage in corruption and abuse their power for personal gain, further eroding public trust in the political system.

In short, while populism can have some appeal in the short-term, it may not always lead to positive outcomes in the long-term. It is important for citizens to be discerning and hold their political leaders accountable, regardless of whether they are populists or not.

I have provided you with an abundance of history and a draft of the present but i will not make the decision for you. It is up to you to decide if the ObiDatti Movement is indeed a popular one or a disappointing populist one.

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