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Another factor powering Peter Obi’s movement is the “outsider” factor — Moses Ochonu

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Peter Obi

I have already written that the enthusiasm factor cannot be ignored in election analysis and permutations and that the enthusiasm factor resides with Peter Obi.

Another factor powering the Peter Obi movement is the “outsider” factor.

When citizens are disgusted with the political establishment, they often look to an outsider, someone who is either on the fringes of the establishment or outside of it, someone untainted by the hated status quo.

Once that outsider has been identified, citizens hoping for a radical change of direction proceed to mystify, reinvent, and even deify him/her.

They invent stories around the person, some true, some half-true, and some false.

Even if you point to a flaw in this messianic outsider that citizens are projecting their anxieties and hopes on, they not only dismiss the flaw, they turn the flaw into a virtue, and the flaw becomes part of the myth.

When Donald Trump emerged in the US, no scandal stuck to him or changed the mind of his supporters, who were determined to elect an outsider to, as they claimed, shake up the system and destabilize the two party establishment.

They invented patently false stories about Trump designed to justify their support and to magnify the myth of him being a disruptive outsider.

They said he was a great businessman, which he wasn’t true at all if you look objectivey at the facts of his business history.

They said he would make everyone rich like himself. They said he wouldn’t seek to make money for himself and his family since he was already wealthy and would instead serve the country selflessly.

None of these was true about pre-presidency Trump or a president Trump, who is notorious for his greed, corruption, and extreme selfishness.

The truth didn’t matter. What mattered was Trump’s coronation as the messianic outsider. Trump was only a vessel for a movement of disillusioned and desperate citizens.

There already adulatory stories about Peter Obi in Hausaphone Northern Nigeria that exist at the intersection of truth, falsehood, and half-truth.

There are positive vernacular myths and exaggerated tales already being produced by Peter Obi’s grassroots supporters. I recently heard one in Hausa about how he has been dolling out his own personal funds to the poor for years and would do that on a grander scale as president.

The facticity of these stories is not important, as myth making is a staple of electoral politics. What is important is:

1) Such myths take on a life of their own and are magnified in correspondence to how desperate citizens are for a change.

2) Such myths are not produced by candidates but by enthusiastic supporters, and countervailing facts often do not work to stop them and may in fact be interpreted as the establishment fighting back, thereby increasing the receiption of the myths and stories.

3) Such myths are only constructed for and work only for candidates that already enjoy popular/populist appeal and are seen as iconoclastic and radically different politicians who would do things differently.

Thus, the extent and depth of myth-making and the production of fact-defying stories around a candidate can indicate the appeal of such a candidate.

Conversely, candidates perceived to be part of a failed status quo/establishment not only do not attract any positive myth making or implausible rhetoric, even factual stories about them are met with skepticism and disdainful doubt.

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