Why Peter Obi Performed Poorly In CNN Interview


Of the frontrunners for the Nigerian presidential elections in 2023, nobody has been more visible and vocal than Peter Obi. The Labor Party candidate has been more ubiquitous than his opponents and for good reason, coming into the race, he was widely touted to have an outsider’s chance at winning the polls, and secondly of the three major candidates he had the least recognizable name on the ballot.

While Obi’s strategy has succeeded in galvanizing a populist support base and has gone on to increase his political profile, it has also exposed cracks in the utopic candidacy painted by his followers especially on social media.

Earlier in the week, Obi sat down with CNN’s Zain Asher to discuss policy and future plans for the country should he be elected president, for his supporters Obi’s performance would suffice but for undecideds, neutrals and the opposition, the interview was quite underwhelming.

Despite the flattering and friendly tone of the interview, Obi seemed fidgety and tended to deliver surface level solutions to queries from Asher. On revitalizing Nigeria’s economy, he parrots the same sentiments of going back to the farms and stopping corruption, eerily reminiscent of current President Buhari’s rhetoric in 2015 and 2019. Not that economic diversification and anti-corruption mechanisms aren’t effective ways of rescuing Nigeria’s economy, but these are buzz words that have been echoed by pervious candidates and destined to be repeated by Obi’s challengers at the polls.

At the core of it, Tinubu’s Agbado rhetoric is his own approach to economic diversification through agriculture, however it is majorly mocked and parodied because of its shallow and inane presentation. The Nigerian electorates deserve a practical proposition towards economic emancipation, which Obi failed to show in this interview.

Even when given the alley-oop by the interviewer, when she asked how Obi would transform the economy from consumptive to productive, a mantra he frequently recites to whoever cares to listen, he gives the same theoretical and tired cliches his competitors and previous candidates have been known to utter, i.e., remove subsidy and build refineries within a short time. Yes, it sounds good and we have heard it before, but how practical is it and what are the steps to make it happen?

The most underwhelming aspect of the interview was when he was given the floor to sell himself as different from his competitors, Obi takes us back to his Anambra days and not in impressive fashion, he superficially drones on about his governorship record without giving real substance or evidence to back his claims, the monologue had to be interrupted by the CNN edit team.

Interestingly, Obi most likely on the advice of his team, shied away from giving statistics, which has been his major albatross in his interviews with local press, but this significantly takes the sting off his presentation and exposes a lack of depth in his approach to answering questions.

Obi, obviously, scores higher than other major party aspirants who would cower at the thought of facing scrutiny of the international press, but at the moment, his support base, the Obidients are doing a better job of selling his candidacy better than he is. When the electorate decides to look at the man behind the buzz and stumble on this interview, they may be disappointed at worst or indifferent towards his candidacy at best.

To remedy this, Obi needs to take a step back from his one man show approach and let experts on the team tackle discourse on complex issues, although critics will counter that he is still ragtag and underprepared and has not formed a cohesive team to handle such.

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