By Umar Sa’ad Hassan
A lot certainly has to change about the Peoples Democratic Party for it to pose a formidable opposition to the ruling APC and most importantly, seize back power from the APC. This much they appreciate and as such, convened a ‘Re-Branding’ Conference to that effect on Thursday 12th November. The party suffered from its worst leadership during the Goodluck Jonathan era that saw seven of its governors forming a faction along with some stalwarts with five of those governors eventually crossing over to the other side.
Blaming the party chairman, Adamu Muazu before forcing him to resign and publicly accusing its NEC of sharing what was left of their presidential campaign funds among themselves was how the PDP responded to its drubbing at the 2015 general elections.
It had a leader who seemed to be learning on the job. He had made his mistakes and they proved fatal. There had been little to suggest that the party was actually serious about patching up its umbrella even merely hours to the re-branding conference with the committee chairman, Chief Raymond Aleogho Dokpesi apologising to Nigerians for fielding Goodluck Jonathan in the March 28th polls in a move that couldn’t be more reckless and a quick counter by Mr Olisa Metuh emphasising that Dokpesi was speaking for himself and nobody else. The conference itself held with absentees as notable as Goodluck Jonathan, Namadi Sambo and David Mark. This shouldn’t be a problem but there would definitely be one if other prominent members left Abuja without making certain crucial decisions in any ‘after-conference’ meeting. Decisions that would ultimately portray it as truly re-branded. Some of those decisions should include steps towards curtailing the utterances of members especially key ones.
The party is not loved by a majority of Nigerians and sounding petty and overzealous in criticism of the APC all in the name of playing the active opposition would do more harm than good. Ben Murray Bruce saying Babatunde Fashola shouldn’t use generators and recommending that Chibuike Amaechi use public transport is most ridiculous .If only Olisa Metuh would concentrate more on the constructive criticisms available and not trivialise a moment as glorious as an U-17 World Cup triumph by talking ‘APC and De-marketing’.The PDP has done a lot of damage in the last six years that would take a lot of time to fix. Finding what to criticise the barely six-month p-old government for without coming across as being too petty shouldn’t be too difficult.
Portraying the party as serious-minded and business-like starts with regulating public utterances. A lot of people might just forget the bad governance meted out to us by them in the past and make recourse to the absence of the notable absentees at the conference as having purged its helm of bad elements.
Secondly, the party must draw up a list of all the states, political climate and capabilities of their present leaders. They stand a good chance in winning quite a number of states that aren’t theirs if they put in the right type of work ahead of time. Not a few governors are now hated for their inability to pay salaries before the bailout by the new government. Whether or not it is to be blamed on the mentality of the average Nigerian is a topic for another day. Take for instance, Kwara State. The Senate President was stoned at an Eid prayer ground not only because he is alleged to have looted them dry but also because civil servants were being owed about seven months Salaries. The governor is seen as Saraki’s ‘Yes Man’ and whoever they present next would be a hard sell. With the withered influence of ‘Jagaban’, any of the APC South West states can be captured. Even Lagos I dare say. If there is nothing spectacular about Ambode after four years considering the achievements of his predecessors, then a formidable PDP candidate like Jimi Agbaje might just clinch it.
It would take another Rochas to win again in Imo and there are quite a number of northern states that have governors who look like they will sleep for most their tenure.
An overdose of early preparation doesn’t kill. The ideal new look PDP would look to empower the media/publicity teams of its state chapters to ensure grievances against the incumbent governments are heard as loud as possible so as to whip up the right sentiments. This aspect is key to resurrecting the party. Staging legitimate and peaceful protests could also prove useful.
The party would seriously need to consider a new approach as regards membership. With a leaner purse to work with, targeting money bags and convincing them to stand for elections might turn out to be very productive. Many Ayo Fayose style ‘Rice Campaigns’ could just do the magic .It is most (Un)fortunate that this wasn’t deployed during the last general elections.
The party needs the North badly and much won’t change if a lot of work isn’t put into changing the status quo. Preying on the APC’s weaknesses, exposing them and capitalising on the ‘bandwagon’ mentality of the Northern electorate is what it takes. The right buzz in the weak spots could have a lot of people jumping ship. Like I always tell people; no one reason can be adduced for the sudden volte face for Sen. Rabiu Kwankwaso before the 2011 Kano guber elections other than a Hausa song urging him to return. These are probably the worst times the PDP has had to face since inception. Only time will tell if re-branding meant gathering its people in one room or actually changing how things are done.
Umar Sa’ad Hassan is a lawyer based in Kano.