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PDP: The Way Forward (2)

BALA DAN ABU e-mail: bala.danabu@theunion.com.ng

This is the very first time the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is dealing with the reality of an electoral defeat at the federal level. It is also the first time it is going to be an opposition party, having lost the enviable position of the ruling party to the All Progressives Congress, APC. Handling these two roles at the same time is not likely to be easy for the party. It is a learning process which must start now.

The blame game which started with the results of the elections should stop now. Everybody that mattered in the PDP played a role in its fall. What is required now is how the party’s misfortunes can be turned around in the shortest time possible. And this demands quick understanding by party members of the new role that the party must now play. Nobody in the party is too small to lend a helping hand in this direction. Party leaders must not create more crises out of the party’s misfortunes but rather explore ways to achieve internal stability in the party. A fundamental step towards stability is for the party to change its leadership.

The present set of leaders has lost credibility and confidence of party members. Let there be a complete overhaul of the party’s leadership machinery in a way that people who enjoy the confidence and trust of majority of party members are encouraged to get into the critical leadership positions. And this must be through an electoral process that is open and competitive. Those who led the party into this woeful defeat should now take the back seat.

The party should try a set of pragmatic new hands for a change. In the past and up till the most recent of its primaries, PDP leaders were almost always hand-picked by a few conspirators masquerading as the conscience and voice of the party. Their extraordinary audacity was the root of most of the crises of confidence in the party. The party was stronger on the side of preachment than in the practice of the tenets of democracy.

At the centre and in the states, the party always came out of its primaries with wounds that never really healed before another round of primary elections. It was a kind of circle of unfair practice that gradually eroded party loyalty and discipline. This only re-opened rather than heal the wounds that were also inflicted through undemocratic party attitudes and practices. That lesson must not elude party leaders this time round.

The second fundamental step is for the party to learn to appreciate the role of the media and use them better in this new dispensation. This is not suggesting that it throws money at journalists which does not always succeed in buying their loyalty. The party must own its own media.

In the past, it took the support of the media for granted. At some time, its attitude tended to suggest that it did not need the media to win its elections. It left its media campaign in the hands of no media house in particular. In other words, it had no control over any medium of mass communication. It had no medium of its own for reaching out to the critical public at the critical time with its own message, raw and undiluted as it would want it. In the APC, the story was different. It went into the political field with its own army of trumpeters – the media – which it recognised and treated as its greatest weapon in the battle to wrest power from the PDP. They reported APC’s activities as insiders and stakeholders, made issues out of none issues when the rival party was involved and reduced the real issues into non-issues to protect their party’s interests. Media presence as well as the creation and sustenance of favourable perception were among departments of the electoral campaign which PDP lost even before the presidential polling day. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s expansive media empire was fully mobilised with all the needed logistics to fight for the party and it did an excellent job. His media houses and others sympathetic to APC and its candidates helped in no small way in promoting the sentiments that worked against the PDP and positioned the APC for victory.

The non-Tinubu arm of the media was largely on the fence. Some of them fell for those sentiments that were being promoted by the APC and its own media outfit and took sides with them. Only a few took the bold and courageous stand behind the PDP and its candidates at the federal level and in the states to the end. Even these faithful few ones were never acknowledged and encouraged in any special way by the PDP and the Presidential Campaign Committee. The UNION and the Nigeria PILOT belong to this group.

I’m not belly-aching on behalf of these media houses against those that got generous support from the PDP. In fact, I don’t have the mandate of those I’m speaking for to say what I’m saying about their roles in the elections. I have only used my own personal understanding of their role in the elections to illustrate the big media snub that PDP is. To further demonstrate this disdainfully rebuffing attitude of the PDP, it never felt the necessity to have a seasoned journalist as its director of publicity. It never also had people you could compare with good publicists like Lai Mohammed and Garba Shehu. The party should not make the big mistake of appointing a non-media person to the position of publicity secretary in this dispensation of political opposition.

It should rather develop a strong media team to be headed by the director of publicity. The import of this suggestion is that in the new dispensation of political opposition, PDP must learn to rely on and use the media more effectively. It must own its media – radio, television and newspapers. Those existing media outfits that proved loyal and supportive purely on the basis of their conviction about the party and the candidates it fielded in the 2015 election can be adopted by the party and strengthened as its organs.

That way, they will be in a better position to play more effective and influential roles in promoting the party and what it stands for. This, I believe very strongly, should be a critical part of the new strategy of the party as it settles down on opposition side of the political divide. The role of an opposition party demands that PDP has a voice that is loud and properly focused. And that means a strong and unwavering media backing. Those working on the new way forward for the party must accord the development of a strong media voice a crucial aspect of the project. Concluded

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