The crisis that led to the fall of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015 did not begin overnight. Barely a few years after the party was launched into the political limelight in 1999, the party had grown into a behemoth such that it was widely acclaimed that the party would stay in power as Nigeria’s ruling party for sixty years. But the last straw that broke the camel’s back is beyond the fact that the PDP had accumulated so much power to itself within sixteen years. Several contradictions within the internal fabric of the party and widespread public perception that the party had become a breeding ground of the most corrupt Nigerians, finally put an end to the party’s hold on power at the center.
In the aftermath of the 2015 presidential election, a series of mind-boggling revelations have come to the fore which seem to validate the public perception crisis that saw the PDP finally falling out of favour with Nigerians in 2015. Top-ranking officials of the party and the government who served under the Jonathan administration from 2011 to 2015 have been fingered in sundry cases of graft, lending credence to the anti-corruption agenda of the now ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Recall that the war against corruption was a key component of the Muhammadu Buhari and Yemi Osinbajo campaign that saw them clinch power in 2015. Interestingly, whereas the current APC government of Buhari has failed woefully in its famed fight against corruption, corruption is still going to play a defining role in the forthcoming 2019 presidential election. It is without question that the APC will be banking largely on a strong corruption narrative targeted against the PDP to win the 2019 presidential poll. For some reason, known and unknown, this corruption narrative continues to cling like “super-glue” to the PDP especially with allegations surrounding #DasukiGate and #DiezaniGate. And whether anyone agrees or not, these issues will surface in a fresh dimension as 2019 draws closer.
The foregoing background presents a crisis situation that the PDP must tackle head on going into the 2019 presidential polls. It will be tantamount to sheer political naivety to pretend like an Ostrich that the “corruption perception” of the PDP is a problem that does not exist. This brings us to the forthcoming National Convention of the PDP where amongst other offices, party delegates will elect a National Publicity Secretary (NPS) whose job will be to stand as the party’s number brand ambassador, image maker and spokesperson. It goes without saying that whoever must emerge as the new NPS must be someone who has no corruption baggage hanging on their neck. The worst mistake the PDP can make is to have an NPS who will spend the next one year defending and explaining himself to Nigerians. Such an NPS will be dragged before the EFCC, ridiculed in the media and reduced to an object of cartoon content and social media hashtags gladly sponsored by the ruling APC. The PDP cannot afford this.
Another critical issue to consider as the PDP heads to its National Convention is to ensure that the party is led into the 2019 presidential election by loyal party generals who live, breathe and think PDP – not newcomers and bystanders who show up for the party only when its election time. It was the great Spanish poet Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás who said; “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” He was right. The position of the National Publicity Secretary is such a sensitive one that it must be handed only to someone who has been in the trenches fighting for the party. It is a job that should be reserved only for those who understand the brand and product called PDP. One of the laws of brand management and public relations dictates that you cannot market a product you do not understand. In other words as the great American advertising guru Bill Bernbach put it, “Know your product inside and out before you start working. And relate that knowledge to the consumer’s needs.”
Of all the aspirants seeking the office of the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Barr. Kabir Mohammed Usman appears the best suited for the job considering the various issues this article seeks to address. He is a man who has been there, seen it all and understands the product he wants to market to Nigerians. Although his opponents are quick to add that he has no media background, examples have proven across the world and even within the history of the PDP that the best communication strategists are not necessarily trained journalists.
Does Barr. Mohammed Kabir Usman understand the issues? Does he understand the product he wants to market to Nigerians? Does he have a name that will not be dragged into any EFCC scandal between now and 2019? Can he be described as a man who has been there for the PDP and not an opportunist who is showing up on the radar only because it’s time for elections? Does he have the ability to build a communications team for the PDP and attract the best of hands wherever such capacities are lacking? Clearly, Barr. Mohammed Kabir Usman ticks an emphatic “yes” to all these questions. And for the PDP as a party, this is what will matter in 2019.
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