National Chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondus; former President Olusegun Obasanjo and National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbodiyan, when the PDP leadership visited Obasanjo...recently

The proposed name change by the Peoples Democratic Party is instructive in many respects, writes Olawale Olaleye

In the traditional African setting, name is everything. The very essence of name, in Africa, is in sync with their deep meanings and otherwise a matter of conscious decision. Apart from the fact that certain names come with uncanny meanings – sometimes tied to events or symbolic happenings – there are families also with name recognition, either for the good or the bad reasons. References are quite often made to such families.

Today, in Nigeria’s polity, the name – Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – may connotes gross negativity to the average Nigerian, not because it is bad in its entirety, but because its name recognition comes with a lot of stigmatisation.

Even where the issue at stake is clearly one of sheer ineptitude of the current administration, the All Progressives Congress (APC) always finds a fall-guy in the PDP. The narrative has been sufficiently sold to the populace so much that the PDP is now like a cancer in the life of the nation.

This is why the ongoing debate over a possible name change by the PDP is one of the smartest moves the party had pondered in its bid to consolidate further its new profile in the ever unstable political arithmetic. Although the idea has been on for a while, the refusal by some members to accede to a name change was the stumbling block, buoyed by their fear of the unknown.

Many of them held the view that though the party had switched positions and had become an opposition party, the PDP was still being considered the only party with membership even in the remotest parts of the country and that the name resonates with a majority of its members and admirers alike particularly, the barely literate.

The PDP has come a long way. It is also not true, as observers sometimes observe that all the PDP signifies is negativity. Despite of its many foibles, its achievements stand out in many respects, others reckon. But, in the process, the name – PDP – has been battered beyond repairs, therefore the need for a name change as instructive.

The PDP has suffered and continues to suffer a lot of unsavoury attacks, owing largely to negative narratives, mostly compounded by allegations of corruption. Whereas the current government too is believed to have sunk equally deep in graft, its obsession and focus on the PDP as the mother of all corruption has changed focus. This, of course, has necessitated the need for the PDP to have a rethink on its name as the nation inches towards 2019 elections.

While the idea has been on for a while, it has become instructive following recent developments in the country especially the rapprochement between President Muhammadu Buhari and Senate President Bukola Saraki penultimate Thursday.

Also because the ruling party has taken liberty at always attacking the PDP as a corrupt party, sometimes unprovoked, the only reason the PDP believed the APC has to justify its continuous stay in office, the need to shed the toga was no longer subject to a debate.
It was therefore the resolve of the PDP leaders that since the ruling APC might be unable to campaign with a good result posting on issues like the economy and security, the only thing it might have going for it would be to de-market the opposition by constantly alluding to corruption allegations, even if unfounded.

But once the name changes, leaders of the party reckoned that PDP and its baggage would naturally die with the corruption tag and the engagement would shift to an issue-based debate, which most of its members think the APC would be unable to sustain for the elections.

The other reason the party is also believed to have acceded to name change was because it was of the view that it has acquired more sympathisers in the run-up to 2019 elections, but that some of them are not comfortable with PDP as a name.

Although a majority of the PDP sympathisers share the view that most of its members are being unjustly persecuted, they also feel that the PDP had lost it and so, going forward, a name change is inevitable if truly it desires a comeback to power. Besides, some parts of the country are believed to have signed up against the APC ahead of 2019 polls especially on the issue of corruption but are wary of dealing with the PDP because of its negative connotations. It is no wonder, therefore, that the PDP leadership is of the view that with the old name gone, its sympathisers would not only openly identify with it, most of them would also attract more members, thus putting it in a position of advantage to effectively take on the APC in the next election.

With the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu being considered to head the committee on name change, the assignment before the committee would be to come up with a name that aptly suits the party, considering the short time between now and 2019, and also not forgetting that such a name must be easily recalled by its members as well as its teeming supporters.

It is as such the view of many observers that the fate that has befallen the PDP since 2015 calls for a name change, at least, if it intends to play a critical role in 2019 and start to retell its narratives positively.

Important too is that beyond a name change is the need for the PDP to ensure that the ongoing realignment focuses more on ideology as the core of its driving force to delivering good governance and development. There is a lot in a name, no doubt, and that is why the thought of a name change by PDP might be a welcomed development after all.