GUEST COLUMNIST

By  Okey Ikechukwu

With the presidential elections only a few weeks away, the question on the table is: “Can the few people of real value and proven capacity in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential campaign team  still generate enough traction to overturn the looming disaster hanging over the party?” The wobbly trajectory of the campaign, the questionable approach of the presidential candidate, the absence of  any real political mobilization downstream, the flack arising from the choice of a deputy and the apathy of the party’s major stakeholders presents a frightening cocktail of problems. The good media outings by some members of the campaign team, as well as efforts in a few states to create some wind and drive the sails, may not be enough. The states are too few, too unstructured, too unfunded and too un- streamlined to be part of any united national effort.

The party’s National Publicity Secretary, probably the most active with press releases since 1999, has been unrelenting with his epidemic of statements. This is in addition to television outings by other spokespersons. But, pray, how many people read or watch these things in a country without electricity and where newspaper circulation is under one million – with close to 40% unsold copies?

The celebrated Vice Presidential debates took place at a time, and on the night, the nation recorded 78% electricity supply deficit. So how many real people know of the television discussion programmes, WhatApp noise making and You Tube entries? Are there objective criteria for measuring the impact of the campaign efforts of mostly amoral & quote; social media warriors”, most of whom take themselves too seriously, believe in nothing in particular, tweet and post everything and easily walk off to the next available paymaster?

The avalanche of PDP press releases, in addition to being a struggle for relevance between the spokespersons of various party bigwigs, has been mostly reactions to APC offerings, with little original output. Are people, including and especially members of the party, reading the plethora of statements or sharing them? Are people changing their political loyalties because of the graphics? Does the party not know that it takes more that press releases, social media name calling, WhatsApp activism, television discussions and You Tube postings to create the needed groundswell of support for electoral victory? Truth told: there is no PDP campaign afoot out there!

Setting up a single-perspective campaign team and re-uniting the PDP power factions were Alhaji Atiku’s first, and most important, post-primaries in-house battle and war, respectively. He lost both the battle and the war. That is why his presidential campaign team is made up of mostly apathetic, semi-tired, disenchanted and even angry and confounded persons. With the exception of a few brilliant, committed and forward looking members in that council, there are just too many people who are too distracted by their own battles for political survival to pay attention to the party’s now-scraggy scramble for the presidency. The disorientation caused by the questionable prominence of returnees, the displacement of some power blocs and unresolved issues of power sharing explains why the presidential candidate, a prominent returnee himself, appears orphaned today.

But Atiku is largely to blame for his predicament. It was his diligent efforts at doing the wrong things that landed him and the party where they are today. His campaign is like a battalion will self- destruct, with sleepwalking reflexes showing that a solid, multi- faceted foundation has been laid for defeat. How come a party that once marshaled three campaign trains headed, respectively, by Chief Olusegun Obasabjo, Chief Audu Ogbeh and Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, now has a wobbly, incoherent and lack-lustre campaign drive that is characterized by poorly “articulated” vision and campaign logistics?

The inertia is apparent. The disenchantment of the party’s major stakeholders stares you in the face everywhere. Unmentionable tales of confusion, malice and pointless nihilism affronts you in every conversation with those who should be in the forefront of the PDPengagement.

Is it possible that the PDP has not really learnt anything from 2015 fiasco? Is the party doing its best to prove to die-hard enthusiasts, who are looking at it with inexplicable hope and courage, that it has really learnt nothing? Was it not the usual politics of imposition and impunity that produced the current party chairman? Was it not the characteristic PDP last minute horse-trading that produced Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as party presidential in party primaries he was expected to lose? Did Atiku quickly create group cohesion, or a pool of persons and activities that would keep issues and budding loyalties warm after he won? Did he not take off to Dubai instead; returning weeks later to tender an overrated “personal” policy  document that did not show enough depth or sense of history and was not presented as a PDP document deriving from the PDP manifesto. Did he harmonize things or consult when, where and how it mattered most?

The PDP need to know that it is not succeeding in its desperate attempt to mask its incompetent handling of the presidential campaigns. It also needs to know that it is not branding itself as offering a well-articulated alternative to the ruling party, or showing a meaningful new path. Its resolve to hoodwink itself, and everyone else, into believing that incestuous communication and the in-house celebration of its own media offerings is enough work for the 2019 presidency is not working. That path to political oblivion is accentuated by the fact that the party has no campaign ideaologue articulating the campaign conversation in a rallying manner!

The outings, so far, need more passion, warmth, character, pedigree, real message, real promise and should be more indicative of real hope. The brilliant outings of the vice presidential candidate has limited impact because it either revolves around mostly the same types of platform and media where his audience are people who have heard him before and who will applaud a good delivery while retaining their hardened positions, or around those who are already beholden to him. A Peter Obi Vice Presidency will be a major blessing to Nigeria, but that is after the elections are won. And winning the elections is what the party seems not to be working, and walking, towards.

The clear disconnect between the soul of the party, the returned prodigal sons of the party, the party’s presidential candidate and the 2019 project is obvious to the point of being scandalous. That is why someone must tell the PDP that reprehensible bungling is not a type of strategy. Blindness is not a type of vision, but the inability to see.

Ignorance is not a school of thought, but the absence of knowledge. Madness is not a type of rationality, but the absence of rationality.

There is no celebration where the PDP is headed with its awkwardly prancing dance troupe. The party still has more baggage than it is willing to admit. The party leadership is part of the problem, even as the South East is virtually lost, notwithstanding the choice of a presidential running mate from the zone. The issue in the South East is partly due to the poor handling of the aftermath of the choice of running mate and partly due to the political ambitions of some actors from the zone. Some  contend that Obi is no grassroots politician, but a business man who has been enjoying too much of “political scholarship” in his rise as a politician; and that it was time he learnt to pay his political school fees by aligning to the “owners” of the school. They argue that it was the undue prominence given Obi under Jonathan, and the latter’s alienating of the party structures, that led to the poor showing of the zone.

It is further claimed that it was the PDP stakeholders who prevented Obi from removing Obiano, a man he almost single handed made governor, to show the latter’s lack of genuine grass roots relevance.

The other thesis, deriving from the above, is that Obi failed to empower most of his former commissioners in such a way that he could use them in future to permanently change the power equatio after his good work in Anambra state. The less charitable among his critics say that some of these commissioners who were deliberately underpaid in the name of saving money are now ravaged by povert and barely have a forwarding address. The corollary is that Obiano’s re-election was partly a protest vote by many former Obi faithfuls who felt they had been used and made fools of long enough.

While Obi sympathizers argue that this is not true and that Obiano used money to buy up the state, less sympathetic observers submit that Obi did not lose all the 22 local governments in the Anambra State, including his own, just because of money. They now point to the absence of real mobilization for the 2019 presidency in the South East and observe that a current group effort in that regard Peter Obi’s Anambra state is not funded or organized in a way that would guarantee meaningful results. The other grouse, which is unfortunately gaining currency at the national level, is that Obi is always speaking in the first person singular, always talking about himself and his achievements without reference to Atiku and also never acknowledging the brains and the teams behind his own chain of successes. His detractors now market the view, strange but gaining ground, that he reaches out only when he has some personal needs to address. But, as Peter Obi himself would say: “The job of a leader is to do the right thing, so anyone who wants to be made happy should go to Nollywood and watch some comedy.”

Put together the circumstances of the emergence of the current Chairman of the PDP, the composition of the Campaign Council, the “statements of good intentions” being passed off as a policy document, the management of the party’s choice of Vice Presidential Candidate and the trajectory of the presidential campaign (assuming there is one) and you will see that the PDP is not in good standing.

Are the reflexes of the candidate a foretaste of a government that will be run without consultation and without a clear, cohesive and sustainable development strategy for the nation?

An opposition has perfected the art of scoring own goals has done most of the work for its opponents.