Experts mull complete overhaul of practices, values by political parties

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BY BRIGHT JACOB

Uba Group

The political manuscript of Nigeria will likely not be complete without the inclusion of the People’s Democratic Party and all its exploits since the advent of democracy in the country in 1999.

The party, formed in August, 1998, at the twilight of military dictatorship in the country, played significant roles that impacted Nigeria’s socio-political as well as economic status.

For the party, headquartered at Wadata Plaza in Abuja, to play more pivotal roles in the polity and also be more electorate-friendly, talks about a possible “rebranding” have continued to be suggested in some quarters.

And though the idea keeps gaining considerable traction with just a few months to an election year, the proponents argue that if considered, the “benefits” would significantly boost the chances of the PDP in the election.

In the world of business, rebranding is “a marketing strategy in which a new name, logo, design, concept, or combination thereof, is created for an established brand with the intention of developing a new, differentiated identity in the minds of consumers, investors, competitors and other stakeholders.”

Some political analysts, however, have stated that unlike marketing, political rebranding should go beyond just changing party names and logos.

They said the parties need complete overhaul of their practices and values, and where possible, a total change of personnel.

There have also been conjectures that with the ongoing saga of Governor Nyesom Wike’s call for the resignation of the National Chairman of the PDP, Iyorchia Ayu, becoming a hydra-headed monster trying to tear into the unity and chances of the PDP in the elections, the party will do well if it explores the benefits that rebranding provide.

As it stands, it seems the camp of the presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar, may have shut the door against any party-related talks regarding rebranding.

When asked by The Point whether the party would consider rebranding anytime soon, the National Secretary General of the Atiku Support Organisation, Anthony Okonkwo, said, “No, we don’t want to talk about PDP for now. Things like that (rebranding) are not to be discussed in the open for now. So, I won’t be able to provide any information.”

The PDP was formed by members of the G-34, made up of 34 eminent Nigerians, together with other groups with vested interest in Nigeria’s democratic renaissance, after 16 years of military dictatorship foisted on the country.

The G-34 had written a letter to then-military Head of State, Sani Abacha, questioning the latter’s self-succession bid after he became the sole presidential candidate in his own transition to civil rule programme.

After Abacha’s sudden death, Abubakar Abdulsalami, who took over power, lifted the ban on political activities, thus, paving the way for the members of the G-34, who included Alex Ekwueme, Isa Mahammed and Iyorchia Ayu to birth the party.

Though other political parties were also formed during the period the PDP came into existence, the party, nonetheless, was “the beautiful bride” which attracted the crème de la crème of Nigerians from various walks of life, including the military, the constituency of then-recently released prisoner and eventual winner of the 1999 presidential election, Olusegun Obasanjo.

At its inception, the PDP adopted a name which matched its democratic ideologies based on its stance on social conservatism and economic liberalism. The party also adopted as its logo the image of an “umbrella” painted with the green-white-red colours of the party.

For its slogan, “power to the people” was chosen. However, after the party lost the presidential election in 2015 to the All Progressives Congress, the leadership called for a rebranding of sorts in the party.

In 2016, former Senate President, David Mark, wanted a switch of the party’s slogan to “change the change.” The APC came to power on the back of their own slogan “change”.

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The PDP has had its name modified to other uncomplimentary monikers.

For instance, ‘People Deceiving People’ is one of such notorious names. Also, to make mockery of them, some other political parties and even ordinary Nigerians who are displeased with the party have frequently used the image of a tattered and worn-out umbrella to discredit the party.

Recently, zoning became a contentious issue before the presidential primary that produced former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, as the standard-bearer of the party.

Members were pitched against each other over the unwritten zoning arrangement of the party for the office of president.

It was believed by some chieftains of the party that it was the turn of a southern candidate to emerge as the party’s candidate.

That primary, however, went on to throw up Atiku, a candidate from the North East.

Currently, the controversy surrounding zoning in the party is still raging as it pits Wike against the National Chairman of the party, Iyorchia Ayu, from the North Central region.

Wike insists that the chairmanship position must be the exclusive preserve of a Southerner, and not a Northerner, as the presidential candidate of the party, Atiku Abubakar, is a Northerner.

“Rebranding will not help. But if they have a total change of leadership, it might go a long way. But rebranding the name with the same people there? It will not work”

It is because of the difficult conundrums created by the Wike-Ayu rivalry and their perennial face-off, as well as the unending comparisons of the PDP with the APC as being two sides of the same coin that opinions may have swelled for a rebranding of the party which held power from 1999 to 2015.

A political analyst and an apologist for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Moyo Jaji, told The Point that even if rebranding was a good idea, it was a bit too late in the day to go into it.

Rather, Jaji stated that the rebranding of the presidential candidates themselves should be touted.

Jaji said, “Trying to rebrand now might not be easy. But let’s look at the individuals. That is what the APC is now using to ‘sell’ Asiwaju to the Nigerian electorate. That is why efforts are being made to showcase his past achievements while he was the governor of Lagos State, and these are verifiable achievements.

“And that is why they also asked Atiku to showcase his past achievements, including the Labour Party candidate, Peter Obi, when he was the governor of Anambra State. So, instead of concentrating on the party now, it is the individuals that are the presidential candidates of the parties that are now being touted, instead of the parties,” he said.

Asked whether a rebranding of the PDP would have forestalled the present crisis in the party, Jaji said it would not be able to help the party because a house divided against itself could not stand.

He also referred to the PDP as “dishonest”, citing the issue of the $16bn power generation fund and the $2.5bn funds for arms purchase which was converted to campaign funds in 2015.

A Port Harcourt-based businessman, Prince Enefeli, told our correspondent that because the PDP “has its manifestoes and agenda which are tailored down to every member who is either contesting election or in a leadership position to follow, rebranding would not be too helpful.”

He said what Nigerians need now isn’t the rebranding of any political party, but a revolutionist who could change the way things were done in the country.

According to Enefeli, if rebranding must be an option, it had to involve a “total change” of leadership.

“Rebranding will not help. But if they have a total change of leadership, it might go a long way. But rebranding the name with the same people there? It will not work,” he said.

On his part, a senior lawyer, Fred Aigbadumah, said that rebranding would not change anything in the PDP if “the same people, the same class, type and genre of politicians were still the same people dominating the fold.”

Aigbadumah said, “So, to me, it makes no difference, except there’s a change of mind in most of them or if there’s a real political rebirth in their hearts to be there for the people.”

“And if you are talking of a rebranding, it means that the whole set-up, especially between these two political parties…under the umbrella and ticket of these two parties…should be phased out.

“Even those established brands that change the name or logo of their products, you will discover that it is still the same product that you’re getting. The only thing is that it becomes more attractive to the consumer. Thus, what they (political parties) are trying to do, because they have a name already, is just to launder their names better or promote it.

“Let them give room for a new generation (of politicians), like what Labour Party is doing and Peter Obi is coming under them. Let there be an urgent cleansing,” Aigbadumah concluded.