Things don’t just happen; circumstances create events. When things happens to we mortals, it is not just in whatever happens that define us, but how we react or respond to these. After all, it has been said severally that whatever does not kill one can only make one stronger. This appears to be the situation with Nigeria’s erstwhile ruling party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) today.
Since its shock defeat in the presidential election in March, the party is still licking its wounds. Will the party ever be able to play the role of the opposition? Will it just self-destruct or seek a merger with other political parties to challenge its bitter rival, the All Progressives Congress (APC)? Should it change its name to a more acceptable name that Nigerians will easily identify with? All these are the questions bothering the post-Presidency PDP.
The situation the party found itself today is not new. The party will not be the first to lose its priced possession; neither will it be the last. So no one should weep for, or lose sleep over that for the party. The party has to be able to weather the storms, so it must work extra hard, if not harder; fight tooth and nail; and go the extra mile to maintain its only one thing left – its brand.
Some days ago, the APC spokesman, Alhaji Lai Muhammed gave the party an unusual advice – “rebrand or go into extinction”. Call it coincidence or whatever you chose, the PDP set up what is now known as “Rebranding Committee” headed by a media mogul, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi. The second – to go into extinction – is not even an option at all. The question will then be whether the party has ever had a brand!
For the purpose of this piece, we will look at a brand as an image or feature that suddenly comes to mind when a product, service or idea is mentioned. We may also try to see it – in the traditional sense – as a name, design, symbol or distinguishing feature that sets a product or service apart. Giving these two definitions, can we say the PDP had or has a brand?
Let us be quick to admit that all political parties in Nigeria presently, without exceptions, suffer from the “brandlessness”, but the PDP’s case is peculiar. When one talks about “small governments and big businesses”, we are either thinking about the United States’ Republicans or the British Conservatives. When the issue is about the “welfare state”, we need not look further than the Democrats or the Fabians.
In Nigeria, we remember great political parties like the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) for its popular Four Cardinal Programmes. We remember Free education; Rural Integration; Free health care and Full employment. Even though the UPN was not given the opportunity to govern at the federal level, the five or so states it controlled in the Second Republic (1979-83) attests to its brand.
Now let us go back to the rebranding issue in PDP. Let us also not get it twisted, every political party wants power since there is no point in permanently being in the opposition. I am not sure even if the party will take all the advice given to it by the more “experienced” APC about how to play opposition politics, it will take Lai’s advice about having to wait longer than four years. Being in opposition is like staying in fire; you don’t want to be there for too long!
The Dokpesi Committee itself needs rebranding. We say this because of the ignoble roles some members of that committee played during the election. The presence of some people in that committee can at best create “brand crisis”. It can also further create the impression that the party is yet to shed itself of what it truly represents – corruption, impunity and garrison politics. Jesus Christ’s admonition, “Physician, heal thyself” appears to apply here. When the deliverer himself or herself needs deliverance, then the deliverance itself suffers. Are we really serious about rebranding the PDP?
The PDP wants Nigerians to forget so soon that it once boasted that it would “rule” the country for 60 or more years. They want Nigerians to forget how they treated as “family affair” several monumental corruptions involving their members. The party wants us to forget how 16 became greater than 19 in the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) leadership election. They still want us to forget how they did their very best to prove to us that STEALING is not CORRUPTION. They will like us to forget how they told us that it is not the fault of the yam-eating goats but the presence of the tubers of yams in the same room with the goats. There is no problem with forgiving, but forgetting is another matter altogether.
The party is barely a year into its new role as the opposition, yet its already feeling the heat. The party is not leaving any stone unturned in its ambition to “take over” from the APC in 2019. As ambitious as this sound, the party must realise that taking a “great fall” is always easier than getting back to the top. The Mexican Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) held on to power for an uninterrupted 71 years since 1929, winning every presidential election. Although some critics point out that it won the 1988 and 1994 elections through fraudulent ballots, the party, like the PDP, never lost a national election till 2000 when it relinquished power peacefully. It had to wait another twelve years to return to power at the national level in 2012. We are not sure our dear party has the pedigree or the brand that the PRI has or had!
The PDP honestly has a lot to learn from the APC, especially while it is in the opposition. While the party held sways since 1999, the opposition changed its name severally. At one point it was the Alliance for Democracy (AD); later it was the Action Congress (AC); further on it was the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and now the All Progressives Congress (APC). We must not forget that at some point we had the All Peoples Party (APP), which later became All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), which later became the legacy party with the formation of the APC. The name PDP, if they will take our advice, needs to change to reflect the current reality in Nigeria if truly they want to wrestle power from the APC.
The name “PDP” and its out-dated slogan “power to the people” needs to be reconsidered. The “people” are no longer in power, and the days of grabbing power as its right are gone, and for good. Many people may not know this but the PRI is on record to have changed its name at least on three occasions in its history, just has many other great parties have done. The PDP can take a cue from this.
As a matter of recommendation, if the party’s strategists are working, they must look for ways to create a new image or brand for the party which will pave ways for a new orientation, new directions and a more corporate culture. The party’s “brand” that has been utterly battered for many years being associated with impunity, corruption and mediocrity must be re-created if they are really serious about rebranding. Do we need to be told they do not have a brand?
This article was originally published in Premium Times