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Published On: Tue, Apr 1st, 2014

PDP–APC verbal rockets

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APC-PDPBy Garba Shehu

With the 2015 elections looming large on the horizon, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has done itself some good by organizing a two-day retreat in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state, for their publicity secretaries. The retreat starts today, Wednesday, to end on Friday. Coming on the heels of the verbal rocketry exchanged between the PDP and the opposition Action Progressives Congress, APC, and in particular, the many misguided missiles fired by the PDP spokesman OlisaMetuh, this retreat should hopefully help the ruling party back on track concerning its messaging. Campaigns based on issues are beneficial to the voters and the nation but the throwing of stones as the PDP and APC have resorted to in recent times is not.

Election in every democracy is noisy and at times ruthless. In the case of Nigeria, it is even messier and will continue to get dirtier so long as there is a government determined to toy with the combustible mix of ethnicity, religion and politics. President Jonathan’s campaign from church to church, while swamping Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, with 2015 campaign billboards against the rules of the game is a clear violation of the law. Instead of coming down with strict norms, all that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, could do was to lamely generalize blame, accusing “all parties” of engaging in campaigns ahead of the statutory six months allowed before elections. Sadly for the PDP, all their campaign billboards say nothing other than puffing up the incumbent President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. They don’t say anything about their vision of Nigeria. Some of the most laughed at claims by a largely derelict government are the pithy slogans crediting the administration with “equity, integrity and good governance.”

These are the administration’s weakest points and all they do, as they stand there, is to remind the opposition of the weaknesses of the ruling party. It is not true that the PDP is without achievements of whatever sorts. At least, they can claim a bit of merit (and professionalism) in their promotion of women’s rights. They have a fairly respectable record dealing with human rights and they are strong in the area of freedom of speech. This government has also an impressive record in the promotion, even if haltingly, of business and investment. In agriculture, food production has increased but so also has the smuggling of rice which is thwarting local production. A good Jonathan campaign for re-election should be grounded on his strong points, not on his areas of weak performance. As it is, messages ingenuously coined and written on the back of trucks in Nigeria are more spicy and cutting than we are seeing on PDP’s Abuja billboards.

Besides, when it comes to the brass tacks, the catchy jingle may help sell cement, SIM card or Coca Cola. It is hard to see how billboard can sell a non-performing government. The days of the innocent voter have since gone and will never return. Today’s voter is more discerning. He checks all the shops on the street before he makes a purchase. If a government is lax about security; is uncaring about employment and infrastructure, they might as well say to hell with your records on human rights or women empowerment.

The convener of the Yenagoa retreat, the PDP spokesman OlisaMetuh is a lawyer and as they always do in the PDP, they don’t care to bring media professionals on board. My argument is that whoever they bring, the minimum they owe to the party and public is to pick the basic tenets of the profession. In that regard, whatever correctional steps they need to take, the starting point should be with the ‘oga at the top’.

I found it unimaginable that a party spokesman will brand the opposition APC as a party of violence because it has a top-heavy Muslim leadership. I was not the least surprised that like a misguided missile, this verbal rocketry turned against the party with several Islamic groups coming after him, accusing him of associating their religion with violence. Secondly, the debate over who is responsible for Boko Haram violence was as thoughtless as it was needless. This is referring to both parties. The PDP is not alone in attacking others for the violence its government has been unable to solve. The government is itself believed by many to be franchiser of the growing violence, allegedly designed with the aim of rigging the 2015 election. The widely-circulated opinion by the Adamawa state Governor, Admiral MurtalaNyako, is in line with this thinking. What I find even more amazing is that the PDP has refused to change its tone.

As the party with the largest number of states and seats in the federal parliament under its control, the PDP and its many communicators must come to terms with the responsibility that they carry on their shoulders of nudging the country to reach the stage of a mature democracy where issues are discussed without mudslinging and useless sloganeering. It is not a crime anywhere for an opposition party to seek the ouster of a sitting government through a democratic process. Charges of coup-plotting are sickening as they are out of place.

As for the APC, the party does well when they are on issues. Look at how well they have dealt with on-going attempts to turn Nigeria to a “Republic of Scams”. When they veer off course, as they were lured into doing, debating who is doing what with insurgency, they were roasted alive. That’s why they are scrambling their way back to the top of issues. Sadly, opposition to a sitting government in Nigeria and much of other third-rate nations is like running behind a tiger, catching its tail: how more unsafe can a game be?


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