The politics of the Second Republic was almost controlled from the publicity departments of two of most vibrant political parties of that era-the National Party of Nigeria[NPN] and the Unity Party of Nigeria[UPN]. One could still recall, with nostalgia, how Senator Uba Ahmed of the ruling NPN and Ebenezer Babatope [EBINOTOPSY] of the opposition UPN, dominated the political landscape in those good old days, through their aggressive defence of whatever their parties stood for then. Newspaper pages and the electronic airwaves were virtually controlled by these two men as they battled to sell their parties’ policies and programmes to the Nigerian people and the World at large then.
That standard of high performance of the publicity departments of political parties in Nigeria seems to have died a natural death. But for what Alhaji Lai Mohammed of the Action Congress of Nigeria has been doing, it would have been argued that the position of National Publicity Secretary of the political parties, should be abolished.
The performance of most of those occupying this position in the various parties, have, at best, been mediocre. The worst culprits have been those charged with the responsibilities of handling the image of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party[PDP], since its inception in 1998.From Aniete Okon, Emmanuel Ibeshi, Vernantius Ikem, John Odey and Ahmed Rufai Alkali, none was able to do for the PDP, the type of job Mohammed has been doing for the ACN, since he assumed that office over five years ago.
Because of the very poor performance of those manning the publicity department of the PDP, the Presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati, has had to take over the functions of this department of the party, in squaring it up with the ACN image maker, who had, in recent times, taken the PDP and by extension, the Presidency, to the cleaners, over their inept performance in the last 13 years.
PDP’s failure in this regard, can only be explained by one reason- the penchant by members of the party to put square pegs in round holes as those to man their party’s publicity, when ever opportunity of National Convention presents itself. A close look at all the persons listed above, who have been in the saddle as the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, reveals one disappointing feature. Apart from Okon, no other one among them had had anything to do with either media practice or image management before coming into that office. The result, as has been pointed out above, has been nothing but calamitous failure.
This situation has also been made possible because of the manipulative tendencies within the party which allows state governors to whose states the position is zoned, to push their cronies who do not have any relevant qualification in that field, to occupy that enviable position. To put it straight, the PDP has continued to be very unfair to Nigerian journalists as far as their of the National Publicity Secretary is concerned. This is so because, in their choice of the National Legal Adviser, the party has never gone beyond the legal profession.
Now history is about repeating itself. The party has zoned the position of its National Publicity Secretary for its National Convention, to the South- East geo-political zone. Those who have lined up to contest for this position, include, Chiefs CHYNA IWUANYANWU,CHIKE UDEZE,OKEY MUO AROH and CAROL NWOSU.
Again, a close look at this list shows that apart from IWUANYANWU, none of the rest has had any stint in the media. However, if the feelers emerging from the South- East camp of the party is anything to go by, the bug of settling for the usual mediocre, is at work again. First, there is a desperate move to, not only zone that position to a particular state in the zone but to an individual from that zone, a mockery of democratic principle, you will say.
The person the manipulators of the game are settling for, have no qualities required right now, to manage the battered image of their party, an image that is at its lowest ebb and made worse by the superlative performance of its biggest foe, the ACN. It does not matter to them that those elected tomorrow, to run the affairs of the party for another four years, will be there beyond 2015, when another general election will be around the corner.
Will it not serve the best interest of the PDP, to put away, for once, this culture of manipulation and allow its followers the chance to elect people who will manage its image better? Who says that in 2015, Nigerians will still allow the party the luxury of carting home, an unearned victory at the pools. Who tells these manipulators that Nigerians will not rise up to say “enough is enough” to election rigging?.
The beginning of electoral success for the PDP in 2015 must start with this national convention. The party needs, as its National Publicity Secretary, the person who has the media background, the requisite skill to relate cordially with journalists, for the repair of its bartered image. The failure to do this will of course result in more negative publicity, more image bashing and more headache for the government of President Goodluck Jonathan. Will the party get it right this time around?
This article was originally titled: Publicity Secretary:Will PDP Get It Right? Was written before today’s convention