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Open letter to Atiku Abubakar

Open letter to Atiku Abubakar
June 20
12:29 2022

BY KELVIN OCHE

Your Excellency,

First off, let’s clear a few things. I’m an avid PDP member who supported one of your rivals. You won so now I support you – primarily because I believe you are now our most realistic hope of kicking the worst government in the history of this country out of power. I’m writing this in the hope that senior party stakeholders in our party are vindictive people who will not fight me for saying things that everyone but them can see are true.

You see all that energy and buzz that the Obi campaign is getting? It could have been ours. It should have been ours. And it is annoying on an ulcer-inducing scale that it isn’t. And it isn’t, not because of Obi himself, but because leaders of the party have failed/refused/neglected to reform the party in the manner required to get young people across the country interested in and supportive of our party the way that they could have done.

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That said, you’ve won the ticket, named your running mate and must now show leadership and do the things that are required to give your – wait, our – campaign the energy that it so badly needs. It can, and it must, be built. But to do that, we have to do a number of things. And over the next few weeks I’ll be writing a series of open letters in the hope that you get to read them and do those things.

1. COMMUNICATE

One would think this is a no-brainer. It is astonishing that this even has to be said to a political party hoping to win a major election. But the comms team for our party is TERRIBLE. I know the National Publicity Secretary (NPS) personally and he is a good man. But he’s flunking at his job thus far. Like the NPS before him. That means you’re inheriting a campaign structure that is already communications deficient. You have to establish a communications structure that takes information to the Nigerian public in the most simple, most engaging manner there is. I could suggest a number of things but then people will say I’m only writing this open letter because I’m looking to be engaged.

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At the moment, PDP is speaking in the dark. And no one is listening. I’ll give you an example. The party could have eloquently explained the delegate system used at the primaries beforehand and stated that everyone was given a level playing field to canvas for votes. Instead, its silence meant that all sorts of narratives were pushed by all sorts of people and accepted by the Nigerian public. The result is that your candidature was already tainted before you emerged as a candidate.

Another example? Most of the party’s positions on events that have unfolded in the disastrous APC admin are unknown to the Nigerian public. The NPS often releases statements that no one reads, couched in language that no one can relate with. And no!!! This isn’t a campaign against him.

Fix that. Now!!!

2. TELL ALL

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Far too much of what has formed the public opinion about you is information/stories told about you by other people. The allegations of corruption; the stories about your fight with your erstwhile boss, former President Obasanjo; stories about your contribution or lack thereof to the Obasanjo admin; your entire political career; your family; everything. It’s all in other people’s voices. Not yours. WE NEED TO HEAR YOUR VOICE. Tell it all. And don’t do it in text or those graphic cards your social media people use that no one really reads. Record videos, address the difficult stuff. And tell your side. Then have it cut into small clips. And pushed. People will watch those. And listen. And it will play in their subconscious. It’s amazing you’re paying huge sums to consultants and no one is saying this to you.

3. CLAIM IT

I watched Vice President Osinbajo try to claim the existence of tech unicorns like Flutterwave as his achievement and as the basis why he deserves to be president. And I was so unhappy that your media team let that slide. The entire tech ecosystem owes its existence to a policy you were key to implementing – telecommunications sector reforms without which we won’t have the sort of mobile and internet penetration we have today. WHY ARE YOU NOT CLAIMING IT? The financial services sector owes its existence to banking reforms put together during your time in office. WHY AREN’T YOU CLAIMING IT?

And it’s all there. The anti-corruption agencies, putting together the team of talented Nigerians like NOI and Charles Soludo, pension sector reforms etc. It’s all there.

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WHY ARE YOU NOT OUT THERE SAYING “THIS ONLY EXISTS BECAUSE I, ATIKU ABUBAKAR, DID THAT.”? And I’m not talking about passive sentences. Actual active sentences that ensure that every time someone holds up their phone to cuss you out on social media, they realize they can only do so because of a policy you spearheaded 21 years ago.

4. TALK POLICY

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I have heard you speak about the various challenges facing Nigeria and how you want to resolve them. You know your stuff. Talk about it more. Focus on it. In the alternative, you have always had a knack for finding talented Nigerians who know their stuff and convincing them to join the public service and give their contributions to national development. Talk about it. Talk about it often. Talk about it where people can watch you, where they can hear you, and in language they can understand.

5. BE PROACTIVE

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I am hearing that your campaign wants to take a 1 month’s break. CHAI!!! For what na? Why are you trying to lose so much time? And that is not all. It’s the lack of analysis of major decisions or events, forecast of potential public response and the design of a counter-response, policy statement or political position.

I’ll give an example. No one on your team gave any direction on the response once Peter Obi left the party – which has been one of the single most definitive events of this campaign season (forget all what PDP members are saying). As a result, all you have is constant acrimony between your supporters and those of your former ally.

For instance, you knew you were going to pick Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as your running mate. Why did your team not prepare a deluge of information about him and push it immediately after he was announced? Why were people not on major political programmes in media houses immediately after the announcement talking about him and his achievements? Why was there a vacuum that was filled by negative comments about Okowa? Why is there a vacuum that is being filled with discussions focused on Governor Nyesom Wike’s anger at not being picked as your running mate rather than the benefits of Okowa’s selection? Is this playing?

Another example? Even though campaigns don’t officially start till August, there is so much that can be done. You should be leading a voter registration drive focused on increasing numbers in PDP strongholds, for instance. Another instance? Push the ongoing membership drive for the party. I’d have said show up in Ekiti to support the guber candidate but Fayose is a mad man who’s insisted on doing it his own way.

Why aren’t we leading “Vote Not Fight” campaigns? Why aren’t we leading “our votes must count” campaigns? Why aren’t we doing all these things to encourage people to register to vote?

6. GET SOME PASSION IN

I’ve listened to you speak in close quarters on so many occasions. You’re full of passion and animation and charm in private. But in public, you cut such a stoic, unemotional, impassive figure. And I can, never for the life of me, understand why. You need to allow that passion seep through to the public. And I don’t mean that you should cry on TV again. That’s not the one I’m talking about. Just be more human.

7. GET YOUR SUPPORTERS TO FOCUS

At the moment, far too many PDP members/supporters are locked in a battle trying to prove that Peter Obi was wrong to have left the party and will not win the 2023 presidential elections. Abeg if they know he won’t why are we wasting all that energy?

For a while, this has been the PDP strategy – telling everyone what they should NOT want/accept instead of telling them what they should want/accept. We are so focused on demarketing our opponents that we are forgetting to market our product – you. You need to call everyone to order. Tell us to focus on actually campaigning for you rather than campaigning against Peter Obi or Bola Tinubu (this one will be hard sha. We must campaign against Tinubu as well). But you get my drift. We should be saying “Eat this because it is healthy and nutritious” rather than “AHHHHHH!!! You want to eat that?” We should be telling people why they should vote for you, not why they shouldn’t be voting for someone else.

8. CONTENT

Your supporters are fighting partially because you have failed to give them content. Give them stuff to talk about and promote. Where are the testimonials from the businessmen who became successful because of you? Where are the testimonials from the staff who see you every day or who got jobs at your many businesses on merit alone? Where are the people who get loans from your microfinance bank on merit alone? Hospitals/Schools that get your donations? The beneficiaries of your philanthropism who get scholarships, healthcare grants, and other interventions? Where are your friends? Where are your children? Where are their stories?

Where are the expert analyses of your policy document? Where is the commentary regarding what you will do, when you will do it, how you will do it? Where are the videos of what you said in the past regarding health care, and education, and security, and infrastructure, and job creation?

Create content and give your supporters something to campaign with. And watch them stop fighting.

9. CREATE ALTERNATIVE MEDIA CHANNELS

In the last 7 years, Lai Mohammed and the Buhari admin have stifled the media. What is left is mostly in Bola Tinubu’s pocket. You need to create alternative means of reaching out to the Nigerian public as directly as possible for as little cost as possible (data is expensive abeg). I have a couple of ideas but they will cost you money.

It almost appears as though our party is trying not to win this election. It tires me. And like many members of the party, I have almost given up on a couple of occasions. But we cannot afford to give up. While you were not my first choice, I have made peace with the knowledge that you are a much better choice than Bola Tinubu and a more realistic choice than Peter Obi. I, like millions of Nigerians, just need you and the PDP to get your act together and provide the leadership that our party needs desperately at this time.

There is far too much at stake. Our lives and livelihoods, the very essence of our existence as Nigeria and Nigerians, and our children all depend on it. Do not mess this up. PLEASE.

Oche is a lawyer who lives and works in Abuja.

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