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Election 2011: The shape of things to come(4)

By Dele Sobowale
“Those who deal in ideas must welcome attack…..This week marks the 20th  memoriam of my  friend, Joe Kowalski, with whom I spent many riotous nights crawling through the bars of the Combat Zone in Boston, USA. Joe, as I have reminded readers of this page several times, left the world with a quotable quote of his own: “There is no dispute in the world that a punch in the nose cannot fix”.

He practiced what he preached because as his constant companion I witnessed many brawls involving Joe. Again, about this time of the year 1972, Joe and I were staggering down Tremont Street, having had a little too much under our belts when we heard a loud commotion in a bar. Joe immediately pulled my overcoat and said, “Let’s go inside”.
“Are you crazy?” I asked.

“No; but this has got to be interesting”, said Joe; as he pulled me inside what turned out to be bedlam.
What has that got to do with are Atiku who is a very nice fellow to know. Alhaji Atiku has not declared for president Election 2011? Plenty; especially as it concerns one possible candidate –Alhaji Abubakar – at least not yet.

But, he has  done the closest thing to what Joe and I did that late early spring night in Boston. He had walked off a relatively peaceful street and staggered into what is developing as a free-for-all in the “Arena” called PDP. Believe me, between now and election day, a lot of blood-letting will take place in that party – and our dear country Nigeria. It requires a heart as  stout as an iroko tree for a man to walk into imminent mayhem as Atiku has done.

I wish him well.

Late Alhaji Ibrahim Waziri, founder of the NPP, which was snatched from him by Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, and who, without a fight, went on to found GNPP during the second Republic, left us with a political ideal – “politics without bitterness”.

In 2007, an old man, president of his country announced to an astonished nation his own dictum –“politics is do or die”. Well, the old warrior can now smile because his party members,  from the Presidency to the Local governments, are about to prove him right  — they will soon be leaving the country with many widows and fatherless children in  “do-or die” struggles for the presidency, governors’ mansions, Senate, House of Reps etc.

Right now, the PDP has become several armed camps, all with the same characteristics which can be described in the words of Lt-General Akinrinade, when asked about the Abacha administration in 1997. He called them “gangsters”. The PDP is now about to unleash the political equivalent of gang warfare. And the remaining members of the founding fathers, the G-34, Dr Alex Ekwueme, Malam Adamu Ciroma, Alhaji Iro Musa, Obong Victor Attah, Chief Ayo Adebanjo etc, are totally powerless to prevent their “baby” from becoming a menace to the nation as a whole.

The consequences of the struggle for the control of the party this time will make the atrocities perpetrated by “stalwarts-turned criminals” and later “militants” in 1999, 2003 and 2007 appear like child’s play. Politicians are already recruiting their “stalwarts” and mercenaries are re-arming.

One of the first casualties of this fractionalization of the PDP is GOOD GOVERNANCE. President Jonathan is caught in the whirlpool of this deadly politics. It is a basic axiom that those fighting for their lives don’t have the time to fight for anything else; not even the country they rule. Jonathan is now fighting for two lives – his political life and his actual life because in this lethal brawl, that is just starting, nobody is safe – not even the President.

The Governor of Bayelsa state recently cried out that his life is in danger. That is the Chief Security officer of his state. That is akin to a great hunter running for dear life pursued by wild animals. What then should ordinary people in that domain do?

So, the battle lines are drawn. For reasons best known to me, I will not disclose all the details at the moment. But anyone expecting Jonathan to pay close attention to service delivery might as well expect to find a whale in a puddle.

The man has suddenly become too pre-occupied with presidential contest; partly out of choice; but mostly as a victim of the circumstances in which he finds himself. Yet he has a way out, if only he has the courage to make that choice.…

The most important question now is: what happens if the PDP breaks up? Before providing what I think will happen, just for now imagine what will happen when a 50-ton tanker loaded with fuel experiences brake failure while approaching a busy bus stop with thousands of people waiting for buses…


Before throwing your hat into the ring for the presidency, governorship, senate or any other office, you need to know several things –especially if your party does not possess the enormous wealth the PDP has. But, don’t be discouraged, even political Goliaths have been defeated by Davids before. In fact, the less money and other resources you have the more you need advice to assist you in the unequal contest ahead of you.

A presidential candidate has as his constituency 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, 774 Local Government Councils and 6032+ wards and about 100,000 polling booths. Given what is likely to be a short campaign, because the PDP dominated National Assembly is deliberately tardy on the Electoral Reform Bill, smaller parties and independent candidates will be at a distinct disadvantage –unless they seek for help to enable them cover extensively the presidential constituency.

Since the last election, unlike most people who are contented to merely condemn the 2007 elections as the worst in the nation’s history (I don’t agree because to me the 1963-4 elections which resulted in the first military coup was worse), I have been conducting research aimed at helping contestants conduct cost efficient elections hoping thereby to nullify the advantage the PDP possesses. At my own expense, it is now possible to provide other candidates with a fighting chance against the monster called PDP.

Back in the early 1970s, there was a contest of brands which remains a classic till today. “Hertz Rent A Car” was the dominant car hire service worldwide. Then an upstart came up called “Avis Rent A Car”. Hertz held over 80% of the market when Avis started with 0%. But, through “guerilla” marketing tactics, Avis, within a short time had captured close to 30% of the market.

As a final year MBA student majoring in Marketing, I was very much interested in this brands’ contest.

The new President of Avis, Robert Townsend, even wrote a book titled UP THE ORGANISATION which became a best seller very quickly. I reckon 90% of the copies must have been bought by students like me. Years later, I became aware that the tactics applied by Townsend have also been adapted by campaign managers of successful presidential candidates like Jimmy Carter and Bob Clinton.

All that was needed was to adapt those methods to the Nigerian political scene in 2010-11 and small parties and independent or relatively “poor” candidates can give the PDP a run for all its money. So before squandering your millions or billions on this election find out how you can reduce the PDP advantage……

“Never argue with a fool; people might not know the difference”.

One day my mother saw me having an argument with a fellow suffering from dementia. She called me aside and offered a rebuke saying “Never in your life again argue with a lunatic; people will think you are the same”. CAN religious leaders arguing with Obasanjo for his remark about Jesus will be well advised to bear those pieces of advice in mind.

They might as well be talking to a mule – if they continue. That goes for journalists also.
Case closed.


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