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Lagos 2015: How PDP got it wrong

By Demola Olarewaju

That the PDP has one or two things to learn from the APC, especially in the conduct of intra-party primaries and elections, is becoming clearer by the day.  In fact, one thing the APC has proven adept at doing is listening to the voice of the public and adapting to it.

ambodeThe APC in my opinion has demonstrated high political strategy by picking a presidential candidate from the north who is also a Muslim. It is a clever move. In politics, one picks a candidate who is clearly different from the candidate of the opposition. Therefore, since the incumbent President is a Christian from the South, APC would have been foolish to pick an Amaechi or an Oshiomhole , both Christians from the South. In picking a candidate that is very different from the incumbent, APC is forcing the electorate to make a clear choice. It is a smart political move that the PDP in Lagos must learn from.

In Lagos State, APC picked its gubernatorial candidate in the person of Akinwunmi Ambode and here are four   features of the man: Christian, from the Ikorodu/Epe divisions, never held political office, and backed by godfather Tinubu. High political strategy would suggest PDP seizing such an opportunity to present a candidate with entirely different antecedents such as Obanikoro: Muslim, from Lagos Island, held several political offices, has no godfather. But some PDP elders prefer Agbaje: Christian, from the Ikorodu/Epe divisions, never held political office, backed by godfathers Bode George and Seye Ogunlewe.

Voters think in a particular way: all politicians are the same – this is the case of an Agbaje and an Ambode. More importantly, voters must be made aware of the opportunity cost of the electoral vote: if I vote this person, what am I losing in the other person? With an Obanikoro, the opportunity cost of voting an Ambode may be experience and a leader who is not teleguided but with an Agbaje – what really is the opportunity cost of voting Ambode? See why APC’s choice of Buhari to confront President Goodluck Jonathan should be a lessopn?

But someone may ask, but why not Atiku who is also a northerner and a Muslim, a clear difference from the incumbent President?

This is where the APC political thinking blew my mind: a politician with an image problem but a loyal group of supporters and a political machinery must always be chosen above one with a good image who lacks loyal supporters and a political machinery. That is because a bad image can be fixed in a short time but a loyal group of supporters and effective political machinery cannot be built in the same period.

Read the above paragraph again, slowly this time to get the point and then let’s do the following comparative analysis:

The only area where Atiku trumps Buhari is that more people love Atiku in the South than they like Buhari. The only area where it may be argued that Agbaje can come close to Obanikoro is that people loved Agbaje’s 2007 mien more than they loved Obanikoro whose image was consistently bashed by the ACN media of the time. But men like Buhari and Obanikoro have something that men like Atiku and Agbaje do not have: they have loyal troops and they have political machineries that can deliver steady numbers consistently.

The drawback with men like Buhari and Obanikoro is that their image has in the past suffered some media bashing: Buhari is accused of being a religious fundamentalist and   Obanikoro   accused of some rascality. What does one do about it? Fly a kite, test the waters. Those snazzy pictures of Buhari high-fiving his kid, of his beautiful wife and so on – those were kites being flown, an image being changed. Seeing that Buhari’s image could be worked on, APC stuck with him as candidate. Have you also seen the snazzy Obanikoro pictures and the excellent packaging of his declaration event? Those were kites and in the past months a lot has been done to shore up his image.

But Buhari and a man like Obanikoro have something that stands them out in any political strategic thinking: a group of loyalists willing to stand by their principal through thick and thin and political machinery that delivers the voting numbers. APC knew it could work on Buhari’s image but could not rely on Atiku’s loyalists. PDP choosing an Agbaje who has never won any election from councillor to state house of assembly will be a disaster in Lagos and the facts are obvious:

Senator Obanikoro’s camp successfully produced as much as 70% of the PDP House of Assembly candidates in Lagos, 60% of the House of Representatives candidates and 100% of the senatorial candidates. So to reject him will be to leave this support base without a leader, without passion for the party and without direction: one does not need to be a Sun Tzu to see that the result will be a rout for the ruling APC.  Most important as elections boil down to one crucial factor on Election Day: the ability of your polling agents to resist the other parties and also to canvass voters on the line or get them out of their houses to vote. Obanikoro has Election Day political machinery that can do this; Agbaje’s political machinery is owned by Bode George who has never won his own polling unit since 1999.   Even with the gang-up of Ogunlewe and Bode George, Agbaje struggled to get 432 delegates votes while in the face of all sorts of tactics from Bode George telling the delegates not to vote a Muslim as the party candidate to Ogunlewe saying   that the party leadership had resolved to go with Agbaje to the violence unleashed on delegates which reduced the numbers from 874 to 806 accredited voting delegates and finally the magical appearance of votes from 806 to a final tally of 865, Obanikoro pulled a whopping 343 delegate votes.

Fortunately, Section 19, subsections (d) and (m) of the Election Guideline of PDP was breached in the area of time of accreditation of the delegates and in the instance of over-voting. The party guidelines are clear: a re-run must be held. If the only thing against Obanikoro is his image but he comes with the asset of loyalists and well-oiled political machinery, the PDP must borrow a leaf from the APC and choose him as its Lagos gubernatorial candidate because a false image can be corrected but loyalists cannot be replaced in two months.


Demola writes from Lagos


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