In his keynote address entitled: The Role of Communication in Party and Development, Mr. Barnes, stated that the 2015 general election was fought and won on the social media.
By Emmanuel Elebeke
The resident Country Director of the International Republican Institute (IRI), Mr. Sentell Barnes, has noted that the opposition, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has a battered image before the public and need to re-strategize in order to gain the trust of Nigerians.
This was revealed, Thursday, at a PDP Social Media communication Interactive Forum organized by members of PDP Social Media Directorate in Abuja.
He said that the then ruling party (PDP) lost the election because of its inability to recognize the power of social media and its failure to harmonize its communication channels and charged them to re-strategize if they must bounce back in future elections.
Barnes said no party building task is more important than the development of a successful communications programme because it affects everything a party does.
‘‘No matter what a political party does, if it does not have effective communication, it can’t achieve much. PDP needs more strategic engagement to lose and unbundle any negative impression already created by the opposition.’’
‘‘ . What PDP should emphasize is to de-emphasize confrontational statements with the ruling party in order to change the narrative.
‘‘Candidates should come down to the level of the electorates and have handshake with them,‘’ he added.
The convener of the workshop, Mr. Deji Adeyanju told vanguard that the essence of the workshop was to gather party members to discuss how they can communicate better via social media platform, with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Also he stated that the meeting was to deliberate on issues that concern the party and the challenges in the face of what he called the deliberate plan by the ruling party to crush the main opposition party, (PDP).
He alleged that the present administration had a grand plan to silence every dissenting voice in the country and called on the Civil Society Organizations not to be intimidated but join hands with the PDP to offer an effective opposition to the ruling party before it derails into anarchy.
‘‘We have found out that there is a deliberate plan to crush the party by the presidency. The Presidency has virtually silenced every dissenting voice in the country, but has not been able to silence the social media.
‘‘Our plan is also to make better use of social media. We have received threats because of our open criticism of government. We intend to find ways that this become basic of our future actions. It will help the party in the use of social media, shaping all our platforms, forums, and to ensure that things are done in a more professional manner. This is why we are calling on the CSOs not to grow cold but stand up and refused to be intimidated.’’
Adeyanju, who declared the party’s support for the war against corruption cautioned that for the fight to be credible and sustained, it has to be fought without flagrant disregard to the rule of law.
‘‘I want to promise Nigerians to expect effective opposition to the ruling party from now henceforth. Our message to the ruling party is that they should no longer heap blames on us instead they should start building infrastructure and fulfilling all their promises. Nigerians don’t want change of promise,’’ he added.
A member of the PDP Social Media Directorate, Churchhill Umorien, told vanguard that the workshop was designed to empower their members to be able to engage the ruling party in a more professional manner on issues of national interest without necessarily dwelling on sentiment.
‘‘We don’t have to criticize the government out of sentiment but with facts. We are going to rebrand the party, create a new narrative for the party. As much as we support the ant-corruption war, it has to go in tandem with rule of law.
‘‘We are proud of our party for its achievements in creating the middle class in the last six years, growing the economy and infrastructure rejuvenation. I am aware that the government would have done better should we had won the 2015 general election unlike the present administration which is now killing jobs and increasing poverty because they do not have plans for the country.’’
Meanwhile as part of its re-branding strategy to bounce back to power in 2019, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has concluded plans to adopt direct primary election in all its future elections across the country.
According to the party, the amendment was part of resolutions reached at its just concluded constitution amendment exercise in Abuja on Wednesday.
It added that the idea was to evolve an all inclusive method of choosing party representatives in every general elections as a clear reflection of its slogan of transferring power to the people.
One of the party’s constitution amendment committee members, who disclosed this said the constitution drafting committee felt that the new method of primary election if adopted by the party would eliminate all external influence from godfathers, who usually choose unpopular candidates among the people.