By Dan Akabi
One time British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, said that ‘politics is almost as exciting as war, and quite as dangerous. In war you can only be killed once, but in politics many times.’ Churchill was known for his political communication which earned him followership and high approval rating. He was a leader who not only inspired the British people, but also built relationship with leaders across Europe which won him word-wide acclamation. It is against this backdrop and the ever increasing need for political office-holders to build and manage relationships with their key audiences that Atiku Abubakar is examined.
The background to the PDP presidential primaries is worth recalling to up-date ourselves on the recent developments that shaped the party’s process of selecting its presidential flag-bearer for the forthcoming elections. After prevarication on the venue of the convention, it finally held in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital. Atiku surprised Nigerians as he came out of Port Harcourt as a shining PDP presidential flag-bearer out of the 12 formidable contenders.
By and large, the difference between success and failure is the ability to communicate clearly and effectively. Atiku should remember that he must be credible enough to be able to build enough credibility through relationship management. For him to achieve this he must generate enough positive news, the news generates a demand for him as a presidential Candidate.
Within the period of the campaign, Atiku must remain positively visible, stay close to voters and other key audiences such as the political class, the civil servants, the media and members of other branches of government. He should also continue to do well and get people to talk about it. It should not be out of place to advise him to learn from the mistakes of their government, especially those of the first two years in office. Atiku’s candidacy must not die politically, let alone die a second, third or fourth time as Churchill put it so eloquently.
Specifically, Atiku must come out with a clearly defined programme through which corruption can be eradicated. The issue of corruption must come top of Atiku’s agenda, because it is on everyone’s lips and it is what every one of his supporters and non-supporters want to hear him address. It is time to come clean. Amnesty International defines corruption as ‘abuse of entrusted power for personal gain.’ It includes public and private sector corruption at both petty and grand levels. The issue is one of the myriad of problems the Nigerian expects his elected leaders to tackle.
It is, therefore, imperative that Atiku is prepared along the lines of the world’s great communicators who faced their political challenges with excitement, vigour and conviction. His communication must aim at shaping the headlines instead of merely reacting to them by being proactive. He must do all he can to avoid being presented as a faulty political product that is not fit for consumption or as a lacklustre candidate that is unfit to become president.
Most important but not entirely surprising is his recent brokered accord with his former boss on the disagreement they had when they were in office. They agreed to resolve the dispute amicably which many Nigerians did not think it was possible. No doubt this is one quality a president desperately needs.
Far from being seen as flippancy, the role Atiku played turned out to be unprecedented in the nation’s political history. It was acknowledged nationwide as the news media reported the development with enthusiasm, thus signalling the coming of age of the Nigerian politician. Those who predicted or waited for something untoward to happen between the two leaders were disappointed. They never thought that such kind of settlement would ever be brokered between the two leaders.