APC and the Roadmap to Nowhere
By John Ainofenokhai
The other week, the leading opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), took its predilection for obfuscation to another level by engaging in self-serving opinion poll. For those who have followed the politics of Jonathan bashing and anti-PDP propaganda by the APC leadership, the result of the self-commissioned public opinion survey on the approval rating of President Jonathan does not leave anything to guess. When added the fact that the purported survey is part of the process of unveiling the party's manifesto, which it calls “Roadmap to a New Nigeria”, the picture of an unreliable opinion poll is complete.
It seems that APC is now replying critics who have taunted them with the fact that nobody really knows what the party believes in or stands for other than criticising everything under the sun with the imprimatur of President Jonathan. For the most part, what the party does is to wait for Jonathan to drink water and then issue a statement that it was inappropriate for the Nigerian President to take fluid by that time of the day. That is how infantile the APC has become in its role as the opposition party. It was therefore reassuring to hear from the leadership of APC that the party was ready with its agenda document or manifesto. At least, this would help citizens in making up their minds between the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the APC.
It is rather unfortunate that APC has characteristically destroyed the roadmap before its unveiling by muddling it up with a questionable opinion poll with predetermined conclusions. Why is APC making the mistake of thinking that the only way to market its manifesto is by wrapping it in the dirty shroud of an opinion poll, which only those who do not live in this country can see as objective? Since the APC emerged as a political party with the loss of the identity of its parent political parties like Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), the new party has been in a frantic search of its own identity and soul different from that of the strange bedfellows that fused rather inchoately to upset the ruling PDP.
The desperate strategy of membership drive adopted by APC defined by the poaching of discredited PDP members of yesterday now adorned in APC's saintly, if hypocritical robes, has caught the attention of the Nigerian public. And questions upon questions are now being raised over the identity and the ideological trajectory of the new party with all its messianic claims and pretensions. Yes, the antics of the Tinubus of this world need no further introduction and so is Buhari's high-handedness, rigidity, self-righteousness and even a tinge of ethnocentrism. But what was not fathomable to the people was the emerging trend that the holier-than-thou APC would fall back on those they categorically labelled as “a murderous gang” yesterday, as the spine of the party.
Today, Atiku Abubakar is a progressive and so is Governor Rotimi Amaechi; Governor Kwakwanso whom even journalists covering the PDP saw loading electoral materials into a vehicle with the Chairman of his state's gubernatorial primaries committee the morning before the PDP election that handed him the party ticket is now a progressive advocating for free and fair election in 2015! In fact, if General Abacha wakes up from the grave today and joins the APC, he would be shown off as a progressive politician. Such is the identity crisis of the main opposition party, APC.
It is this self-inflicted identity crisis that has led the APC unwittingly to compound its problem by engaging the American firm AKPD Message and Media, a public relations shop, to fix its image problem. This is without the vehement protests from the national body, Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria (PRCAN), who insist that the APC move is scandalous and without regards for the competency of the Nigeria professionals. Yet, this is the same APC that is claiming that Jonathan has done nothing in the area of job creation!
The Chido Nwakamma group raised a more fundamental issue away from trade union concerns, which is the unique nature of local nuances that seem to affect political behaviour here and yet very difficult for any foreign pollster to comprehend. In a simple language, it is not enough for the APC to quote us the “Obama example” or other incredible feats of its consultants in helping democratic movements elsewhere. The question remains, what is the experience of AKPD in a multi-ethnic and largely illiterate country like Nigeria?
The lack of understanding of the political climate and the character of the population, which the APC consultants “researched” on, more than invalidates the outcome of the survey. And there are, indeed, other methodological issues which, when put together, tend to suggest that the presidency is apt in describing the APC opinion polling as an exercise in quackery. First, which population was being studied? Is it the educated alone or urban resident? What kind of sampling method was adopted? How representative of the population were the samples? How sure are we that respondents understood the questions put to them?
Some of the purported outcomes of the inquiry can only validate the methodological flaws in the APC polling, and nothing more. How can a social researcher claim that Nigerians prefer to vote for APC candidate against Jonathan, when APC has no candidate? Does it also imply that even if APC fields a dog against Jonathan, Nigerians will vote the dog? This is another APC sleight of the hand. When APC and its consultants set about collecting data to suit a predetermined answer, which in academics is roguery anyway, they forgot that voting behaviour is not only determined by partisan identification.
Other factors that influence vote choice in the literature include issues, personality and ethnicity. To pretend that these factors are not important in a highly divided society like ours by a “public opinion consultant” and a political party angling for power is the height of deceit. Moreover, even in terms of partisan identification, PDP is far ahead of the APC and any polling that seems to suggest otherwise is patently unreliable.
For some weeks now, APC has been staking its claim of popularity against the PDP to its own detriment. They tried it in the House of Representatives and were out-numbered by the PDP. They tried it in the Senate and the ruling party left it with a black eye. The latest attempt at exaggerating its popular acceptability by hiring a largely public relations company and mistaking it for a research organisation only confirms that the party is embarking on a journey to nowhere. Or perhaps they are headed for the Red Sea as Dr Doyin Okupe had earlier predicted.