How APC Can Rediscover its Winning Ways

by Michael Oluwagbemi II

2014 has been a precarious year for the opposition All Progressive Congress. As bad as 2013 was for the ruling People Democratic Party (PDP); and it ended very badly- the PDP has been on a comeback in 2014. Previous take on this comeback underlined this fact, and have resulted in many of our readers asking that one prescribes the medicine to APC’s seeming oncoming death.

It is important to note that fundamental organizational strategy frameworks used in businesses can easily be applicable to political parties. When it is all said and done, political parties are entities in the business of selling political candidates in competition with others. The strategy of cost leadership, quality differentiation and strategic focus are routinely taught in MBA classes as the triple ways to corporate distinction. Indeed, a well-known mantra is to avoid the danger of being “caught in the middle” i.e. being nothing of these three strategies will lead to failure. The direct analogy for political parties in our clime, as such, will be buying the votes (cost leadership), offers superior leadership (quality differentiation) and revolutionary (strategic focus) the three paths to glory.

Using this framework, it is clear that APC being incapable of being the cost leader (as it does not control any major oil bloc), and its admission of ex-PDP stalwarts having diluted its brand of quality differentiation (previously enhanced by the quality leadership offered by the likes of Governor Fashola), its major 2014 problem is that of being caught in the middle. It is thus clear that it is left with one path alone, that of strategic focus. This as such remains the only action in town as far as APC and any hopes of having substantial impact in the next dispensation.

APC’s overall strategic thrust has to first acknowledge these facts, and build up an advantage as a result. First, APC must rediscover winning, and the upcoming Osun Gubernatorial election offers an opportunity to do so. Political parties are not taken seriously if they cannot win; as such Ogbeni Aregbesola offers the party its best hope of winning again. If this successfully pulled off, then the public will pay attention again and a follow-up act will be required.

Secondly, the party has been widely accused of being PDP-lite, so it must start differentiating itself even in fundamental operations, while reconnecting with the populace. Once way to do this two-step is to restore the sanctity of open primaries.

APC must make it clear that even its incumbent governors, some of them with unpopular policies, must stand for election where every party member can participate. Primaries are great ways for incumbents to test their popularity; it is also a great way to create general awareness for the party. Though it may sometime seem rancorous and divisive, an open primary process encourages vibrant competition and media coverage with upside that compensates for the downside.

Indeed, while on one hand this primary process will restore access to the masses, and force the Abuja (or State capital) politicians to get their feet wet once again, it also helps differentiate the party from PDP where subservience to the Presidency ensures a guaranteed return to the state house. At least, the President can point to Bayelsa and Ekiti as examples of predetermined primaries, but close political watchers understand the difference between true primaries and political paybacks. APC should also understand that primaries are particularly important in states where it is incumbent, as the PDP can always contrast its own primary process as being open (since it has no incumbents) with APC’s process if it goes the automatic ticket route.

Ultimately though, it will be a strategy of focus that will seal the deal for APC. This writer believes that a “Tea Party” strategy should be pursued by the APC. This strategy will focus on the federal legislative and governorship election, while effectively boycotting the presidential elections. To implement this strategy is harder than what it sounds. This is because of INEC’s timetable.

In a country where everything revolves around the presidency, APC must do so well in the governorship elections and must be clear about its intention to boycott the presidential race early and clearly enough as to have an impact two weeks later at the legislative polls.

It will also no doubt help to field truly popular candidates across the nook and crannies of the country, emerging of course from an open primary process that culminates in a widely covered convention. Radio and TV debates among party candidates should be organized in all 36 states, and especially in the 20 states where APC have a serious shot at the Governor’s mansion. This will contrast the leadership strategy of their party against that of the ruling party. Allowing the PDP to be consumed by the presidential election that can soon transform into a poisoned chalice that will tear the party apart is after all, a very smart strategy as we’ve seen.

In spite of feeling behind, the governing strategy of APC post 2015 will have to be to seize the legislative initiative from a PDP presidency that ultimately should culminate in a widely covered impeachment move against a discredited President.

As it works up to the propaganda season of the political calendar, APC must also begin to pay back the Presidency with its own Boko Haram rumor. It must turn the political desperate move of the President in labeling the opposition as Boko Haram sympathizers into political blessings. It can do this first by pointing out to the gullible public the President’s intent to effectively force INEC to declare major part of the land in opposition land as insecure for elections, handing him a win. As such, it can make a leap into directly connecting the festering of terror in Nigeria, as being tied to the President’s political fortune. Innuendoes go very far in this beer parlor dominated political climate.

This type of revolutionary move against a divided ruling party and which has been widely sought by the country, will truly transform the APC into a winning machine for the next half-century. Whether the drivers of the APC will recognize the solemn opportunity and responsibility that rests on their shoulders is a different matter for another day, but what will BAT do?

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