Anyone who has read the article, “Deciphering Karl Rove’s Playbook: Campaign Tactics and Response Strategies” by the trio of Art Silverblatt, Jane Squier Bruns and Gina Jensen would have made a good guess about the origin of the campaign tactics and strategies of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The article identifies the fifteen tactics that make up the campaign strategy of Karl Rove, the genius behind the electioneering successes of George W. Bush. Without the aid of Rove’s Machiavellian campaign tactics, it is doubtful if Bush would have been able to defeat Ann Richards,the incumbent Governor of Texas, in 1994, Al Gore in the presidential race of 2000, and retain the presidency against John Kerry’s onslaught in 2004.
The authors rightly prophesised that given Rove’s record success, future campaigns, including, of course, ours in Nigeria, will utilise variations of Rove’s political tactics. The title of this piece came from the second factor that spurred them to write their article. As they put it,“It is important for the public to recognize these tactics, so that they will be in a position to form independent judgments about candidates and issues. Richard Paul and Linda Elder, authors of The Thinker’s Guide to Fallacies: The Art of Mental Trickery and Manipulation observe, “(The public’s) goal should be to recognize fallacies for what they are –the dirty tricks of those who want to gain advantage. You will withstand their impact more effectively when you know these fallacies inside and out. When you are inoculated against fallacies, your response to them is transformed. You ask key questions. You probe behind the masks, the fronts, fostered images, the impressive pomp and ceremony. You take charge of your own mind and emotions. You become (increasingly) your own person.””
The Rovian campaign strategy comprises the following: (1) Take the offensive; (2) Attack your opponent’s strength;(3) Accuse your opponent of what he/she is going to accuse you of; (4) Go negative, then cry foul; (5) The “Big Lie”; (7) Sell the Bush persona; (8) Sell an adolescent worldview; (9) Exploit the media; (10) Create straw issues; (11) Employ surrogates; (12) Use emotional appeals; (13) Rely on expert testimonials; (14) Rhetorical devices; (15) Use of language.
The polemical and highly inventive Femi Fani-Kayode must have been drafted into the PDP campaign to put the All Progressives Congress (APC) on the defensive. Realizing that allowing the APC to take its message to the people would harm the PDP, Fani-Kayode has been spinning stories about the APC’s presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, with a view to making the people believe that Buhari is not the alternative leader the people have been yarning for. No matter how dumb he is, Fani-Kayode, as a lawyer, knows that Buhari’s certificate is irrelevant and a non-issue; but he cleverly elevated that to an issue to the point of forcing the APC to respond to it. How education up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent transformed into the production of a School Certificate is disconcerting to serious thinkers. If President Goodluck Jonathan had presented to the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) his International Passport (evidence of citizenship), his birth certificate (evidence of age) and his PDP membership card(evidence that he is being sponsored by the PDP), I guess Fani-Kayode would have asked Buhari to present those documents as well. When Buhari’s school published a re-issued certificate, Fani-Kayode promptly reacted, calling that certificate a forged document. Fani-Kayode has vowed to expose Mr. Clean.
I would commend to the APC the response recommended by Art Silverblatt, Jane Squier Bruns and Gina Jensen to this distracting trick. Instead of wasting time in joining issues with the PDP on the subject, the APC should endeavour to establish the public perception of their candidate; establish the major issues of the campaign; influence the public perception of the opponent, and throw the Femi Fani-Kayode team off their divisive, distracting message, so that they will be forced to address the real, pressing issues. In this regard, I recommend to the APC the issues articulated by Charles Soludo, the former Governor of the Central Bank, in his article title “Buhari vs Jonathan: Beyond the Election”.
The PDP has levied war against Buhari’s corruption-free, decisive, positive and assertive leadership credentials. The party has gone ahead to fabricate a lengthy calumnious and defamatory documentary which tries to portray Buhari as a man with draconian tendencies, a religious bigot, a corrupt and weak leader. My advice to APC is that now that the PDP has raised the issues of leadership and corruption in their campaign of calumny, the APC is free to make a comparison between their Buhari and PDP’S Jonathan on these key issues. It is time to invite the public to these issues and let the public grade the two candidates. The documentary and similar calumnious materials sponsored by PDP have given the APC the opportunity to make clarifications on those vital issues.
The PDP has tried to portray the APC as the aggressive party breaching the provisions of the Electoral Act on campaigns and rallies, and the peace accord signed by the parties. But anyone who has read the advertorials of Ayo Fayose, the Governor of Ekiti State, or heard Tony Anenih, the Chairman, Board of Trustees of the PDP, calling Buhari a dog whom the Esans should not vote for, or listened to the banter between Isa Yuguda, the Governor of Bauchi State and Bala Mohammed, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and, of course, the threat of war by the Ijaw militants, will realise that the PDP is only accusing the APC of what it knows the APC will accuse it of. It is time for the APC to go to the public with a documentary of what the PDP has been doing against the peace accord. It is time for the frog to stop calling the dove ugly.
President Jonathan has been going about, even in churches, complaining that the APC has been saying negative things about him; but between him and Buhari, he (Jonathan) clearly has been the aggressor. It is time for the public to be reminded of all the negative things he has been saying about General Buhari.
Adolf Hitler used the Big Lie Theory very successfully. Rove also used this tactic. People are said to easily detect small lies. On the other hand, a lie becomes easily believable when it is big. So when PDP says Buhari stole 2-billion-dollar oil money as Minister of Petroleum, PDP is merely going by the theory that when you sell the big lie by boldly asserting its validity in the face of facts, the big lie will be accorded some legitimacy. After all, the people will say there can be no smoke without fire.
Jonathan’s attempt to use religion to bolster his moral standing is fast backfiring. The people have seen through that tactic and are ignoring his Christian cloak to attend to his real person. It is for the APC to harp on that hypocritical ploy and draw the voters to the real issues that the election is about. It is time to expose the immorality in using religion as a campaign tool.
We have also seen in the PDP campaign activities every aspect of the other elements of the Rovian tactics enumerated above. One only hopes the APC will respond to them accordingly. It is time to decipher Jonathan’s performance and time for the people to know whether the nation would be better secured and better managed under an APC led government.