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Wednesday, 8 May 2013

General Buhari is a Damaged Brand By Bamidele Ademola-Olateju

General Muhammadu Buhari is a damaged brand, he cannot win the Presidential election on any platform unless his brand equity is restored. Any people or group of people who wants to do this will have their work cut out for them, it is a lot of work but it can be done. Buhari has the best brand equity any human being would wish for until religion was used against him. He is upright, disciplined, honest, devout, frugal and patriotic among other superlatives.
Who damaged his brand?
A. The political elite
B. The educated elite
What damaged his brand?
He is disciplined: Those of us who were old enough, knew how we all fell in line under Buhari/Idiagbon's War Against Indiscipline (WAI). The spectacle of civil servants who were publicly humiliated for lateness is still fresh in our memory. When he was in charge, everybody observed decorum at publics spaces by taking their turns. It was unprecedented in a country populated by oversized egos. Little wonder, the "do you know who I am" crowd do not want a return to an orderly Nigeria. They benefit from the chaos and indiscipline.
Buhari is frugal: Buhari instituted counter trade and improved Nigeria's balance of trade by curbing imports. Oil thieves, subsidy thieves, and rogue importers who gets free money from NEXIM will have no where to turn. Generator and transformer importers who pay people to steal cables and vandalize transformers will go out of business. Everyone in this country is an importer of something. How many of those emergency importers dare manufacture when trading is there and yields quick money? If Buhari is elected, how will they launder proceeds from drugs, gun running and conversion of public funds? The elite are neck deep in a culture of waste and loot for too long, they dont wan to be weaned from easy money. They no go gree lailai...tufiakwa!
He is honest: Buhari is as clean as a whistle. How many properties does he own? How much investment has he to his name?
A patriot: Buhari is a dedicated patriot. When he was called to serve on the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) we got results. Today the Anenihs use such funds meant for projects and road construction to cater for themselves and fund their party - the PDP.
He is devout: Buhari is a devout Muslim who obeys the central injunction of compassion in his daily life - his albatross.
Buhari committed sacrilege when he came to power and jailed politicians without due process, executed drug peddlers with a retroactive law and enacted decrees gagging the press. I do not in any way condone the excesses of Buhari's reign but even his detractors will agree he is a saint compared to the treacherous and murderous types we have and have had after him. Buhari knows Nigeria and her issues cold. He is not under any gauzy lens of delusion and he is prepared as always to dive in at the pool's deep end. That for me is the difference. Buhari is the leader that can save Nigeria from the evil of herself, he is the leader we are afraid to have. I know the Jonathans and the anti-Buhari crowd will come after me with their senseless and scattered rhetoric but you are forewarned to arm yourself with facts. Some of us are witnesses to history and are objective with facts.
How was his brand damaged?
Enemies of Nigeria damaged Buhari's brand by using religion against him. Buhari is a good brand because of the qualities I listed earlier, his enemies and enemies of Nigeria knows it. Actually, most Nigerians know it. How did they do it? During his regime, counter trade and restricted imports gave rise to unprecedented inflation. Purchasing power nosedived and Nigerians became despondent. In despondency, they embraced religion than never before. Pentecostalism and its posterity now doctrine gained ascendancy in Christendom and Salafism and Shia Islam gained currency among Muslims. The Universities embraced both with zeal. Money flowed into Christianity from the United States. Saudi Arabia and Iran struggled for the minds of young Muslims on University campuses. The Nigerian religious extremism hitherto unknown by previous generations was born, brewed fresh from the stables of academia and the elite; potently aided by the Iran/Iraq war. Inciting leaflets and literature saturated the campuses and the government as usual took no notice. A Christian America was seeing as aiding the decimation of Iran by Iraq. A symbol of the times, was the controversy of the cross and crescent at the University of Ibadan. A non-issue that dragged on for years.
Buhari's tarnish project began immediately Obasanjo was elected. The schism that began with ascendant pentecostalism and fundamental Islam was carefully exploited to Buhari's detriment. He was labeled an unrepentant and fiery fanatic on religion and nomadic education. We were reminded about purported Islamization of Nigeria and membership of the OIC. The Northern elite fed and funded the misinformation especially those whose only industry is the government. Access to the racket of federal gravy bound them to religious bigots in the South. The truth is lost on southerners that Buhari is an outsider among the power elite in the north. His only bastion of support is among the Talakawas, the Northern elite have nothing but thinly veiled hatred for him.
By the time Buhari declared his intent to run, the extensive ground work for their campaign of calumny has been laid. During Buhari's tenure at the PTF, the South benefited immensely but the message was lost. Unfortunately, in a country beset by bread and butter issues, conscience counts for nothing. The Talakawas alone cannot win anyone an election, the power elite controls the vote. Buhari does not have the resources to run against the establishment and counter their smear campaign. Most importantly, his campaign was enmeshed in hubris based on his anti corruption credentials alone. They were astoundingly shortsighted as they virtually ignored the south during the campaigns and that further cemented Buhari's reputation as a religious zealot in whose eyes the Southern electorate meant nothing.
Since then, Buhari has continued to contest without any reasonable attempt to repair his brand. He cannot win. He cannot win on his record. He should study the failures of Chief Obafemi Awolowo another man whose brand was damaged by the civil war. Whosoever tells him he can win is deceiving him. I was at my ward's polling booth on Lagos Island during the last presidential elections. I was almost lynched for talking about Buhari. Religion does not encourage reason, religion is faith nurtured by unreason. In Nigeria, all you need to win is to kneel in front of a pastor and the subliminal message is sent to millions of faithfuls to vote their faith. The religious divide in Nigeria is very wide and Southerners are now super sensitive to it. The treatment meted out to Jonathan under Yar'adua was the breakpoint, this must not be lost to any northerner interested in presidential politics going forward.
In marketing, good brands can have the damage done to them repaired if the brand equity is persistent, has strength and heritage, if the damage is not central to the brand’s value proposition, If the solution has credibility and if there is any change in prevailing context that can make the damage irrelevant.
Buhari is a good brand with remarkable equity and persistence. unfortunately, his persistence is viewed as zeal for islamization. Lately, his persistence has been interpreted as a call to arms and insurgency against the state. Jonathan has tried many times to link him with Boko Haram, religion exploits human fears.
His brand's strength and heritage is derived from his military background, religion and northern origin. In most quarters in the south, that amounts to triple Jeopardy. The negative publicity of the strength and heritage is too large with respect to its equity.
The seriousness of Buhari's religion and anti-corruption problem with Nigerians is central to his brand’s value proposition and electability.
What is the solution? I will propose that later, but the credibility of the proposed solution will determine if lost brand equity can be restored. Can Buhari convince a confused audience that he has solved his religion problem with so much distrust in the land? I don't know.
Has the Nigerian context changed such that the specifics Buhari's "past" now seem irrelevant? No.
What to do?
If any party must field Buhari as its presidential candidate, they must look hard and be prepared to do a lot of hard work, wining hearts and minds. Buhari is the only leader we have subjected to the exhausting task of being nice all the time. Obasanjo, warts and all does not have to be nice, we even invent excuses or his lack of polish. Buhari and those of us who believe in him have our work cut out for us. If the resources are not there, I suggest the hunt should begin for a fresh mind. Here is my proposed solution:
A. Buhari should take full responsibility for himself and failures of his reign and apologize where necessary
B. He should welcome change and get outside help
C. Leverage his record as Head of State and PTF chair
D. Be honest and transparent on his religious beliefs and his faith in humanity
E. Call Nigeria to action and spell out the dangers we face collectively.
That is all.

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