Like President Obama of the US, President Muhammadu Buhari won his nomination and election on the platform of a very simple message. While Obama predicated his campaign on “Yes, We Can” (change our economic fortunes); Buhari’s campaign was predicated on “Change” (change our fortunes by fighting corruption). Now on his second term, Obama has since delivered on his campaign promise of revamping the American economy, though he faces a lot of challenges with his handling of security issues across the world. As for Buhari, it is morning yet.
Buhari has for long had a fanatical following among a cross section of Nigerians because of his well projected anti-corruption image during and after his stint as a military head of state in the 80s. As it stands, Buhari would easily have won any survey as perhaps Nigeria’s most incorruptible national leader of all time. This lofty credential obviously resonated well with a good majority of Nigerians who had become increasingly impatient with the many excuses of the President Goodluck Jonathan administration for what was perceived as serial failures in many areas of our national life. This included the worsening power supply, decadent health delivery system, bourgeoning youth unemployment, insecurity in the north east, unbridled corruption of public officials, a decadent educational system and so on. This contributed in no small measure to his historic victory in the 2015 presidential election. It was the opinion of Nigerians and foreigners alike that corruption was the main cause of the under-development of Nigeria. I completely agree with this group. To that extent, Buhari is considered as a square peg in a square hole in his new position as president of the federal republic of Nigeria.
However, Buhari the presidential contestant is very different from Buhari the president. People expect that he not only puts his conduct above board but those of all public officials and even ordinary citizens. Of course, if Buhari succeeds in reducing institutional corruption by even 50%, Nigeria will begin to recover from its long drift into self-immolation. The damage has been colossal; the scope of repair work will be no less. After his tenure in office, Buhari as a presidential brand will no longer be celebrated as an anti-corruption Czar, that glory will go to whoever he puts in charge of the relevant agencies to fight the hydra-headed monster. Instead, Buhari will be celebrated by the results that his fight against corruption and the execution of other policies will have on the socio-economic life of Nigerians.
Nigerians will not want to read about effort and policies, they want to see and feel results. Nigerians are now very impatient and cannot cope with another regime telling them stories about the rising generation of electricity of 5,000 megawatts when they wallow in darkness. They do not want to hear about how much has been budget for roads, education or health. They want to see and experience the results of the effort and policies. Nigerians want change. Thankfully, “change” is what Buhari and his party the All Progressives Congress (APC) offered Nigerians. It must be a change for the better.
In view of the foregoing, it is compelling for President Buhari to begin now to put a brand management team in place. This is quite different from the media and publicity team he has announced. There is a very good reason why major institutions today have brand management departments separate from public (or corporate) affairs departments. While corporate affairs departments deal with purely information dissemination issues, government relations and corporate social responsibility, brand management provides a strategic platform to define, create and project the brand.
A brand management team for President Buhari will for instance determine the new desired brand image of his presidency. It will take cognizance of some of the ‘short-comings’ of Buhari the presidential candidate. The (mis)perceptions of Buhari being uneducated, intolerant, lacking in knowledge about contemporary governance and so on. This will be juxtaposed against his strengths will include, his incorruptibility, nationalistic fervour, unwavering commitment to set principles, strength of character and ascetic disposition to life.
While the Media and publicity team will provide copious information on an event and action-driven basis real-time, the brand management team will provide communications that will be based on strategic analysis of information, the target public and the intended or actual results of the event or action.
The failure of President Buhari to put a formidable brand management team in place could spell danger for his brand equity as his predecessor Dr. Goodluck Jonathan realised very late. Dr. Jonathan’s handlers unfortunately kept playing up his pre-election “No shoes to school” background long after it held no meaning to his audience. Next he was positioned “as a “victim” of bad press and then later “the under-reported achiever”. The immediate past president realised to his chagrin that all the “great works” he had done were not known to Nigerians because they were not adequately publicised. He then went on a publicity avalanche in the build-up to the presidential elections but alas, it was money down the drain as it was too much, too late. Besides, and very importantly, it was a reactive and not a proactive process. A proactive process, among other things, provides for time for the right dose of communication to seep into the sub-conscious of the target audience. A barrage of too much different information will usually lead to a mental block by the audience.
One other thing a brand management team worth its salt should also provide are insights and perspectives on intended policies and actions of its principal. This is because the team should at all times be concerned that whatever is being done is in tandem with the president’s strategic vision and brand template and, of course, if it will resonate well with the target audience. The Buhari Brand must be built with the contributions of an effective brand management team. This team will ensure that Brand Buhari does not suffer from Cowan’s law of brand decay and diminishing brand loyalty of the target audience, which in this case are the Nigerian people.
So, Mr. President, while you put your team together do not leave brand management function unattended to like those before you. Congratulations and may you reign be great for Nigeria!