The Tinubu Brand: Rising or Falling?

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Bola Ahmed Tinubu – APC Presidential Flagbearer

By Nnanke Harry Willie

No doubt, the Bola Ahmed Tinubu brand also fondly referred to as BAT by his admirers is a formidable political brand in Nigeria. Despite being out of political office since 2007 the Tinubu brand name has continued to grow in stature. While his ardent followers insist that the growth has been in the right progressive direction, his political adversaries and their followers believe that the growth has been more in the direction of infamy.

While his campaign team insists that his being able to ‘single-handedly’ install several governors and finally the president in 2015 puts him in good stead for the position of president, his opponents actually count these against him and blame him for scuttling true democracy in several states through his dictatorial ‘selection’ of candidates and his heavy-handed backing of those candidates with resources allegedly obtained from fleecing those states where he had installed his preferred candidates.

Again, since he has infamously dramatized how he salvaged the 3 failed attempts of President Muhammadu Buhari and propped him up to win the presidency, critics have insisted that he should bear a large chunk of the blame for the many woes currently afflicting the nation, including: insecurity, tribal and religious intolerance, battered economy, poverty and unprecedented inflation among others.

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His campaign team and supporters, however, prefer to cherry-pick. While they remind the critics that Tinubu has turned Lagos into an el Dorado of sorts albeit through proxies, they tend to dissociate themselves from the failings of the Buhari presidency. It doesn’t need any guessing that the same people would have claimed the credit had Buhari posted sterling results in office.

This write-up is concerned about the seeming negative approach that seems to have been deployed by the Tinubu camp to package him and sell to the massive voting public for the Nigerian presidential election campaigns in February 2023.

Firstly, the Tinubu brand seems not to have a ‘sellable’ clear-cut brand identity that would resonate with the undecided voters at this time. The major narrative that can be gleaned from all the materials across media is that Tinubu is a ‘Strong Man’. He is a Strong Man who knows how to get WHAT HE WANTS! (Emphasis intended). They seem to be building on his outburst in Abeokuta where he proclaimed the ‘Emi lo kan’ war cry.

It was shocking to see that his campaign team actually took this up and have begun a major campaign from that rather unfortunate outburst. They might have been convinced that since he went ahead to win the primaries then it is a fitting slogan for the general elections. I do not think so. If anything, it is indeed, offensive for any candidate for whatever position in an election to go around with a campaign slogan that screams ‘It is my turn!’ It smacks of a seething and self-centred childish tantrum because while a child can get away with a tantrum with his doting mother, the village will absolutely have none of that. No serious politician should come out and start screaming ‘It is my turn’ to the electorate.

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It is so easy to get stuck in an echo chamber of people who agree with everything you say, especially when most of them are milling around you out of deification of your personality or are struggling to ‘be relevant’ so that they can continue to tap from the generousity of the candidate with very deep pockets.

It is the same echo-chamber syndrome that has made the Tinubu camp label all non-supporters of their principal ‘haters’. It has blinded them to the current realities of the electorate and society at large. Rather than winning converts, they are alienating prospective supporters by whipping up bigotry, shaming, mocking and abusing opposing candidates and their supporters. Funny enough, when they get served the same breakfast, they begin to whine about social media bullying.

The political marketplace is a very slippery terrain. The conditions could be as fickle and as unpredictable the weather. The Tinubu camp should know by now that they cannot use the same strategy they used to deft effect for Buhari in the 2023 elections for Tinubu. It is sure to fail…and it is indeed failing already. Appropriate branding and messaging is the major and effective way to win hearts and votes during an election in which votes would really begin to count in Nigeria because of the introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).

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Every worthy politician who has developed into a great political brand needs to undertake an environmental scan regularly in order to ensure that his brand offering is relevant to the needs of his constituents. The environment is rapidly evolving. If those pushing the Tinubu brand really want to achieve success, they should do more to connect with the army of youth who will be voting for the first time in 2023.

I will leave it here for now.

Nnanke Harry Willie is the Adaucious Brand Champion