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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Kenneth Matiba's Presidential Campaign In 1992: What Can It Teach Kenyans For 2007?

I am a voracious reader despite my rather hectic schedule. Currently I am reading the much acclaimed David Halberstam book; The Reckoning (published in 1986) which details the war between Detroit's Ford Motor Company and Japan's Nissan.

Throughout my career as a jua kali entrepreneur cum writer, I have tried to model a lot of what I have done while closely studying the life of Henry Ford, the man who changed the world forever with his mass-produced cars. So the guy is no stranger to me. However in my reading today I came across some telling statistics about the man that I would like to share with you.

The main reason behind Ford's wealth that transformed a penniless kid starting out with less than a dollar in his pocket to a multi-millionaire was the Model T Ford and the modern concept of mass production. Ford ended up selling 15,456,868 units of the Model T. When he started manufacturing, it took him 12 and a half hours to produce one unit of the car. His ambition was to produce one car every minute, a goal that he managed to achieve after 12 years. By 1925 he was producing one car every 10 seconds.

My point is that whatever the human brain sets out to achieve it can achieve.

What has been occupying my brain a lot for a number years now is how to transform our beloved motherland into the great country it is supposed to be.

One thing you will quickly realize when you start thinking along these lines is that to achieve it, you need a lot of radical new ideas. It cannot be done by playing it safe or clinging to the old way of thinking.

Legend has it that Ford once ordered his engineers to produce an engine with a total number of cylinders that had been unheard of in those days. The story goes that after a few weeks the frustrated engineers came back to him and told him the task he had assigned them was impossible to achieve. Ford told them to get back to work on it. The story has a surprising ending. When the engineers were forced to abandon their mindset, which was that it was impossible, they finally managed to achieve the goal that Ford had set for them.

Kenyans have all sorts of mindset about politics in the country and most of these ideas are not even backed by historical evidence. Let me give just one example. It is widely believed that it is impossible to win a presidential election in Kenya without countrywide campaigns in virtually every province. President Kibaki, the first Kenyan to be propelled into State house by direct popular vote did not quite do it like that. After his road accident, he did not engage in any campaigning until he was sworn into office still in great pain and on a wheelchair.

In 1992, Kenneth Njindo Matiba came second to Moi, although there are those who believe that he won those elections, like this blogger. (You just have to carefully study the votes Moi got in opposition strongholds to realize that there was something wrong. For instance he got 6,000 votes in Dagoretti constituency, more than the Kanu candidate in that constituency, Clement Gachanja, got. The truth of what used to happen in those days was revealed to Kenyans during the 2002 elections when ballot boxes already staffed with marked presidential votes were discovered somewhere in Central province.)

Matiba, because of his health issues did not hold a single public campaign meeting anywhere in the country and yet he won those elections according to me, and many other analysts.

The 1992 Matiba campaign has not been studied in any great detail by political analysts. This is sad because there is plenty to be learnt from that memorable bid for the presidency. To start with Matiba's greatest strength as a manager throughout his career was his uncanny ability to attract extra-ordinary talent around himself, mainly because he went out of his way to pay very well for it as well as appreciate it. Matiba's campaign team was no doubt exceptional in many ways.

Kenneth Matiba's campaign hinged mainly on word of mouth and his full colour campaign posters, something that was still relatively new in those days—until then presidential candidates were still using mostly black and white posters. His shrewd campaign staff also made a lot of use of matatu drivers and touts to spread his message, which proved to be highly effective. A few other factors played to his advantage. The fact that he had been detained for openly campaigning for political pluralism at the height of Kanu's mama na baba one-party dictatorship had propelled him into a national political figure.

This politicians campaign proved once again that the most important thing in marketing and politics is not advertising (country-wide campaigns), but how the candidate is positioned in the minds of voters. What is the first thing that comes to the mind of the voter when you mention that particular candidate?

There are plenty of political similarities between Kenneth Matiba and former ethics PS John Githongo.

My fellow countrymen, this is the year that we badly need to get rid of our mindset about several issues. There is no way we can experience genuine change without doing this. There is also no way we will be able to see change without completely sweeping parliament clean of past and present characters who have been there and done little or nothing for the people. We need a totally new 210 faces plus nominated MPs and new constituency MPs—if the bill is passed. If we leave a few old members for continuity, then what we will be doing is leaving the "heart of parliament" in place and we cannot do this and expect the change we want.

Let's face it, the current crop of leaders are from a different time and are completely out of touch with the unique time in the history of mankind in which we live. For instance, you will never find them here in the blogosphere with us or on the net. In fact many of them fear to come anywhere near a computer (see my other post of today).

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1 comment:

Ttyffah said...

Talking about mindsets, I think one thing that heavily influenced the above post is the African ailment of short term amnesia. I would like to remind the blogger that although Kibaki took a different approach to campaigning, it is not this that won him his seat. It seems to have escaped his/her mind that there were foot soldiers in the likes of Raila who went all over the country mobilising the masses that later translated into votes. As we can see, the same thing is happening now. Every Tom, Dick and Harry party is campaigning for the incumbent as he waits for the red carpet in the way of an election win to be rolled out.

As for Matiba, we all well know that colourful posters will not win you an election in this country. The strategy was never the issue. Those Kenyans who could see through the Moi regime and it's hostility to democracy voted for Matiba. He represented the second liberation and bore the scars of its war. We voted in the pride of a better Kenya not the result of a cloud of Matiba's team's "prim and proper" management and political tactics.

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