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Uhuru’s State of Nation address was like an 82-minute eulogy

By Daisy Maritim Maina | Updated Sun, March 19th 2017 at 00:00 GMT +3

Good day Your Excellency. I hope this finds you in good spirits. Now, I did not enjoy the State of the Nation address last week. In fact, it left me unsettled. It sounded like an 82-minute eulogy. It was a mandatory list of nice things that Kenyans will have to say about you when you depart office.

What I really mean is that the speech was ‘factory standard’. It was generic instead of being ‘bespoke’. And the reason is because you spoke to our heads instead of our hearts.

The purpose of this letter therefore Mr President, is to say two things. Just two. And because you are busy, I will get to the point.

Number one: Imagine your government is like a factory. A factory that produces achievements; in development, governance, foreign relations and most of all, in the day-to-day livelihoods of many of us Kenyans.

But imagine there is a malfunction somewhere. The products you are making are packaged in uninspiring, drab brown paper by unimaginative robots. Then, your products are not visible. And because they are not visible, they are not believable, and because they are not believable many of us have decided they are not attainable. In short you have good products but they do not stand out on the shelves, if they get there at all. In fact, you have a packaging and distribution challenge.

Number two: A leader without an ideology is like a jembe without a handle. Before you appeared in Parliament, your ideas and your philosophy should have preceded you. These are things that make us identify with you at the deepest level and inspire loyalty, love, belonging and pride.

Even if you had no achievements to report on Wednesday, your ideology alone would have been enough to convince us to follow you to the promised land. It is a proven fact that politicians whose ideology is unclear are always out-manoeuvred. That is why, Mr President, your opponents have had a field day negating your narrative over the past four years, including the recent State of the Nation address.

The response from Raila Odinga must have taken eight and a half minutes to craft. And he probably delegated it to one of his interns.

It’s not your technical arguments that count. It is your brand and how you package yourself that gets us attracted to you.

The most successful corporations in the world have crafted and perpetuated a persuasive ideology around their products. Coca-Cola and Safaricom, for instance, don’t have the best and most competitive products on the market, but they have branded themselves into our sub-consciousness. They continually capture our collective imagination and hold our fickle emotions hostage.

This is why achievements of the Jubilee government should not be communicated to us once a year as a technocratic laundry list, but as a continuous, prolonged product campaign.

Some 7,000km of new roads means little to the collective ‘wananchi’ scattered over 584,000 square kilometres. Particularly those in hard-boiled ‘opposition zones’.

And it means even less if they are hearing about it for the first time. But it does mean a lot to the national population if they have heard about it and have been made to feel it continuously for five years without a break.

Some 14,000 schools connected to electricity mean something if we can clearly understand the transformation supposed to happen as a result.

Forgive me Mr President, you are truly a man of vision but a good number of your people are struggling to see what you are seeing. Break it down for us in a language we can understand. Tell us what difference the results of the commendable projects you are implementing will make in our individual lives.

Tell us what’s in it for us; not what’s in it for your legacy. Talk to us, not to your flatterers. And to do this I am going to suggest that you start by firing those amateurs disconnecting you from us and get people who understand the ‘wananchi’ to pass on your message.


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