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Let’s forget about ‘Change’

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At the Academy of Branding, we are taught that branding is about keeping your promises. One definition of branding even has it that ‘a brand is a promise kept’. We know that successful brand management depends on consistent credibility. It depends on safeguarding the integrity of what we call the brand promise. To achieve this, we constantly ensure that our brands avoid making promises they cannot fulfil. This is at the soul of successful branding. As we enter the last year of the first term of the Buhari Presidency, the question is; has this government delivered on its brand promise of Change?

Mr President opened his New Year Day speech by telling us that ‘this year promises to be pivotal in our quest for change’. Pivotal? Is Change an illusion ‘to be pursued but never attained’? ‘My address to fellow Nigerians this morning is devoted mainly to informing you about the intense efforts this Administration is putting to address our country’s huge infrastructural deficit’.

Successive governments have been making similar intense efforts over the years without much success. What has changed here? Nothing. Please, can we see results for a change?‘More Nigerians across the country are experiencing improved power supply to their homes and businesses. However, power remains a concern to this government because too many people still do not have regular and reliable supply’.

I am not one of these Nigerians. As I write this piece my generator has been working nonstop for more than nine hours. Power supply has remained epileptic and grossly unacceptable. In the speech, the President tells us how power generation has reached 7,000 megawatts. The same old story about megawatts. They tell us about what is being generated but which never seems to translate to regular power supply in our homes and businesses. Nigerians don’t care about how many megawatts you generate. What we want is stable and constant power supply. Until that happens, no story about megawatts will have any meaning. What has changed here? Nothing.

‘Katsina Power Project is now being tested and producing 10MW of power from wind for the first time in Nigeria. It should be fully operational this year’. Now this sounds more like Change! Our embarrassingly perennial power problem needs a radically different approach so that we can put it behind us and focus on actual development. Because without regular power, I struggle to detect how we can achieve real development.Despite dwelling on power generation for much of the speech, there is no commitment on how long it will take us to ensure stable supply. Rather, our government gleefully announced:

‘A landmark project, Mambilla Hydroelectric Power Project is at last taking off. This project has been on the drawing Board for 40 years, but now the engineering, procurement and construction contract for the 3,050MW project has been agreed with a Chinese joint venture Company with a financing commitment from the government of China. Completion is targeted for 2023’.

However, we are not told whether this project will put an end to power shortage in the country. If it won’t, then am having a really difficult time seeing what is ‘landmark’ about it. For me, power generation from wind, as is being tested in Katsina, is more of a landmark project than this one, which we shamelessly couldn’t implement without financing commitment from the Government of China. Which government financed China’s power projects? With all the resources God has blessed us with, can we not proudly solve our problems without begging for help? What conditions are tied to this ‘help’? Are we not succumbing to economic colonisation according to Julius Malema? What has changed here? Nothing.

On the anti-corruption battle, we are yet to see a sacred fat cow go to jail for corruption in a landmark judgment that sends a clear message to our people that it is no longer business as usual. Which brings me to the main question. Has this government over-promised? Is it impossible to actually fulfil the promise of Change? As brand managers, we are trained to make only the promises we can fulfil. Is it still possible for this government to fulfil its promise? Is there a contradiction between what Nigerians perceive as Change and what their Government promised? Is the Government giving us gradual change while what we want is drastic or radical change? Is it possible to bring about the drastic Change we need under a democratic system? Is it possible to bring corrupt politicians to justice in a system where judges are bought and sold like slaves in Libya?

Whatever the case, the Government has so far mismanaged our expectations and perception of Change. In a few months, election campaigns will commence in earnest and it will be very difficult for this Government to state in clear terms how it has fulfilled the promise of Change. It will be easy for the opposition to emphasize the ‘negative’ change that Nigerians have been experiencing while the positive ones have not yet had a positive impact on the quality of life of the people.

Should we just forget about this Change and accept that it is back to business as usual? Or should government redefine the Change and manage our expectations better? It is not too late. This Government can still convince Nigerians that it is bringing positive Change to our nation, albeit gradually. However, a number of drastic measures must be taken to support this Change narrative. A proper campaign must be launched to support Change. If you are building roads, promote your action with a campaign that says ‘We are changing the way Nigerians get around’. If you are able to reduce the cost of governance, support it with a campaign that says ‘We are changing the way your government works for you’. This should be supported by facts and figures. Otherwise, this government has yielded a lot of ground to the opposition and the perception fast gaining ground right now is simply that the more things seem to change the more they remain the same.

• Kayode is CEO at USP Brand Management and author, The Seven Dimensions of Branding. Brand Nation is a platform for promoting national development based on the universal principles of branding



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