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September 24, 2018

How business as usual was ODM’s undoing at 2013 polls

ODM PARTY LEADER: Raila Odinga
ODM PARTY LEADER: Raila Odinga

As someone who watched the 2013 UhuRuto campaign from the outside looking in, so to speak, I can say that the one thing I will never forget about was the level of focus.

And I speak as someone who had been tasked with the responsibility of ensuring they did not succeed – in my capacity as Political Affairs director of the Raila Odinga Presidential Campaign Secretariat,

By any measure, they were totally focused on winning that election. When it came to registering voters, they went about it professionally, they found out what numbers qualified to be registered, then went door-to-door and got them registered in a highly organized and meticulous manner.

On messaging they were absolutely on-point. They had very specific messages targeting their core support zones, as well others targeting the swing votes and the opposition votes. They were also quite well resourced, and one could tell their resources were not being misused.

Each resource was clearly used with complete focus on the objective at hand. Indeed, I consider this level of campaign professionalism and focus something unique to that team and that is why in Kenya's political history there really has never been anything like it before 2013.

One also has to remember that they started out at a huge disadvantage, given the ICC matter. They were also running against an incumbent Prime Minister and Vice President, who looked like they had the wind behind them, so to speak. But they were able to get over this by sending out highly targeted and nuanced messages that completely neutralised many negative perceptions of the ICC issue and actually turned it into a strength. They also brought in new blood into Kenya's politics; people like Ochieng Oloo, Machel Waikenda and Johnson Sakaja, who were completely unknown before that campaign.

These young people and many like them were able to think outside the box and push out messages with aggression and passion.

They also came in with a discipline that tends to lack in older politicians.

The lack of campaign discipline and an inability to think outside the box is what seriously afflicted the ODM campaign, which was led by people who made the assumption, “We know how this is done, because we have done it before.”

That was ODM's fatal error – doing things the way they have always been done., opposing every new idea by saying, “No, don’t bother with that! This is what we have always done!”

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