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February 23, 2019

It's 45 million vs 10 million-strong

NASA Coalition presidential candidate Raila Odinga address the inaugural rally at Uhuru Park on April 27, 2017. /Jack Owuor
NASA Coalition presidential candidate Raila Odinga address the inaugural rally at Uhuru Park on April 27, 2017. /Jack Owuor

A few weeks ago NASA launched its campaign slogan—#10MillionStrong. The slogan is short, simple and easy to understand. The message is that in the next general election NASA will get 10 million votes for their presidential candidate Raila Odinga. Considering that there are 19 million registered voters, this effectively means that they will have surpassed the constitutional requirement of 50 per cent + 1 required for Raila to beat Jubilee’s President Uhuru Kenyatta in the first round.

NASA then went on to ensure that each of their impressively attended rallies had placards showing this message all over. The overall effect was a strategic political communication package out of each political event that Raila and his colleagues were part of. For a minute there, it looked like NASA had beaten Jubilee on campaign messaging.

It was hard to imagine how to counter such a slogan, especially because of the two messages within it. The obvious one was that NASA was going to win this election because they would get 10 million votes. The other somewhat darker message behind this slogan was that if the IEBC does not announce 10 million votes for NASA – then the election has been stolen!

But Jubilee hit back with a brilliant counter slogan - #45MillionStrong!

The message behind this is also simple. Jubilee is telling Kenyans that they are not focussed on winning elections, they are about serving Kenyans—all 45 million of us. They are differentiating themselves from the opposition by saying that elections cannot be about those who turn out to vote for you, they must be about every Kenyan—voter and non-voter, child and adult.

However, the most impressive thing about the Jubilee slogan is how it turns the NASA message from being about votes and the general election, to the fact that leadership is about service delivery, not position.

NASA made what looks like a rather amateurish mistake for a campaign that is run by such experienced politicians. They made the campaign about them, rather than about the needs of their ‘consumer’. But is it actually a mistake?

The theme behind the 10 million slogan is common to everything that NASA stands for. Ten Million-Strong is about making sure that NASA wins the August general election. It is not about what happens after NASA wins. What this tells me is that NASA is about winning the next general election, not about what they will do for Kenyans after that. It is like focussing on holding a beautiful wedding with absolutely no plans for how the marriage that comes after that will look like.

It is the same theme behind how NASA was formed.

The five main parties that came together to form NASA – ODM, Wiper, Ford Kenya, ANC and Chama Cha Mashinani - do not share a single common ideology or agenda of what they will do for Kenyans. All we ever heard from each of them before they came together is how they will remove Uhuru and Ruto from power, and get in there. This is the rallying call for NASA. Ten Million-Strong means ‘We need 10 million of you to vote for us to get into power’. But one is then left to ask - then what?

Compare this with Jubilee’s messaging. “We have connected electricity, removed exam fees, built roads and rolled out maternity services – among many other development projects – for all Kenyans, irrespective of whether they support Jubilee or not. We have served 45 million Kenyans for four years. We will continue to serve them across the political divide, if you reelect us.”

Given a choice between these two messages there is absolutely no way NASA can even get the 10 million votes they are speaking about. Kenyans are not fools.

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