General Muhammadu Buhari Presidential Campaign

HE HAD TRIED three times before and failed terribly and the world deemed it impossible for this retired general to work his way up from a mere cult following in one region to national acceptance by an evolved generation of politically ware Nigerians.

StateCraft Inc. expertly guided his campaign away from its usual shortfalls towards resounding success at the polls and into the Presidential Villa with record-breaking acceptance from the same populace that had despised him only 12-months prior.

HE HAD TRIED three times before and failed terribly and the world deemed it impossible for this retired general to work his way up from a mere cult following in one region to national acceptance by an evolved generation of politically aware Nigerians, StateCraft Inc. expertly guided his campaign away from its usual shortfalls towards resounding success at the polls and into the Presidential Villa with record-breaking acceptance from the same populace that had despised him only 12-months prior.

THE CHALLENGE

General Muhammadu Buhari had been on the wrong side of Nigeria’s history.

His reputation as one of the military rulers who set Nigeria’s democracy back by too many years, a heavy-handed dictator who employed ruthless means to deal with enemies, a proponent of Nigeria’s failed austerity controls and financial tightening programs, and worse still, an ethno-religious bigot had proven detrimental to his three previous attempts to become a democratically elected president in Nigeria.

In 2014, General Buhari and the leadership of the newly formed coalition, All Progressives Congress (APC) engaged the services of StateCraft Inc. to change the narrative surrounding the General Buhari’s persona and ultimately guide him through the uphill process of unseating (a younger and more educated) incumbent – a thing never before done in Nigeria’s history.

THE STRATEGY

Understanding the political milieu as well as the specific pain points of the voting public, the StateCraft Inc. strategy was based on a three-pronged approach:

  1. Repair and manage candidate’s damaged reputation while neutralising the damaging impact of his past experience as Nigeria’s ruler;
  2. Set the stage for a new, and personalised style of campaigning to be championed by the client;
  3. Win the election by turning the personality traits of candidate to reasons why he’d be a better alternative to any of the candidates of already established parties.
THE EXECUTION

Working with a strict calendar, StateCraft Inc. implemented the strategy by developing a resonant messaging that evolved into a political slogan and disseminating targeted information through only useful channels.

Without interrupting the established campaign schedule of rallies and stakeholder engagement, we carried the newer audiences along with the established order where possible, and brought the candidate into the digital realm where the younger voting population a domiciled. The result of the approach was a campaign so inclusive that it gave the citizens a taste of what representation within a Buhari administration would look like.

Finally, StateCraft Inc. engineered an issue-based campaign that rose above the mudslinging of the incumbent to challenge the ruling party on issues we identified as the pain points of the voting population.

THE RESULTS
  1. On Tuesday, 31 March 2015, General Buhari became President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, defeating an incumbent whose party, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had ruled Nigeria for 16 consecutive years.
  2. A historic win by 2,563,059 votes which the incumbent could not help but concede even as the final vote counts still trickled in.
  3. Overwhelming goodwill of all Nigerians as our campaign strategy saw the candidate traverse the length and breadth of Nigeria canvassing for votes from everyday people.
  4. A reputational transformation – from despotic ruler to a reformed democrat.
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