Saitoti planned to unveil a powerful campaign machine
Posted Saturday, June 16 2012 at 21:21
As I landed at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport from a trip abroad at 7.15 a.m. last Sunday, the only pressing thing on my mind was a working dinner that evening with Prof George Saitoti and his close advisers to air-brush the “Saitoti2013” campaign plan.
On that fateful day, nothing in the air or in my senses forewarned me that, in slightly over an hour, my dreams and those of many Kenyans would crash into the Kibiku area of the scenic Ngong Hills with the helicopter that carried “my future president”.
In November 2011, Prof Saitoti declared that he was in the race to succeed President Kibaki.
At the beginning of the year, I was greatly honoured when ‘GS’ — as we fondly referred to the minister — asked me to serve as campaign manager and chief strategist for his presidential campaign.
I gratefully obliged, even as I knew that this was no less than air-diving from the more pristine world of academia to the murky waters of Kenya’s electoral politics.
Upon my coming on board, Saitoti intimated that by the end of July 2012, we must have assembled the most powerful and well-oiled “campaign machine” in modern Kenya consisting of the best of skills and talents among Kenyans at home and abroad, and out-sourcing world-class professional services.
This “machine” was to be fuelled by the most exquisite and benign of ideas and strategies on the art of politics. We must not crudely pursue the raw power agenda of merely winning the 2013 elections, he advised.
The quest for power must be firmly anchored on the “ideology of peace” to ensure that Kenya remained a cohesive and peaceful society to avoid a return to the brink or tipping over.
To Saitoti and his team, peace was the only guarantee for sustainably moving the current socio-economic progress to the next level.
With this in mind, I re-read Sun Tzu’s classic, The Art of War, presently considered a masterwork in the re-making of a wiser, peaceful and tolerant society. I also bought and read cutting-edge texts on the “art of politics”.
Among these was the recently published strategy memo, How to Win an Election: An Ancient Guide for Modern Politicians (2012), based on the advise by Quintus Tullius Cicero to his elder brother, Marcus, who was seeking election to the highest office, the Consul, in Rome in 64 BC.
I had come to know Saitoti as a knowledge enthusiast and an avid reader, who always anchored his most profound projects on a solid thinking.
So, I bought and autographed a copy of Quintus’ practical guide on electioneering for him, considering the text a quick and rewarding read.
I knew the “ten secrets” of political success suggested by the text would provoke heated in-house debate. But this was necessary to help tighten our campaign ideas, strategy and plan.
I was almost sure that upon reading the text, Saitoti would warm up to eight of the 10 choicest gems in Quintus priceless advice to his elder brother:
(1) Make sure you have the backing of family and friends; (2) Surround yourself with the right people; (3) Call in all favours; (4) Build a wide base for support;
(5) Communication skills are key; (6) Don’t leave town, stick close to Rome; (7) Know the weakness of your opponents — and exploit them; and (8) Give people hope.
But he would have doubtlessly dismissed two of Quintus’ down-and-dirty pieces of advice on how to sway voters and win office: (9) promise everything to everybody; and