By Constantine Magavilla,
I often introduce myself as a 'Nyererist', even going as far as to carry around a replica of Nyerere's trademark stick (kifimbo) in the hope that people will be baffled enough to ask me 'why' to which I would then enthusiastically offer an elaborate explanation. Being the passionate marketer that I am, prompted me, quite early in the day, to look at Nyerere (aka Mwalimu) as a brand very much in the spirit of Mandela (aka Madiba) and/ or Obama (aka Obama).
For reasons still unknown to this author, the Nyerere brand, Tanzania’s biggest personality brand, has been left largely to its own devices. Consequently the Nyerere brand has evolved over time into meaning a lot of things to a lot of people resulting into a confused brand positioning that serves no greater purpose than that of eroding on its own core equity.
So what does or should the Nyerere brand stand for?
A brand is often associated with a set of attributes, beliefs, or values, which appeal to the heart and mind. It [the brand] is built through a series of what one could term ‘brand efforts’ that almost always consistently reinforce a singular idea that is core to these brand attribute/beliefs/values.
From the independence struggle to Pan Africanism, ujamaa and the non-aligned movement; the Nyerere brand was not short on such ‘efforts’. Consequently most deterrents to the building of a strong Nyerere brand would rather put focus on his brand’s random efforts in isolation as opposed to homing in on his core idea; what he truly stands for. So, for example, some would rather say that Nyerere stands for Ujamaa and relished in the poverty that came with it. This would be the equivalence of saying that Airtel stands for 2G technology and would rather have association with the less than eventful communication that came with it; clearly not!
Nyerere, like Airtel or any other big brand, should stand for far more than any one event that may have been motivated by circumstances presented by a specific period in time. That is why Nyerere as a brand still finds relevance in today’s Tanzania (whether we like it or we don’t), especially amongst the youth who weren’t even exposed directly to the ‘Ujamaa era’ Nyerere. They were/are exposed, though, to the ‘reincarnated’ Nyerere of the 90s. A Nyerere who, after a brief hiatus from local politics, decided to publicly oppose his own party and the government in power at the time much to the amusement of the marginalized masses and quite to the dismay of the ruling elite. In effect, most of Nyerere’s documented speeches that gained mass popularity and are in active circulation as a result are from the 90s’ era and not the Ujamaa era! Through his charismatic speeches, he offered (and arguably still offers) the people a much needed voice that speaks their truth amidst a myriad of deceit and innuendos; a voice that they can truly trusted to hold their interest at heart. This is, in effect, the core essence of Nyerere, the brand - a voice you can trust.
Like Nyerere, great brands, should be greater than any of their random efforts. Their sustained market dominance is a reflection of, not only, what they stand for at any particular time but more importantly whom they stand for in the process and ultimately who is willing to stand up for them [the great brands] as a result. Indeed, brand endorsement is the highest form of brand loyalty. And if the wide bottom truly does carry the narrow top, then expect Nyerere’s brand to continue being relevant if not dominant in politics for many years to come.
Does or should a strong Nyerere brand matter?
The relevance of Nyerere’s brand is a function of what interest the brand is serving. We need to invest in a conscience process that distills the Nyerere brand of its political baggage converting it from being a purely political brand to being an inspirational brand that the whole Nation can benefit from very much in the same vein as the Mandela brand.
There is so much about Nyerere’s life that can inspire our Nation even in today’s Tanzania:
• None more than the fact that Nyerere was one of Africa’s foremost humanitarians giving so much of himself and his country so that others may live.
• His drive for tolerance, unity, peace and people centered development, the framework through which the world currently wants to drive its destiny, was arguably unparalleled at his time in the African context.
• His decision to resign from power, while he could still cling on, was unprecedented and a benchmark in history for African leaders.
• His humble beginnings ‘starting from the bottom’ to becoming one of Africa’s most celebrated yet simple politicians come philosophers.
• Nyerere is widely celebrated as the Father of our great Nation. In this regard, he serves as a symbol of our unity and the values that defined this Nation.
• Last but not least is his core essence - a voice you can trust. Nyerere chose to side with the marginalized masses and wasn’t ashamed to offer them his voice so they can be heard. In this regard, he is the Master Class; a must study for any astute politician.
A nation that does not value its past cannot be secure in its present. Look at the USA (the world’s most advanced Nation) and how its founding fathers, even with all their flaws, have been woven deeply into the fabric that is the United States of America. Likewise, when the USA celebrates Independence Day, for the same reason, it uses it as an opportunity to reflect on and appreciate the significance of that moment in history and not as an opportunity to debate and question its validity due to the events of the present.
We need a strong Nyerere inspirational brand to build a stronger Tanzania brand.