Monday, October 2, 2017

UNDERSTANDING A MAD SEPTEMBER

It might not be the wisest thing to try and analyse the events that occurred in parliament this week seeing as emotions are still raw, but when is it ever a good time to have hard conversations?

This week we saw unprecedented scenes of rowdiness and outright violence in parliament, surrounding the proposed amendment of the constitution to lift the age limit beyond which any one can contest for the highest office in the land.

First on Tuesday, when triggered by suspicion that junior minister Ronald Kibule had entered the house with a gun, a full blown fist fight broke out, the likes we have only seen on TV in Asian and Eastern European parliaments.

A black out on live coverage of the house should have warned us that worse was to come on Wednesday.

Security agents flooded the house to eject MPs who had been suspended from proceedings by speaker Rebecca Kadaga for their role in the previous day’s fracas. When the footage finally came through revolting MPs were seen trying to fend off security with microphone stands from atop tables and chairs.

"The theatrics were sad to watch easily understandable, but not justifiable, when seen against the political reality of our time...

In their seminal book “Marketing warfare”, Al Ries and Jack Trout likened marketing strategy to warfare.

But first they pointed out that the real battle in marketing was not about beautiful marketing campaigns or even selling more goods than the competition but about dominating or at least carving a niche for oneself in the perception of the target market.

This important because for people being creatures of emotion, when perception comes up against fact, perception wins. This has a lot to do with the way we make decisions, forever tempted by shortcut a tendency, which has its roots in our evolutionary struggles.

Back to Ries and Trout. The authors argue in the market’s perception there are four distinct positions to hold.

At the top of the pile is the market leader, whose main preoccupation is to fend off all comers using all the resources at their disposal --- capital and talent. Then come the challengers, whose obsession should be only to dislodge the market leader. Then there are those who don’t have the resources to challenge for the top, their mission is to occupy uncontested ground with the hope they can grow strong enough to launch a challenge on the summit too. And finally there are the guerrillas who carve out niches for themselves that neither of the aforementioned are really interested in and seek to dominate these niches.

These positions are not set in stone. A misstep from the leader can see him tumbling down the ranks or a sudden interest in an occupied niche may see a leader dislodge a guerrilla.

Seen in this context to understand this week we have to set aside moral judgements and see it as yet another step in the fight for the perception, hearts if you like, of the watching public.

On the one side is the ruling NRM, confident in its strength in numbers and ability to deploy the force of the state, has shown itself ready, and willing, to fend off any attacks on its dominant position. The ruling NRM cannot afford to show weakness but at the same time has to restrain itself. No one likes a bully.

"On the other hand are the opposition weak in number and organisational ability, have sought to project the perception that despite their disadvantages, they can threaten the status quo and that the fight they are in is worth throwing the rule book out of the window for. Their hope is to evoke public sympathy for themselves, force the government into disproportionate violence  and  eventually trigger a popular uprising a la the Arab spring....

I would like to think that the fighting in the house was not planned for, especially on Tuesday, but as former heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson said, “Everyone has a plan till they get punched in the mouth”.


It is too soon to say whether there has been a shift in public perception away or to either party – it’s not one way traffic, but one can safely say that the repercussion of this one mad week in September, will reverberate through time. For better or for worse.

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