Sakaja, Ruto billboards are a mockery of voters

Friday, February 9th, 2024 08:00 | By
Sakaja, Ruto billboards are a mockery of voters

Students of communication, particularly those in public relations, should be interested in this subject. Nairobi is littered with billboards of tits Governor smiling from above their heads.

Governor Johnson Sakaja is a handsome man, looks healthy, and has attractive dimples. Political communication suggests a correlation between likeability and voting. For this reason, American politicians constantly take the political heartbeat of soccer mums – the young mothers with school-going children.

A less scientific way of figuring out who is likely to win an election is to ask the ladies in the group who among the candidates they would rather hang out with. People, it is suggested, vote for those they are likely to feel comfortable with.

If voters do not feel safe with you, then you can forget their votes. On that score, Sakaja is most likely to be responded to positively. But that is if the people have no history. Today, people have a history with Sakaja.

It is not only Sakaja whose billboards are popping up in town. The President is also beginning to smile from above the roads on billboards. While Sakaja may not be as frequent on television screens, the President, on the other hand, is.

What emotions do the pictures of the President and Governor Sakaja, among others, evoke? It is called the power of association. Poll after poll does not come up with good news. It is the story of pain at the pump, pain at the supermarket till, pain at the grocery stand.

This week, a radio station asked their audience to call in with advice for the President. It turned out to be a torrid flow with disappointed callers, one who advised the President to repent for causing pain to God’s people.

The government has many pet projects running concurrently. There is the housing levy, the eCitizen pay portal, the NHIF reforms, and the NSSF deductions. These instil the pain that people feel in their wallets and their payslips.  They rob the public of the feel-good factor.

It has been a while since Kenyans felt good. The last polls that found Kenyans to be the most optimistic people are now two decades old. That is an entire generation since Kenyans were last optimistic.

It is not for nothing that advertisers are keen on what stories appear next to their commercials. Promoters of products do not want their products to be advertised after a particularly gory scene on the screen. They do not want the last image of sadness to be associated with their product. It almost portrays the commercial as lacking sympathy and cold-hearted.

You should not tell us to go buy your amazing drink that increases our energy when the previous clip on the screen was of children starving. The advertising shilling must be spent wisely.

This disconnect between the feelings of Nairobians and the shilling spent on billboards raises the question of whether the communication teams of the President and Governor Sakaja are using their bosses’ communication budget wisely.

If you randomly asked a Nairobian what the county government is doing, they will be hard-pressed to come up with one. There is the school feeding programme, but unless you know a child who has benefitted from it, then it remains distant.

In any case, the other leader of Nairobi, Senator Edwin Sifuna, seems to be poking holes in the probity of the programme.

Then, after that, you almost get the feeling that Nairobi is essentially close to being a dumpsite. Where is the cleanliness that candidate Sakaja promised? He was set to have a working city in place, but if you want to feel good walking the streets, you may need to travel to Kisumu.

It is the same story with the State of the country. So why are these politicians spending money on billboards when the public does not have warm and positive emotional feelings to associate with the candidates? Students of communication, here is a subject to study.

— The writer is Dean, School of Communication, Daystar University

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