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African gods: President's and CEOs

Businesses in Kenya were penalized for failing
to have such a framed portrait of then President
Daniel Moi. Today, this has been replaced by
portraits of CEOs .
(image credits. http://www.taifalangu.com )
Every Sunday, African streets are thronged with people gong to church, dressed in their best outfits, coincidentally referred to as Sunday Bests. Even children are not left out in the madness as they are decked in colourful outfits and dressed as miniature adults. Those who do not go to church are frowned upon, and seen as wrong doers and society evil bringers. Africa really puts its trust in God, however, this is mostly limited to a single day in the week.

For other days of the week, Africa prefers to have its other gods, its presidents. In several African countries, the president is an ageing man. His age is not the only thing that is greater than that of most of the population, the number of years that he has been in power is also greater than the age of majority of the population.

The last such president we had in Kenya went by the name of Daniel Toroitich arap Moi. This was a god who you could not speak ill about, for a long time. News bulletins on radio and television began with a recap of where he had been , what he did and his visionary thoughts.


Moi also happened to be a down-to-earth person, matter-of-fact, he was so down to earth that he decided not to build any roads, as this would result in them no longer being earthen. He would also make random stops all over the country with his many car motorcade , step out onto the earth to address his loving citizens. School children would line up with miniature flags to wave him by, whereas women - our own mothers- would dance and sing for him. As such, teachers and the ad-hoc women group would receive wads of  money in envelopes.

As for the motorcade, in the early 1990s, there were few vehicles in Kenya. It was at this time that I happened to be in Nyahururu and I remember a day when all vehicles on the 130 kilometre road had been held back, for several hours, at both towns. The reason was that president Moi was travelling in between the two towns. By the time he arrived in Nyahururu, he was tagged by what looked like more than a hundred vehicles, as a result of the hold back to allow his safe travel. But that is presidential motorcades for you.

To top it up, all businesses and public institutions were required to hang a framed portrait of the president  in a visible place.

This however changed in 2002 when Moi finally handed over power. If you think Africans were oppressed by his virtual presence, you could not be more wrong. Moi was just fulfilling a need for a human need of god.

This has been reinforced lately from my interactions with a few firms, in my capacity as a business writer. See your focus as a writer, is to write a great story for your reader.

In the past one week, I have received calls from public relations staff at various firms. One CEO was not happy that a story I did did not have his photo, while I included those of a "competing firm". Another CEO was sad that I had irreparably damaged his reputation by referring to him by his previous post, and not as the CEO.

Both CEOs felt that the story was dead in the water. It dawned on me that I was totally wrong in thinking that businesses made more business by informing potential users of their solutions, and of the benefits of such solutions to potential users.

No, potential customers buy the products after looking at a blown up image of the CEO, knowing his age, his hobbies and how many billions he has raked. The larger the image of the CEO, the more interest it stirs up in potential buyers.

However it fails to dawn on me why the same firms do not grace those big ass  billboards at the sides of the road with images of their CEOs.

A succesful CEO, in addition to having several portraits of themselves around the firm, should be like Zimbabwe's President, Robert Mugabe. Like Mugabe, no firm employee should use the CEOs toilet, or  comment on the CEOs age. Such employees should lose their jobs - such behaviour shows their lack of commitment to the CEO and in extension to the company.



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