How communications start-up provoked social change in Kwara





In Nigeria, start-ups that engineer social change are rarely commended or even acknowledged. Many Nigerians may not know that it was a start-up communications agency, Hook Creative Agency, that introduced ‘O to ge’ message that changed people’s perception about politics in Kwara State.

‘O to ge’ is a Yoruba expression which means ‘enough is enough’. It is a shorter, sharper, more direct and impactful expression that sits beautifully with the people, addresses the person of the usurper, his class and the issue at hand. Like a wild fire, it became the buzzword and the most important line in Kwara politics.

Experts believe the expression might have led to the dethronement of Bukola Saraki, Nigeria’s Senate president, who seems to have lost the power dynasty bequeathed to him by his father. Saraki is not returning to the Senate as he was defeated by Ibrahim Yahaya Oloriegbe in the February 23 election.

The defeat is no longer news, but what is, perhaps, of interest in the entire saga, is the unseen hands in ‘O to ge’ that sacked the dynasty and how the campaign was conceived to achieve the unthinkable, which it did.

This agency proved that in an ideal society, campaign of calumny, lousy talks, abuse and name-calling do not win elections.

Against the backdrop of riotous campaigns and mudslinging, experts believe that “you don’t change a government with hate and malice but with tact and intelligence. Only sincere electioneering ideas win election.”

Unseating a sitting president or an incumbent elected state official always seems a herculean task. The power of incumbency and chicanery of sorts make the task a lot more complicated, coupled with the fact the challenger, more often than not, is hardly organised or strategic in approach.

Even with shoestring budget, the start-up was able to pass on the highly strategic ‘O to ge’ like the Obama ‘Change’ campaign.

In Kwara, the incumbent was presumed to have the upper hand in the competition for the political soul of Kwara.

The political hegemony of the state has always resided with one family. The late Saraki patriarch, Olusola Saraki, was the state’s king maker and a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He presided over the hallowed chamber twice 1979 – 83 (though aborted). His son, Bukola Saraki, was a two-term governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.

“For about 35 years, the Saraki’s words were decrees and laws that must be obeyed. They controlled the state in fiefdom style. Like feudal lords the elder and the younger Saraki at their different times, arrogate and allocate instrument of state and power as they would,” a Kwara incitizen, who travelled from Lagos to Kwara to exercise his civic right, said.

While lamenting that Kwarans had been complacent in the past, he noted that progressive minds in the state were fed up and tired with the system and the ‘O to ge’ concept spoke their mind and addressed the situation.

The brief for the strategic communication, according to those in the know, was followed by a detailed research and reputation audits to uncover the missing links and fix the yawning communications gap.

The image and environmental audits yielded a harvest of disillusionment, sense of servitude and bondage, a source familiar with the business said. Therefore, the campaign was premised on the basis that for the last 34 years has been unsavoury with one family deciding the fate of all.

“We want this no more, enough is enough” was the message.

To achieve optimal effect and secure immediate buy-in by the vast rural community, the communication consultants distilled ‘O to ge’.

Speaking on the ‘O to ge’ narrative, Bolaji Okusaga, CEO, Precise Communications & Design, disclosed that he had the privilege of working closely with Hook Creative Agency guys who came up with what he calls an ‘ingenious slogan’.

“They are young men who did a thorough research on the squalor and abject poverty which is the lot of the people of Kwara State,” Okusaga said.

“As some form of copy testing late last year, I was sure the guys were on point what with revelation that there is a primary school with only one teacher for all the students from primary one to six who teaches the students in Nupe language; with poor old women walking up to five kilometres just to earn a political gift of N500; with people dying from stampede over the sharing of a bag of rice – enough was enough.”

The buzzword, therefore, encapsulates the entire Kwara political and socio-economic scenario, the people’s feelings and where they are headed. Being the product of a broad-based research with samples cutting across the state, it resonated and became instant success as it reflected the people concerned.

The three words became the idea for the desired social change. Hence, it recorded unprecedented acceptance by the majority of the 3.4 million Kwarans. They now own it, and run with it.

“So after almost half a century, the Saraki hegemony has suddenly come to an end,” Okusaga said.

“Let every hegemony, be they in APC or PDP, beware your days are numbered,” he warned.

According to sources, Abdulrahaman AbdulRazaq, the APC governorship candidate in March 9 election contracted Hook Creative Agency as communication consultant at its Lekki, Lagos, for his election campaign. However, the work’s sheer brilliance and currency in style, tone and design endeared it to the party structure in the state. The materials were adopted for the senatorial contests in the state and it recorded its first casualty in the incumbent Senate president, bringing an end to the Saraki political dynasty in Kwara.

The governorship election slated for March 9th will be another defining moment in Kwara to confirm the ‘O to ge’ ideas for social change campaign efficacy as the electorate prepare to file out in their numbers to elect their governor and fill other relevant elective offices in the state. Meanwhile, the concept is being adopted in other states like Ogun.

Like the Arab spring, and Nigeria’s ‘MKO is our man o’ and Obama’s ‘Change’, The Hook’s ‘O to ge’ is set to be another social phenomenon that leads a people to a defining socio-political awareness and defining decision.  (BusinessDay)

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