Lalong: The strategist for Tinubu/Shettima presidential campaign

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By Musa Wada

It is no longer news that Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau state has been appointed as the director general of the Tinubu/Shettima Presidential Campaign Council, PCC, of the All Progressives Congress (APC). For those of us who have known Lalong and followed his political ascendancy and journey over the years, it did not come as a surprise.This is because for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the APC candidate for the 2023 presidential election, competency and excellence are the basis for appointments. For those who know little about the man Simon Lalong and his political abilities and leadership qualities, this article will be of great assistance to them.

Governor Lalong, a lawyer and politician, was born in 1963. He hails from Pankshin local government area of Plateau state. He is a political master strategist who has been very successful in politics because he understands the importance of how branding and marketing is for politicians to tap into the hidden architecture of public opinion.

Presidential elections in Nigeria are known to be notoriously punishing affair. It begins with the primaries where each party’s candidate is chosen and ends with the general elections to choose the the president of the country. Campaign stretches for over 18 months and takes a nationwide tour, high pressure TV debates and various forms of mud-slinging between and within the political divide.

Governor Lalong has over the years become a pivotal figure in this hugely competitive arena. He would with this appointment become the chief organiser, pollster and strategist of the Tinubu/Shettima campaign council, a job he is eminently qualified and ready for. He would bring to bear on this job his political experience garnered over the years from local to national level to help Tinubu sweep the poll in one of the expected impressive campaigns in Nigeria’s contemporary history.

Agreed that the local level has some striking differences but it is also noteworthy that all politics are local. Lalong would be bringing to this job his vast experience knowing that in politics time is of essence; you do not have a long period of time like in marketing to build your brand and reinforce it across many different touch points. 

Politics is played in a more focused concentrated period of time. Lalong has shown severally that he has the character that in politics tends to be aggressively analytical because to succeed you have to develop a 360-degree view of the competitive landscape in order to navigate the right path to succeed. This is the greatest strength and asset of Governor Lalong. Many analysts are postulating that the next election will once again see like never before the Nigerian politics entering into a state of flux. 

Tinubu is the favourite to win the next presidential election and succeed President Muhammadu Buhari. But many also say the emergence of candidates from outside the political mainstream like Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) and Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigerian People’s Party (NNPP), etc. means the route to Aso Rock Villa is going to be far from straight forward. That is why Lalong with his acclaimed approach to research and brand communication is the man for the job at this time. He has paid his dues in politics and has made his name. 

His successes in politics particularly in Plateau state in 2015 during his first term and 2019 for his reelection were not only because of his party, the APC’s message of hope or change but because of his rigorous marketing research approach to politics that tapped voters attitudes and values and found new ways to communicate with the electorate on a mass scale. 

Lalong as a politician and master strategist often differentiates himself through his expertise in language and this he does through marrying up his language with very innovative research techniques to uncover what is called the”hidden architecture of opinion”. He often asks the question, “What are the underlying attitudes and values that shape the decision that people make? They come to the table with a set of values and attitudes that you have to connect with, otherwise you are just delivering top-down communication and you miss the mark completely.

 If this sounds technocratic, it is because Lalong is a big fan of academic theories – economics, anthropology, psychology – and this influences the way he speaks on issues. This studious approach has served him well in the Nigerian political arena and it is his shinning light that he is bringing to the job as the cornerstone of the BATcampaign organisation. Those who have associated with him politically, know he comes across as a deep-thinking strategists that allows his works to speak for him and he is a stickler to details. 

He brings into this job, insights and directions that would support Tinubu’s personality as the man who is the real change agent to fix the country’s broken politics. Lalong will do this by systematically devising ways of always gauging public opinion and shaping the campaign’s political messages. He would use the instrumentality of the social media and other digital platforms to reach out to the electorate and compile a huge data base of voters’ intentions and attitudes and advertise Tinubu/Shettima’s simple message and positive messages to the nooks and crannies of the country.

The difference we are going to witness in the campaign for the presidency of the Tinubu/Shettima ticket from previous campaigns is the approach. Lalong as the leader has the propensity of finding that sweet spot between big and small data; he is a strategist who believes if you think about the data we have, it is all backward-looking and behaviour oriented which is valuable in some ways. 

But how do you communicate to that audience? What messages keep them loyal and how do you strengthen the bonds with them? Lalong believes all the behavioural data in the world looking-backward would not answer that question and that is why strategic thinking comes in to ask the questions and to challenge assumptions. Not a man to be swamped by those back-looking data and the tactical activation that it might encourage, so he always urge his team to stand firm and have a clear sense of what they stand for and their over all strategic goals.

Though the Tinubu/Shettima ticket is going into this race as the clear favourite to win but this campaign team led by Lalong will not be complacent in any way as it will be focused and work assiduously to shift the polls more to their favour. He would do this by always keeping his team on their toes and leading them as a generalissimo to stay focused and confident by believing always in what they are doing to win by always staying true to their strategy.

His major advantage over his peers is the fact that his candidate (Tinubu/Shettima) are politically astute and well acclaimed generals in their own rights in the field of politics. They have never been portrayed as cold or distant by the media and in public opinion polls. So, it is also part of his job to help them engage with the electorate, and he will. With Lalong leading the Tinubu/Shettima team, victory is assured, mark my words.

With Simon Lalong as the director-general of the Tinubu/Shettima campaign council, it becomes assuring that the team will not get disconnected from the North star – the one thing that really makes the difference from their competitors in the race. He would continually be devising the over-all campaign strategy and messages with his bosses and poll commissioning and working with the candidate on his performances in TV debates.

Wada writes from Abuja.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Sky Daily