Beyond The Tent: A Spiritual, Religious Perspective of Marketing Politics in Nigeria
Dr. Princewell Achor
It was Aristotle, the great Greek Philosopher, who in one of his political theses many decades ago asserted that “man is a political animal”. His interpretation of that assertion is that, man and his activities constitute politics. This statement, over the years, sparked off debate among scholars with either sides revalidating or pejoratively interpreting it. Whether we like it or not, man’s activities are shaped by the intricate web of politics. As an ubiquitous concept, politics permeates every life activities, hence the unconscious use of the term in the description of a variety of activities in various human organizations, via church politics, University politics, family politics, state politics etcetera.
Stripped of technicalities, politics is conceptualized here as power and struggle for it. Within the domain of state power and its struggle, political actors(politicians and political parties) adopt several strategies to either advance/ promote their goals and intents or seek support from different stakeholders and avenues to achieve a desired objective.
The array of strategies deployed by the political actors (e.g. politicians, parties, etc) is encapsulated in the beyond-the-tent concept or model. There are two but distinct perspectives or scenarios that explains beyond-the-tent: namely Re-modified Integrated Marketing Communication (RIMC), and Spiritual/Religious Perspective. The first perspective falls within the broad marketing and political communication domains. It involves using the ‘sixth sense’ to create the most exciting, most unusual novelties in designing, delivering, presentation and management of integrated marketing communication in selling/ promoting or marketing political products (e.g. politicians, govt. programmes policies ) for effective results, especially during mass political mobilisation campaigns and democratic processes (e.g. elections).
The second perspective is the spiritual/religious aspect. It emphasizes that in marketing political products, going beyond the adoption of IMC elements is recommended. Simply put, the spiritual/ religious scenario of the concept or model involves seeking spiritual help in marketing political candidates / party provided that such spiritual/religious assistance is ethical and within the purview of sound politicking. Therefore, it’s against political shenanigans and discourages I-must-win or die syndrome, which in recent times has become a feature of African political landscape.
Some people may argue that some features of the beyond-the-tent concept or model are not entirely new in African- politico setting. But what is entirely new is its formal conceptualization and integration into the modern political market- ing literature. Its epistemological interpretation within the broad political marketing is validated by calls by scholars to seek interdisciplinary approaches as a new research direction for explaining new phenomena within research domains.
I’m building on this new direction to research to craft a model or concept which expresses or encapsulates non – conventional activities happening in Nigeria political landscape.
Many decades ago, religion has become an important factor in all the facets of the Nigeria’s political development processes, including party politics. Apart from using religious beliefs and doctrines to persuade faithful to support or vote for a particular party/ candidate during elections, there’s now a more deeper approach to spiritual/ religious dimensions to politics in Nigeria. It’s this deeper approach to spiritual-political excursion that validates the beyond-the-tent model of marketing politics or politicians.
For example, visits of politicians to ancestral and sacred shrines, dieties and religious leaders for spiritual help is now a phenomenon that openly or secretly drives a candidate’s political electioneering campaigns. Prior to 2015 and 2019 general elections in Nigeria, the Reverend Father Mbaka’s Adoration Ministry, Enugu witnessed influx of politicians who came to seek prophecies concerning the would-be outcome of the elections, or ascertain whether their candidature has the approval of God and that of the holy spirit. Some others visited the place in order to obtain spiritual blessings, endorsement and victory prayers. Reports of these visits and the aftermath trended on the social media for weeks.
A focus group discussion (FDG) preceding this article, and comprising four local politicians and three ora-media(African traditional communication) practitioners/philosophers
reveals more practices that are suggestive of beyond-the tent model of marketing politics .
A thematic analysis of the discussions indicates that ‘I-must-win, at-all-cost politicians visit sanctuaries where rituals and sacrifices are performed as a means of obtaining spiritual favour for electioneering victories. Other forms of ora-media tools such as libations, prayers, festivals and praise singing are used by politicians to canvass support or market their candidature among the locals in their constituencies.
The African cosmo-political setting, philosophy and religion gives credence to the adoption of beyond-the-tent model in planning for electoral victories. The diverse cultures and Africans belief systems makes it possible for politicians to adopt the aforementioned non-marketing or unconventional strategies in order to win votes or secure approval for their political ambitions.
Today, dim-witted politicians engage in extra-mundane communication or necromancy (that is communication with the dead or spirit world) to endorse their candidature or ascertain whether their candidature would be endorsed in the physical. It has been alleged that few others also have engaged in metaphysical practices in order to outwit their opponents. The potency of these methods and practices is still greeted with cynicism; hence such dilemma is subject to further investigation, and, it’s beyond the scope of this piece.
Diagrammatically, the beyond-the-tent model denotes tent/shelter housing all IMC elements used in promoting or marketing politician or other political products. At the summit and base of the tent are the spiritual/ religious means, which the political actors use to actualise their desired objectives.In sum, they include visit to spiritual house s and religious leaders ( for special prayers, fasting and rituals), ancestral shrines and other sacred places for spiritual consultations and Crystal ball seeing). Others include sanctuaries, festivals, libations, rituals, and sacrifices.
It’s argued that some features of the beyond-the-tent concept or model are not entirely new in African- politico setting. But what is entirely new is its formal conceptualization and integration into the modern political market- ing literature. Its epistemological interpretation within the broad political marketin g is validated by calls by scholars to seek interdisciplinary approaches as a new direction to explaining new phenomena within research domains.
I have built on this new research direction to craft a model or concept which expresses or encapsulates non- conventional marketing activities happening in Nigeria political landscape.
Dr. Achor is a PR expert and a consultant for various organisation