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Nation wrong to normalise ‘Azimio Team’ ruminations as feature

Ever ran into a story whose byline already tells you something is wrong? Such was the Nation’s November 18 piece titled, “Nine priority areas to reduce the cost of living”.

Who wrote this? “By Azimio Team,” the by-line said.

Who the heck is Azimio Team? You would have missed it if you didn’t get to the bottom, where a sign-off line listed Ndiritu Muriithi, Dr Caroline Karugu, Dr Mbui Wagacha, John Mbadi and Saitoti Torome as “members of the Azimio Economic Council”.

Why, then, didn’t the Nation just state at the top, “by Azimio Economic Council” – if such a council actually exists in the opposition coalition’s organisational structure – which, come to think of it, did any fact-checker at the Nation research that?

As it was, aliens from space might as well have walked this story into the Twin Towers on Kimathi Street and convinced editors to pass it through the gates.

Running under the banner of “Guest Blogs”, the story’s intro instantly read like a party directive, a take-it-or-leave-it fiat from a top-down command:

“The Azimio Coalition has distilled nine urgent priorities to reduce the cost of living.” Yeah. Whose statement is this? Not attributed. Distilled where, in some smoky backroom?

But that paragraph continued to state, presumptuously, that: “They [the nine priorities] are designed to achieve two core objectives – reduce the cost of living and reset the economy on a rapid growth trajectory.”

Were these suggestions or directives? They read like directives – imperatives, actually. But to whom were they addressed, citizens? Parliament? State House? Who was supposed to listen? More importantly, what was the intended action from reading these “imperatives”?

The story talked of action required to “institute immediate social protection to cushion the most vulnerable 25 per cent of the population [according to what research?] against high cost of living.”

But immediate action by whom?

Still, the authors boldly outlined specifics that [anyone listening?] should do: Increase social protection to Sh6,000, per household; increase the minimum wage to Sh22,500 per month, et cetera.

That required no imagination. It was trumpeting Azimio’s manifesto from the last general election.

More unqualified policy proposals: “cut the budget deficit by reducing expenditure”; “we must re-base and re-prioritise 2023/24 budget”; “we must reset macroeconomic policy mix …”; “we must stimulate production in line with the roles of the policy mix….”

What were these talking heads saying, in plain English? The Nation did not clarify.

This was a lecture. It sounded at worst like a street preacher during lunch break, at best like the ruminations of a lone technocrat tethered to a computer console behind a desk after someone had switched off the lights on their way out.

It did not sound like a targeted, consultative proposition presented to any national forum with teeth. Or honest, persuasive arguments for public debate.

Did the authors pass this by anyone skilled at messaging?

On the other hand, did the Nation care about labelling this properly, with a banner like, “sponsored” or “policy chatter” or something? Without such context, the article confuses readers.

Yes, cost of living is a huge subject in the national debate. But this story ran like a set of untested, sweeping proposals without authority – not interrogated even by the press.

Tell us the Nation did not just publish hot air!

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