Earning Customer Loyalty; Lessons From Nokia, Besigye Diehards

Dr Kizza Besigye

Kampala Central Woman MP, advice Nabilah Naggayi Sempala has rubbished claims that she will back presidential aspirant Hon Amama Mbabazi for president in the 2016 elections, saying she remains a committed FDC supporter.

“I am not against Amama Mbabazi and I wish him well but my loyalty is with my flag bearer, Dr Kizza Besigye,” said Nabilah in a brief statement on Tuesday.

Nabilah was smoked out in a meeting with Mbabazi at his office in Kampala on Monday afternoon.

She was in company of Deputy Kampala Mayor, Suleiman Kidandala and Medard Sseggona.

This sparked off speculation that she intended to defect to Go Forward camp.

In her response, Nabilah said, “Just because you read it on somebody’s blog or someone posted it on social media doesn’t make it true.”

The controversial lawmaker said she was “appalled at the misrepresentation that appeared online that I have endorsed Mbabazi.”


She was quick to add that she wants unity in the opposition and “hopefully we shall reach a consensus.”

The latest development clears the air on Nabilah’s loyalty. However, Nabilah’s ratings plummeted after endorsing gay marriages at a conference in Europe some months ago.

Insiders say Nabilah will face a rough ride in the 2016 polls especially for her unending criticism of Dr Besigye on different fora.

Nabilah appeared on NTV today morning to salvage the situation after FDC supporters warned that she would not return to Parliament if she endorsed Mbabazi for president.

A one Sam Kello, observed: “Hope you are speaking from the bottom of your heart. See you tomorrow at FDC rally…”

Nabilah said regardless of FDC’s internal Party dynamics, inclinations or beliefs, “I am convinced that all of us in the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) are joined together in the common goal of ensuring the happiness, prosperity and well-being of Ugandans. As our slogan says; One Uganda-One People.”
As you read this, visit web only 34% of Ugandan phone users still hold a Nokia phone but most will swear that a few years ago, medicine they would kill for their beloved handset.

Durability alone  is just not enough to describe that Nokia 2210 we treasured so much that some would put lines like, “ the only phone is Nokia”.

A read around the internet reveals that the company was a little more than just a maker of phones people loved to use. Nokia Corporation was one of those few companies that helped former employees with seed capital for their own new ventures.

No wonder the people of Finland even mourned in 2013 when news broke that Microsoft had acquired the phone section of the company for a meager 7.2billion dollars. Though understandable to save the Nokia from looming bankruptcy, only a handful of Nokia lovers could take it.

Back in Uganda, a 59 year old professional doctor and former soldier has set his own brand. In 15 years, he has tried to kick his former boss off the country’s presidency in vain, yet still commands astounding affection from the people.

The Besigye diehards as I may call, will assure you that he is the only man who understands their problems; he’s the one that has suffered with them and is the only person that can save them.

Ask for evidence and most will ask you questions instead: Didn’t you see a security officer by names Arinaitwe Bwana spray pepper spray in his eyes a few years ago? Didn’t you see him being pulled by the police through the trenches the other day? He was fighting for us.

However, some Besigye lovers are a little different. They won’t reason out anything with you but simply tell he is the true fighter. In the last five years he has acquired a new name: people’s president.

Much as Besigye’s political success is yet to be tangible per se, 2 million Ugandans have shown in the past elections that they won’t let him go anywhere when they are still in captivity under the current regime.

Much as Nokia has failed to be at pace with the growing smart phone business and even lost it through a sale to their former partner of the ‘windows phone’ several people around the world still want to see that symbolic handshake on their screens as the phone is switched on.

Early this year, rumours propped up that the original owners after seeing the heart-pouring love for the brand wanted to re-enter the business, but the purchase agreement with Microsoft just can’t allow them to do so until 2016. Nokia failed to figure things out and may be its just too late; we got to let it go meet the creator. As for Besigye, he is still fresh in the game and is enjoying the loyalty of his followers.

But can we learn from these two to create our own loyal customers and maybe be able to live, and forever? Below are two very basic ones:

Trust comes from being easy to understand and deal with

Loyalty comes from being able to trust a person or organisation. For the people that can kill for the sake of Besigye, they boast that they are able to easily figure out when the man is happy and when he is not, thus finding what to do about it is just as simple.

To Nokia people, their phones just don’t disturb with faults every day or three and if it accidentally falls so hard and breaks apart all they got to do is re-assemble and say hello again.

If we are to make people love our companies and us as individuals, we ought to avoid adding complications in our relationships with them. A relationship in which it is easy for each party to understand the other breeds trust and reduces the risk of suspicion.

We have worked on contract for two corporations that take quite a while to pay: one usually says, “I will tell you when the payment is ready”, the other says, “we are going to first pay salaries in the first week of the month, the work on supplier invoices in the second week”. As a supplier I like the second one more because I can always figure out when they will pay.


People are loyal to people who show the capacity to be there for them at all times; as the Christian marriage vows state, ‘for better for worse, in poverty and in riches, in sickness and in health…’

In the 1990’s when Nokia was still new in Africa, particularly Uganda, electricity access was still such a big problem: most people had to travel miles to charge a phone. Much as the Finish could not transport power to the villages, Nokia brought phones with strong long-lasting batteries and whoever had a Nokia phone felt fully covered and happy.

The Besigye people on the other hand will tell you how they can comfortably wake up and go and do their jobs certain that Besigye will be out on the streets demonstrating against sky-rocketing food prices, on their behalf! Yes they don’t want the teargas but know that someone should tell the president, things are not okay down here, ‘Tetubonga Nawe’.

The other day my shoe maker surprised me when he said, Besigye is the man who saved him from graduated tax. To him it is from Besigye’s manifesto and activism that the government decided to remove the tax.

If we want true customer loyalty, we ought to make sure we understand our customers’ core needs and challenges and demonstrate the ability and willingness to help them through it just the same. A customer who can’t afford to pay in cash for supplies because of their own cash-flow dynamics but gets forced to do so every time just can’t be loyal.

Have you ever been told by a customer, “if you want to buy, pay, if you don’t, leave”. If by any chance your answer is yes, I think you need to talk to yourself right now.

By Stephen Obeli Someday

Twitter: @StephenObeli


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