The messages emanating from Nigeria appear mixed. On one hand, we are witnessing some positive news and on another hand, we are confronted with some serious and dangerous trends in our match towards nationhood. It is important we find a way of harnessing and utilising the positive feelers and news from Nigeria. In addition, we need to tackle the obvious negatives that are not only capable of destabilising our cherished nationhood but are also capable of endangering and mitigating the positives.
Perception is important in any situation as people judge your first before having the opportunity and time to engage with you. The activities of individual and government dealings, social, political and economic and situations coupled with the influence of the media have contributed to a large measure in the building and the overall perception of the country. The brand image of a country also plays a major role in not only the way the country is viewed and perceived but also the level of seriousness, diplomacy and attractiveness to some forces that contribute to the development of any society. Your actions, inactions and forces beyond your control arrive at the perceptions. Unfortunately, our perception as a country seems negative and inimical to our quest to be recognised and to attract external forces that would help in our quest for national development
Some of the forces that have helped to instil these negative perceptions in Nigeria are not only the individual, political, social, economic and cultural malaise but also the collective malaise fostered by long years of military regime and our notorious mal governance by the ruling elite. The most prominent of these include the cerebral 419 or fraud which is the most destructive, the general insecurity in the land. Also included are the high rate of crime, kidnapping; activities of the militant in the Niger-delta; high level of drug trafficking, frequent religious and ethnic clashes, inadequate and dilapidated infrastructure, abnormal high level of corruption and a deliberate international media conspiracy help by some of the issues raised above. All these and others helped in fostering a very negative perception about Nigeria. The perceptions have greatly affected not only the government but also individual and group activities of Nigerians. At a stage, Nigerians and Nigeria were treated as a pariah and the mention of Nigeria and showing of green passport exposes an individual to great suspicion and distrust. We have lost some substantial interest, values, prestige, investments and goodwill because of the negative publicity and perception. The Boko haram incidents and bombing is adding to the already battered image. The Boka haram seems to be fighting within all the arsenal within their reach to make sure the country is ungovernable and joins the league of terrorist infested countries. Apart from some forces that have contributed to the negative perception of Nigeria, we also have some forces that have helped the country in fostering a bit of good perception about Nigeria.
Some other things that have helped Nigeria in fostering positive image include our prominence in Africa, our contribution to the peace and emancipation of Africa, and the contribution of some of our nationals in culture, arts ,literature, music, science and others. We are also perceived as a country with huge potential because of our population and essential natural resources oil and gas. The impact of our movie industry towards at least the transformation of our image in the African continent is huge and inestimable. In addition, the numerous adverts by Nigerian companies in stations like CNN although of no much financial value for the companies is helping in projecting the image of Nigeria as a business friendly environment. We are equally witness increasing positive news and perception evolving because of some recent developments.
The recent concluded election in Nigeria although not in anyway perfect has contributed immensely in trying to project a different view of Nigeria as practicing a resemblance of democracy. Added to this is the high profile visits by some heads of states. In addition ,the recent Aviation rating and the news about Nigerians full implementation of the human trafficking initiatives are increasing the good perception of Nigeria. All these are some of the positives that come out through a badly needed positive message about the country. It is essential for the government to work on certain aspect of our national life to assist in projecting a positive image of the country. These will go a long way in attracting foreign investment, creating employment, rebuilding the economy and in the overall national development and some other social –economic benefits of foreign investment and national renewal.
The initiative of the previous minister for information on rebranding, the old MAMSER and the national orientation agencies are good government initiatives but not effectively implemented and followed up. We need to change the mind-set and perception of the country. We should also strive with some other African countries to have a media outlet that will be global in broadcast and orientation to help project a positive image for the country. In addition, our embassies and high commissions also have a major role to play in helping project the image of the country. We may be struggling to project such images if we fail to keep our house in order.
The government needs to start a deliberate national re-orientation and entrenchment of values and morals that will assist in regenerating our national life. It also needs to address the issue of good governance, which will reduce corruption, reduce poverty, improve the infrastructural base and encourage economic development and liberalisation. Added to this, the government should show a political will in tackling any form of crime against individuals and the states. Some acts that needs political will include the prosecution and investigation of corruption and the tacking of the boko haram issue and other security issues. On the individual, family, societal and community level, we should all consciously and unconsciously try to live an exemplary life and know that we are ambassadors of our country in any environment we find ourselves.