Nigerian Coin, Kobo, Becomes Kow-Bow?

by Paul I. Adujie

Nigerians at home and abroad are accomplishing a lot of things these days.
These accomplishments will position Nigeria for needed development, progress and advancement. Nigeria’s greatness is assured with these increased and sustained efforts, as are currently being pursued.

One such specific effort is in the area of communications, the world wide web of the internet is abuzz with Nigerian related internet websites and one of them, is Nigeriavillagesquare, among many others, which now web casts network news as broadcast by the Nigerian Television Authority. It is pure joy, to enjoy Nigerian news broadcast, even though some of us are ten thousand miles away from Nigeria!

In the first of such web casts of NTA news, I noticed a very troubling trend in the advertisements. Among such adverts was an ad placed by Diamond Bank, one of Nigeria’s new generation banks, and in it, Diamond Bank chose to have a voice-over by a non-Nigerian, apparently a man of British origins, whose pronunciation turned Kobo, a coin, the lowest denomination of the Nigerian national currency, into Kowbow or Kow-Bow! And I could not believe my ears!

Nigeria has a vibrant advertising industry, and there are many advertising agencies in Nigeria and this means, or ought to mean that Nigerians can indigenously produce good quality adverts or commercials, whether in print or electronic formats.

I do not expect a British bank or any foreign bank operating in Nigeria, to use foreign accented voice, to promote banking to Nigerians, Diamond bank is not even foreign!

EcoBank, on the other hand, uses homegrown Nigerian voices, accents and even Pidgin English to promote its banking products and services, which is how it should be!

I am therefore left wondering, why some advert sponsors resort to production of their adverts or commercials anywhere outside Nigeria? Or why they would have any reason to use non-Nigerians in the promotion of their company and products? Why would Nigerian companies or even foreign companies, doing business in Nigeria, ignore the Nigerian advertising industry? It is a fact that the target audience of these adverts and commercials and announcements are actually Nigerian citizens? I cannot imagine any circumstances in which the Chinese would use American voice-overs to tout companies and their products to the Chinese populace! Why can’t Nigerian companies and foreign companies doing business in Nigeria, trust and have confidence in advertisement produced in Nigeria by Nigerians? Why are so many things Nigerian ceded to foreign controls and operations these days? Is this some inferiority complex?

Diamond bank is of course not alone in this unsavory practice of using non-Nigerians preferentially to promote their goods and services to Nigerians in Nigeria. Some telephone companies in Nigeria engage in the same charity begins abroad twisted attitude! Frequently, when I call Nigeria and the circuits are busy, and for some other reasons, the call does not go through to the recipient of my call, an automated recording informs me that my call is unsuccessful or did not go through. The voice informing me of all these is usually a foreign voice instead of a Nigerian voice! Why should anyone calling Nigeria expect to hear any voice other than a Nigerian based accent sort of voice? Conversely, why should anyone calling China expect to hear any sorts of voice, other than a Chinese voice?

When I make calls to Nigeria and I am unsuccessful, it is disappointing, but it gets worse, when I have to also endure the indignities of listening to the warped foreign voice or twisted (Nigerian-Neutral Accent?) “the CAWLL you have MAYyyed cantNOT be completed at this time, pleecese CAWLlll LAYYttter”

I have wondered and tried in vain to analyze the reason behind this practice of using foreign voices to promote goods and services to Nigerians in Nigeria, both by Nigerian companies or by foreign companies, which are actively doing business in Nigeria. Could be because Nigerians prefer the novelty of a foreign voice and accent as promoter of goods and services to them? As if to say, “if the Oyinbo say a thing is good, it must be good?” Could it be that foreign companies doing business in Nigeria are insensitive towards Nigerians, neglecting local contents in their production of goods and services and all? And as for the Nigerian companies, do they appreciate the impact of this practice?

Does anyone want to be Nigerian anymore? Why are too many Nigerians making so much effort to be everyone else, but Nigerian? Struggling to imitate everything and every precepts, but Nigeria’s? These days, it feels as though there are too many Nigerians who are perpetually denying their Nigerian-ness? I frequently encounter Nigerians in America and Europe, those that I have known for years, who now suddenly assume fake American or European accents! I have now noticed the same on some Nigerian radio and television broadcasts and in advertisements, promoting products, goods and services to Nigerians in Nigeria, by companies in Nigeria! What exactly is going on? Why are some Nigerians competing to be the “best” non-Nigerians?

I certainly believe that the essence of communication is to be understood clearly, and that is defeated, when companies in Nigeria hire foreign voices to tout or promote their goods and services to the Nigerian populace, the companies’ target audience and market. This is made worse, in view of the appearance that is thus created. It portrays mercenary attitudes and outright insensitivity to the feelings and needs of the local communities. There is a refusal, neglect and nonuse of local advertising industry professionals and additionally, there is this “talking-over-Nigerians’-head” using to discernable imported accents. Even if these practices are by foreign companies alone, should foreign investments, mean foreign accented commercials or advertisements? And when will Nigerians hear Nigerian voices and accents promoting American and European products, goods and services to Americans and Europeans? I have seen and heard high quality audios and videos, made by Nigerians and in Nigeria, which means such capacity does exist, so then, what explains the recourse to the use of the Diamond Bank guy, who calls Kobo, Kow-Bow? What explains the use of foreign accented adverts for Nigerian audience? Nigeria is not an overseas colony for other countries and their companies or is it?

Nigerian companies and even foreign companies doing business in Nigeria, must use Nigerian languages, English, broken English/pidgin, and Nigerian voices to promote goods and services to Nigerians in Nigeria. Effective communication requires it, and doing the right things, demands using local resources and having local contents in the production of goods and services in Nigeria.

Nigerians who are trying to be every other national, but Nigerian, should look at themselves in the nearest mirror! A good look at the mirror is recommended, while rethinking these wasteful engagements in self-denials. There is so much goodness in Nigeria and among Nigerians, why would a Nigerian want to be anybody else? I walk-tall, I walk with a Nigerian swagger in New York and every where else!
Besides, it is a lot easier to be the best Nigerian that we can be, than the futility of trying to be everyone else, but our Nigerian self!

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Anonymous August 23, 2005 - 10:57 am

This Nigerian is keeping his bright eye on things in Nigeria even though he is far away… this is what all well-meaning Nigerians at home and abroad should be doing!

Anonymous August 22, 2005 - 6:50 pm

Haven't you heard It ain't cool to be Nigerian any more.

Anonymous August 22, 2005 - 10:27 am

Excellent writeup and observation!


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