Much of the focus of Dora Akunyili’s duty as information minister is re-branding Nigeria. The aims it seems are to re-condition in the minds of the Nigerian people the feeling of patriotism and moral uprightness while also re-creating the image of the country in the minds of people from other parts of the world. The concept of re-branding Nigeria thus becomes a double pronged effort: PR, and ethical development.
It is my belief that the major aspect of this two pronged mission is that of ethical development. For when the inner person has been re-created, it subconsciously shines out to the outside world thus no further external PR is required.
The re-orientation of our people is one of the most important tasks that this country needs to attend to. The proper re-orientation of the people on the ideals of patriotism and other forms of social etiquettes will definitely be an important major step towards making Nigeria a better country. A country where leaders are aware of their political obligations to the people, while the people would also reciprocate by giving the best they can to ensure that the country continues to advance positively.
There are quite a few places/means through which the re-orientation of the people of this country can be done. While it is obvious that the people may begin to learn the virtues of patriotism through the exemplary patriotic actions of our leaders, it seems that the basic places to lay the foundation are our schools and religious outlets. However, with our faulty educational system, it seems that no good can come out of it since the students are victims of corruption in high and low places. Being thus victimized, they (the students) somehow become students of corruption and would continue as they had learnt from their lecturers and of course the government. But of course our educational system can still be reformed.
My only hope for now lies on religious bodies. The average African is a very religious person. There is this deeply imbibed sense of awe for supernatural beings (whether it be the Christian God; the Muslim Allah, or the numerous other gods) in the African mind. Thus one way or the other we must always congregate at religious places to seek supernatural backing to our everyday endeavours. These religious places then are the best places for the inculcation of the values of good behaviour, patriotism, honesty in governance, and discipline without any special respect for sacred cows. Even if an immediate effect is not achieved, persistency would in the long run help in affecting the lives of a whole lot of us.
On the Christian front, Chris Oyakhilome’s Christ Embassy(Believers’ Love World) has already taken a giant step. This giant step is the annual programme tagged “Reach out Nigeria”. My investigation of this event reveals that “Reach out Nigeria” represents a patriotic attempt by that church, to contribute immensely towards the psychological re-orientation of the Nigerian people through the sharing of inspirational words conveyed by the Rhapsody of Realities. Now, I have had the opportunity of going through the Rhapsody on quite a number of occasions and I dare say that apart from being a religious publication, that publication in many ways enriches ones understanding of the world. More important to the Nigerian society is the fact that the Rhapsody of Realities subtly inculcates strong feelings of patriotism. I will explain. The discussions on the powers we have as individuals to take control of our destinies go a long way in making the individual aim at positivity. The individual who is thus well grounded on the virtues of believing that he can do all things, would be focused, determined and committed towards making the best of whatever bad situation he/she may found himself/herself. In essence then, the Nigerian is motivated to make the best of whatever situation that confronts him/her in the country.
Apart from the re-orientation that the Rhapsody of Realities would occasion in the lives of thousands of Nigerians during this period, there is also that important aspect of the awakening of dead feelings of patriotism in people like us when we see members of this church wearing green and white cloths to church every Sunday from the first Sunday of September through October. For me, when I saw that display of patriotism through the flaunting of our national colours, I felt moved. I realized all of a sudden that I am not doing enough for this country. I realized that no matter what may be the defects of this country as imposed on her by our leaders, that it is still our duty to go all out to do the best we can to make it a better place. As Professor Charles Nnolim would put it; “Just keep your little corner tidy”.
If we all would keep our little corner tidy, this country would be a better place. Even when others have refused to put their own corners tidy, if a few of us continue to keep our own little corners tidy, our little good will shine through and for the sake of the good few, this country might yet be saved.
I must confess that what prompted this essay is my astonishment that a ‘flamboyant’ church would display ( and indeed influence all its members to joyously do that) such acts of patriotism. I never believed that a church would come out to change people for the country, and not for the ‘kingdom’. I never also believed that all the frills and thrills of dressing up to church by Embassy members can be put on hold for two months while drab Green and White cloths are worn.
Then there is the issue of the Rhapsody of Realities which represents to me the singular most inspirational devotional to have come out of churches in Nigeria. That devotional to me, does not teach you how to be religious. It teaches us how to live. And I am thinking, that with millions of it to be distributed during Reach Out Nigeria, then a certain fraction of our people would be taught how to live positively through this difficult country. I am also thinking that maybe we should all follow the examples of Christ Embassy and the Reach Out Nigeria campaign, and create inspirational books( concise and interesting) and use them to reach out to our children in schools and the youths on the streets. This will help in the often discussed drive towards the re-orientation of our people. If we start by re-conditioning the mindset of the young ones, then their will be hope for a better future.
I realized also that prisoners have a lot of time in their hands and so do a lot of reading. It may therefore be necessary to reach out to them too, with inspirational works. Who knows, we may even reform the criminal minded.
It is my firm belief that Reach out Nigeria is a challenge to all of us. If we could all borrow a leaf and try to reach out to as many Nigerians as we can; if we could all be proudly Nigerian, Nigeria would be firmly placed on the path to irrevocable greatness.