Rebranding Nigeria : An Elitist Sarcasm

by Tunde Ali

When the Professor of Pharmacology – Dora Akunyili accidentally
found herself saddled with the responsibilities of megaphone for the
President Umar Yar’Adua government, little did she realize that her
success and accomplishments in the National Agency for Food and Drug
Administration and Control (NAFDAC) will have little or no carry-over effect
on her new office and expected responsibilities. On assumption of the
office as the Minister of Information and Communications, Professor (Mrs)
Dora Akunyili did not waste time in inferring from her knowledge of
Pharmaconomics to come out with what she considered to be the beginning of
the solution to Nigeria multiple image problems. To her, carving a new niche
will mark a new beginning. Therefore, she came up with the concept of
“Rebranding Nigeria” ; with the slogan “Nigeria : Good People, Great
Nation”. Let me say unequivocally clear that I have no doubt in my mind
that the Minister (Prof. Dora Akunyuli) meant well for the nation and her
intention is good. However, the Minister’s strategy is fundamentally
flawed, because it lacks merit on basis, and the possibility of its
success is next to zero. It will amount to another unreasonable wastage, and
an effort in futility.

The fact of the matter is that Nigeria is not a product or a material
thing that could be branded. Nigeria is a nation, a legal entity and a
sovereign state. Unlike a branded product that belongs exclusively to a
person, group of persons or a company; Nigeria is a living entity. It could
not be branded, customized or possessed. It belongs to us all and can not be
reduced to a possession of the few mindless scalawags who in the first
instance created the problems that brought this discussion.

It is not my intention to dabble into semantics on the subject of
“branding” or “Rebranding” in this article, rather, I will attempt to bring
the Honorable Minister down the memory lane. In 1960, when Nigeria became
independence,The perceptive image of Nigeria was encoded in a shield, with
two giant white horses half standing, facing each other from each of the
sides of River Niger and River Benue with an Eagle positioned fairly above
them and some plants at the foot of the shield; and with the motto :Unity,
Faith, Peace and Progress. Nigeria, through this message launched herself
into the committee of nation states. It was recognized, accepted and
respected by other countries on the face of the earth. Blessed with large
population, abundant mineral resources, and massive land, it did not take
time for Nigeria to discover herself and her role as the “giant of Africa”-
A role that the country played successfully, until the recent past when the
leadership of the country was vested in the hands of few ignoble individuals
whose goal was to steal, to kill and to destroy.

Like the hurricane Tsunami, the inept leadership of both the past and
present government in Nigeria unleashed disaster on its citizens. Poverty
became an endless rain . The health care system became comatose. Hospitals
became mere consulting clinics, The pharmaceutical companies retrogressed
into charlatan chemists. They produced, packaged and sold fake drugs for
public consumption thus killing umpteen. The old glory of the educational
system was eroded, academic astuteness was substituted for mediocrity, and
the tertiary institutions became unglorified secondary schools that turns
out half baked graduates of low mettle. Social amenities became dinosaurs,
electricity became epileptic, portable water became luxury, good roads
became mirage, unemployment became the order of the day; and the erstwhile
nation of good and peaceful people gradually turns to a nation of bad people
with indecorum lifestyle; the consequence of which negatively affect the
image of the country locally and internationally.

In 1983, during the regime of General Buhari and late General Tunde
Idiagbon, a conscious attempt were made to restore sanity to Nigeria body
politics and regain international respect. The regime did not use the
“Rebranding” mechanism. The military junta proclamated multiple decrees to
address the problems of the political profiteers and moral decadence. It
also addressed the problems of drug trafficking by imposing death penalty.
War Against Indiscipline (WAI) was introduced to instill spirit of
nationalism and patriotism and to address all forms of domestic problems
ranges from careless talk, destroying public properties, urinating or
defecating in the public places, maintaining clean environment , orderliness
in the public places and institutions, etc. It worked and worked good. The
few bad-eggs realized that the regime will not compromise their agenda,
hence started to adjust positively from their awkward life style.

When General Ibrahim Babangida assumed the leadership of the country
in 1985 through a bloodless coup, his regime initiated several image
polishing policies to continue to enjoy the goodwill of the people as well
as promoting the image of the country internationally. Ironically, his
Napoleon agenda began with the abrogation of Decree 2 and Decree 4 which
hitherto suppressed the Press Freedom and imposed Death Penalty on the
drug traffickers. This apart from providing legitimacy for his new regime,
it repositioned Nigeria as a member of the civilized nations where death
penalty is null and void. Secondly, IBB appointed the flamboyant Public
Relations guru – Chief Alex Akinyele as the mouth piece of his regime. Chief
Akinyele did his best to promoting the agenda of his boss and Nigeria in
general. When the regime of IBB began to fade in popularity and the
citizens were becoming socio-economically frustrated and apolitical, the
government came up with the policy to develop a program that will promote
awareness and remind the people of their enviable history and the need to
prevent wrong signal to the outside world.. To this end, Mass Mobilization
for Economic Recovery, Self Reliance and Social Justice – MAMSER was
established under the leadership of Professor Jerry Gana. Other successive
regimes maintained the status quo with little or no modifications, all in
the interest of improving and salvaging the image of the country. However,
the prevailing socio-economic conditions coupled with the corrupt political
leadership that was created by an almost incongruent political system
forced the people to result into the state of nature. Greed overtook
communalism and survival is of the fittest. Young, educated, unemployed,
underemployed or terminated able body began to decipate their energy and
knowledge on wrong and negative inventions. You have the “419’s”, The
yahoo-yahoo guys and gals, Fraudsters, Kidnapping, Prostitution, and others
who explores the internent options to extort their victims as a survival
strategy. It is this ignoble subculture that criminalize the erstwhile good
name of the country in the international arena.

Nigeria’s image has been significantly dented and damaged. For
instance, in 2004 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
(UNCTAD) at a public forum in Lagos Nigeria stated that Nigeria’s poor
external image is denying it of its much needed foreign investment to
accelerate its economic growth. The poor image is a product of multiple
actions of different actors. At the government level, The members of the
Executive arm of government became increasingly corrupt, inept and vicious.
They see their position as an opportunity to amass wealth, hence they loot
the treasury at will as their sha

re of national cake. The Legislators
“talks” about sharing the bounties of the government, often resorted to
physical fighting, not to improve the welfare of the masses but to secure
their greed. They allocated big salaries and fat benefits for themselves,
legislated on regular increase in their allowances, and explored their
position to exploit the electorates. The Judiciary became complacent, their
proximity to the treasury put them in looting disadvantage, therefore some
judges “sell judgment” to the highest bidder. The principle of the rule of
law, equity and justice were compromised. The process of adjudication was
corrupted. The fourth estate (The Press) was not abhorred of this
misdemeanor, “brown envelope” enveloped their conscience and impaired their
mission as “the defender of the masses and watchdog of the government”. The
cumulative effect of these negative behavior made the government and the
people of Nigeria a laughing stock to other nations. It was an attempt to
redeem the national image that the Nigeria government in 2004 through the
Federal Ministry of Information and National Orientation launched the
Nigeria Image Project (later renamed The Heart of Africa ). Whether the
image laundering project achieved its goal remain debatable. The
incontestable fact however is that the multi-million naira project (as
usual) ended creating another set of multi-millionaires while the nation
continue to languish in its search for an improved image.

Professor Akuyuli’s model of image laundering was packaged in a
metaphor of branding. Be it as it may, The Minister need to be informed
that the success of this image laundering agenda is contingent upon the
her learning from the mistakes of her predecessors and their approaches to
addressing similar problems. Therefore, Nigeria Image branding should
address the the role played by our leaders whose recklessness and impaired
vision or lack of it, has reduced our nation to an object of ridicule within
and across the boarder; it must educate all the leaders of government
business on the importance of improving the standard of living of the
people, provision of gainful employment, provision and improvement of social
amenities, adequate funding for education, overhauling of the health
system, improvement in security on life and properties, reorientation of the
police and provision of adequate and modern equipments with which to
perform their duties, devising mechanism to confront corruption and fighting
it to extinction. The legislators should be provided with crash course
(Legislature 101) on the business of legislation that promotes the welfare
of all as opposed to the notion that advances the selfish interests of few .
The Judiciary should be constituted by well paid, independent, learned
judges with the fear of God. All these concerns overlapped and created
problems that painted our nation “black” and conditioned us to external
ridicule and mistrust. Charity begins at home. The appropriate person to
head the Ministry of Information and Communications should not be a
Pharmacologist but a professional whose knowledge base is rooted in either
Journalism, Public Relations or Communication Art. Having square peg in a
round hole has been Nigerian government’s model, and it has always resulted
in near success or outright failure. The Honorable Professor of
Pharmacology have the option to begin her image laundering in-house
(Ministry Of Information & Communications) by stepping aside for a seasoned
and tested professional with the relevant academic background and
experience to sail the nation out of the turbulent ocean of image peril.
But in the interim, The Minister should remind her boss that Nigeria’s poor
image is a bile product of poor governance of which Mr. President is
equally guilty.

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Nathaniel April 24, 2009 - 5:45 pm

Accurate thought, good write-up. If every good thinking Nigerian begin to speak out against the bad people who dominate our government, and refused to be silenced or fraustrated by their action , litle by litle the concept of necesity of good government will become registered in the minds of the would-be politicians, and the need to deliver.

yinka olaito April 24, 2009 - 5:29 pm

thanks for concluding on a positive note . Nigeria is not a product but strategy can be glean from anything that works for product. The proble i sense is that her advisers are not that technocrats with current knowledge in the field.But all the same we can hope for the best if the above noteds are considered


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