Rebranding Nigeria’s Cities

by Uche Nworah

States such as Anambra state have a lot to do to improve their brand image which has been negatively undermined by the activities of indigenous politicians such as Chris Ubah and Emeka Offor before him. The current governor Mr. Peter Obi with his private sector background and experience appears to be the right man for the job but his slow start has continued to attract the criticisms of Anambra state indigenes whose patience are now running out.With all the material and human resources that abound in the state, including the extra advantage of being the home state of some famous Nigerians such as Rt. Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chinua Achebe, Phillip Emeagwali, Arthur Ekwensi, Prof. Charles Soludo, Emeka Anyaoku, Prof. (Mrs) Oby Ezekwesili etc.

AzikiweRt. Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (Anambra brand asset)

Anambra state should indeed be more than it is at the moment. Worryingly, the state government appears not to be quite in sync with current perceptions and concepts in place branding. The only reported effort at rebranding Anambra state was the changing of the state’s slogan from Anambra – Home for all to Anambra – Home for all good people. Surely the state can do better. Part of the problems with the Anambra brand is the general perception that its citizens are mainly interested in commercial pursuits as against intellectual engagements, the state also continues to suffer from the huge burden of the political class, most recently the state legislators have initiated the process of impeaching Mr. Peter Obi thus fuelling further instability, riots and demonstrations in the state. It’s about time that Anambra state, a potential economic and regional tiger wakes up and starts to harness her true potentials for the benefits of her indigenes. Historical sites such as the Ogbunike cave, Agulu lake, Igwe Osita Agwuna’s Obu Ofor Nri palace, Ochanja main market etc should be actively positioned as business and tourist attractions. Also with the rise in interest in Igbo culture and history, packaged and guided tours to the towns in Nri kingdom (the acclaimed cradle of Igbo civilisation and ancestral home of Ndigbo) could also help in extending the Anambra brand worldwide. The latter approach is favoured by Chikodi Anunobi, author of the book Nri Warriors of Peace. According to him ‘The story of Nri dynasty sums up the story of Ndigbo, and so anybody wishing to know more about Ndigbo and their history is better off visiting Nri towns’.

The Lagos, Delta, Rivers and Akwa Ibom state governments have repeatedly failed to capitalise on the rich natural resources abundant in their states, they have also not fully exploited the huge presence of foreign nationals in their states who are active in the oil and gas industry, these expatriates could easily serve as unofficial goodwill ambassadors of these states to their respective home countries and help them to attract additional foreign direct investments in other sectors. Despite the huge revenues these states earn as oil producing states and the blessings of Mother Nature which has richly endowed them with oceans, rivers, fertile farmlands and crude oil, infrastructural development has not been top on the agenda of the respective governments thus making it difficult to leverage on their natural brand assets to successfully brand their cities and states as Nigeria’s favourite destinations for tourism and business.

The unrest and spate of kidnappings in the Niger Delta region by organisations such as MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta People) have also further eroded the brand images of the affected states. If President Obasanjo’s various economic reforms begin to pay off, and the a true atmosphere of competition emerges in the Nigerian socio-economic terrain, these states may find themselves being left out in the scramble for enabling investment climates, as both potential investors and human capital may chose only those cities and states that have positively positioned their brands and effectively communicated their place brand assets.

It is in the interest of the federal government of Nigeria to actively involve the states and local governments in this new drive to re-brand Nigeria, state and local government officials should be encouraged to set up standing committees or to have designated positions responsible for liaising with the officials of Nigeria’s ministry of information and national orientation (the overseeing ministry of the Heart of Africa project), this is in order to share ideas and adopt models of best practice. The recently concluded 2-day National Conference on the Nigeria Brand and Economic Development tagged Mind the Gap 2006 presented a good opportunity to get both the states and local governments involved, but it remains to be seen if they were even invited.

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