Ervin Laszlo, writing in his book Goals of Mankind cutely captured the essence of this article, when he surmised that “if the goals on which nations and peoples act are unrealistic, narrow and short-sighted… the arms of ultimate destruction could finally come into use. If on the other hand, governments, peoples, corporations and organizations adopt realistic and far-sighted goals, new horizon of peace can open for the world community.”
How many Nigerians both at home and in Diaspora, can honestly and realistically claim to be moving towards a new horizon of peace through germane and far reaching political economic and social set focus? When the new Minister of Communications, Prof. Dora Akuyili launched her new pet project: “REBRANDING NIGERIA”, it only reminded most discerning minds of the bogus efforts of Abacha and Abubakar of the military junta era at powdering or puffing the Nigerian image abroad. Though not a partisan politician (this is debatable), Akuyil’s attempt at rebranding Nigeria can be put in the same Aegean stable as the change of the National anthem from “Nigeria We Hail Thee” to “Arise O! Compatriots”. What really changed was mere nomenclature, syntax and semantics, but the nucleus of who we were before the rehash, which we are still, and our standard or model of patriotism had not been affected by the anthem change.
The respectable Prof. has chosen a very wrong time to launch a wonderful idea. This is a most inauspicious time for anyone to conceptualize the rebranding of Nigerian nation, in the face of political tinkering and bickering, judicial capitulations and manipulations, executive lawlessness, grassroots deprivation, youth restiveness, economic plundering made even more profound by the current global economic meltdown. There is no doubt that a venture into image laundering for a nation bedevilled by all the enumerated yokes will be an exercise in futility.
Social, economic and political processes in this world are not governed by fate, but are sensitive to human decisions. These are made in the light of certain values and perceptions, and issued in goals and objectives. While the results are at variance with expectations, it is notable that many human decisions influence social and economic processes the world over. In civilized western world, like in the united States, authorized national goals are usually expressed and justified in terms of “Canonical” writings e.g. the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, The Bill of Rights, the Federalist Papers and other writings of the nations founders, and in terms of some later documents that have achieved similar status such as the President Washington’s Farewell Address, The Monroe Doctrine and the Emancipation Proclamation. In the same light, can be held the President Roosevelt’s 1944 State of the Union Address. This later became the “American Economic Bills of Rights”, in which full employment, adequate income, decent housing, medical care, education, and security for old age were put as specific national goals. These canonical presentations have not only stood the test of time, but have remained cherished values and aspirations to which each successive American government and the entire citizenry is committed. The dictates and charters of these canons is the reasons why today, a black African, Hussein Barak Obama presides over the affairs of the most powerful nation on earth.
Juxtaposed against the foregoing, one is pushed to ask on what premise Prof. Akuyili’s wanton attempt at national rebranding is hinged. The 1999 Nigerian Constitution is at best a mere contraption and a figment of the minds of some ‘Militocrats’ and their political cohorts. It did not emanate from the submission and participation of the differing peoples of the nation and therefore holds no such representation. No wonder the continuous demand for a constitutional review, and the posturing of the Niger Deltans as a nation within a nation. Nigeria has since the failed second republic been trying to dog the presidential system of government in operation in USA, but where the system has passed and promoted patriotism, dishonesty, greed and avarice, insincerity, personal aggrandisement, political recklessness and profound corruption of the operators has held their own against the system’s success in Nigeria.
It may appear to be too quick to dismiss the rebranding project as a mere dialectical and rhetorical balderdash, but suffice it to submit that to venture into such a ubiquitous project entail much more than the buffeting of Ministers and other Executives, the Elites, Legislators and their acolytes, who only represent a miniature minority in the nation’s population. What about the over 130 million people, the youth, men, women, children, artisans, the jobless, handicapped, illiterates, orphans and the needy; who will explain the import of rebranding to them and how do they intend to ensure impact and reach. How do you re-brand a nation in the abyss of darkness despite all the monies that has been sunk into the comatose power sector by successive governments? Who will take the rebranding message across to the warring Niger Delta boys, who know what it feels to be milked and abused, in the various creeks? How much of the rebranding can be sold to the youths who have imbibed overtime, the very wrong values: advance fee fraud, Yahoo-Yahoo, gun racketeering, cultism, gangsterism, armed robbery etc
Nigeria is a failed state, politically speaking, and until the cankerworm that holds it hostage is uprooted all and every attempt at rebranding is destined for one sure destination: the rocks. The nation has gradually but steadily precipitated into a lawless, insecure state, where criminality, political thuggery and jobbery, economic rascality, judicial inconsistency and social nuisance has become enshrined and celebrated.
Lenin (1870-1970), ones observed that “democracy always remains under capitalism…restricted, truncated, false and hypocritical, a paradise for the rich and a snare and a deception for the exploited, for the poor”. This cannot be truer in the light of the present state of affairs of the Nigerian nation. Democracy has actually manifested itself as a machine for the suppression of the overwhelming majority of the working people by a handful of capitalists: the Dangotes, Otedolas, Babangidas, Adenugas, Subomis, Otudekos, and the Obasanjos political office holders (serving and removed), of this nation, who have surreptitiously cornered the collective resources of the people.
Labour is asking for a minimum wage of N52,000 which is less than $350 (by N150 average of going exchange rate), but the federal and state governments are rebuffing them, espousing the financial meltdown as a reason. This same reason does not however debar them from earning robust salaries themselves. For instance, a Councillor, semi illiterate as many of them are, earns about N125, 000 (about $850) per month. The monthly allowances of legislators in State and National assemblies surpass the annual salaries of Prof. who taught some of them and who has been there for more than 30 years. This is the oppression that stairs us in the face. This is the irony, and where any form of rebranding should start, for it to make any me
aning. All the economic and political plunderers should make genuine atonements, so that convinced; the followers can once again show considerable understanding and loyalty. The pivot on which patriotism oscillates.
Nelson Mandela once said that the oppressed people of Africa “need to exert ourselves that much more, and break out of the vicious cycle of dependence imposed on us by the financially powerful: those in command of immense market power and those who dare to fashion the world in their own image.” If the masses remain in the clamp of capitalists and their elite collaborators as it stands today, all efforts at rebranding Nigeria is like the sieving of salt from the ocean water without boiling. The nation must necessarily pass through the process of regeneration, and this is not achievable by half measures. It demands reasonable, concerted, grassroots and youth oriented, and honest effort to actualize. Otherwise, the rebranding of Nigeria will remain what it is meant to be, a mere paper tiger, a beautiful toothless giant.