What has Image to do with Nigeria's Failure?

by John Iteshi

The greatest idiocy of Nigeria and other hopeless Black societies is the tendency to build from the top rather than follow the sensible approach of building from the ground. The hullabaloo about branding and image problems of Nigeria by many educated, but not very sensible Nigerians has its root in the traditional African mentality to show off

good appearances in public even when everybody knows it is not so good inside. Yes, it is reminiscent of the common behaviour back home when during festivities, people that are unable to afford descent meals would endeavour to buy new dresses for their children simply for the purpose of creating the public impression that they are not the worse off. Self image obsession!

It is poverty of thought to think that re-branding of Nigeria’s image is by any chance among the first ten priorities for the rescue of the fast sinking Nigerian ship. Those who are worried about external image of Nigeria more than the internal realities of Nigeria need better education because 419 activities have caused Nigeria no real economic losses whereas the prevalent culture of wanton looting of public funds by our so-called leaders has destroyed everything we ought to have been proud of. Negative external image of Nigeria whether or not caused by 419 activities will never stop foreign investments flowing into our country (assuming all we want is for white and Asian men to flood in) where the environment is conducive for both local and foreign investments to thrive.

We need to think from the ground and understand that certain basic issues must be satisfied before anything good will happen in Nigeria. For instance, no programme or project will ever succeed in Nigeria as it is today until we establish a viable judicial and law enforcement system. The important message people like Uche Nwora who wrote the article that instigated this thought, ‘Place Branding – Rebranding Nigeria’s Cities‘ (Nigeriansinamerica.com) ought to get from advanced societies is that once law and order exists, every other thing works out perfectly. If Nigeria had internal security

with responsible judicial system, rapid economic developments would take place including tourism. We all glorify foreign products as superior, but the reason why they are produced to such standards is not because white men are nearer to God, but because there are laws to regulate every human activity in civilised societies. When you have not put such laws in place, nothing will ever work out. It is simply the foundation to nation building which cannot be skipped for any reason. I have since realised that UK leaders are not necessarily the most educated crop of the British society and in fact not super intelligent people (British professors are busy improving lives in their areas of expertise not scrambling for political positions), but that the real basis of British greatness lies in their system of rule of law rather than rule of man as is the case with Nigeria.Behaviours and attitudes of people in any society are modified by law and not by empty preaching. And as Uche will agree with me, law is the reason why there is equality of treatment for people like us in the UK. Without an effective judicial system, only God knows how we would have been faring in terms of race relations. Linking it to issues like tourism development which seem to interest many educated but ‘idealess’ Nigerians, we can also see that the reason people would want to visit UK is not just about what to see, but primarily because it is safe to be here. Can any Nigerian reasonably claim that it is safe to visit anywhere in Nigeria? Even if you can brave it, where is the transport system to connect desired locations? Building from the top mentality has made us focus on air travel more than rail and road because we are so idiotic in thinking that tourism is about millionaire white men and women visiting a country and staying in five star hotels. We only think about big men, but not about ordinary people. Tourism can only work in Nigeria when basic foundations are laid and infrastructures are put in place to improve the lives of everybody not just a selected few.

We must do the first things first, to succeed and that is building the foundation for a civilised society before we can advance in development. Wasting public funds to build ‘white elephant’ projects that cannot be sustained like Gov Duke (praised by Uche Nworah above) and other corrupt governors of Nigerian states enjoy doing will not improve anything more than their private pockets. We always claim that there are great programmes, but poor implementations, but this is also misconceived because a good programme must include implementation strategies and must also be feasible to implement. If one imports a sweet sounding programme from the UK or wherever as our educated idiots are fond of doing, but fails to appreciate the relevant factors on the ground, such programme cannot be said to be good because it is not well thought out.

The activities of some Nigerian educated elites (especially those who live or have lived in the advanced world) constitute the greatest clog in our wheel of progress. The unpatriotic behaviours of these Nigerians constitute more problems than the activities of 419ers who are mostly drop outs. One is by no means encouraging 419 activities (in fact I hate the stupid emails I receive sometimes), but we knowthat 419ers exploit gullible idiots outside Nigeria and bring the huge funds back home while educated Nigerians exploit Nigeria and Nigerians and stash our funds in foreign accounts helping to improve the economies of those countries. Nigerian professors when given opportunity to lead or head any ministry or department embezzle public funds and that is a more horrible thing that should worry us more than the image of Nigeria to outsiders.

It should worry us more that our state governors endeavour to acquire more estates and resources for themselves than the governments which they are supposed to run for the benefit of their people. It should worry us that the governor of Ebonyi State a PhD holder and former University lecturer who only managed to buy a rickety tokumbo Mercedes car through sale of handouts became the first indigenous governor of his state in 1999 and the first project he executed was to build a big house he could not have afforded in his village at the expense of his impoverished people. In fact, today Dr. Sam Egwu can boast of far more assets than Ebonyi State government which he is supposed to be running for the benefit of all. There is no public building in Abakaliki that compares in quality with any of his private structure built with public funds. Even the private school built for his wife with our money has more quality construction than any government building built by his regime. This is a concrete fact on the ground not imaginations like some people who choose to write about where they have never been to as if they have been there. Gov Egwu owns the biggest and most outstanding building in Abakaliki today, named Grace Court (a hotel located at Nna Street Abakaliki) and has made more than 200 overseas trips obviously to stash and waste the funds of his hapless people who are by far the most backward people in Nigeria.

Enlightened Nigerians who have the voice must begin to talk about more crucial issues than trivial self serving programmes. I urge Mr. Nwora whom I probably would meet on the 29th October at their Pat Utomi gathering to direct his skills and thoughts towards more fundamental issues. In terms of branding, we need to do better packaging of Nigerian food products rather than some elusive project of branding a Nigeria that probably does not exist. I am sure that better appearing egusi and ogbono would attract our food to other cultures across the world thereby increasing economic activities for our people. Just like

our foods need better branding to prove to the world that Black people dohave great foods (as good as those of the Chinese and Turks), our films need to improve their qualities and packaging so as to appeal beyond semi-illiterate Black communities across the world and thereby make our movie stars millionaires. Nigerian lives will be touched directly by better sales of their product across the world rather than government sponsored propaganda for creating false images abroad. It must also be added here that even the re branding of our traditional food products would still depend on an organised Nigeria before it could succeed, because it is only when there is rule of law that standards can be set and maintained in food production and packaging. Hence, we ultimately cannot escape the need to build from the ground up because that is the only sensible way to build…

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enitanmason@gmail.com October 27, 2006 - 8:52 am

Who will bell the fierce runaway cat called Nigeria? The challenge indeed lies with each one of us.

I challenge enough people to come together to begin simply. Could a group of Nigerians anywhere select a stretch of roadway in any Nigerian neighborhood and come together with the local residents to continuously maintain and keep the road passable ignoring what the Nigerian government does or does not do?

In a country where selflessness is equated with insanity, I know that this would be a gargantuan task. Are there any pioneers willing to get their hands dirty out there?

Lagbaja October 26, 2006 - 11:24 am

Truth is bitter my broda


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