By INNOCENT IGHODALO EDEMHANRIA
The Minister of Information and Communications’, Prof. Dora Akunyili, recently unveiled a new initiative to market Nigeria with the Re-branding Nigeria Campaign. She also launched the competition for the logo and slogan for the campaign. According to her, the need to re-brand Nigeria had become important because of the unfair way Nigerians have been perceived both locally and internationally.
She gave reasons why the federal government has dumped the Heart of Africa Project – where billions of naira has been wasted. According to her, the project which former information minister, Emeka Chikelu, lunched in 2004 was externally driven and not home grown. Can we now say that the effort put in by the previous minister to polish Nigeria’s image was an exercise in futility? Or does it not show that this new attempt at re-branding as well as the previous one is not the way out of this whole mess our dear country currently finds itself. What of the money that was spent in the Heart of Africa Project, could it not have been directed to meeting the developmental needs of Nigerians
On rebranding Nigeria despite all the multiple challenges on ground, Akunyili said it is more critical than any physical infrastructure “because it addresses a fundamental issue of how Nigeria is perceived as a country and how Nigerians are perceived as a people. This is fundamental to our national development”. She continued: “I want to assure Nigerians that this is not a money-making venture. I have chosen the tedious option of evolving a home-grown branding which will involve all Nigerians. In addition, we are making this project as cost-effective as possible by using local consultants and drawing mostly from Nigerians themselves. We also intend to get free publicity for our international audience through Nigeria private institutions.” Also senate president David Mark at the unveiling of the massive project advocated for value reorientation, change of attitude towards anti social behavior and a re-lunch of the national flag for the exercise to be meaningful
The minister of Information and Communication Prof. Dora Akunyili as well as his predecessor Chief Emeka Chikelu were both right to be concerned about the image of our dear country. But the perception of the situation by Dora is wrong. The damage done to the image of Nigeria by successive bad and careless governments is much worse than individual actions. Our leaders’ greedy attitude has plunged the country into much of the current misery. Take for instance the current poor state of our infrastructure is brought about by long neglect by successive administration. Previous administrations could have done better other than corruptly enriching themselves and helping other country’s economy to grow. We heard that some even built refinery abroad when the ones in the country are not functioning. What happened when elections were conducted in Nigeria is open to the international community. The fact is that the main issues have not been confronted head-on, that is why the Heart of Africa Project failed, and if left unattended to, this deliberate wasteful exercise will come to nothing.
Corruption, which is yet to be confronted sincerely by successive administrations, gives the country a bad image. Poverty is an issue to be address. Majority of Nigerian are poor in the mist of plenty and unemployment rate in the country is high, this has resulted in some desperate Nigerian engaging in illicit activities as ‘yahoo yahoo’ and ‘419’ to survive, thus landing a bad reputation for our dear country. The agitations in the Niger Delta which has recently assumed criminal dimension is again a product of poverty in the region and neglect. Oil has become a course to the people.
Rather than engaging in a wasteful jamboree of rebranding, Nigerian government should employ developmental approach that will integrate the needs of Nigerians and our leaders should first rebrand themselves through selfless leadership. If this is not done the whole project will amount to putting a fresh coat of paint on a car whose engine is in dire need of attention. Take for instance, visit various embassy to see the number of Nigerians seeking visa to travel abroad in search of greener pasture.
Massive job creation to address the unemployment situation in the country is needed; if Nigerians are gainfully employed, who will think of ‘419’ or kidnapping which has turned to profession for some in the absence of the conventional jobs. Why should Nigerians go oversees to push hard drugs if they are gainfully employed at home? The fact that must be understood here is that majority of Nigerians are jobless, poor and in need of many basic infrastructural facilities that are either absent or in epileptic supply. Efforts should be made to arrest this situation if this government truly wants to give Nigeria a good image.
Development of critical infrastructure such as roads, electricity, potable water, functional health care system, provision of adequate educational facilities etc which are currently lacking in the country should be addressed as quickly as possible. Our infrastructures need to be urgently attended to. How can an important road as Lagos-Benin express way be left in such a deplorable state and we are talking of rebranding? Why should our leaders including the president go abroad for medical attention if our health system is functional? These are questions that we need to answer first before embarking on a shameful journey of rebranding.
This administration needs to be sincere in the fight against corruption; this is a better image laundry project than rebranding and such like. Let our elections be free from manipulation, one would at this junction ask why the report of electoral reform committee has not been made public. The race for governorship position in Anambra State will soon be on, if what happened during previous elections in the country which was rightly observed by the international community is allowed to repeat itself, then, we are not serious about rebranding. The forth coming Anambra State governorship election should be an avenue to tell the world that Nigeria’s electoral system is now born again and that the electoral umpire will not openly serve the interest of one political party.
Let the public have access to information as a way of ensuring transparency and accountability in government. These are the things that will do the rebranding for the country.
- Innocent Ighodalo Edemhanria is Programme Officer of Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), a Benin City-based NGO.