The re-branding Nigeria project is more like decorating a package and making it attractive to prospective buyers or investors. It is much the same as window-dressing.
Indeed, it amounts to whitewashing the country without any correspondent drive toward social re-engineering.
Marketing Nigeria to the international community without fundamentally and radically changing the attitudes and notions of Nigerians in the public and private sectors may yield counter-productive results and leave the country worse-off. The re-branding project tends to treat the symptoms of the Nigerian disease.
The problem with this once-great nation is not the brand name-Nigeria, but the content. When this country was branded the giant of Africa by the world, the name was yet Nigeria. So, if this country has unfortunately lost its respect in the international community, we should not hoax ourselves by chasing shadow in the stead of substance. And the substance in this event is the cause of the distrust, disrespect, and suspicion. When foreigners are wooed into a glittered Nigeria and still suffer the vices that poisoned their impression of Nigeria, the repugnance of their impression would only get worse.
The challenge of the Nigerian government should be how to accomplish positive behavioral cum attitudinal change in Nigerians. Such change can only be attained by massive social re-orientation and re-engineering not by initiating elephant and theoretical projects as the vaunted re-branding of Nigeria. How can we invite foreigners to an ostensibly re-branded Nigeria that is still neck-deep in corruption? How would re-branding work in a country where magistrates conspire with prosecutors, police officers and court officials obtain money from parties over a case before the court; a country where police officers confer with the heads of their stations on how much bribe they should obtain from a suspect, as well as the complainant; a country where police officers flagrantly squeeze monies from motorists without the least scruple; a country where policemen impregnate female cell inmates? Can re-branding put an end to corruption in a country that is infamous for police brutality and human rights violation; a country where immigration officers at the ports would backdate the entry stamp on a traveller’s passport to beguile the international community; a country where fire fighters would stand in front of a burning house and demand for bribe before fighting the fire; a country where the Court of Appeal, adjourns indefinitely a case of electoral injustice litigated before it, and in a country where a politician would pride on being the mastermind behind the impeachment of a state governor because the governor would not capitulate to his pressure of ceding a chunk of the state’s revenue to the politician? How can we check corruption in a country where elections are marred by flurries of violence, a country where examination invigilators obtain money from candidates and openly read-out answers to them; a country where university lecturers copulate with students and score them highly in examinations; a country where blind men are issued drivers’ licenses by proxy by licensing authorities; a country where a licensing officer would confirm that an applicant does not drive but wants a drivers’ license for bank identification purpose and would yet issue such applicant a drivers’ license; a country where a man who illicitly enriches himself is honored by his clan men; a country where public servants are derelict without reprimand and a country where mediocrity is celebrated and exalted?
Would the re-branding project put an end to these ills? Would it stop Nigerians from exporting fraud? It is laughable that anybody would think we can revive the image of this country merely embarking on international public relations and campaigns geared towards image redemption. The image of this country did not drop by sudden decent. The atrocious and horrendous actions and activities we exported through time brought disrepute, shame, and reproach to us. These same actions are responsible for our battered image.
Thus, it is only a genuine change in our attitude, culture, and patterns of behavior that can truly renovate our image. And such change is attainable not by magic but by massive and vigorous social re-orientation. Of primary concern to the government, therefore, should be the social re-engineering of Nigerians before the re-branding of Nigeria; least we will end up just where we began.
It is understandable that the initiator of the project, Professor Dora Akunyili, Minister of Information, is challenged by her achievement in the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), to impress in this new ministry and quiet her critics. Her success in NAFDAC may have been facilitated by her background in pharmacology which is related to the services-nature of NAFDAC. But in this Ministry of Information, where she is relatively new, the opportunity to shine may not have come. Thus, foisting an impression by initiating theoretical and pedantic projects may end up in depression. The problem with Nigeria is the content and not the brand.
Inko-Tariah resides in Port Harcourt.
Inko-Tariah O. Mansou