These days, the current minister of Information is more concerned with a clampdown on social media, and the barrage of negative publicity the president receives from an ignorant minority, if the spin doctors are to be believed.
It is funny how quickly the slogan “Good people, Great Nation” has gone out of vogue. The sustenance of most government projects is often tied to the fortunes of the principal(s), so it is not surprising that the exercise to rebrand Nigeria died a natural death when Dora Akinyili was replaced as the minister of Information. Professor Akinyili became the minister of Information after a very active tenure as the head of Nigeria’s food and drugs agency, where she built a reputation for reducing the amount of counterfeit and substandard products being distributed within the country. The rebranding project was interesting, especially with the failure of its predecessor, Nigeria: Heart of Africa, but ultimately one destined for failure.
These days, the current minister of Information is more concerned with a clampdown on social media, and the barrage of negative publicity the president receives from an ignorant minority, if the spin doctors are to be believed. These days, the job to rebrand Nigeria now belongs to the Ministry of Trade & Investment, with the number of road shows and events the ministry organizes outside Nigeria.
Once again, the ministry (through the Bank of Industry) is attempting to improve Nigeria’s image with the international community with a series of events titled “Showcasing Nigeria at the London 2012 Olympics”. It is difficult to find a platform to sell your country’s virtues other than the Olympics. The events include live performances by notable Nigeria artistes such as Sunny Ade to Naeto C, a continuous display of ‘Made in Nigeria’ products and an exhibition by 30 emerging Nigerian creative artists at the Theatre Royal Stratford East. It was good to hear the Nigerian high commissioner to the United Kingdom, Dr. Dalhatu Tafida, opened the ceremony, perhaps he will follow this up by ensuring clean flags adorn the entrance to the Nigerian High Commission.
I was asked to join a group of friends in Lusaka this week, and was the only person that needed an entry visa issued in my home country before making the trip. My friend from Ghana was shocked I had to go through a two-week waiting period to get my entry visa; he got the same document at the point of entry. I spent a few days thinking about the rationale for demanding that Nigerians go through a 5-day (10 days in some cases) visa issuance process, when Ghanaians walk into the same country freely. The story is not different with most African countries. Nigeria was a major supporter of Namibia’s liberation struggle, funding Sam Nujoma’s SWAPO movement till the country gained independence in 1990. Today, Japanese citizens can visit Namibia without a visa, while Nigerians are not accorded such privileges.
A few days ago, the Ghanaian President, Professor John Atta Mills, died in office. Within minutes, the world was informed of his death; and a few hours later, John Mahama, the vice president, was sworn in as President. After this demonstration of a strong democratic institution, Ghana does not need to spend millions laundering the country’s image. The lessons from Accra cannot be ignored; a good product usually sells itself. By demonstrating the stability of its democratic structures, Ghana’s reputation within the international community soared at an important time. The best years of Ghana’s oil wealth are yet to come; from the early signs it seems determined to avoid the mistakes made across the border.
In 2009, The Economist published an editorial l titled “Good people, impossible mission” mocking our rebranding exercise at the time. The opening sentence read: “A NEW joke is doing the rounds in Nigeria. Got a problem with your car, or your generator’s stopped working? Don’t fix it! Rebrand it.” It was a scathing opinion on the misplaced priorities of our government, but one our laughable actions fully deserved.
The lesson for Nigeria is simple. Let us make our country more secure, deliver on endless promises to provide constant electricity, reduce the cost of doing business and pay more than lip service to corruption. The Nigerian brand will sell itself.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.