Re-orientation & re-birth, not yet re-branding –by Adeniyi Ologunleko

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It has become necessary to add one's voice against the current charade going on in the name of “re-branding” Nigeria. As a recent guest on Vision Nigeria, a Ray power FM national discussion programme, I was told by the moderator that the term “re-branding” is being used by the Information Minister to connote a new way of doing things. If this is true, then we can safely conclude that the Minister is either ignorant, mischievous or both. It is important that we know the meanings of the words we use, especially when a national policy is being built on or around such words - and billions of Naira made to evaporate in the process.

The concept of branding (verb continuous) originates from the field of marketing and simply means the process of developing a brand (noun) out of a product (service, idea, nation, organization etc). A brand could be defined as a unique identity, reputation or image that evolves in the minds of observers concerning a product over a period of time. It could come as a result of one or a combination of the following: name of the product, the events or incidences that are associated with it, the experiences of the users of the product, the communication going round about it etc. If a product develops a negative image which the makers do not like, a good marketing manager would first identify the cause(s) of this negative image or reputation. He/she would then feed this back to the concerned departments with a view to getting them to make necessary corrections.

Thereafter, he/she would embark on specific communication that aims to “re-brand” the product, with emphasis on the changes that have already been made.In the case of Nigeria, we have put the cart before the horse (assuming there's even any horse). The Honorable Minister has not called us as a nation to tell us what exactly is wrong with us that is making us stink in the international community. With the speed with which she embarked on this re-branding project, it is doubtful that she ever took time to find out. As I said on that radio discussion programme, we are like a man with a terrible sore that smells so badly that the people around are covering their noses. Instead of treating the sore, he is denying that he has a sore and at the same time, attempting to cover the odour with a strong perfume. All the time and money he is spending doing these could have been spent to cure the sore and he'd still be left with change in his pocket!

In a recent chat with one senior personnel in the Ministry of Information, an argument developed around whether Nigeria is a great nation and the people are good people or not.

My own candid opinion was, and still is, that Nigeria cannot be called a great nation if we are to consider the attributes of great nations. I agree that we have the potential to be great but we will be embarking on self-deception if we claim that we have already arrived there. What we need is the leadership that will harness this potential and take us to true greatness. Tell me one great country of the world that cannot conduct credible elections, that generates less than 15KW of electricity per 1,000 persons, that does not have motorable inter-state roads, where the healthcare system has collapsed, that has over 60% unemployment rate, where the universities are shut down for 33% of the academic year (even the children of the Information Minister all studied abroad), that sells nothing to the world but crude oil (and imports it back at ten times the price as petrol), that has no reliable population demographics database and that has over 40% illiteracy level. By any sensible measure, Nigeria is not yet great.

I also submitted in that discussion, and still do, that there are undoubtedly some good people in Nigeria but the number is not high enough to warrant calling us good people collectively. That would be a grave exaggeration that defies common logic. If the good people so outnumber the bad ones that we can safely call ourselves good people, then how come the bad ones are so bold and are getting away with their broad daylight crimes? Today, James Ibori, with all his past convictions and all the criminal cases on his neck in Nigeria and UK, is walking freely in and out of Aso Rock while Ribadu was disgraced, had to run out of the country and is even being denied the renewal of his Nigerian passport. Good people indeed! Today, the lawyer that went to court to argue that EFCC had no right to investigate the looting of Benue State is now the Attorney-General of the Federation, with EFCC under his authority. Good people indeed!

When I was much younger, it was considered noble to be a public servant and be upright. I remember one Baba Adajo (a retired judge) who lived behind my mother's house in Sagamu. Even though he was not rich, he was greatly revered in the society for being incorruptible throughout his service. He lived in a small bungalow built by his children and had no car. He was a role model to most of us young children. Today, those are not the same values that our people cherish. If you get a position in Public Service today and you don't loot the place dry, your village people will curse you for wasting their opportunity. It is obvious that good people are now in the minority and their voices no longer audible in the midst of the tumultuous “ayes” of the overwhelming number of those crooked ones among us.

I once registered a business in this country. After trading for a while, I decided to fulfill my civic responsibilities of paying tax on the income from the business. Without any prompting, I walked into an office of FIRS to declare my accounts and get the documentations needed to pay the due tax. After making all the payments into the bank, I demanded for a Tax Clearance Certificate (TCC) only to be told that I needed to bribe one of the officials with N40,000. Of course, I refused. The penalty is that up till today, two years after, I still don't have the TCC and my company's file is now “missing”. My mother has retired from teaching since March 2008. The people who were to process her entitlements demanded a bribe which she could not pay since she no longer earned any salary. When she told me, I refused to pay. Her penalty is that up till today, nineteen months after, she has not received a kobo.

Nigeria is glaringly corrupt-ridden and it is slightly consoling that the President openly admits this whenever he has the opportunity. What remains now is for him to say exactly what he is doing or plans to do about it. This is where a ministry like that of information can assist, instead of wasting public funds to deny the fact.

We are celebrating some Nigerians who have excelled in their chosen aspects of human endeavor, even though they got the leverage to do so from the educational systems provided by other nations. At $300 per head GDP and over 70% of the population living below poverty level, how many young Nigerians today have access to the kind of education that Chinamanda , Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala etc had access to? How many

Nigerians can afford to send their children to study in an American university like the Minister of Information could afford? If nothing is wrong with Nigeria, why did the minister not send her children to Nigerian universities? Who exactly is deceiving who and for what purpose?

Another popular past time is to blame the foreign press for everything wrong with this country. When people drive on the wrong side of Kubwa road in the evening, is it the foreign press that is driving like that? When you go to buy petrol in a filling station and the attendant cheats you by selling N300 fuel for N3,000, quickly rubbing off the meter before you notice, is it the foreign press that is doing that?

What we need urgently is to declare a national state of emergency on our values and morals, to re-orientate our people (especially the youth) and re-birth a new soul for our nation. We desperately need a leader who will help us return to those old values of honesty, fear of God, civic responsibility and good neighborliness. When we achieve this, we may then start talking of re-branding.God bless Nigeria.

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