Our beloved Prof. Dora Akunyili has a challenge that is uncommon. If she had taken this job of "re-branding" Nigeria on her own initiative, I am afraid, she may not have thought it through deeply.
But if the job has being thrust on her, it might well be a ploy to diminish her achievements. But that must be as far as one could see through the Nigerian firmament.
Now let us get to the basics. It is elementary fact known to a greenhorn in communications that you cannot market a bad product. But if the decision is taken to market the product notwithstanding, it will be first re-modeled to meet acceptable standards, before a re-branding exercise can succeed. There is a slight problem here; however, our beloved minister of information and communication does not seem to believe that the rot in Nigeria is cancerous. According to her, Nigeria's bad image internationally is the result of the misdeeds of "a few" bad people. That is a shocking misinformation.
The sore image of Nigeria today is the product of multi-dimensional criminality involving individuals from the highest possible level to the lowest in our society. The problem is as endemic as that. Tens of thousands of people right through the bureaucracies and even in private life have become infected by that hopeless disease called "the Nigerian factor", the condition of chaos and anarchy which permeates our life today is therefore not one that is amenable to "re-branding".
The magnitude of this crisis is obvious everywhere. There is evidence so incontrovertible that a systemic failure is resulting from the multi-faceted cankerworm of corruption that hardly any institution in the country is free of it. And not to appreciate that this has twisted the psyche of a vast number of Nigerians is pathetically flawed judgement.
It is this type of flawed appraisal of the situation that is also leading us into the wrong approach in tackling the problem. Let us take a quick look at this condition from the foundational level, the Nigerian public school system. It is so rotten and corrupted that parents who could afford it are sending their children out of the country to be properly educated. The rot within the public school system has created a fundamental need which quite a number of Nigerians are exploiting irrationally - "the private school syndrome". And that is the latest rip-off in the country. What kind of re-branding can change this systemic failure?
Products of our schools are a pathetic lot. Private sector employers are rejecting them; overseas, their certificates are suspect because it is known out there that our school system has collapsed. The population of Nigeria is rapidly increasing with poorly educated youths, many of whom have already taken to crime for survival, and their criminality is being exported by the day. It is Nigeria's worst image-destroyer.
Then add the graft and greed of people for wealth and sensuous life to the above, what you get is a mass of people in criminal disarray. How do you "re-brand" these people without first putting order into the society? Order is the first basic law anywhere in the universe. A society in disorder cannot sell itself anywhere. That is why Nigerians have become a big problem to their West African neighbours and the world at large. The population of good people in the country is diminishing fast and unless we do something drastic to reverse this trend, the best brains with the best possible package of re-branding cannot effect the desired change.
Here is where Prof. Akunyili's re-branding exercise could fail (like similar exercises before it). We like to recall that one of the most drastic attempts to put order into this society (during the Buhari/Idiagbon regime) failed in spite of the fact that it was backed by a considerable level of military coercion. That regime's failure was not as a result of the lack of will to succeed, but it was overwhelmed by the forces of evil which then had the mask of goodness on. Nigeria has changed for the worse since the overthrow of that regime.
If despite its severity the Buhari/Idiagbon regime failed to subdue the forces of anarchy and corruption in Nigeria, then something exceedingly more severe would be needed to curb the monsters of graft, indiscipline, crime, lawlessness, corruption and lately kidnapping before we can set in motion the process of re-branding this country and its people.
Should I be asked to advise on what to do in the circumstances, I would rather suggest that a well thought out re-orientation campaign be mounted to readjust the psyche and mentality of Nigerians from top to bottom, and from the bottom upwards, which would lead ultimately to a "re-creation" or "re-invention" of the Nigerian. A re-branding of the country's image abroad at this stage is putting the cart before the horse. We will not make progress!!
* West Africa
It is impossible to conclude this piece without pointing out that one of the greatest hindrances to Nigeria's progress and good image at home and abroad is the political class. The way they are carrying on in this country is to say the lease scandalous. Increasingly, this class of Nigerians who are expected to give leadership and direction to the populace appear to be too selfish, self-centered and corrupt to meet our expectations. They certainly will constitute more problems for Akinyili's re-branding exercise than any one else. Perhaps today they are the greatest image problem Nigeria is confronting.
Madam Minister, how do you intend to deal with these people? Re-brand them? That would be white-wash, wouldn't it?