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At the Marketers’ Evening organised by the Advertisers Association of Nigeria (ADVAN) recently in Lagos, experts, including the Chairman of Silverbird Group, Mr. Ben Bruce, highlighted three factors militating against Nigeria’s re-branding effort, Raheem Akingbolu writes
In the last 10 years, several attempts had been made by successive administrations to fix the battered image of the country but none has achieved the targeted objectives. Under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the federal government launched the “Heart of Africa Project’ in a determined effort to improve the nation’s image. It was coordinated by a passionate young man and the then Minister of Information, Frank Nweke Jnr. Despite all the efforts put into it, not much came out of the exercise.
Shortly after, Professor Dora Akunyili was appointed a minister by the late former President Umaru Yar’Adua, she terminated the ‘Heart of Africa’ project because she believed it did not make the needed impact for the kind of challenges Nigerians were facing in and outside the country.
In its place, Akunyili and her co travelers embarked on a re-branding Nigeria’s image project, which she said would promote the good aspect of the country, both home and abroad. She announced at the occasion of the flag off of the National Re-branding Campaign that the ‘Heart of Africa’ project could not achieve the objective for which it was introduced because “the name is contentious and it was launched overseas, thereby disconnecting the ordinary Nigerian from the project, which makes it look elitist”.
With this background, Nigerians thought the former minister knew what it entailed to rebrand a nation but hers’ too turned out to be a mere jamboree that gulped so much money with little or no result. The rest thus became a history.
The truth was however told at the ADVAN night where the Chairman of Silverbird Group, Mr. Ben Murray Bruce identified three events that have continued to make the job extremely difficult. Aside unpatriotic and unguarded utterances of Nigerians about their country, he pointed out that Civil War, Miss World Beauty Pageants crisis in 2001 and the current Boko Haram insurgency, have at different times remained stumbling blocks in the effort to position the country as a global brand. The theme of the day was; “From Local to Global, Building the Nigerian Brand.”
To start with, the media guru urged Nigerians to be more patriotic in their utterances as this will help in positioning the country in good light among the comity of nations. He said it has become more apparent for Nigerians to begin to change the old order of dwelling more about negative stories particularly in the midst of insecurity confronting us. According to him, every Nigerian must strive in ensuring that the perception which western nations have concerning Nigeria as a country is erased.
After giving this background, he pointed out that; Civil War, Miss World Beauty Pageants crisis in 2001 and Boko Haram have become a point of bad global reputation for the country as a result of the inability of the government to effectively use the media to manage some of these crises.
He said over the years the Nigerian state had made efforts to become a global brand but such efforts were plummeted by the inability of the government to explore the media to win some of the wars that rattling its global brand valuation, hence, making the three events turned out to be a bad press that undermined its crave for a global brand.
“What is happening today in Nigeria on the Boko Haram and the negative publicity it generated for us has happened three times in Nigeria without appropriate way to manage the crisis through the media,” he said.
According to him, the three events denied Nigeria the opportunity to market its potential to the world. He narrated that the civil war which was the first of the three events showed how Nigeria failed in the use of the media to douse the effect of propaganda on its reputation.
He said the Biafra warlord, Late Gen. Odimegwu Ojukwu, used the media effectively as a propaganda tool to dent Nigeria’s image and got the French Government backing.
“Nigerian won the war but Biafran won the battle using the media, the Radio Biafra. The attack on Nigeria by the French and those who believe what Nigeria did against Igbos was genocide really prevented the country from being accepted across the world. Ojukwu used the media very well and Nigeria image was dented. That prolonged war got him support from Ivory Coast, Mali, Gabon and others who supplied weapons to Biafra,” he said.
Bruce also cited the Miss World Beauty Pageant in 2001 which was stopped when the whole world had gathered to experience Nigeria as a destination brand as another major event that militated against the nation’s brand building effort.
However, Bruce admitted that the current threat posed by Boko Haram, appeared to be the mother of all threats against the effort by government to build the Nigerian brand.