Saturday, December 26, 2009

Rebranding Nigeria: An Exercise In Futility

"DAILY, Nigerians groan under the most inexcusable hardship as the government of President Yar'Adua appears not only unprepared to do something about the grotesque suffering, but more important, also lacks the orientation that confronts social crises. In the context of this, any "rebranding" project will be a total waste of resources by a dull, dour and uninspiring government, lacking not in agenda, but totally deficient in the quality of mind that accomplishes set agenda. It is an embarrassment that such a government would seek this gratuitous wastage of public resources as Akunyili's pet-project."
—Nigerian Tribune, March 11, 2009.

On Tuesday, March 17, 2009, Nigeria's Ministry of Information and Communication unveiled the logo and slogan for a project dubbed "Rebranding Nigeria." A nation-wide competition organized for both the slogan and the logo was won by a 30-year-old engineer with the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), Chike Obika. The slogan was: "Good People, Great Nation." The great irony here is that PHCN is the behemoth electricity company that cannot generate and distribute enough power for the nation.

Like most things Nigerian, the occasion was full of excessive pomp and pageantry. The president, Yar'Adua, was represented by his deputy who delivered a rousing speech exhorting his compatriots: "There is no doubt that suffocating negative attitudes constitute a grave obstacle to the attainment of our developmental objectives. It is therefore vital that we frontally, and in a structured manner, face up to the challenge of negative attitudes and negative perception to our national regeneration efforts. We need to present an optimistic outlook, renew the national spirit, and reinvigorate our faith in Nigeria and this is the essence of this campaign."

Yar'Adua frowned at those who perceived the "Nigerian Brand" as being synonymous with all things negative, "with the result that some people have come to believe that it is impossible to reverse this mindset. As a people, we cannot, and we must not allow this perception to persist unchecked and un-addressed."

At the end of the event I met and chatted with the director at the Ministry of Information and Communication.

What a flawlessly delivered great speech! And what a nice slogan: "Good people, great nation," very catchy.

Ah, my brother, I'm glad that you liked it. Unlike many of our people who cannot see a good thing even when it hits them in the face.

And the logo, my God! The panel really had good eyes for the best. It was a graphic design triumph!

Yeah, that was part of the totality of the objectives. We have to position the country in a perfectly holistic framework devoid of the extant cynicism and prejudices.

Ummh. Big grammar! Director, you go kill man with these your big, big grammar! [a Nigerian expression]

Seriously, my brother, it's time we Nigerians wean ourselves from all those self-destructive negativisms. We are certainly no angels, but we can hold ourselves against anybody. You see, part of the problem is that our people have become so cynical that they no longer appreciate anything the government is doing for them.

Oh, what has the government been doing for them?

What do you mean? Take this rebranding for example. Why should it be only government that's concerned about the image of the country? It should be the collective responsibility of every Nigerian to defend the integrity of the nation.

Integrity, umh! Is that not too heavy a word to use in the context of Nigeria?

What do you mean?

I mean that the words Nigeria and integrity are not something people will use in the same context. No one I know thinks of Nigeria and thinks integrity.

You see, that exactly is part of the problem. Government is doing its best to refurbish the image of the country and we have killjoys like you pouring scorn on our efforts. Why are you rubbishing something you've just so effusively praised?

Director, I am sorry that you feel that way. I just happen to think that no amount of refurbishing will make a heap of rubbish look attractive...

Are you calling Nigeria a heap of rubbish?


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