Nigeria's new public push to reinvent its image has already managed to falter. Announced on Tuesday, March 17th, it is described as a campaign to make Nigerians believe in themselves again and repair the nation's international reputation. As noted in the first part of this article, the international reaction to the campaign's launch was lukewarm at best and dismissive at worst. Additionally, much of the campaign's message was lost due to the lack of a central location from which information could be obtained. Despite these missteps, this initiative to change the way Nigerians and the world see Nigeria can still succeed, especially if Dora Akunyili and her team take advantage of certain opportunities already at the nation's fingertips.
CONVINCE THE PEOPLE
In order to achieve a successful re-branding campaign, Nigerians are the key. Akunyili's team must work harder to convince the Nigerian people that this re-branding effort is worthy of their support. While many are willing to support the initiative, many Nigerians suspect that like other projects, e.g. the failed 'Heart of Africa' campaign, this 'Nigeria. Good People, Great Nation' project will be another disorganized opportunity for corruption. And, others question whether Nigeria can be "re-branded" at all.
The dense nature of the resistance to the campaign announcement should really worry Akunyili. Notwithstanding, this reality should also be the spark Akunyili and her team need to actually reach out to the people in a way that truly gives them ownership of this effort. As noted yesterday, information on this campaign is hard to find and clearly, a website is needed immediately. In this day and age, it is unforgivable to not have an online face and home.
This campaign must also strive use everyday people to advance its message. That is easily accomplished via print, radio and television advertisements, but the announced $1 million budget will fall short of accomplishing that mission. For such a campaign to have any teeth, much more money is needed and if, given the current economic climate, that money is unavailable, then this campaign will face even more resistance. Apparently, certain cell phone owners in Nigeria received SMS texts about the campaign, and that was a good step. But, as a long term plan, public education will require much more engagement such as messages on Youtube, in Nigeria-related forums or websites and, most especially, on blogs. To truly convince the Nigerian people, this campaign must work harder and and more efficiently to reach the people. If a large majority of Nigerians don't buy the campaign, then it can't be sold to the tourists, foreign investors and others that Nigeria is trying to convince.
REACH THE PEOPLE, WITH SUCCESS
I can't help but remember certain popular jingles that were used in the 1980s to foster nation building such asthe "Me, I like my country..." jingle. Those jingles worked tremendously because most any Nigerian that hd access to a radio or television in those days, remembers them.
To reach the people today, a similar tactic must be applied that reflects contemporary Nigeria. Today, Nigerians are heavily influenced by radio, television, churches, mosques, and the internet among other things. This re-branding effort must tap into these 'streams of influence' to reach the people. Imams need to remind Muslims that Nigeria is a great nation, just as church goers need to be inundated with a similar message. But, that will only have an impact if the current administration shows signs of progress in delivering on its promises such as the promise to improve power supply and infrastructure. That is a tactic Lagos governor, Babatunde Fashola, has used to change the attitude of Lagosians toward their city and has effectively begun to re-brand from inside out. There must be concrete examples of progress to truly ingrain an attitude of hope and belief in the nation.
USE WHAT YOU'VE GOT (TAP INTO THE ARTS & 'BLOGVILLE')
Despite the negativity associated with Nigeria, the country is fortunate to have positive exports in the form of the arts and entertainment. Besides the fact that Nigeria's Nollywood is the "world's most prolific filmmaker," the nation is blessed with incredible literary talent (a la Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Adichie), musical talent (in the form of Asa, Femi Kuti, D'Banj, M.I. and others) and even globally recognized fashion designers like those who recently showed their apparel at New York Fashion Week to name a few. These assets should be use dto the nation's advantage.
ThisDay/Arise successfully presented the best of Nigeria's fashion and entertainment (Africa rising Concert series) to the world and that move should be encouraged and replicated by the re-branding campaign. Take Nollywood for example. Nollywood films are watched the world over and increasingly by non-Nigerians. As such, the best scripts by Nigerian writers should be supported and films that can portray the nation positively should get extra funding (private or public) and be pushed heavily at film festivals around the world. That is exactly how a film like Slum Dog Millionaire eventually became an Oscar winner and a publicity coup for India. Nollywood, just like the fashion and entertainment industry (as illustrated by ThisDay/Arise efforts) should be used as a tool to change the nation's image at home and abroad. To do this will require a concerted and well-organized effort, not haphazard attempts.
Another asset to Nigeria are its bloggers. In this world where megalomedia reigns in the form of powerful media outlets that are more interested in making money than giving a country like Nigeria the positive press it seeks, bloggers are a useful alternative to getting positive news about Nigeria to the world. Nigeria's bloggers have become an important means for Nigerians and non-Nigerians to learn about the country and are being recognized as key resources for learning about Africa. Just as large businesses and international organizations have learned to work with Nigerian bloggers, so also must the Nigerian government if it will stand a chance of truly changing minds. Bloggers circumvent the influence of the press in a way previously unimaginable and Nigeria's re-branding campaign would be foolish to ignore that fact. As long as the growing Nigerian 'blogville' is given an opportunity to not only access information but weigh in on it as well, instead of being hunted down and arrested as was the case for Emmanuel Emeka Asiwe and Jonathan Elendu, Akunyili's team will likely have 'mouthpieces' who will gladly share positive information about the country even if they highlight the challenges that remain.
It is yet to be seen whether the new campaign to change Nigeria's image will be successful, but Nigeria definitely has the assets it needs to turn a faltering launch into a grand achievement. By reaching the people through 'streams of influence' such as their faith, pushing the best of Nigeria's entertainment industry and the arts, and networking with Nigerian bloggers and sites instead of treating them as the enemy, Nigeria can successfully change the way the world sees it.
Please return on Friday, March 20th for the third post in the 'Re-Branding Nigeria' Series titled, 'USING TECHNOLOGY TO RE-BRAND NIGERIA'
Also check out Oz's take on this in '5 Things I Would Do Differently', AfricanLoft's "Rebranding Nigeria: Lessons from Rwanda" and Imnakoya's post "Re-branding Nigeria? Yes, but not on an empty stomach'.
Related Articles of Interest:
- Nigeria's Re-branding Effort
- Using Nigerians to Re-Brand Nigeria
- Re-branding Nigeria: Success is the Key
- Rebranding Nigeria: With Britain's Help?
- The Nigerian Psyche
- Persistent Psychological Paralysis
- The Significance of Persistent Psychological Paralysis