Thursday, March 19, 2009

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.

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.

Leadership Newspaper (NG) website (March 18th, 2009)

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.

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.

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

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JustDB said...

Honestly, I'm afraid I do not particularly see the relevance of this effort.....I would have thought that a significant part of the problem with the country is entrenched in the powers that uphold the government...Rebranding should start from the House of Assembly and the Senate by passing Laws -- not engaging in trite arguments around increasing their renumeration!

The y river said...

Do you think this effort will make any difference?


@ Just DB: I see your point, the rot at the top needs to be re-branded. But, we the people need a psychological makeover as well. I have argued consistently that for Nigeria to become a better nation, Nigerians need to take control of their country. When Nigerians truly have a vested interest in the country, they will fight to hold their leaders accountable and work to improve the country from the bottom up. This re-branding effort could accomplish that if done right.

As such, I am in favor of any effort that will remind Nigerians that if they do not 'fight' for their country, those in the position to will "chop and quench" at the people's expense. I guess I should have highlighted that in this installment, but it is an on going issue at this blog and for reference, please see the Nigerian Psyche and PPP posts, if you care.

I will make sure to express this point in tomorrow's installment so as to make it clear why I want this effort to work, and if not this one, some other effort to help Nigerians see themselves a little differently and thus, act in accordance.

Thank you so much, your comment has given me much to think about.

Oz said...

Isn't it kinda hard? Talking about this issue without putting down the efforts. I find it difficult. Me thinks they were not ready and it was a rush job. It is obvious.


@ The y river: We have to hope. But, as I said in my response to Danny, I believe that to solve Nigeria's problems, Nigerians must believe that they own Nigeria. When we collectively believe that the country is ours to do with as we see fit, those who benefit from what is the status quo will have to contend with the will of the people. Right now, our 'leaders' can do what they want with no fear of retribution or justice. But imagine a Nigeria where the average person knew they could 'recall' (vote out) failing leaders? Imagine a Nigeria where we knew who to hold accountable for the screw ups? We will never get to that day if we Nigerians do not have a better view of ourselves and our capabilities.

I believe that this re-branding effort, if properly organized, could be the means to changing the way we Nigerians look at ourselves. It could be empowering and it could take on a life of its own that would prevent the federal government and others from stifling our voices and ideas.

So, do i think this could work? Technically, yes. Do I think what we have seen so far will work? maybe not, but if Dora is serious and if the powers that be do not get in the way, we just might surprise ourselves.

Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it.

Onyeka said...

Ah... I'm with the first poster. The re-branding needs to start from the top. The reason Nigeria is where it is today is a domino effect from a corrupt government. Once we can get a total overhaul of all the thieves and godfathers that are controlling the country, once they stop running it to the ground, once Nigeria begins to prosper politically, the rest is gravy in my opinion.

So many Nigerians are into get-rich-quick schemes, frauds, because they really dont have other options, because the economy is bad, because there are no jobs. Students are failing cos they're spending YEARS in school and losing hope and interest.

From what I can see Nigerians are ridiculously patriotic. Despite the complaints and lamentations they make in their homes, they'll jump out and attack anyone who tries to put them and the country down.

The problem isn't with the common man. It's with the men upstairs, and the people who are trying to join them because they feel that's the only way to prosper. When they start convicting looting governors, when our government becomes more transparent, and more dedicated people are elected into power, I think, that's when things begin to change. We can't hope to change people's minds about us when we haven't changed ourselves.

Long post. :/


@ Oz: Unfortunately, you are right. I'm not sure what they were thinking, but clearly someone was trying too hard to make Akunyili look like she was doing something good, but failed to actually have something good to show for it all.

That doesn't change my belief that this project could be beneficial to Nigeria. I just want those in charge to not make anymore costly mistakes and the fact that a website is still not up 48 hours after the announcement is beginning to dim my hopes. After all, it takes no time to put a site up.

Anyway, you know that I believe that Nigeria's attitude towards itself has to change for Nigeria to ever truly become a success. I see what this project can be, you know. Nigeria might not have an opportunity to do this again, if this fails, believe you me. I'm just trying to throw as much out there to help the conversation and flow of ideas.

And because I know what you are thinking, yes, once the re-branding series is completed (hopefully this weekend), I will be sending my writings to Dora via email and maybe even messenger if I can afford it, lol! If anyone knows her number, let me know, I'd call her as well. But with a disposable phone because the thought of the SSS arresting me is just not a goo done. =)


@ Onyeka: Thanks for coming back today and taking the time to participate in this discussion. I truly appreciate it. No lie.

I completely understand the point. But just because corruption 'descended' upon the masses from the top, does not mean it has to be cleared at the top first. Nigeria cannot afford to wait for the peeps at the top to do better because they never will. If that continues to be the standard then I better stop writing, collect citizenship from somewhere else and keep it moving. Straight up! It will NEVER happen.

What will compel the big boys to change? Is it because I said so? Nope. The terms of the game will only change when collectively, we stop trying to "jeun soke" (thanks Niyi Tabiti) or chop and quench. When we think differently about ourselves, we will not feel that it is the only way for us to survive. We will want to hold our leaders accountable and have a government and system that works for us not against us.

Now, I understand the issue, Nigeria lacks the basics it needs and I noted that the government should take a page from Lagos where success has changed the very way people think about themselves. We need to see success. I see successful Nigerians doing great things despite the odds and I want to see success at the leadership level. Please, can my mother's house have uninterrupted light? Anyway, this is getting long, but my point is, this re-branding initiative could be a way to transform the Nigerian psyche and in the past I have argued that that is needed to transform the very nation. That is why I want this effort to succeed. I hope it does.

Thanks Onyeka!

Akin said...


@Oz - "it was a rush job"

Now tell me how that is not so typically Nigerian in its context, outlook and eventual result.

For a minister who was once in charge of food and drug safety, I am left seriously unimpressed.

The rebranding is working as it should, portraying the ineffectiveness of poorly planned Nigerian ideas as they are.

Moving on swiftly to the next Minister of Information with another fanciful idea.



Anonymous said...

just talked to a couple of dudes in nigeria just before i posted.. granted its a small sample of the overall population but the overwhelming feeling i get is that its 'their thing'...and its another avenue to siphon money into people's problems. I get your point tho, if its done right it could work.....but then how many nigerians are knowledgable enuf to appreciate the arguments of the re-branding program? I sincerely hope this is not another MAMSER attempt......

Just DB

N.I.M.M.O said...

Nigeria: Good People, Great Nation!

I got the text.

'Stupid' was my first thought.

'Dang! Somebody is making serious money on these SMS o!' was my second thought.

Good people dont necessarily make great nations. It takes the good, the bad and the ugly. It will take a willingness to turn our adversities into strength. Ask Rwanda.

Who are the first to vilify Nigeria? Nigerians.

Who are the first to call Nigeria the worst country on earth? Nigerians.

Who would be the first to call Nigerians a bunch of scammers and con artists? Nigerians. (No, not Oprah. Oprah comes second.)

Who will buy your product if you are always first to condemn it? Nobody.

We have serious work to do, not some stupid SMS marketing campaign.

$1m is N170m. I repeat, somebody is making serious money.

Beauty said...

In this fresco by Raphael ofPlato and Aristotle. Aristotle gestures to the earth, representing his belief in knowledge through empirical observation and experience, while holding a copy of his Nicomachean Ethics in his hand, whilst Plato gestures to the heavens, representing his belief in The Forms. The most important success factor in any project is the people, yes, you are right to advocate using Nigerians to promote her, however, the basic questions remain. Top down and or bottom up strategy must first be grounded in ethics that is mastered by doing rather than merely reasoning. Eagerly awaiting the follow up post.

Beauty said...

Nigerian Curiosity won the "Best Political Blog" for 2009 in the Nigerian Bloggers Award. I also won the "Bloggers Choice Award". Thanks to everyone who voted.

Heartfelt congratulations on the win. Superwoman you.

Buttercup said...

if done successfully and for the right reasons, this is just what Nigeria needs right now..

congrats on ur win! i've learned so much from this blog..u totally deserved the award!

9ja_Kuti said...

if our thieving leaders change, it might give us reason to see nigeria in a better or totally different light. right now the senate cant be fighting to increase their allowances every other day and we then expect a change of attitude by us the people.

time would tell, lets wait and see what this rebranding would bring in 6months.

A for apple said...

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.

I don't agree that we have an analogous situation here. Slumdog mill, from what I gather is a british made film actually so yes, india got the publicity but it had nothing to do with their effort, if you like. I say this in relation to the movie, not generally...India has done a lot to improve their lot if you like but that is not the matter.

With regards to the re-branding effort, in some ways I am optimistic, in other pessimistic. Not enough is being done to make the average Nigerian feel like this is his\her task. It's still a government thing. It may be that it's just a matter of time tho'. We watch, we wait...

In my head and around me said...

I am not convinced. Dora has been given a tough challenge and she is going to have to think outside of the box for this one.

A bunch of text messages sent to my phone while I am fanning my daughter in the sweltering heat that is exarcebated by lack of power or hearing re-branding jingles on the radio as I drive home through traffic brought about by bad roads umaintained by the FG (the traffic resulting in a me being a sitting duck for theives that usually take advantage of such situations).

I won't give an inch because they do not give any. In fact, I insist that no-one teaches my daughter to say "Up Nepa!" as is usually exclaimed when NEPA/PHCN deigns to give us power. Again, I refuse to give an inch.

No-one is going to brainwash me into thinking that Nigeria is suddenly better when the necessary work hasn't gone into it.

At this time of global recession and credit crunch, I would like to suggest that we save our $1million on something that will actually have a positive and longlasting impact on the people.

Much love to Mrs Akunyili but sh's going to have to do something different.


@ Apple: Actually a lot of work has gone into marketing India and Bollywood over the years. That drive came from both the public and private sector, and India has reaped the rewards of intentional and unintentional marketing for the country.

Not sure if you are female or male, but if you are female, you might recall the push about 10 years ago when Indian bindis and symbols were tres chic in fashion. That might not have been an intentional push, but whatever it was, it helped make India less of an 'other' to the West.

With regard to Slumdog, it was a joint effort between Brits and Indians. To completely dismiss the Indian element in the creation of that movie from tech hands, to actors, to writers, to the very streets in the film would be foolhardy, no?

The successful marketing India will receive and take advantage of was not by mistake. There has been money, pushing Indian movies in the West for years ...Love Guru was a flop but I can't think of the names of other movies that i can see in my head. Trust me, there has been a push, FOR YEARS, to take Bollywood (think Ashwrya Rai) mainstream. Slumdog Millionaire is just the latest successful example of that push.

I completely agree with your point that not enough has been done to give Nigerians ownership of this re-branding effort, however. That is why I am trying to offer whatever suggestions I can think of to remedy that situation. I hope they can do it, but only time will tell.

Thanks so much fro taking the time to share your thoughts. Please feel free to return. The exchange of opinions is always appreciated.

anonymous gal said...

hehehe the re branders sent me a rebranding text. didnot read it

Nigerian Entrepreneur said...

Dora Akinyuli should read this post and others written by Nigerians and friends of Nigeria. The minister seems to have 'old school' ladies and gentlemen in her team.

How can one explain the fact that they failed to establish a website presence for the project. One would have thought that the minister and her team will learn from the Obama story.

The internet has come to stay. It is one of the most effective way of creating awareness and soliciting support for a project such as this one.

Well, I guess they are still trying to do things the old style. I wrote a piece on the launch Good People, Great Nation and one of the commenters, a non-Nigerian pointed out that our leaders in Nigeria are behaving as if we are living in the 1960 era. I couldn't disagree with the commenter (even though I felt insulted by the comment).

Anonymous said...

As a writer, if I am writing about a Nigerian policeman, he would most likely be taking bribes or arresting innocent people, or telling a crime victim he has no tires in his car to run to the rscue etc, he will simply not solve any crime. To write anything else would be to lie. Writings even if fiction are often a reflection of our personal exxperiences. Nigeria should first fix some of it's problems before we think of branding.


Joannah said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Beauty said...

Brands that money cannot buy via

Russia’s energy giant Gazprom has signed a $2.5bn (£1.53bn) deal with Nigeria’s state operated oil company NNPC, to invest in a new joint venture.

The new firm, to be called Nigaz, is set to build refineries, pipelines and gas power stations in Nigeria.

Let the jokes begin…

Paul Johnson said...


Like the last commenter, was just perusing the web and ended up here. You guys seem to be having a serious discussions.

It is a nice thing you folks a addressing this issue - I must say I personally don't have any regards for Nigerians. I know I shouldn't be saying it, but it's fair that you hear it.

I will bookmark this blog so I can come back to it again soon

MARGARET said...


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