RE-BRANDING NIGERIA OR EDUCATING NIGERIAN LEADERS?
Jon Chikadibie Okafor.
Not long ago, the Federal Ministry of Information headed by Prof. Dora Akunyili rolled out what it called "Re-branding Nigeria". This I understand is a programme designed to make Nigeria marketable, so to say; the argument being that we needed to project Nigeria in beautiful colours in order to make her the darling of other nations. Very noble idea I dare say. It is a thing of joy to see that Nigeria has never and will never run out of ideas of how to "move the nation forward". [Has anyone else noticed that every Information Minister comes up with one pet project or the other just to look busy?].
While basking in the euphoria of Nigeria being full of "visionary" leaders, let us pause to look at the Nigerian state that needs "re-branding" and see if the medicine being prescribed for this apparently sick nation is the ideal one. Is Nigeria the country a bad one? Are the citizens of Nigeria a bad lot? Having argued that Nigeria the country has a problem, is that problem that of leadership? Let me try and tackle each on its own merit.
Nigeria came into existence in 1861 owing to what some mischievous people have referred to as the result of spending too much time in ones bedroom instead of concentrating on doing the job-Lord Lugard's mistress gave us the name Nigeria [this might be the origin of the First Lady malady in Nigeria politics]. The Northern and Southern protectorates were fused together simply for the purpose of ease of administration instead of being based on the peoples' wish. Hence, the Nigerian state is an aberration, a country that is an artificial contraption of an alien that did not take the interests of we the people into consideration. Up till this moment, Nigerians still see themselves first as an ethnic being, i.e. first seeing themselves as being from a particular tribe rather than being "a Nigerian" in all cases. I recommend that Prof. Akunyili strive to "re-brand" this situation.
Nigerians are not bad people by any standard. Incidentally, there is every indication that we have a warped value system. Morality has been thrown to the dogs all in the bid to "make ends meet". The development of this ugly trend could be traced to the era of military repression of Ibrahim Babangida, a period of economic irresponsibility by the government that encouraged all manners of ills in the society. Horrendously, there has been some kind of geometric progression of the erosion of our value system as a nation. Elders do not solicit questions any more-our people now engage in all manner of evil just to put food on the table. It is a pity that instead of having a responsive and responsible government, what we have had in Nigeria since 1984 is a collection of rogues who have stolen so much from our collective funds! Just like soldiers of fortune, our military men had always found one incoherent reason to come to power through the use of the fire power that we the people paid for! Talking of our value system, what qualified retired Generals Ibrahim Babangida, Abdusalam Abubakar etc as elder statesmen? I feel so much rage when I see these coup plotters being sent to represent Nigeria on any capacity, what nonsense! We should be talking of finding ways to make this men vomit their loots! These men have retired to a life of grand opulence and are walking the streets free-they are even being protected and treated as VIPs! How much did they earn as salaries as military officers? Prof. Dora Akunyili, your effort to re-brand Nigeria should concentrate on those that looted our coffers [and are still at it!]. Let people know that pilfering public funds is a criminal offence and those that venture into it would be made to face the law. Use your Ministry of Information to educate the populace; encourage our people to kick against the immoral display of ill-gotten wealth, especially by those that occupy elective posts. This I believe would be a good case of re-branding Nigeria. I am sure you can do this, or have you changed from the fearless lady of NAFDAC? Being a government spokesperson must be a tough job, especially if that government is of the PDP.
Quite recently, the immediate past Vice President of Nigeria, Mr. Atiku Abubakar was quoted as saying that the problem with Nigeria was that of inept leadership. Bingo! It is instructive to note that Atiku made this comment while in Bayelsa State for the burial of the late mother of DSP Alamesiagha, a former governor/leader of that state who was convicted for stealing government money. Professor Akunyili, you are really in the wrong job. I am not sure how you would be working for the PDP government if you really want to "re-brand" Nigeria. Nigeria is not a product that needs a new label in order to attract buyers, what we need is a good government made up of men and women that are not kleptomaniacs, leaders who are truly committed to uplifting Nigeria, leaders who genuinely care for we the people, leaders who do not lie to the people, leaders who work tirelessly to bring about regular power supply rather than those that ask us to pray to God for uninterrupted power supply, leaders who do not lock up journalists for airing opposing opinions, leaders with a true compassion for the way to give their people the best of everything. My sister Dora, this is what we need in Nigeria, not wasting our money on some lousy PR gimmick aimed at making an attempt to deceive people. But I ask you, would your idea of re-branding Nigeria fix all the death-traps we call roads in Nigeria? Will your effort stop Mr. Maurice Iwu from supervising chaos instead of a credible election that is now taken for granted in Ghana? Will your work at re-packaging Nigeria stop the youths of the Niger Delta from kidnapping for ransom because they are outraged at the injustice of the Nigerian government? Will you also encourage those that stole our money and gave us more darkness instead of a regular power supply to return their loot? Will your pet project turn our National Assembly into a place where men with honour strive to promote the welfare of the people rather than a place where Ghana-Must-Go bags make curious movements? Mrs. Akunyili, what you are attempting to do is what others have tried in the past-they all failed woefully because of a gross insincerity of purpose. Those you are trying to sell Nigeria to only need to see certain things in order to be convinced that the Nigerian project is working; good roads, security of lives and property, regular power supply, a good health care system, clean water, sincere and truthful leadership that is averse to the lures of the overflowing treasury! On the part of the citizens, foreigners only need to see that Nigerians are no longer notorious for such degrading crimes as Internet fraud, drug peddling, armed robbery, etc.
The problem with Nigeria will not disappear no matter the amount of money spent on CNN for adverts. Our problem is man made. Until we develop the culture of holding past leaders responsible for their deeds while in office, until we start sending those that rig elections and those that supervise stupid elections to jail, until we remove the lust of lucre from political/elective posts, until we the people realize that we hold the real powers, until that day, Professor Dora Akunyili and co will only be deceiving themselves and wasting our money in silly spin.
Truly, Nigeria is a lovely country. Let us not leave the running of our country in the hands of certificate forgers, coup plotters, election riggers, fraudsters, thugs, kidnappers, treasury looters, occultists, kleptomaniacs, charlatans, megalomaniacs! This is our country and it belongs to all of us.