Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Rebranding Nigeria? Who exactly are we building up?

Over the last couple of weeks the Reno Omokri has been posting videos as part of the build up Nigeria Series. In true Nigerian Cinematic tradition, the films themselves are not going to wow people with their high production values. The actors aren't great: they struggle with the lines and lacked conviction; the editing and the direction left a little to be desired and I'm not sure they needed to be so long. The quality of the videos, however, isn't what the are being judged on, its undoubtedly the message that they aimed to convey.

The videos themselves are quite popular on youtube, the group is gaining popularity on Facebook and recently politicians, (including the king of Facebook, President GEJ) have been posting the links on their Facebook pages. They endorse the message that Nigerians should build up the image of Nigeria at home and overseas. Pat Utomi says

This is a video that every Nigerian should see. We really have to almost start from the scratch and build a new Nigeria that will consign those who have caused us an odious image worldwide to history. Watch, place on your profile and circulate. PU.
The popularity is easy to explain, we as Nigerians are so used to the negative stereotypes that follow the  country and quite frankly we are tired. The videos provide facts (a lot of facts) that allow you to say in fact Nigeria is not that bad, or does it?

What the videos actually do is reel of a list of achievements by Nigerians/people of Nigerian descent and a few things that sort of place Nigeria as a regional powerhouse. Taking the latter first,it seems to see the whole Liberia thing as a triumph, I'm not too sure. Was giving Charles Taylor, an alleged war criminal, asylum in Calabar the highlight of Nigerian diplomacy? Was funding Zanu ( now Zanu-PF) something we should shout about? Should the most populous African nation with the largest oil reserves on the continent be proud of being the second largest economy? The question must be asked, are these achievements really that great?

In regards to the former, the achievements of Nigerians all over the world is indisputable. We excel in all areas of life: sports, the arts, the professions, industry, commerce and politics. But what does all this say about Nigeria itself. The fact that there are more than 35,000 Nigerian doctors working in the US, yet the Nigerian healthcare sector is in a shambles. Nigerians underpin the IT and industrial sector in the West, yet Nigeria remains a technologically backwards country. These Nigerians are doing great things all over the world, yet Nigeria has been in a state of stasis for 50 years.

Am I saying that Nigeria doesn't need to be rebranded? Not exactly. What I am saying is that we need to know who we're rebranding it for. If it is for the developed world, then we need to be playing up Nigeria as a tourist destination or a safe and growing market for investment. I'm not sure the videos have done that yet. If it is for Nigerians however,  are we content with telling ourselves that things aren't that bad? That of the millions of Nigerians, thousands of us are living fulfilled lives?

The project is good in that its dispelling stereotypes about Nigerians, there are 150 million of us any statement made about Nigerians as a whole (good or bad) is bound to be untrue about the vast majority of us and so doing away with them is desirable. That said, Nigeria itself is a poor country with an unfair economic structure, where corruption is rife, where injustice prevails, where democracy is broken, where the basic necessities of life are beyond the reach of most people. There is no amount of rebranding, no advertising campaigns, no efforts at positive thinking that will change these facts. That is why it is so annoying that the politicians are clamouring to endorse the build up Nigeria series, it is an easy out to talk about the good work of Nigerians and the role of the media without asking the simple and blaringly obvious: why has so much good work by so many good Nigerians resulted in such little good for Nigeria?

So I guess what I am saying is go ahead and rebrand Nigerians but lets fix Nigeria. and to do this, we must be bitingly honest.
Enyinnaya Emmanuel Chukwueke

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