BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, PRINCEWILL EKWUJURU & ESTHER ONYEGBULA

 


TWO governors, a minister, eminent professionals and technocrats, yesterday, took a critical look at the global image of Nigeria and returned a heart-rending verdict: The country has a poor image, which needs to be urgently re-branded to spur development and catapult the country to her deserved position in the comity of nations.

From left Mr. Sam Amuka, Publisher, Vanguard Newspapers; Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, Governor of Rivers State and Mr. Tunji Olugbodi, Managing Director, Verdant Zeal during the Verdant Zeal 1st Innovation Lecture Series held in Lagos on Thursday. Photo by Lamidi Bamidele

River State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi; his Osun State counterpart, Rauf Aregbesola; and National Planning Minister, Shamsudeen Usman, were among those who proffered solutions to the nation’s appalling image.

They spoke at Verdant Zeal’s fifth anniversary lecture titled: “Between Pessimism and Pragmatism: Nigeria’s brand image and global competitiveness,” held at the Civic Centre, Ozumba Mbadiwe Avenue, Victoria Island, Lagos.Other leading stakeholders, who spoke at the event chaired by Publisher of Vanguard Newspapers, Mr. Sam Amuka, were Mr. Mitchell Elegbe (MD/CEO, Interswitch); Alhaji Garba Kankarofi (Registrar/chief executive, APCON); Mr Austin Ufomba (marketing director, Coca-Cola); Ms Sola Salako (CEO, Purples Consult); Prof Emevwo Biakolo (Dean, School of Media and Communications, Pan African University); and Mr Frank Aigbogun (Publisher, BusinessDay Newspaper), who moderated  the plenary session.

Minor disagreements

Aside minor disagreements here and there, the speakers all agreed that the image of the country should not be allowed to remain the way it is, if Nigeria were to attract massive foreign investments and her citizenry accorded due respect in foreign lands unlike what is obtaining currently.

They also agreed that amid deep-seated negative impression Nigeria has a host of positive attributes that could be harnessed and deployed to boost the nation’s image.

Some ways of re-branding the country, they said, include addressing pervasive poverty, ensuring good governance, providing basic infrastructure like good roads, stable power supply and ensuring security of lives and property among others.

While Amaechi, who delivered the lecture, came in person, Aregbesola was represented by Osun State Commissioner for Finance, Dr. Wale Olorunduro. Dr Usman was represented by his Technical Adviser, Dapo Oyewole.

As Oyewole harped on the need for public, private partnership to tackle the onerous challenge, Olorunduro, who reeled out achievements of Aregbesola, said the Osun State Government was partnering with the other five states of the South-West zone to forge regional integration and improve on the lot of the citizenry.

In his lecture, Amaechi said the challenge of national economic development had gone beyond the limits of public policy pronunciation, averring that the new economic order had transformed economic development into a market challenge.

Instead of allowing things to happen by accident, Amaechi canvassed painstaking planning on the part of government, to get things going on the right track.

He noted that nations compete with one another and strive to devise sources of competitive advantage, which informed reasons they must manage and control their branding. Amaechi noted that the need to attract tourists, factories, companies, talented people and find markets for our exports require that Nigeria adopt strategic marketing management tools and conscious-branding.

Drawing examples from China, India, Brazil, Singapore, which used to be on the same economic pedestal with Nigeria, the governor said in reality, a country’s brand image  had direct bearing on its economy and country-related intangible assets which in many ways influence the market shares of brands and their marketing effectiveness.

Drawing analogy from  Japanese cars and Japan’s  global ratings, he noted Japan’s engagement in the small car segment of the market gradually gave it a lever and space above the bigger American and European car giants. Now, in the United States, he pointed out that Toyota is king, its tag line, good thinking, great product is yet unbeatable.

He noted also that China and Chinese products hardly could get a foot at the doors of the more industralised countries in the past but that China built on its population and market size and began a deliberate industralisation programme. The governor pointed out that at first no one would buy Chinese goods as they were considered, third rate, cheap and not cheerful. But today China had addressed the issue and used her cheap labour to take the US market.

Crumbling of iron curtain

The governor also said that with the crumbling of the iron curtain, China positioned itself as the place to do more for less. “Today, China’s trade balances and reserves are far in excess of those of many of the Western countries, and the United States is in deep debt to China. Over and beyond that China is gradually inching into other countries, and is competing literally neck and neck with the United States for oil, trade partners and development aid.

He went on to say that another example was India, which its tagline ‘Incredible India’ says it all. As it is today, India is the new software capital of the world. With its deliberate investment in the knowledge economy, India if it chooses, can shut down the United States at the press of a button. Today India’s brand equity is unparalleled.

For South Africa, the governor said the release of Nelson Mandela and his subsequent win as President of the country, crystalised into to a new image, along with the smooth transition and Mandela’s refusal to fit into the mould of power-clinging African leaders helped define the country as one that didn’t also fit the African mould.

Earlier, Dr.Olorunduro regretted that the brand image the country had in 1960 had been desecrated by successive rulers thereby making it difficult for a Nigerian identity to be developed. “What does it mean to be a Nigerian? Is it the abundance of agricultural produce, or the millions of crude oil we export annually from the Niger Delta region? Or is it the contribution of Nigerian technocrats, who are working hard? Or the long list of corrupt government officials? he queried.

Taking a clue from America billionaire, Jeff Bison, a person’s reputation is largely built on what he does as opposed to what he says, he noted that the brand Nigeria could only be referred by the collective action of every Nigerian.

“Nigeria is blessed with lots of talents with the likes of JP Clark, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, noble industrialists and entrepreneurs are all worthy testimonies of our abundant talents. Indeed today Nigeria has the fastest growing movie industry in the world. Nigerian English is creeping into the conversation of many African countries and the world. We hear the words like “no wahala” in South Africa and “no shaking” in London.

What that portends is that Nigerians have the capacity to influence positively our values that have been portrayed through movies if the country could harness her resources and give the necessary intervention,” he said.

 

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