Still very fresh in the memories of Nigerians was the rebranding efforts of former Minister for Information and Communication, Professor Dora Akunyili, during the administration of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
The former minister have reasoned that the nation needed a clean break from the global negative stereotype of the country as a haven for anything but good, a place perceived by foreigners as harbouring citizens that could best be described as negative in thoughts and deeds.
Coming fresh from his very successive stint as the director general of the National Foods, Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), where she earned herself the enviable reputation as a tough fighter against counterfeit and illicit trade in drugs and food items, she had thought that she had all it took to reposition the brand, Nigeria.
So ambitious was the project that a large chunk of money was requested from the presidency to help in the rebranding process. So huge was the estimates that it ran into billions of naira, thus generating heat in the polity. The scale was to be reduced by the late President who slashed the budget considerably.
This, however did not deter her resolve to forge ahead with the initiative by embarking on oversea tours ostensibly to promote the brand, using successful Nigerians who had achieved remarkable achievements in their chosen professions or vocations as the tools to woo the international community to better appreciate the brand.
To complement this were series of advertisement campaigns in various media with a very unique catch phrase of Nigeria: Good People, Great Nation, becoming the mantra to drive the publicity vehicle desperately needed by the country at that time.
Though the initiative seemed to met with some level of success initially but had to be discontinued by the succeeding Goodluck Jonathan led administration upon coming on board for sundry reasons bordering on the needless controversies it generated and the cost of keeping it going as well as the focus of the minister who came on board who seemed to have other ideas.
The initiative is now moribund only for it to be revisited by Ekiti State Governor; Dr. Kayode Fayemi, recently in Lagos. To Fayemi in his appraisal, the initiative was a waste.
In his view captured in his lecture titled ‘Beyond Branding: Building Lasting Values for Nigeria’s Growth,’ Fayemi noted that Professor Akunyili, though possessing the best of intentions, failed to gain traction as it was not in tune with the thinking of Nigerians.
According to the Governor, the few months that the campaign lasted, much people identified with it was more of deriding the campaign, rather than enhancing the image of Nigeria. He said there was an initial attempt to brand the country. That earlier attempt had a different, but no less rousing, slogan: “Nigeria, Heart of Africa.”
“The Economist of London summed up the rebranding efforts in an epigram: “Good people, impossible mission. The respected international magazine reported that, “The previous exercise failed, and there is little reason to expect the latest one to do much better.
“Many Nigerians say their government should tackle the country’s fundamental problems such as power shortages, crime and corruption before worrying about its image.” the governor maintained.
Fayemi was very emphatic that rebranding efforts of Nigeria failed as most Nigerians whose opinion were sampled, expressed the position that the problem was with the brand and not with branding.
He emphasized that there were some who had a problem with the idea of branding or rebranding a country. “Those who hold the latter position were not expressing any strange opinion. Throughout the world, there are controversies about branding a country. This attitude has been described in some contexts as “visceral antagonism” to the idea of branding a country.
“The major objection to this is that a nation is not a corporation and therefore should not be reduced to something that can be branded. One of the most articulate objectors to this idea, Michel Girard, stated that a country “has a nature and a substance other than that of a corporation. Therefore a corporation can be re-branded, not a state. A country carries specific dignity unlike a marketed product”.
Using examples of other countries to buttress his argument, the governor urged the government to ensure that needed developmental infrastructure are put in place that would attract people to come over to the country.
By Abiodun Taiwo
This article was first published in the The Leadership
Last modified: April 4, 2013