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Branding implications for Lagos as third worst liveability city in the world

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Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, the Governor of Lagos State. Photo: Twitter/ AkinwunmiAmbode

According to the latest 2018 Global Liveability Index released by The Economist Intelligence Unit and World Bank, Lagos State was ranked the third worst city for humans to live in the world as it scored a total point of 38.5 per cent points and ranked 138 out of the 140 cities considered for the ranking. However, this is a slight change from the 2017 ranking when the state stood at 139th out of 140 cities on the index

With a relatively low score of 38.5 percent, the city is ranked just a little above Syria’s war-torn capital, Damascus, and Bangladesh’s Dhaka as both cities are hotbeds of violence, destruction and war. For a city, whose managers are aiming to take it from a mega city status to a bolder smart city, this doesn’t look like a good branding and public relations scorecard. The city is by no means as violent as some of the cities with higher ranking. It certainly scores low in terms of planning and sanitation, but did The Economist Intelligence Unit and World Bank err on the side of ignorance? Is this report the reality for Lagosians and brand experts? Is the state government doing enough to put the city on the right branding pedestal to mitigate such wrong perception and image projection from outside, especially for a state that enjoys the most foreign-direct investment?

Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan, was the first to dismiss the report, saying, “If you read the report, it stated that the years of neglect and denial by the Federal Government has led to the poor state of infrastructure in Lagos State. The report commended Ambode administration for working tirelessly within three years to improve the level of infrastructure across the state.”

But is offhand dismissal the right branding attitude to the poor perception from the international scene? Should only the Federal Government take the flak for a city that rakes in billions in terms of taxes from the solid foundation the Federal Government laid long before independence in 1960 till the 1990s, when the capital was moved to Abuja?

For branding and PR experts, it’s a mixed baggage of views on Lagos’ poor rating from the global arena. Mr. Ken Ebbi of White Dove Ltd and Mr. Bamiji Adeleye, the damning report is a summation is an offshoot of governments’ continuing employment of unskilled managers to handle its communication and reputation.

“Added to the problem of not having the right professionals occupying these positions, the government rarely consults with core branding professionals in the execution of salient projects,” Ebbi lamented. “The resultant effect is there for all to see. Lagos is, as at today, rated as the third worst city to live in globally despite the efforts of Governor Akinwumi Ambode. That rating makes me feel like relocating from the city. Smaller countries like Kenya, Mauritius, even lately Ruanda, are enjoying better reputation index. They are placing emphasis on the right things. There is sincerity of purpose and engagement of quality professionals. Who is the information minister in those countries?

“A country cannot be sold on the pages of the newspapers and in the tubes alone; there are individuals and organizations, which posses the influence and goodwill in certain key forums, who can become worthy brand ambassadors. It all comes down to strategy.”

Although Adeleye does not believe in the accuracy of the report, saying it is largely borne out of ignorance and how Nigerians also project their country in negative light with unsavoury comments outside the country, he also blamed government’s poor handling of its communication mix and accused them of merely issuing press releases that lack soul. The inability of governments to deploy the right communication managers to sensitive positions to deploy the right communication strategies, he said, are other reasons for much of Nigeria and Lagos’ poor global ranking.

“It’s left how we interpret the ranking,” he said. “Most of these world organizations are not in consonant with our realities. And most of these things are things we say about ourselves to outsiders. If we say positive things about ourselves, that is what outsiders get. If government is not engaging the right professionals to project itself to the world, it’s how the world sees us that it would project us. So, it’s left for us to project ourselves to the world the way we want the world to see us.

“So, it’s a communication gap that they are filling for us. Deliberate effort is not being made to communicate who and what we are as a people. Our communication is not very strong and we’re not using the right professionals and channels. Other countries have these same problems, but it’s the way they communicate it that makes the difference. Who are the people in positions of communication to engage the public? How do they deploy tools and strategies so the people become the voices of the government?”

Novelist, poet and self-styled ‘Mayor-of-Lagos,’ Mr. Toni Kan, also dismissed his city’s poor ranking, but calls on the government to do more so the city could realise its set aspirations, saying, “I don’t consider this bad news. I think it is a call to action. Lagos, for anyone who lives here, has changed dramatically and for the better in the past three to eight years. Yes, there is still much to be done but considerable progress has been made.

“What must be done is to keep on the path of change and transformation. Ambode has done a lot. Look at “under bridges” that used to be breeding grounds for miscreants; they are all clean. Look at how much traffic has been eased by lay-bys. I say we should continue on the path of transformation and await another survey.”

Mr. Kenneth Uphopho, who was theatre director for British Council-inspired Lagos Theatre Festival, who is working towards international music and theatre event, Lagos Fringe Festival, also expressed concerns about the report. According to him, “The ranking of Lagos as one of the worst cities to live in is rather disturbing. In these times of urban renewal or mega city transformation? It’s a tough blow, I know, especially to the present administration that hit the ground running when it came on board, but I don’t think that this will put any dent in the mega city status of Lagos. We have to be objective in our critique of this assessment in many ways. Yes, Lagos is tough to live in but what are the indices for this assessment? Housing, education, healthcare, transportation network, security?

“Unfortunately for Lagos, the prevailing factor for this ranking is quite obvious: rural to urban migration, which in turn has birthed over-population and pollution (noise, air, water, land, etc), social disorder and chronic slums in some places.


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