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When shall we tell a different story?

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Slavery

In what I call ‘The Victory of Slavery’, our own Edo State boy, Victory has become the poster boy of modern day slavery! And it seems CNN can’t seem to get enough of the story.

It fits in perfectly with their Freedom Project as well as their insatiable hunger for all the negative narratives about Africa.

While there are many initiatives and organizations engaged in a superficial fight to end modern day slavery, the Western Imperialists are also working assiduously to perpetuate modern day slavery with various covert programs of economic colonialism.

Keeping Africa in perennial penury while playing the benevolent big brother is top on their economic agenda. But we cannot continue to blame them for our problems. Rather we should look at ourselves and ask very pertinent questions.

While Victory may be the new face of modern day slavery, he also represents an indelible stain on the already tattered image of our country. Unfortunately, he is a victim of the many things we say are wrong with leadership in our country.

Edo State is now the icon of modern day slavery and Nigeria is now positioned as the major source of cheap and affordable slaves in Africa. This is what happens when you don’t tell your own story.

Now a special CNN Freedom Project investigation titled ‘People for Sale’ is based on the story of Victory and the shameful racket going on in Edo State.

Is slavery the only thing we can talk about in Edo State and indeed Nigeria? Today, it seems Nigeria is all about Boko Haram and Modern Day Slavery. That, unfortunately is the new narrative. But does it have to be this way? Must we always resign ourselves to the pervasive negativity that seems to be our lot?

For too long we have fallen short of telling our own story. This needs to stop. As we prepare for 2019, we must look critically at the brand promise or platform on which aspiring leaders want to contest. Let us go back memory lane and see how this can make a difference.

The last time we had a compelling brand value proposition for a presidential aspirant was during the campaign of MKO Abiola. His campaign was tagged Hope 93, and his campaign promise was Farewell to Poverty.

This was quite compelling and remains memorable to this day. His message was powerful and it easily connected with the majority of Nigerians, hence his eventual landslide victory at the polls. He was able to defy ethnic and religious divides because poverty knows no tribe or religion.

Prosperity will not knock on your door based on where you come from or your place of worship. Hunger does not discriminate based on tribe and tongue. Abiola had a powerful message. He argued that Nigeria had no business with poverty, considering the abundant resources at our disposal.

As a successful businessman, he had the credentials to harness our resources and eradicate poverty in the land. To him, the biggest problem of our country was poverty. Unfortunately, twenty five years later, our biggest problem is still mass poverty. This is why our youths are being sold into slavery.

Gainfully employed and fulfilled youths are not likely to join Boko Haram or embark on perilous journeys in desperate attempts to leave the country. Abiola never led the country, but his campaign promise remains unforgettable.

We all remember Obama’s Yes We Can, an assertive statement that connects with and reinforces ‘The American Dream’. It was a slogan which galvanized the ‘can do’ spirit which defines the American Brand Essence. Obama brought back memories of Martin Luther King in what was an extremely emotive political campaign. He successfully appealed across racial boundaries and became the 44th President of the United States. His Yes We Can campaign will resonate for decades to come.

Donald Trump’s mantra is America First. He is unequivocal about his ultra nationalist posture. When he launched his campaign, the theme was ‘Let’s Make America Great Again’. This is instructive and inclusive.

He implied that he couldn’t do it alone and would need the support and cooperation of Americans. Once he became President, he adopted the slogan ‘America First’. Love him or hate him, he is working to implement policies that support his campaign promise.

Since MKO’s Farewell to Poverty, the only compelling campaign we have had is the Change Campaign. This again was compelling, against the background of gross mismanagement under the leadership (or lack of it), of President Goodluck Jonathan.

Unfortunately, Change became an end rather than a means to an end and the attempt to follow up with the Change Begins with Me campaign flopped woefully. While Nigerians truly desired Change, the Government has now grossly mismanaged the Change process and the communication aspect of it has been absolutely disastrous.

Instead of saying ‘Change Begins with Me’, the Government should be telling us the things that have been changed or are being changed. They should embark on tangible changes that will have positive impact on the lives of ordinary Nigerians. When I voted for Change, I did not vote for you to come and change me. Rather, I voted for a change of environment and how government is run. I voted for positive change in my country such that life becomes more fulfilling and meaningful.

A post-election Change Campaign should highlight various aspects of our national life and tell us the positive change Government has made. While we acknowledge that our nation is confronted with many challenges, we also know that it is not all doom and gloom. There are a lot positives but who is narrating those positives? Telling a positive story isn’t all about cooking up tales by moonlight.

Rather, it is about highlighting the strengths rather than the weaknesses inherent in our nation and working to leverage those strengths. Let’s look at small Kenya. The country has the same problems that many African countries have. There is widespread poverty and occasional terrorist attacks. Yet, Kenya is able to attract more than 1 million tourists every year.

About 35% of those tourists come from Europe. The main tourist attraction in Kenya is safari. But when we look at what Nigeria has in terms of natural parks, Kenya doesn’t come close.

But who in the outside world knows us for safari? Yet there are state governments and federal agencies who are in the position to promote these things. But they are busy doing nothing. To those preparing for 2019, you must come up with a good promise and we will hold you accountable.

• Muyiwa Kayode is CEO at USP Brand Management and author, The Seven Dimensions of Branding. Brand Nation is a platform for promoting national development based on the universal principles of branding.


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