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Communication as a tool for national development 

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Nineteen years after Nigeria returned to democracy, the country has made slow progress.

Many issues which plagued us during the military rule still abound. Challenges of insecurity, healthcare, infrastructural development, and a stagnating economy are a constant feature in the Nigerian story. 

The Nigerian tech ecosystem and generally, the creative industry has however seen a considerable growth, but these developments have been in-spite of the government and not because of it.

Many young people are taking their destinies in their hands and showcasing their talents while putting Nigeria on the global map – all this with little or no systematic support from the government. 

Young people like Wizkid, Davido, Iyin Aboyeji, Oluseun Onigbinde, Chimamanda Adichie, Ola Orekunrin, Temie Giwa, Mikel Obi, Victor Moses, Tiwa Savage, Bosun Tijani, and many others have done more for the image of Nigeria than consecutive governments.

Foreigners get a feel of these achievers and find themselves wondering how such smart, talented, passionate, innovative individuals manage to survive and thrive in an environment that does not provide adequate support for its growth. 

To those who wonder, the answer is simple: many of us have lived in a society where nothing is handed to you.

Most of us have had to rely on sheer grit and resilience to break down set barriers capable of truncating our dreams. 

Social media and digital technology has been an enabler for young people to engage and compete globally.

But the same platforms which has helped put Nigeria on the global map – catching the attention of Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg – is also used by others to drag its image in the mud. 

A few days ago, I saw a tweet which made my heart sink. Apparently a tertiary institution based in the United Kingdom had referred to the global phenomenon of advance fee fraud as the ‘Nigerian Scam’.

This is despite evidence to support the fact that many criminals who practice these nefarious activities of wire fraud and identity scam are not Nigerians. 

For Nigerians who are doing legitimate businesses across the world and trying to make an impact in diverse industries, this is a major setback since they are often profiled as criminals even before they are interacted with. 

Most of us who travel around the world have had one or two experiences where we have been treated in some particular way just because of our nationality.

Things do not have to be like this. With deliberate planning and careful execution, the Nigeria of today can turn the corner and be the country of our dreams.

Cities like New York, Dubai, Hong Kong, and London – which many of us look up – were not always like this. 

In fact, New York in 1975 was such a bad destination for tourists that airlines chose to land in other US cities.

Violence and crime were so rampant in the city that citizens were advised by the authorities not to take the subway after 6pm.  The City of Fear they called it. Its economy was bad and unemployment was at an all time high. So much that the city’s Mayor had to apply for a bailout from the Gerald Ford federal government in Washington DC – the application was declined. 

So what saved New York City?

A concerted effort by the City’s administrators, private sector players, and all citizens to project New York in the best possible light and highlight the best the city has to offer.

This is in stark contrast to stories of crime, violence, workers strikes, murders, and infrastructure decay which has emanated from the city in the years and months prior. 

Almost immediately the ‘I love New York’ campaign launched in 1976, the city saw a jump in the number of tourists and that number kept growing over the years.

Decades later, New York continues to be the toast of the United States of America with its fortunes almost permanently reversed for the better. 

With a well-planned Communication for Development campaign, Nigeria can also overcome its present battered image. The government must commit to a holistic campaign that deliberately projects its best to the world. 

The 2006 World Congress on Communication for Development described the concept as ‘a social process based on dialogue using a broad range of tools and methods.

It is also about seeking change at different levels including listening, building trust, sharing knowledge and skills, building policies, debating and learning for sustained and meaningful change’. 

Communication for Development is one way to amplify voice, facilitate meaningful participation, and foster social change. 

Statements like the one made my President Muhammadu Buhari describing Nigeria’s young people in the most uncomplimentary of terms are as damaging to its image as that of a ‘Yahoo-Yahoo’ individual swindling others to get money. 

Beyond the government, every citizen must take it as a duty to project the best of the country and be ready to defend its integrity as citizens. 

As we celebrate another year of uninterrupted democracy, let us volunteer to be part of this movement to communicate to the world the things that make us excel. 


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