How IPI World Congress can change Nigeria’s reputation, by Iredia
• We are all victims of Nigeria’s image deficit
Nation branding is usually a long-term project that outlives the government of the day, and it is not government’s project alone, hence a strong public-private partnership is key for its success. So far, about three governments’ branding projects failed to yield desired results in the past. The first was the unconscious Giant of Africa project proposed during the Yakubu Gowon era. It was an Afro-centric proposition focused on foreign policy. The second was Heart of Africa project, which started during the second coming of Olusegun Obasanjo and was a conscious proposition, global in nature and more of a derivative of economic and investment policy. The third was Good People, Great Nation project, which started during the Musa Yar’Adua era, as a national reorientation campaign to address observed negatives and get the world to see Nigeria differently, positively.
However, the International Press Institute, a global network of journalists, editors and media executives, with the sole mission of defending media freedom and the free flow of news, is bringing its annual congress to Nigeria for the first time. As the world prepares to converge on Abuja for the world’s biggest media event, Nigerians have been advised to maximise the opportunity and showcase the country’s positive potential to the world.
Ahead of the congress, scheduled to hold from June 21 through 23, Chairman, Committee on Publicity for the congress, Dr. Tonnie Iredia, a former Director General of Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), paid a courtesy visit to Rutam House, The Guardian, in Lagos. Iredia and his team were on a reach out programme to engage the media on the world congress, and urged the press to give it first-class publicity by preparing Nigerians ahead.
Iredia stressed that the congress would be a perfect opportunity to help change the negative mindset of the international community towards Nigeria, saying, “Media should tap into the opportunity it would offer Nigeria to project herself to the international community in a very positive way. We consider this event very important because of the subsisting perception of Nigeria in the international community. We are all victims of the image deficit that the nation has.”
He lamented that Nigerian journalists have continued to grumble and question foreign media, which project Nigeria in bad light, and tasked them to use the opportunity of the conference to change the narratives, adding. “It is our duty to offer the positives. My contention has always been that Nigeria is the leading nation in the world in terms of neighbourliness, and there lies our strength. The narrative should change by us blowing our trumpets a little bit in order to project us in the correct perspective. We need to showcase our development projects to these foreign media.”
He cited examples of the help Nigeria rendered to Liberia and Sierra Leone during their civil wars, and said they were not propagated.
About 300 foreign delegates and four head of states are expected at the event, Iredia said, adding, “The people coming are coming with apprehension because of the negative things they have heard about Nigeria. We want them to get to know positive things because all they know is negative things; so, it is like image-making for Nigeria.”
He chided the media for being megaphones of politicians rather than setting agenda for them. Iredia said The Guardian, being a private business, is better positioned to doing things the right way as against government=owned media houses.
“The concept of government control is a myth that was drawn up by journalists themselves. The real problem in media practice is self-censorship. I remember when I was still DG; I invited all the political parties to our political programmes on NTA, but surprisingly, the opposition parties refused, and even NTA staff would fret that the government would be unhappy.
“Journalists are too scared of this job. They need to be encouraged to rise up to the challenge. Why can’t the owner of a hospital decide for the doctors how many injections to give a sick patient like the media owners decide for the editors the content? In some cases, even when the editor says ‘no,’ his colleagues would suggest his removal to the owners, saying they can do the job better. We are the ones destroying this profession!”
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