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At alumni lecture, stakeholders canvass total makeover to rebrand Nigeria

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Head, Editorial Board of The Guardian, Mr. Martins Oloja; Associate Professor from University of Winchester, Dr. Oluyinka Esan and Chief Executive Officer, Modion Communications, Mr. Odio Aleobua during the third Distinguished Lecture Series of University of Lagos Mass Communication Alumni Association (UMCAA) held recently in Lagos


Speakers and panelists at the third Distinguished Lecture Series of University of Lagos Mass Communication Alumni Association (UMCAA) have proposed that Nigeria be renamed the Republic of Songhai as the current name inherited from the colonial masters does not inspire historical linkage and leadership of the African continent and that the brand Nigeria must be treated as a consumer brand to be relevant. The event, which held in Lagos last week had as theme ‘Brand Nigeria: Ignite!’
 
Guest Speaker, Prof. Akin Oyebode, noted that the question of whether the Nigerian brand should ignite is neither here nor there, as “we need to ensure and promote good governance, rule of law, economic development and social equity.”Oyebode, a constitutional lawyer, added that the country needed a new name and map that will, in turn, give Nigerians a sense of nationhood. He said, “At independence, Kwame Nkrumah changed Gold Coast to Ghana. He also changed the country’s flag. We should also continue to sustain the love and interest of those who love and show regard for us.”He lamented Nigeria’s poor image rating on the global stage, adding that the country even fails to organise something as commonplace as election with people dying.
 
According to him, “I was an observer in Madagascar for the presidential elections. We didn’t see soldiers at the polling booths; we saw policemen, not with any guns and the elections went on well.“Most youths today are disillusioned or alienated. If you go to any of the consulates around Victoria Island, you will see long lines of Nigerians looking for visas and you ask them what they are going to do and they tell you anywhere abroad is better than whatever is available here.” 
 
Chairman of the occasion, Sir Steve Omojafor, who is also Chairman of STB Mccann, said three past governments had attempted to brand Nigeria, with the latest coming from Buhari’s government – ‘The Change Begins With Me’ campaign. He said, “I kept wondering, ‘what is this change?’ Now it is the ‘Next level’ mantra and I also asked, ‘what level they are talking about?’”
 
The panelists, Associate Professor from University of Winchester, Dr. Oluyinka Esan, Head, Editorial Board of The Guardian, Mr. Martins Oloja, and Chief Executive Officer, Modion Communications, Mr. Odio Aleobua argued that rebranding Nigeria must require deliberate efforts.
 
For Esan, rebranding Nigeria would not happen by slogan, but through a deliberate and coordinated effort.She said, “Just like the Integrated Marketing Communication model which expects that each communication tool within the entire marketing programme must work together, we must also start thinking about the younger ones. Young people have been ignored. Nobody is checking what stories the children are being told. So we need to check the stories being told; we need to check our folklores, study what ethnicity and religion says, study those things that have been hijacked to divide us and see how they can be used to bring us together.”
 
Oloja stressed the need for a nexus between qualitative investment in education and effective rebranding of the Nigeria. According to him, countries like U.S., China, South Korea, South Africa invest quality funds in their education sector, adding that South Korea also invests in the knowledge economy. He stated that one could not rebrand when they have not rebranded themselves, adding that Nigeria is not yet even a brand to be rebrand.
 
According to him, South Africa has Shoprite, Qatar has Aljeazeera and Qatar Airlines. South Africa is even the only African country that is a member of (BRICS) – that is Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. He added that Nigeria must change her perception management attitude, adding that it is unfortunate that suspending and arraigning the Chief Justice of Nigeria before a tribunal a day before elections was not a good image for the country. 
 
Aleobua stressed the need to align with the understanding that a ‘Brand is a Promise’ and that slogans and logos are mere expressions of the promise. According to him, “The brand Nigeria must be reformed and restructured to ensure that these promises are relentlessly adhered to no matter whose ox is gored.     
 
“The police convoys cannot be driving on our roads, intimidating road users with impunity or maltreating young people in the street without consequences, or not responding speedily to distress calls and the government goes ahead and launches a campaign that we are a ‘Great People, Great Nation’.”
 
Aleobua further stressed that Nigeria must invest in research and development (R&D), adding, “Apple Corporation is estimated to have spent $14.7 billion on R&D in 2018, almost 50 per cent of Nigeria’s 2018 annual budget. We also need to invest in education and employability vocational interventions to transform our population to millions of world class talents.” 
 
President of UMCAA, Vincent Oyo asked, “What is Nigeria and who is a Nigerian in the 21st Century? How can you identify a Nigerian? What should be the attitude of the Nigerian to Nigeria and things that may be considered to be Nigerian? What are, or should be the attributes of Nigeria and Nigerians? What is the Nigerian national character? Does this national character project a positive or negative image?
  
“But more importantly, what are the aspirations of Nigeria? Are they aspirations of unity, harmony, dedication to inter-African solidarity, world peace, international cooperation and understanding, provision of good government and welfare of Nigerians, and the principles of freedom, equality and justice as obtains in the preamble of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution adequate? But more importantly, how do we operationalise the aspirations of Brand Nigeria that we all aspire to? These are just a few of the issues that may be considered in determining what manner of brand Nigeria is, and how to activate it.”A book Research Methods in Communication & Media Studies was also launched as the climax of the event.


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Akin OyebodeUMCAA
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