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Experts advocate public-private partnerships for nation branding


Mr. Steve Babaeko

• Buhari is a failure as Nigeria’s Number One Brand Ambassador
In view of recent developments and their dramatic political import for the country, it would appear that those saddled with leadership positions have thrown caution to the wind. The recent incident at the National Assembly clearly ridicules the country before the international community. About two years ago, President Muhammadu Buhari launched Change Begins With Me campaign, which was aimed at achieving a paradigm shift in the way Nigerians behave and do things; it was geared towards achieving attitudinal change to usher a new dawn for the country.

However, Experts in the branding and marketing business had argued that the Change Begins With Me campaign would fail like past efforts, given government’s pedigree and how it handled all past branding efforts. Their views were made known at various brainstorming sessions in seminars and workshops. In two of the campaign, their fears have become reality.

To some of them, government needs to know that branding is not a one-off campaign, but a continuous exercise that permeates the entire society, where every individual, organisation and other stakeholders must contribute.First, Nigeria ranks 136 out of 175 countries surveyed on the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index in 2017. According to a report by Ultrascan AGI, losses from scams originating from Nigeria totaled $12.7 billion in 2013. Nigeria ranked 36th out of 54 countries in overall governance with a score of 46.5 out of 100 in the 2016 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG). Nigeria currently ranks 127 in the Global Competitiveness Ranking. It is projected that Nigeria requires at least $2 trillion (N398.1 trillion) for infrastructure development over the next three decades.


Leaders are expected to be champions of any branding project by being the leading lights that must form the examples that others should copy and emulate, which would ensure that emotional appeals or demands on citizens are balanced with practical and demonstrable commitment of leaders on the project. Communication is critical to a nation-marketing project, as it ensures information reaches the right targets such as investment communities, multinational companies, business clubs and chambers of commerce and so on.

Experts argue that Nigeria must reinforce reputation with strong character and cultural connections, saying deliberate efforts must be made to amplify the gains already made with Nigerian music, movies, and literature that have gained appeal in many parts of the world. Technology incubation hubs must be encouraged and grown, they also suggest.

Former Director General of Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Dr. Tonnie Iredia, has advocated grassroots national orientation, with government ensuring that infrastructure is in place for all.“I think what the government does all the time is talking to itself,” he said. “It’s like preaching to yourself. All the time, they talk to people who have access to urban facilities, people who are employed, who can buy radios and television. The question is, what percentage of Nigerians fall into this class? If it is below average, then your policy cannot work.”

On whether Nigerian leaders are leading by example, Iredia said, “Nothing has changed; we are moving in circles. Even the drama is not new. When former Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, decamped in the National Assembly, it was not a problem. Why is Saraki’s case different? The Speaker didn’t lose his post for decamping. Why are they calling on the Senate President to resign? The constitution does not state that the Speaker or Senate President must belong to the ruling party. Why are they always arguing upside down, especially when it is not convenient for them?

“These same leaders said no Nigerian would have need to go abroad for medical care. Yet they are the ones traveling for medical attention. I’m not sure they are aware of the Change Begins With Me slogan. Unfortunately, when you argue like this, you sound like you are in the opposition party, and the opposition party is not better; its just that they are not in office. Nigerians did not give PDP their mandate; hence APC must be accountable to them. The political situation in the country is worsening.”

Iredia also said across board, Nigerians have not accepted the campaign. The result is that they still sell their votes, adding, “Has exam malpractice reduced? Are people given jobs on merit? Government needs to be sensitive to defend the in defendable.”

For branding expert, Mr. Muyiwa Kayode, branding a nation to greatness involves the successful branding of the three Ps: People, Places and Products: “What this basically entails is the application of the branding process to our identity as a people, our cities by way of destination branding, and our products as proudly Nigerian brands. If we are able to do these successfully, we shall be a great nation. It may not be as easy as it seems; for each component is a painstaking process requiring dogged commitment and detailed application.”


Kayode, however, laments, “Why should our president fly to the United Kingdom on vacation at a time I’m writing about the need to brand our cities as viable destinations for tourism and investment? When he is sick, he goes to the U.K. When he needs a vacation, he goes to the U.K. This is unacceptable. Our president at this time should be spending his vacation at Yankari Game Reserve. This will not only promote tourist destination but also prove to us that Bauchi is a safe place for vacation and show us that government’s efforts at restoring peace and security in every part of the country is achieving the desired results.

“Unfortunately, Baba (Buhari) decided to break our hearts once again by going to the U.K. on vacation. This is not fair. Our President is our Number One Brand Ambassador. He must therefore constantly express belief in everything Nigerian. He has the huge responsibility to lead a team that makes things work. If it will take ages for our hospitals to attain world class status, what about our tourism destinations? What Mr. President needs is a quiet time close to nature and we have numerous options for him within the borders of this huge country. Can you imagine the CEO of Pepsi publicly drinking a Coke? Or can you imagine the CEO of Samsung using an iPhone? Can you imagine the CEO of Guinness drinking a bottle of Star? Or vice versa? These things are anathema. And if brand managers have such religious commitment to their brands, why is it different with our leaders who have sworn to uphold our constitution?”

Marketing and public relations practitioners Lampe Omoyele and Bolaji Okusaga recently said corruption, poor leadership and infrastructure deficit have all combined to hamper the journey of Nigeria to becoming a viable brand, as a nation. As a matter of urgency, they stressed the need to search, identify and amplify Nigeria’s common purpose with a view to creating a uniform and consistent narrative around the Nigerian brand.


“For Nigeria to be truly successful in crafting a strategic positioning, a concerted unearthing of our shared values and amplification, not fabrication, of these truths in a manner that resonates with Nigerians is required,”Omoleye said. “This would involve engaging stakeholders in the Nigerian enterprise. Participation and conviction of the populace in the overall agenda of the country in manners where ideas are not just imposed on them but communicated as partners in progress is imperative.”

Nigeria has tried and failed in three previous branding projects. The first was Giant of Africa, which was an unconscious proposition during the Yakubu Gowon era. It was an Afro-centric proposition – more a derivative of the country’s foreign policy. The second was Heart of Africa project, which started during the second coming of 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 campaign, which started during the Yar’Adua era as a national reorientation campaign to address observed negatives and designed to get the world to see Nigeria differently, positively.

Branding analyst, Mr. Ikem Okuhu, said government must change its focus in rebranding Nigeria, as it was only selling a product that has not been created: “Nigeria is not even a house yet and we want to create a home,” he said. Okuhu said Nigeria needs to look inward and possible adopt India’s style of investing in the IT space. “India created a proposition known as Make in India, which is more of a message to the world that India does not even wish to be known as the country of brand origin.”
Managing Director, X3M Ideas, Steve Babaeko laments government’s inability to carry the advertising sector along in the project, saying, “The government failed to involve the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN) despite the proposal made to Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, from the outset of his appointment on the need to work closely with marketing professionals.”

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