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‘Mindshift Advocacy set to generate new mindset for all Nigerians’

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Joko Okupe


Trained in Lagos and South Africa, Joko Okupe has spent the last 30 years of his rigorous professional life in Advertising, Brand Management and Business Strategy Consulting. He has also worked in various frontline Ad Agencies across the country and has ventured as well into entrepreneurship, running various Brand Marketing businesses. Today, this temperamentally calm and patriotic Nigerian is set to move into another type of brand focused project. He is unveiling an ambitious national initiative to comprehensively shift the mindset of Nigerians to aid national development. In this chat, Joko Okupe reveals the spirit behind his Mindshift Advocacy for Development Initiative and how he plans to elevate the thought processes guiding every Nigerian to a more patriotic and productive level.

As a brand consultant, how would you describe the Nigerian brand?
It might be a bit complex in responding effectively to this question, Let us look at branding from two perspectives – the internal and the external angles. Then we can also look at parameters for measuring nations’ reputation and value, before we can draw some conclusions on the Nigerian brand. Starting the examination of brand Nigeria internally, it is essentially the citizens who are the stakeholders and there are about six parameters on which a nation brand can be assessed even from this angle. One key yardstick is governance.How would you rate the level of competence, fairness, impact, orderliness and transparency of governance in Nigeria? At various times, both the internal public and even those watching externally have expressed high level of dissatisfaction. How satisfactory has our Government’s response to global issues been in the last few years? Another indicator is the publics’ image of the quality standards of our exports. How many products from our shores have really attained that enviable international or global status in standard and acceptance? Looking at the global index of brands, where have we registered our presence?

Next is tourism, which is another parameter on assessing a nation’s brand index, we may want gauge the level of foreigners’ interest or desire in visiting our country and the attractiveness of natural and man-made tourist attractions, be it conferences, sports, leisure etc. Obviously, security, infrastructure, understanding and warmth of the citizens are vital in eliciting this interest and attraction. Where does Nigeria stand here? We are making progress but still far behind. Another yardstick is investment and immigration. What is our capacity to attract people from other countries to live, work or invest in Nigeria? Millions of people get attracted to live, work and invest in America, South Africa, Europe, etc. for obvious reasons. How many foreigners have shown anything close to such level of interest in Nigeria? Quality of life is another key parameter. How does the world measure the quality of life in our country? On global ratings, Nigeria has one of the lowest quality of life. Another yardstick is culture and heritage, which rates the global perception of a country’s contemporary culture. I must note that our entertainment and music sectors have achieved giant and commendable strides here, but how much support are they getting to maximize impact?

The last parameter is People, which assesses the reputation of the country’s citizens’ for competence, openness, friendliness, tolerance and other positive attributes that engender them to foreigners. If you examine all these collectively, you will not need a soothsayer to foretell to you that brand Nigeria is in a serious predicament. Yes, there are huge potentials for Nigeria to be healthy and rank very high, but a lot of work must be done. In the past, various Governments have engaged in different campaigns to change citizens’ attitudes and shore up Nigeria’s brand image, but we cannot confidently say those efforts have been fruitful. Can we?

What were those specific factors that made these campaigns not to succeed?
The real challenge with all these campaigns is that the Government always assumes that they understand the way the minds of the people are working and all the challenges citizens face. In most under-developed or developing nations like ours, Governments do not utilize the tool of research meaningfully to understand what the real issues are and be appropriately guided in their communication with the people. Government communications needs to be more strategic. The problem of the people in Adamawa may not be the same as those in Lagos or Osun. This is a nation with great diversity and complexities. Government cannot meaningfully begin to do any reorientation of the citizens without adequate information and insight into the mindset of the citizens in various regions.

The approach cannot be a one cap fits all. Most of these campaigns have not really succeeded, because most of these campaigns lacked in-depth research-based understanding of the current status of various stakeholder groups before implementation. So, there was no solid empirical foundation upon which these campaigns were predicated. As a result of these, there were many wrong deductions. Government was not able to deduce what the real issues were to be able deal with them meaningfully. A lot of these campaigns were also very sectional and not all inclusive in approach.

Nigeria has a majority of youthful population and it is estimated that those below the age of 35 years constitute the largest segment of about 60 per cent. What has Government done to scientifically deduce how various age groups think and their grouse about our governance structure? Before these campaigns commenced, how had Government motivated the citizens to buy into the campaign and how have they carried the citizens along? There is also citizens’ apathy towards government because of the credibility gap between what Government says and what its representatives do. Credibility has been lost because citizens have seen too many of those in government not living by example. Another problem is that none of these efforts have been sustained in thinking and execution. Each new government discards previous campaigns and introduces a fresh campaign.

The lack of continuity and consistency makes it difficult for the campaigns to gather the required momentum for maximum effectiveness. There are strategic approaches and processes that must be followed for any campaign effort to be effective, impactful and successful. We should also ask ourselves, have these efforts halted the decay in our society? Have they brought about any appreciable improvement or change in attitude of the citizens? Obviously not. Corruption and other vices seem to be on the increase. This present Government seems to be making efforts in the right direction at fighting corruption but there are also major credibility gaps that make the citizens skeptical. Our reputation has inflicted huge collateral damages on us as a country and on our people. So when you go outside the country as a Nigerian, you are an object of suspicion and ridicule. Obviously it is time we changed the approach because they are clearly not working.

The great scientist, Albert Einstein once said that the world we created is a product of our thinking and that world cannot be changed, without us changing our thinking. According to him, we cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them. This higher thinking capacity will necessitate a different pattern of thinking and mindset, simply put, we would require mind shift. This is why we advocate for a mind shift as the solution. The number one strategic tool for meaningful transformation is to change how we think.

You said there is solution, and you mentioned the alternative of a Mindshift. What is this mindshift initiative all about?
Mindshift Advocacy for Development Initiative was birthed out of the vision and understanding that whatever we have become, whether as individuals, society or nation, is directly as a result of how we think. The bible says that “as a man thinks in his heart so he is or becomes.” So if we understand that, we should all advocate for a mind shift or a shift in how we think. So, the Mindshift Advocacy is actually focused on shifting mindsets from negative to positive. It is a non-governmental and non-partisan organization, focused on redirecting the mindset of Nigerians from negative, unproductive & unprogressive mindsets to positive, productive and progressive mindsets. A destructive person has a destructive mindset and a destructive thinking pattern. There is so much capacity in the power of the mind that the way and manner that the mind is directed, determines the outcome of a man’s action. When you look at the great nations of the world, you will discover that their people have mindsets of greatness. The average Nigerian’s mindset is anti-progress and anti-development. How can we have progress and development when majority of our citizens have the wrong mindset? We cannot achieve any meaningful transformation without a re-orientation of the citizens’ mindsets. Even when Government decides to run a campaign on changing attitudes, the success will depend on whether the mindsets of the citizens have changed or not. We cannot but pay attention to how people think. We must have that clear understanding. That essentially is the crux of the Mindshift Advocacy.

We know that government already has a national agency, the National Orientation Agency that is expected to guide Nigerians to think differently, what is the difference in what the Mindshift Advocacy is offering from what NOA is established to do?
The average Nigerians perceives NOA as a mouthpiece of government and as such view it with suspicion and cynicism, there is great limitation to what NOA can achieve with its mandate. The success or failure of NOA’s efforts is also a mindset issue. The citizens have a mindset of cynicism to Government’s campaigns. That mindset also needs to be shifted. Governments need to work to shift the citizens’ mindset that government is always grandstanding. That is how Nigerians think today. So, NOA and government have a responsibility to do a Mindshift for the citizens.

Citizens also have a mindset too that politicians mean no good for the generality of citizens and are just after their pockets. Politicians and those in Government have a wrong mindset about service to the people. They have a mindset that they are Lords over the people that elected them to serve. So, as a nation and a people, we have a wrong mindset on service. If we have the right mindset, we will understand that whoever is in any position is there through the power and authority of the people. A man who wants to serve you cannot and should never pay you to employ him. This is a mind shift that voters need to have. So, we have mindset crises everywhere. The few people with the right mindset can rarely make quality impact. Most people in government feel they do not need to be accountable. Public service has become transactional. There are so many mindsets to be shifted if we must make progress. The Mindset Advocacy would be involved in so many action-oriented initiatives. It will not just be about talk. As a nation, we are addicted to lies and falsehood but allergic and averse to the truth. This mindset must be shifted.
With the picture you have painted about these two groups of people – the electorates and the elected, if the electorates are docile, how will Mindshift Advocacy solve these problems? What gives you the confidence that this advocacy effort will solve these highlighted challenges?

It is all a matter of approach and method. Our initiatives would be determined by research and insight. There is a reason or rationale behind every mindset. How much have we researched into why we behave the way we do?. Why do we think the way we do? We will make efforts to dig into the foundation to understand the issues and gain necessary insights before we develop initiatives. A man whose mind is conditioned to darkness tends to acclimatize to the situation and live it. People’s eyes can only be opened through enlightenment which will serve as an illumination to the thick, engulfing darkness and ignorance around us.

Adequate exposure to realities will compel to see and think differently. If we continue at the current pace, we are definitely on a suicide mission as a nation, though we may be fully aware of this.

What are those Indices of development that can help brand Nigeria benchmark herself with other countries and be motivated to shift minds?
We must know that brands are built from inside out. Let us look inwards. How do we relate with ourselves as a people? Basically our national motor says unity and faith, peace and progress. Without peace, obviously there can’t be progress. Do we really know what peace is?
Delai Lama said “Peace is when people can resolve their conflict without violence and can work together to improve the quality of their lives”. If those in government cannot understand this basic principle, a lot of things will go wrong as they have been. Peace is also when everyone has a fair and equal access to the basic needs of their wellbeing; when everyone is allowed to participate in decision making in the country and the government is accountable to the people as they serve. Most of our leaders have self-seeking mindsets. They banter words like national peace in the air, even when people live daily under the fear of insecurity and violence from crime. As citizens and as Government, we cultivate, condone and foster acts that are against national peace. There are no structures to protect the right of the ordinary Nigerian, though we profess that everyone is equal before the law. Our citizens and Leadership do not seem to understand the basic principles of peace. Let us ask ourselves: Is Nigeria really structured for peace? Without peace, there cannot be development.

So, is benchmarking ourselves with other countries is quite relevant for the success of this nindshift campaign?
Of course! Nigeria cannot exist in isolation. We exist among other nations of the world. So whether we like it or not, others will relate with us a member of the Global Community. In the book, Why Nations Fail, the authors attempt to unravel the reasons why some nations are rich and others poor; why nations are divided by wealth and poverty, health and sickness, food and famine. Their conclusion was that man-made political and economic institutions determine the economic success or failure of nations.

So when those man-made institutions do not support development and growth, it will not happen. We cannot close our eyes to other nations and refuse to compare ourselves objectively side-by-side other nations. Our failure to be introspective as a nation, has made us indolent and laid back and nations that were far behind us, have all overtaken us. Development is not really about building roads and bridges. It starts from the mind of the people thinking growth, development and progress. Regrettably the average Nigerian mindset is anti-growth and anti-development. If we understand the fact that those in Government are drawn out from amongst the people, then we would take the issue of mindshift of our citizens seriously, otherwise, Government will always be a reflection of people with the wrong mindsets. The outcomes are obvious.

So as we benchmark other climes, what step can we effectively take to be on this path of development and growth path?
The global competitiveness index identifies three types or levels of economies; factor-driven economies, efficiency-driven economies and innovation-driven economies. There are basic pillars that constitute each level.

For the factor-driven economy which outlines the basic requirements for every economy, the first pillar is well functioning public and private institutions. Second is appropriate infrastructure, third is stable micro-economic environment and the fourth pillar is good health and primary education. Can we say Nigeria has fulfilled the pillars of this basic level? The answer is obvious.

Next to this is the efficiency-driven economies where there are six pillars of efficiency enhancers. Those pillars include good higher education and training. Please note that you must have attained a good primary education structure. The next is efficient goods market, followed by an efficient labour market, a developed financial market, technological in terms of ability to fully harness existing technologies. Please let us note that this will be greatly influenced by the state of infrastructure. The final pillar here is domestic and international market size. Let’s do an objective assessment of our performance in these pillars.

The final stage is the innovation-driven economy which consists of just two pillars of innovation and sophistication factors. The first pillar here is business sophistication which is the level of production of new and different goods using sophisticated production processes and the last pillar here is innovation. As a nation, we are still struggling with meeting up with the basic requirements sub index, but we are making efforts at jumping to the levels of the higher economies. No matter how rich or influential you are, you cannot make your wife conceive and give birth in two months. Going through the nine month cycle, whether in the womb or in an incubator cannot be short circuited. There is no short cut to development, but we can fast track the process. Trying to circumvent the processes is an exercise in futility. This principle also applies to nation-building.

Obviously this will affect our level of FDI and how outsiders look at our brands.Of course, no country will push any reasonable investment in another country without adequate due diligence to check these parameters. Most of our decisions, even as individuals, are taken based on perceptions. Sometimes, when you have taken some actions based on perceptions, you later discover that the realities are different and your decisions were wrong, because the reality confronting you is a far cry from your earlier perception. But the fact remains that the actions have been taken. So we live our lives on perceptions. By extension nations, people, collectively deal and relate with us based on the perception they have of us. When you discover that people have wrong perceptions of you, there are ways you begin to do things to correct those perceptions. But in our case in Nigeria, we often times act to reinforce those negative perceptions. However, there are still many upright Nigerians home and abroad and even in Government circles. They may be very few but they sure do exist. These form the beacon of hope that all is not lost after all. No matter how bad the situation may be, there is still room for recovery, if we have the will to reflect, rethink and do different.

This project sounds quite humongous, how will you fund it?
It is like the popular story of the mountain of pounded yam in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart that was eventually leveled by the villagers by each villager eating little portions one at per time until the mountain was leveled. A Chinese proverb says a journey of a thousand miles starts with a step. If it has taken us this long to get here, we will not fix it overnight. It’s a collective step by step movement and we will fix the problem. There are also donor organizations globally that are positively inclined to invest in our kind of initiatives, we will partner with them. It’s not all about money. It’s about collaborations and partnerships. Everyone who has a stake in the Nigeria Project should be interested in this initiative. As experience has shown, the problems not tackled promptly and decisively will grow to become monsters that will consume us all someday and we sure do have many monsters to tame and kill, if need be.

When will we see this movement you are championing on ground?
We are having a Media Presentation on Thursday, October 17, 2019. It is basically a media launch to sensitize the media, collaborators, prospective partners and the general public to be aware of the initiative and to elicit support because we cannot do this alone. We also know that there are very many bodies and associations that have similar visions which they may not have accomplished much due to various solo efforts. So, we hope to aggregate similar minds for higher momentum. It is not going to be just about money. Nigerians mouth revolution but this is farfetched, because a situation that is a source of pain to some people is a source of benefit to others. So a mass uprising in form of a revolution may not feasible soon. Why do people celebrate when their relatives get political appointments? It is the mindset that this is time for them to have their own share of the national cake. When the table shifts they fight, grumble and complain. Corruption is fighting back. Unfortunately since the system does not punish misdemeanor, these negative attitudes persist. In the same vein, good conduct is not rewarded so the upright ones are castigated and discouraged. We are at a level where doing the wrong thing is right and vice-versa. Things must not and cannot remain this way. This is the essence of the Mindshift Advocacy.

To develop any system or environment you must first develop the mind. A Philosopher, Late Prof. Sophie Oluwole, used to say that ‘development is fundamentally mental’. The power of the mind is real. We advocate for a mind shift amongst Nigerians to birth a truly new Nigeria for the good of us all.


In this article:
Joko Okupe
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