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Identity Guard Commercial And Nigeria’s Image

By Bayo Olupohunda
20 December 2009   |   10:37 am
There seems to be no end in sight to the battered image Nigeria has suffered internationally with the release of another stereotype commercial in the United States targeting our country's infamous advanced fee fraud industry known as 419. The present commercials play on our Nigeria's perceived international reputation as scammers' haven. The commercial, released this week by Identity Guard, a United States Company safeguarding internet users in the US against online identity theft and currently playing on CBS, a frontline US television broadcast is also being circulated on the internet especially on You tube and other international television network.    

Here is the scenario: The commercial begins with a lady, supposedly from the US state of California, placing an online order for Houte Sandals. The commercial then proceeds to Lagos, Nigeria where it shows apparently a Nigerian man (and potential 419 fraudster?) reading "New Activity" online detailing the lady’s order, contact details, and credit card information. This man then hands off the details on paper to a boy who then runs quickly to hand off the paper to another man who goes on to "process" the details. The whole time, the video is obviously playing on the image of the stereotypical 419 fraudster from Nigeria.



This latest assault on our already battered image could also be considered a blow on the government’s rebranding campaign and is coming on the heels of the Neill Blomkamp movie District 9 which shows Nigerian prostitutes dating alien customers and the gang leader Obasanjo (the name of our former President) trying to cut off and eat the arm of the film’s protagonist.

District 9 expectedly drew the ire of Nigerians and the Federal Government banned the movie and labelled it racist. Already Sony Pictures Entertainment has apologised for its involvement in the movie after the harm has been done on Nigeria ‘s image. It is not clear what the reaction of the Nigerian government would be to this present Identity Guard commercials, currently the rave on TV across US and the internet.

With the release of this new Identity Guard commercial, it seems there is no end in sight to the continued image battering blitz from international media corporations, companies and individuals feasting on the reputation of Nigeria as a major fraud destination and hurting Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora. It is a pity that the activities of a minority who major in swindling unsuspecting and greedy foreigners have led us into this sorry pass.

The truth is that hardworking and honest Nigerians are hurt and deeply pained by this " Nigeria battering" that never seems to stop. Everyday, tales of Nigerians being humiliated and stripped in various international airports and border posts drive home the truth that something has to be done about our country’s image abroad and at home. But the fact is that what needs to be done is not the type of image laundering that is being wrongly spearheaded by our Minister of Information, Professor Dora Akunyuli. The present rebranding campaign has failed and will not stem the tide of the international battering of Nigeria ‘s image.

This rebranding campaign is a huge distraction to the real solutions that we need to put our country on the path of good governance which is presently lacking. Professor Dora Akunyuli is rebranding a country with broken infrastructure, a country that is one of the most willfully corrupt in the world. It needs not be emphasised that even ordinary Nigerians at home perceive the country’s leadership as equally corrupt.

This is a country where leaders deliberately plunder the country’s resources without recourse to ordinary citizens. Professor Akunyuli is rebranding a country based on a warped Federal System. How can we rebrand a country where the State House in Abuja is run on generator?

Nigeria has been without a president for close to a month now and a faceless cabal is presently running things. Only recently, The Guardian Newspaper reported that the country is said to be the butt of comic jokes in international engagements. Professor Dora Akunyuli should save herself this shadow-chasing and engage her colleagues in the task of rescuing this country from its journey to perfidy.