ByÂ OvuakporieÂ Efe
LIKE most Nigerians, I was jolted with the news about the botched Christmas day attempt to blow up a US transatlantic airline carrying about 300 passengers, but it was, however, more disturbing to learn of the identity of the terrorist. My immediate reaction was alas!, certainly, not now that we are frantically trying to re-brand and give our country a befitting image that would make Nigeria stand tall amongst the comity of nations.
I have never considered myself as a disciple of Prof Dora Akunyili a.k.a. Madam Re-branding and have never prayed to be sold out to her doctrine of â€œRe-branding Nigeria Campaignâ€ but nevertheless, I have keenly followed or should I say listened to her arguments on the necessity of re-branding Nigeria. My reason maybe to adequately equip myself to enable me pick holes in her arguments and join force with some Nigerians that have argued against her re-branding quest.
One of her strongest reasons is the challenge of correcting the poor image foisted upon Nigeria by the international community which, according to her, has been given flesh to by the bad behaviour of a few disgruntled elements both within and outside country. This negative perception about Nigeria is so strong that virtually every Nigerian is regarded as a potential fraudster or criminal.
There is no gain saying that the ignoble terrorist activities of Abdul Farouk Matallab, a seemingly innocent looking 23-year-old has no doubt put Nigeria on the map of terrorism and further smeared the image of the country and given us negative publicity more than words can ever describe.
The negative publicity generated by this ugly incident would remain with us for sometime unless something is urgently done to manage the image otherwise the success so far achieved would be a childâ€™s play.
But so far so good, I must sincerely commend Madam Re-branding for gallantly rising to the occasion. But for her quick intervention and pragmatism in the manner that she managed the information available about the terrorist attempt, looking at the countenance of President Obama, the US government may have descended on us by now. Akunyili has demonstrated a high level of information management in the way she has so far handled the issue; she has succeeded in deodorising the apparent rubbish or mess that Farouk Matallab has managed to put Nigeria into through his bad behaviour which she has always preached against.
As an information manager, the information minister saw the need to synergise and work closely with the security agencies, hence she was able to dazzle the world with her depth of knowledge. She immediately took charge and told the world that Abdulmatallabâ€™s father had as a matter of fact reported the uncomfortable behaviour of his son to the US Embassy in Abuja as well as to the Nigerian security agencies.
In as much as I have no moral justification to either hold brief for Abdul or even blame anybody, government or whatsoever forÂ Abdul’s foolishness, but suffice it to say that it is, however, gratifying and refreshing to note that President Barack Obama has blamed the bombing attempt on the US security agencies, describing it as a â€œhuman and systemic failureâ€ on the part of the security agencies.
It is very disheartening that despite the fact that information was promptly passed to the US intelligence officials, coupled with the fact that the CIA prepared a report, yet, the report was neither shared nor acted upon but instead it was set aside for God knows what until the botched Christmas day attempt.
Sincerely, I cannot say for sure what informed the US security resolve to treat security intelligence report with such levity but I cannot help but think that it was a deliberate attempt to play down on the capability of Nigeria to furnish them with adequate data for such an enormous task. This is in addition to the selfish motive not to acknowledge Nigeria with the source of the timely and intelligent information that would have helped in no small measure to nip this mess in the bud if it had been promptly acted upon.
According to available information, the family has attributed Abdul Matallabâ€™s radical behaviour to his contact with Britain. Although not explicitly stated, the young man had little or no Nigerian training which has further buttressed Prof Akunyiliâ€™s claim that our contact with foreign culture has in no small measure adulterated our indigenous cultural values and norms which frown at certain societal aspects that are today being celebrated worldwide.
Abdul was trained in the British education and culture both in his high school and university.
Although like most countries of the world Nigeria has its fair share of problems but I can proudly say that that definitely does not include terrorism. A typical Nigerian with the true Nigerian spirit and nature loves life too much to want to intentionally sacrifice his own life at the altar of heroism. Which brings me to another aspect of Madam Re-branding Nigeria campaign.
I have often heard her say that our contact with foreign culture had greatly corrupted our attitude; our indigenous tradition forbids certain behaviours that are in vogue today otherwise you would be instantly sanctioned and ostracised. She has often told of her personal experience as a young girl and how her grandmother severed her relationship with a certain young girl for the simple reason that either her great-grandparent or her grand parent stole a long time before she was born. She has often sermonised about the need for us to imbibe our indigenous positive cultural values and jettison foreign cultures that celebrate vices rather than virtues.
It is worthy of note that this is the first time that Nigeria was able to actually tell her story by herself which has empowered us to not only save our face but also enabled us to leave the ball at the feet of the US security agencies.
It takes only a good father to readily offer security information that could be detrimental to the life of his beloved child. This goes to underscore the fact that Nigerians are not only good people but also that Nigeria is a great nation. It is not in our character to cover up evil.
This development has further demonstrated that Nigeria and Nigerians are peace loving people. It is on records that Nigeria has fostered peace in Africa through various peace keeping missions.
Suffice it to say at this point that, despite our best intentions, bad things do happen even to the best brands. Even the best of brands may eventually start to smell over time. There are easy precautions that we can take in our efforts to slow these smells down, hence the need for us all to join hands with the Minister in her efforts at re-branding Nigeria.
Although, this measure would not eliminate all smells but the deodorant will give us more lead to deal with problems before they get out of hand.
Mr. Ovuakporie, a commentator on public issues, writes from Lagos.