BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE
DISTURBED by the slow pace of development and Nigeria’s negative image abroad, some eminent Nigerians have proffered suggestions on how to shore up the country’s imag e.
The suggestions include tackling graft, providing social amenities and improving the standard of living of the citizenry.
Among those, who spoke on the issue are Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe, Director General of the National Lottery Commission, Mr. Peter Igho and former Delta State Chairman of the National Republican Convention (NRC),Chief Austin Nonyelim Izagbo (Ph.D).
They spoke at the 60th birthday ceremony of Izagbo and the presentation of Izagbo’s boo: “Re-branding Nigeria: Leadership and the national Image Project” held in Lagos, weekend.
Apart from corruption, poor management of resources and insecurity, Orubebe, who chaired the event identified sycophancy as one of the greatest challenges to the socio-economic and political development of Nigeria.
Problem of sycophancy: According to Orubebe, our leaders are often times misadvised and misdirected because 99 per cent of those who approach them are sycophants, who hardly tell them the truth.
Orubebe, who alongside other eminent Nigerians showered tributes on Izagbo said that his book came at an auspicious time. “There is no president or governor who would say that things should not move forward in the country. The problem is the people around them, who don’t advise them well. I have observed that 99 per cent of people who approach our presidents and governors are sycophants and praise singers. Let us be frank with our leaders to get us out of where we are today.”
On Izagbo, the minister said his book was a testimony of his desire “for a better Nigeria, for our people and generations yet unborn. Your political efforts and service over the years to mankind, tell the story of a leader with a difference, filled with passion and humility. T
“he book ‘Re-branding Nigeria’ could not have come at a better time than now. It is apt and thought-provoking, a ready tool for ready minds to produce the Nigeria of our dreams.” The book reviewer, Peter Igho, took a cue from Orubebe and concurred that our leaders were surrounded by sycophants.
He disclosed that but for the good counsel of Orubebe, the lottery commission, which he said had yielded about N95 billion for the government would not have been established. According to him, when the President was wrongly informed about what the lottery body stood for and he was about moving against it, Orubebe intervened, “that is why we have the National Lottery Commission today.”
Reviewing the 232-page book, Igho eulogised Izagbo, describing him “as an amiable person, who loves whatever he does whether in business or government with passion. He loves and cares for the country. He has enumerated the problems of the country and proffered solutions on what can be done to move the country forward .”
Tributes for Izagbo: Anchored by the trio of Sunny Irabor, Sylver Oforgu and AY with ageless musician, Onyeka Onwenu performing, the floodgates of encomiums were thrown open thereafter. Among those, who paid glowing tributes to Izagbo at the event and elsewhere were Delta State Governor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan; former Military Administrator of Delta State, Air Commodore Ibrahim Kefas (rtd); former Inspector General of Police, Mike Okiro; Delta State House of Assembly Speaker, Rt. Hon Victor Ochei, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa; Hon Godwin Ndudi Elumelu; Princess Pat Ajudua; and Obuzor of Ibusa, HRH Obi (Prof) L.C. Nwoboshi among others.
Felicitating with Izagbo, the Delta Speaker said he had “continued to live a purpose-driven life anchored on selfless service to humanity,” adding that the celebrant’s 60th birthday celebration was a foundation for greater achievements.
Wishing Izagbo more years of celebration on behalf of himself, his family, government and people of Delta State, Governor Udaughan said it was remarkable that within a short space of time, Izagbo had packed so much into his sojourn on earth. “You have traversed various fields: the academia, politics, business, sports, voluntary organisations, among others. Interestingly, you are still going very strong and carrying on with so much energy and vivacity that youths would envy.”
On his part, Senator Okowa said Izagbo had distinguished himself in many areas as an “accomplished and charismatic leader, consummate sports administrator, astute manager sitting on the board of many companies, political strategist, a positive thinker and an irrepressible advocate of good governance.”
Speaking at the event, Izagbo thanked all for their support and words of endearment. He thanked Air Commodore Kefas “who discovered me and gave me a chance to serve” noting that “people call me deputy governor in Delta. I was never a deputy governor but I was a commissioner, who had the ears of the military administrator, Kefas”
Why I wrote the book – Izagbo
In a chat with Vanguard, Izagbo said his experience in government and business, having served as a commissioner in Delta State and led a political party ( NRC) in the state, influenced his writing the book, which he believes could help revamp the country.
Need for national rebirth: The author sees re-branding as “nation-building, national development or economic development” and insists that as a nation Nigeria is in dire need of national rebirth. “Poor infrastructure, a collapsing educational sector, a deeply fractured political arrangement and growing state of insecurity (worsened by the Boko Haram insurgency in the North and resurgent militancy in the Niger Delta), all combine to create an unacceptably poor image of our country, both locally and internally,” he lamented.
Drawing examples from the branding initiatives of countries such as Singapore, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Australia, Ghana and South Africa, Izagbo said Nigeria could be successfully re-branded and put on the path of recovery.
He said: “Building national trust and entrenching a system of visionary leadership would go a long way in positioning the country to achieve an important level of development and transformation necessary for uplifting our image locally and internationally.
Public service reforms: Furthermore, public service reforms, building solid knowledge economy base, pursuing a foreign policy of reciprocity that regards the entire world as its centre-piece without losing sight of our national interests would eventually build the kind of trust and recognition that we seek from the rest of the world.
“On the way to realizing our ultimate objectives, the nation, its successive governments and people would consciously pursue a programme of moral and ethical rearmament; harnessing our cultural artefacts and tourism potentials would further heighten our collective prospects for international respect and income. It is only when this is done that we can actually be seen as ‘Good People, Great Nation.”