By SUDHIR BISHT
EARTH is a shopping arcade and all nations are its decorated shops. Recently, the government of Nigeria launched a campaign that aims at wiping out the wrong image that some people propagate about the country. However, the exercise has drawn criticisms from some people. I have been living in Nigeria for some years now and I feel that the branding exercise is a step in the right direction.
I want to tell with full conviction that my support for the campaign is based on healthy logic and lengthy research. All nations need to be branded because they compete with one another for several things. If the world has become a global market, then the nations are the brands that compete with one another to get the highest television rating points (TRPs) on this amazing television that this globe is. Nations must compete to get the maximum hits in the world of internet marketing and all nations must vie with one another to get the maximum footfalls in the crowded shopping mall that planet earth represents.
It is impossible to achieve the maximum TRPs, the most hits and the highest footfalls if you arenâ€™t a brand. A place in the UN security council, a seat in the elite G-20, a status of Most Favoured Nation (MFN) with other nations are some of the positions for which nations compete with one another, knowing or unknowingly, consciously or unconsciously. Nations compete for foreign investments, for foreign tourists and launch campaigns to imbibe a sense of confidence and goodness among its own citizenry. This is what precisely the â€œGood people, Great Nationâ€ campaign aims to achieve.
Different nations have tried to brand themselves differently. Looking at the slogans that have come to be associated with these countries, let me say here that these themes started as a ploy to attract tourists and travellers but soon became the faces of their respective nations.
So you have Malaysia which is â€œTruly Asiaâ€; Croatia is â€œThe Mediterranean As it Once Wasâ€.Â Kenya is the â€œMagical Kenyaâ€. Thailand is â€œAmazing Thailandâ€. And Senegal is â€œThe Land of Terangaâ€. It is always â€œThink Venezuela.â€ Romania is always â€œSimply Surprisingâ€.Â South Africa is always â€œAlive with Possibilitiesâ€ and India is now â€œIncredible India.â€
So is it not time that Nigeria also gets a slogan? But most detractors of Nigeria have always been calling it a land of corruption, a land of people who make a living out of Yahoo scams. The propaganda has been horrible that I am afraid that even the average Nigerian has come to believe it! So it is very timely on the part of the Nigerians to say, â€œHey guys, stop painting us in such bad light.
We are good people and a great nationâ€. This I believe is the right branding strategy for the time being. Let us take a hypothetical case to know how important branding is for a nation. Imagine that a large food processing company targets the West African market to set up a huge factory to cater to the growing demand in the region.
As there is an ECOWAS treaty among the countries in West Africa, the stuff produced will attract zero import duty if it is manufactured in Nigeria and is exported to any of the ECOWAS nations. The market is largest in Nigeria and the cost of moving goods from factory to the markets would be lower if the factory were in Nigeria. So it is very easy to say that the company would set up its manufacturing base in Nigeria. The truth however is that the company may choose to go to Ghana.
Why, you may ask? Why not? The manufacturer would tell you. It is a matter of image. People perceive Ghana as a more stable country. Nigeria is perceived to be a nation where thefts, robberies, day-light murders are common place. Foreigners have this image butÂ this image is not formed from any research. It is based upon media reports and is a product of collective lamentations of Nigeriaâ€™s own children about how bad their country is!
The image that goes around in everyoneâ€™s mind isÂ that Nigeria is a country where ten fraudulent activities take place every two seconds, where billions of Naira are spent on maintenance and upkeep of roads that exist only on paper, where pothole filling passes for borehole digging, where contractors use one part cement and mix it with ten parts of sand to build the housing complexes and where every e-mail offer that comes to your inbox is 419!
There canâ€™t be better theme than â€œGood People, Great Nationâ€Nigeria is a nation of honest, sincere and hard working people. In my four years in Lagos and around, I have roamed around everywhere. I have been to the Seme Border and the Idiroko Border.
I have been to Ajah and I have been to Epe. I have slept in Ijebu Ode and I have played in Agoshasha. I have been to Abule Egba, Abule Taylor, Shasha, Aguda, Ijebu Mushin, Siun junction, Ikorodu, Ejigbo, Mosimi, Pagbon, Adatan and Lafenwa. I have been to Ajegunle and I have been to Ijanikin. I have moved around in Okada, in a yellow taxi and in my new cool Toyota. I havenâ€™t felt one bit unsafe anywhere.
Well, I have felt unsafe in Lagos as the daylight begins to fade but I have felt the same way in many other nations! I have gone about being myself here in Nigeria, just as I did in India. In a fearless and ethical manner. I have sought help from complete strangers and got it for free. I see the poor of Nigeria toiling the same way they toil all over the world, from Malaysia to Pakistan; from Iraq to Turkey; from South Africa to Brazil.
If all Nigerians were making a living out of fraudulent activities then we wouldnâ€™t see the street hawkers running hard to sell their wares, sweating profusely under the harsh sun. We wonâ€™t see the farmers who give us our daily yam and we wonâ€™t see the workers who rise at 4 a.m. to be in the office by eight. And most people of Nigeria are like this only. So if a country has 90 per cent of its population which is hard working andÂ honest under some of theÂ harshest economic conditions, then why shouldnâ€™tÂ such a countryÂ be called a great nation?
And people raise alarm when someone terms Nigeria as â€œGood People, Great Nationâ€. This is what IÂ mean by the term, â€œTravesty of Justiceâ€.So â€œGood People, Great Nationâ€Â is a natural slogan for Nigeria. There is no hyperbole here. We are not saying that Nigeria is â€œBest People, Greatest Nationâ€. We know that no single group of people can lay claim to being the best people. No country is full of angels and hence no single nation can call itself the Greatest Nation. We should be happy with the â€œgood people, great nationâ€ theme. We should believe in it and we should respect this theme.
Bisht, a freelance writer, lives in Lagos