Our land soaked in blood, gloom, South-East Bishops wail

By  Chinonso Aniagu

The missing link for creating a positive brand perception to market Nigeria for fast-paced economic development is concealed in the paradox of Nigeria-vs-Naija debate proposed and opposed by former NAFDAC boss, Dora Akunyili and the then Nigerian Gen Z community. 

The former Minister of Information and Communication drew the ire of Nigerian youthful population when she advised against the canvassed against referring “Nigeria” as “Naija”. In a counter argument advanced mainly in the informal circles, youths argued that such name adaptation was akin to her preference for the abridged version of her name, “Dora”, over “Dorothy”. While this argument jolted any serious intellectual engagement, a further deconstruction of the drama only explained how the country has continued to pursue positive change to its battered image without deploying of its best available rebranding kits- the youths. 

The name, Naija was borne out of postmodernist generational perception as much as the late Minister’s Boomers-influenced choice of the name. Naija, being a coinage that was added into Nigeria’s lectern in the twilight of 19th century, was an upshot of pop-culture that was berthed by the consumption of American media content. 

The word is used to connote creativity and the die-hard spirit of the Gen Z Nigerian generation. While the originators of the word are not necessarily averse to the name “Nigeria”, it is the perceived backwardness that has characterised its development that throws up disenchantment. The opposition to Akunyili’s was only a poster of this subdued disenchantment.  

Fourteen years after the Akunyili attempt, the vast majority citizens have continued to run counter with government efforts geared towards improving the brand perception of the Nigerian product. The failed rebranding efforts by Akunyili’s , and others after her, could be attributed to failure to properly analyse the demographics and capture the emotion and buy-ins of the country’s largest brand enablers and market.

 This rejection has becoming even resounding going further explosion in Nigeria’s youthful population with worldometer.info reporting that an estimated 70% of the Nigerians are currently under 30.

 Tracking the brand sentiment of the Nigerian product exposes how less this generation of people believe in the country. Japa- a Nigerian coinage used in place of emigration- has now become a popular route to ply and used as a protest for the seeming rejection by and refusal of the older generation to integrate into the system.  

This is not surprising as the political elites have held on to the “non-negotiable” unity of the country and shut out all avenues towards rethinking the Nigerian product to improve its market value. To re-establish contact with the emotion of this generation, the country’s leadership must re-open opportunity for national dialogue that will allow the Naija sentiments to not only be heard, but play very active role in redefining the vision and values of the Nigeria brand.    

Reports like Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perception Index which places the country as 24th most corrupt country in the world and negative human right reportage by Amnesty International have contributed some plots to chapters of negative narratives that have done a lot of damage to the Nigeria product. These are, however, infinitesimal to the price being paid for the inefficiency of the brand chief marketer, the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture. Need it be said that to cleaning the “dark” perception of Nigeria(ns) by the rest of the world and  averting further depreciation of the Nigeria brand,  can only commence in the real sense of it by fusing  the Naija spirit into the rebranding scheme.  

It is ironic that the much ridiculed “shithole” country has given Trump’s USA a competent Director of Trade and Cameron’s Britain an exciting Prime Minister’s cabinet member despite being “fantastically corrupt”. In contrast to the debilitating single-sided tales of woes, Nigeria is at worst, a product with binary opposites. For every internet fraudster languishing in a Western Louisiana jail, there is a 110m hurdle world record holder. And, for every terrifying story of radicalized boy who attempted Northwest Airlines flight Christmas bombing should be tale of 2019 Queen Elizabeth-honoured 20 year old who generated over $2 million as grant for mentorship programme for young Africans to balance.

It will, therefore, be the most strategic rebranding decision to make Nigerian youths and rich human capital resources the unique selling point and the centre of the country positive image in the committee of nation. The country must also go beyond tapping the financial benefits of Diaspora remittances and exploit huge human potential and proven capacity to change the negative way it is perceived globally. Political leadership in the country, even if not youthful by age, must be intentionally youthful in agenda .

By making the youth stakeholders and major contributors to the rebranding project, marketing the new brand to the rest of the world becomes less cumbersome as they will “naturally” deploy their huge population and global presence- being significant chunk of global citizen journalists- to sell a rebranded Nigeria.  Therefore, the rebranding master plan should jettison the futile attempts to impose the good old “proven” way of being, acting and talking Nigeria and adopt a strategic integration of the Naija phenomenon that allows youths own the process and open the country to potent mechanism for systematic image laundering. It is only when the Naija phenomenon is given its place in the scheme of the rebranding template that its proponents will give unalloyed brand loyalty to the Nigeria product.

Dr Chinonso Aniagu is a Public Relations Consultant and social commentator 

(Email: [email protected]

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