This is a question posed by Zuriel Oduwole, a 10-year-old girl, to discussants on Nigeria’s branding, who included Kayode Fayemi, governor of Ekiti State, Udeme Ufot, CEO of SO&U, Tunji Olugbodi, CEO of Verdant Zeal, and Bola Akingbade, a consultant.
After listening to the panellists discuss the Nigerian brand at the second edition of Verdant Zeal ‘Innovention’ lecture series in Lagos recently and perhaps having heard or read of similar branding lectures in Nigeria, Zuriel, who is studying at Connections Academy in Los Angeles, US, raised her hand and was granted the consent by Idorenyen Enang, the moderator of the programme, to ask her question. In a subtle voice that depicts innocence, she asked “I want to know how branded Nigeria will be next year?”
Her question, which evoked a self reflection among the audience made up of professionals who understand the socio-economic implications of branding, reflected the fact that Nigerians had in the past been talking of branding Nigeria but without tangible result.
The question was tersely answered, as the panellists agreed that it was the President who could provide answer to it. According to Tunji Olugbodi, the convener of the lecture, what the various discussions on branding try to do is to raise the public and the government consciousness on the need for branding.
On his own, Kayode Fayemi said Nigeria’s branding failures in the past could be summed up as a values deficit, saying “it is the failure of successive administrations to articulate a strategic national vision and calibrate institutional realities to match this vision. In broader terms, this represents not just the failure of particular administrations but also our failure as elite to generate a consensus about what sort of place we want our country to be.”
Fayemi, who regretted that Nigerians had not adequately and firmly framed the values that they want to drive their institutions with, asserted that “the institutional transformation the country needs to restore values to the front burner include leadership by example.”
The governor, who expressed worry at the nation’s celebrities, stated that if concerted efforts were not made, the younger generations would be affected and discouraged from treading the path of meritocracy to mediocrity, since our heroes were not concerned about our values and our image than we imagine.
“Our heroes are symbols of the national brand. When we serenade fraudsters, ex-despots, ex-convicts and other assorted persons of dubious reputations with national honours and appointments, we are sending a terribly un-edifying message to the world.
“No kind of public relations blitz can undo the damage done to the national image by the sort of people that have become our symbols. We are also sending a dangerous signal to the young about the relationship between competence and honesty on one hand and promotion and recognition on the other,” Fayemi said, with anxiety.
Speaking in the same manner, Udeme Ufot canvassed for the extension of punishment of culprits to their families as a way of restoring values to the system.
In his contribution, Femi Falana, a lawyer and activist, bemoaned disrespect for the rule of law in Nigeria, saying unless people obey the laws of the land, every effort at re-branding the country will end in vanity, adding that if Nigeria must change – Nigerians, regardless of status, must respect the law.