Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Unfortunately, my sensational lecturer is not the only skeptic- and rightly so too. Nigeria’s previous attempts at rebranding have been misadventures. A case of ill-branded men branding (or rebranding) an ill-branded nation. Perhaps in that regard this particular case is an exception. The initiator of this move – the inimitable Dora Akunyili – has perhaps the strongest personal brand amongst Nigeria’s government elite. Whether that translates into any advantage at all is left to be seen.
It is generally agreed that amongst other objectives, a good brand must
1. Send out a clear message
2. Confirm its credibility, and
3. Tap into the emotions of its target prospects.
Even though some have argued that the budget of N150 million budgeted for the rebranding exercise is paltry, I believe that with effective and transparent management, an effective campaign strategy and with support from relevant bodies, a clear message could be sent and thus objective1 could be satisfied.
Achieving the other two objectives is another ball game. They cannot be achieved even if the budget is quadrupled. Reason: Credibility cannot be bought; it must be earned. Even Mrs. Akunyili cannot single handedly spearhead the realization of this objective as was the case at NAFDAC. No matter how honest her intentions are, it wouldn’t make sense to the greedy godfather who wants returns on his investments in his godson; neither would it make sense to the governor who wants to stash away as much cash as “stashable” so that his offsprings down to the fifth generation can retire at birth. You see, the ability of this brand to confirm its credibility will depend on those with higher security clearance than Madam Minister e.g. Oga president. And if those above continue to be above the law, it is enough incentive for the “yahoo boy” or the drug peddler or the bunkerer to continue treading in his own path. It is a simple case of follow the leader.
Tapping into the emotions of Nigerians or outsiders for that matter could even be more difficult. It was Dr. Anyaeji again who said “Patriotism isn’t an input, it is an output.” Personally I think it is a bit of both. But pray tell me how to tap positively into the emotions of my friend’s mom who spent the night changing spots so that the rain from the leaking roof wouldn’t wet her new born; or my classmates who have been made to believe that simple learning aids like markers or dusters for the board are inaccessible. How do we lash into the emotions of the man who spent 3 hours in traffic for a 30 minutes journey; or Dr. Anyaeji who believes that blacks are monkeys because of the consistent disappointing episodes he has seen in his life time? No marketing technique can do that.
However, let me quickly add that we must play our part in giving this initiative a chance to succeed. Do your own bit. Support the government. That is your input part of patriotism. See the slogan “NIGERIA: GOOD PEOPLE, GREAT NATION” as a statement of faith that could be reality in our time. Don’t be quick to write it off as some have so hastily done. On that score, I disagree with Dr. Anyaeji.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
The crunch! From Iceland to Ireland, America to Costa-Rica, everywhere you go, the tale of woe is the same –record losses, job cuts, and nationalization of financial institutions. Thanks to the economic meltdown, words and terms like ‘credit crunch’, ‘global financial crises’, ‘recession’, ‘depression’, and ‘bail-out’, have become permanent components of our lexicon. Only a first time visitor to planet earth would not have come across any or all of these words. Contrary to our initial expectations, Nigeria is badly hit. The effect of the crisis on Nigeria is becoming increasingly devastating –low oil prices, a depreciating naira and declining revenue. The revenue to government is declining at such a rate that it is becoming increasingly difficult for many states to even meet the wage bill of their workers. Perhaps certain governors - like the one in the Adamawa state government house with his whopping 13000 special assistants - would begin to think of more productive ways to engage the creativity of the populace for increased revenue.
The crush! Not like this is any consolation, but last week Forbes magazine released its list of the world’s dollar denominated billionaires and the verdict is that the rich also cry. All the billionaires in the top 10 saw huge losses in their worth this past year and they weren’t the only ones. Whereas the Forbes list contained 1,125 billionaires last year, it’s just 753 this year. And as the facts show, when the big boys lose cash, they lose big cash – cash that could finance nations. Warren Buffett and Carlos Slim - No.2 and No.3 respectively - both lost about $25 billion, roughly equivalent to the GDP of Nigeria. This made me reconsider a particular audacious remark I heard some time ago, that a time would come when nations would be sold off to powerful rich individuals who would then oversee these nations as their personal estate. Is that possible? I would like to know what you think.
The lunch! Two Nigerians, despite the crunch were not crushed, as they made it into the exclusive list. They were Alhaji Aliko Dangote and Mr. Femi Otedola. Whereas Otedola is a new entrant, Dangote’s rating on the list improved from 334 last year to 261. As my mentor, Johnson Abbaly would say, “crunch or no crunch, those who have the stuff will always have lunch.” And as the Bible says, “When men are cast down, there is a lifting up.” This should serve as lesson for Nigerians - people and government alike – that much progress can still be made even in the midst of the famine. The truth is that a new world order would most definitely emerge after this crisis and the nations and people who will set the pace then, would be those who are driving onwards now to that future with determination and a plan. It’s going to be a case of getting shaped up or getting shipped out. Dare or be doomed.
The punch! For some time now, the chairman of the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal commission (RMAFC), Engineer Hamman Tukur, has been involved in a running battle with his commissioners. There have been accusations and counter-accusations. While he has been accused (by them) of unconstitutional handling of the commission’s affairs and high-handedness, they have been accused (by him) of partaking in an illegality by collecting an allowance that was more than their due and yet refusing to refund. Last week, things got a whole lot messier. A meeting convened by the chairman to discuss President Yaradua’s proposal that the commission come up with a workable formula for the downward review of the salaries of political office holders turned into an avenue to showcase brute force and gang rascality. According to reports, in the course of the meeting which was held at the national headquarters of the commission, a heated argument ensued culminating in the beating of the chairman by at least 20 of the commissioners. After raining enough punches on their chairman, the ‘distinguished’ commissioners fled the scene of the incident just before the arrival of the men from the Nigerian Police Force. Ouch!
The hunch! On a lighter note, I finally get why my secondary school English teacher was insistent that I learn the right pronunciations for words ending with ‘ch’ and ‘sh’. She had a hunch that I’ll need to use them often in times like this.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Only the die-hard followers of this blog (if any) would have noticed that the ‘ABOUT ME’ section in my profile on this page has undergone a minor surgery. For those who didn’t notice, it used to read thus: ‘I currently serve as the Chief Strategy Coordinator of Achievers Consortium Int. in the University of Benin.’ Now, there is no trace of that line.
I recently served out my tenure as the Chief Strategy Coordinator of Achievers Consortium, University of Benin nexus. And, if truth be told it was the most exciting, exhilarating, daunting and daring one year of my life. For clarification purposes, Achievers Consortium is a purpose base, Christian, intellectual movement that is set to bring about, is bringing about and would bring about the change that Africa and Nigeria needs. We’ve always believed that the change we need would not come from abroad or afar and most definitely would not be brought about by angels, apes or aliens. If we must see change, then we must be that change. So by combining sound intellectualism, practical skills and creative enterprise with sound passion, belief and deep spiritual truths, we cause divinity to meet humanity.
Certain events that transpired and thoughts that crossed my mind in the weeks preceding my hand-over, caused me to see firsthand the reasons (at least some of them) why men like Yoweri Museveni, Robert Mugabe, Muammar Al-Qaddafi and Olusegun Obasanjo try everything within their means to keep power. It isn’t so much because they need to milk the state some more of its resources, or because they are too materialistic in their pursuits. But many times, it actually is as a result of a certain messianic complex that begins to form within man when he occupies these kinds of positions, where he begins to see himself as the very embodiment of salvation for his people. He begins to see this institution that he has worked so hard for and invested his emotions and time into, as his personal property, to be guarded by every means possible and by any method obtainable. Apart from that, he begins to fear – fear what history would say about him, his mistakes, his weaknesses etc. And he reasons that his interest would be best served by staying put and trying to correct all the ‘correctables’ and straighten all the rough edges. Unfortunately, he would never succeed.
I don’t have all the answers, but I believe the solution to this, at least from the individual’s perspective lies in trust. Trust in the source of the mandate. If the mandate comes from the people, trust their constitution (the constitution of the land) and let go. If it comes from God, trust Him and let go. Because letting go is not losing out. It is letting God.
Congratulations to the new leaders of Achievers Consortium, Uniben nexus, especially my friend and dear brother, Isaac Ajamah, who was a pillar of support to me and now my successor. Isaac, you are more than capable. And when the God factor is added, you are in fact a super-man. It has been a long time coming. Kpele.
Monday, March 2, 2009
If ‘Nigeria’ was the name of a blogger, I am certain that he (Nigeria) would have chosen a grandiose title for his blog page. He would no doubt have gone for a title that lends credence to his colossal aspirations but says nothing about the how of getting there. A title like READY OR NOT, 2020 HERE I COME WITH MY VISION 20 2020 or perhaps ALL HAIL THE BIG BROS would do just fine for him. But if he was an honest blogger, he would settle for a more befitting title like RHAPSODY OF ABSURDITIES because in Nigeria, absurdity is produced and packaged at the speed of light.
ABSURDITY 001: MERRIMENT AND MOURNING ARE PERFECT BEDFELLOWS. NEVER HAVE ONE WITHOUT THE OTHER.
Last week, Olusegun Mimiko was pronounced governor of Ondo state by the Appeal court after a protracted legal battle with the then incumbent, Olusegun Agagu. As should be expected, there were celebrations galore in the state. Then the illogical occurred. Three men died and two others were injured in the victory celebration. Unfortunately, this wasn’t an isolated incident. When the comrade governor, Adams Oshiomhole was declared as governor of Edo state last year, 5 persons died. Two died as they were celebrating along the road, two others fell off a moving trailer and died while celebrating on it, while the last –a motor cyclist- lost his life after he ran into a ditch while celebrating the victory. Not even Obama’s momentous victory was so received. That perhaps explains why we are the happiest people on earth.
ABSURDITY 002: NOTHING IS SACRED. EVERY THING HAS A PRICE TAG, INCLUDING YOUR SOUL.
Fallout from the Appeal court judgment last week was the revelation that the ex-secretary to the Ondo state government accepted to pay compensation to a 300 level student of the University of Ibadan who was killed while rigging elections. I silently wondered how much compensation would be worth that life and cursed the foolishness of the student, as well as the poverty of the land. Not the material poverty per se, but, the pervasive moral poverty- the poverty of the mind. A poverty that stems from the defective education received by Nigerians- an education that has failed to instill patriotism and moral values in the Nigerian child.
ABSURDITY 003: CATCH THE SCAPEGOAT. ACCEPTING RESPONSIBILITY IS BAD FOR BUSINESS.
ABSURDITY 004: DEIFY WHATEVER YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND OR CAN’T FIGURE OUT.
Never before has the word ‘scapegoat’ been applied so literarily than in Kwara state, Nigeria, where a goat was arrested and paraded before the media as a robbery suspect. I wish I could sugar-coat this to make a bit of sense, but I can’t. It’s as ludicrous as it sounds. It so happened that last month, men of the Kwara state police command arraigned a goat as a suspect for the attempted theft of a ‘Mazda’ car. According to the Force public relations officer, Mr. Tunde Mohammed, the goat was a man who in an effort to escape arrest while trying to steal the car, transformed (or is it transmuted?) into a goat. Need I say more?
The way I see it, if ‘Nigeria’, the author of the blog -RHAPSODY OF ABSURDITIES - were the subject of a Hollywood blockbuster, the movie won’t be a tragedy. Neither would it be a comedy. My guess is that it would be an absolute absurdity.