Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Glasgow over Abuja, ponder this

How does one choose gritty Glasgow with its grimy cold veneer over pristine Abuja? How does a country which has hosted the Commonwealth Games about 3 times, win over one that has never done it before? How does 77 countries, mostly Africans and Caribbean countries vote 47 Glasgow 24 Abuja (something like that)? It is a result of the constant Public Relations fiasco that Nigerians generate by actions, words and in fact with ideas (or lack of). This is further compounded by Governments that are so incompetent at intangibles that their use of the media is worse than that of my local dramatic society. The failure to know how to act, speak and engage in a world where buzz is everything and substance an afterthought is going to continue to cost the country dearly. Check this figures from Pew Research Global Attitude Survey 2002-2007 comparing favourable view levels of Africans for two countries Nigeria and South Africa.

These are very telling figures and before you attack the other countries in their views, the most disturbing is that only 48% of Nigerians have a favourable view of their nationality.

These are the bountiful fruit of the Nigerian elite as we say in Ibadan ' Omo ale ti on fi owo osi juwo ile baba e’ it is only a bastard that chooses to describe his/her father’s house casually with his/her left hand. The left hand thing is a discussion for another time. Past government incompetence or share indifference perhaps even cynicism has contributed to South Africans amnesia and ignorance of the critical role Nigeria played against Apartheid (Chapter and verse later). Today’s Namibians are even less likely to remember that their independence owes a lot to Nigerian support for Nujoma and SWAPO. There is Zimbabwe who had millions in grants handed to them to make Rhodesia capitulate. How can anyone forget the intervention with Angola whose recognition depended entirely on the chutzpah of late General Murtala Rabat Mohammed who told President Gerald Ford of USA where to get off . He cast the tie breaking vote that lead to recognition by the OAU of the MPLA government.

There are more recent and blatant failures to get proper credit for foreign policy actions, for example, who gets celebrated for stopping Sierra Leone from collapse? It is Britain but guess who did all the donkey work throughout the war? Yes! Yours truly, Nigerians dying in hundreds to save Freetown yet did not even get a mention in the movies Blood diamonds or any serious analysis afterwards in the International Media. In fact 5,000 of the 7,000 ECOMOG troops were Nigerians. Then there is Liberia whose entire existence depended on this same much maligned Nigeria to fight and negotiate not once but many times to give the country a chance at a future. Their cousins in the United States wanted nothing to do with them after they had been used Liberians for generations as beach head of American arrogance and superiority in Africa. Guess who gets blamed for offering Charles Taylor refuge? The same Charles Taylor that sought and oversaw the killings of many Nigerians for no other reason but we stood tall when no one cared. Now the world celebrates rightly the new President but her feet was washed in our blood.

This is all about the brand building. Italian small businesses raised the fact that the Mafia generates 7 % of GDP becoming the largest single source of economic activity in the country. No one however associates Italy exclusively with organised crime or treats it like it is the threat that Nigerian crime can be. It is romanticised, its style celebrated, its cuisine sought after, history captures imagination and its aggressiveness turned into the stuff of films. Italy never ceases to tell its many stories, its elite clear that even though there are many things that are bad however there is also much to teach the world. It is how you treat you calabash others treat it. Who will buy a lifestyle or even a sporting event from a people who spend most of their time discussing their failings, propagating their worst problems and dwelling on that which they dislike most in their people? Our heroes’ herald their nation a failure at every opportunity and the dialogue of our elite vilify everyone and everything that stands in the public space. Nigeria is a country where very few are celebrated and most are criticised. Cynicism has become our Grundnorm. No matter how much Government adverts are put out there they will all be seen as contrived. It is what we say, do and live that is the advert for Nigeria. As the survey shows we ourselves would not buy Nigeria so why should others?

1 comment:

yomi said...

sad story, albeit true words...
familiar views...well debated by us all
One basic factor, still no change.
Patriotism is a word most of us are eager to define but unfortunately, still to most of us, d essence is lost.
those of us dat can, will keep believing for that 'one day, one day, one day e go better!'