Monday, October 15, 2007

Coca-cola, McDonald, Marlboro and the Nigeria Image Project

Saturday, 28 August 2004
Coca Cola Company are the makers of Coke as McDonald's is world-famous for Hamburgers, and Marlboro cigarettes, these are three products that have made three American companies very wealthy, even though, these companies are not made famous or known for being purveyors of healthy products, or product with valuable nutrients in them. We must instead, see these products successes, as results of advertising, brand positioning and marketing par excellence; And these are what have made America capitalism as successful as it is.

Any Nigerian who believes that Coca cola company make healthy drinks, is probably alone in such belief and delusion, most Americans know that Coca Cola is just fizzy colored carbonated water with saccharine or sugar added. Most Americans will also tell the average Nigerian, that McDonald's is a fast food company and a purveyor of, a not particularly healthy eating lifestyle! But fatty deep-fried foods. Most Americans would inform the average Nigerian, that Marlborough cigarettes, even though world-famous and profitable, is scientifically determined, like every other tobacco, to contain carcinogens, or cancer causing agents/ingredients, these American products are consumed voraciously, the world over! Talk of a grand success made out of selling nothing! Or selling useless things! How many "mountain spring water" are actually from mountain springs? How many bottled water are actually as wholesome as they claim? Whoever said you could not market nothingness? But I digress. Positive image is everything in modern age; There are various ways to project positive image for products and for countries. is so much that is good in Nigerians and about Nigeria which are drowned out by negative press about corruption, 419 and whatever else! If the world was to take cynics, pessimists and all the negatives, that have been said of Nigeria as "the" gospel truth, you will think that the majority of Nigerians are twisted, warped, violent and morally bankrupt! But I must resort to my usual refrain, "there are virtues and vices the world over!" And in Nigeria the majority of Nigerians citizens, are decent, morally upright, hardworking and law abiding people; hence the not so good Nigerians are the aberrations and exceptions. There naturally, more than one perspective to every tail, Nigeria must be allowed to tell the other side of our national story; The positive side of Nigerians and Nigeria. This is why the Nigeria Image Project must not be stillbirth or dead on arrival.

Branding, advertising and marketing are tools of American capitalism, these tools and instrument of American state and mercantile policy successes, tools that America have used most effectively and efficiently to their individual and collective advantage, these same tools, are now, being sneered at by some Nigerians, as these Nigerians derisively and in denigrating manners, call, image laundering or propaganda? America projects positive image often and regularly, and these projected positive images, have never had anything to do with the hard facts of everyday life in America; The average Africa American citizen will tell you this much.

Over several hundred years, America have managed to project itself, as a country of liberty, freedom and equality and justice, even as America practiced slavery, discrimination, segregation and institutionalized racism! Etc. America decimated the American Indians, the so-called Native Americans, who murdered their lands confiscated, by what is now modern America. Japanese Americans were quarantined during the Second World War; we have also witnessed, in the last couple of years, the invasion and occupation of Iraq, based on falsehood and propaganda. Americans are experts are positive image projection. Hence foreigners invest in America in confidence, America still manages to portray positive self-image over hundreds years. Always has been.

This brings me to the question, of some Nigerians' fixation on impossibilities of the Honorable Minister Chikelu's Nigeria Image Project, why are some Nigerians so ensconced and enraptured in their belief or false assumption that, the Nigeria Image Project will amount to nothing but a ruse? How is possible for Nigerian commentators, who are probably sipping Coke or Sprite as they write, to conclude that advertising, marketing and branding of products, are limited to hard facts, just the facts? What are the nutritious and nutritive facts in Coke or Sprite? And why do smart people drink them?

Minister Chikelu and President Obasanjo have my benefit of the doubt, Nigerians must resist the urge and temptations to judge Mr. Chikelu solely based on failed previous efforts at image-making by Nigerian governments, Nigerians must understand that, the pursuit of a better image, is not a mutually exclusive endeavor, Nigeria must pursue the polishing and burnishing of our image, nationally and internationally, even as Nigeria tackles the internal economic and political challenges facing our nation. Too often, some Nigerians appear to suggest, in words and actions, the conclusion, that Nigeria is irredeemable. The truth is, Nigeria is redeemable, and all steps necessary must be taken by citizens and governments of Nigeria. No one must suggest that the situation in Nigeria is so bad, that solution lays in lying down and waiting for eventual death or the end of time or anarchy as harbinger of failed state status. Nine foreigner tourists were murdered in the state of Florida during one single year, mostly German tourists, and the government officials in Florida, maintained it was an aberrational exception, could Nigerians imagine the sorts of reactions Americans would have, if 9 Americans were killed in Germany in one year or killed in Nigeria, or any country in Africa? But these murders occurred in one stateÂ… Florida and in less than one year! I recall that American/Western press informed the world that notorious armed robber Anini had become the de facto governor of Bendel state and then some, how many people did Anini kill? How many people did the American "Sniper" kill last year?

Nigeria certainly has very tough challenges? We have very somberly horizon ahead? We should propose tough solutions, we have sullied image? we should salvage what now exist, we should become more creative in more innovative ways, we should do our very best, even in the face of what may appear to be very arduous tasks, otherwise, we may unwittingly ensure total and woeful failures, if we do not try every efforts and methods. What will work are, continued efforts Giving up never works! Let's cease defeatist attitudes!

Nigerians must not allow a siege mentality to take over our individual and national psyche, we must continue in our resilience, to confront our challenges, with multiple pronged approaches, this means relentless pursuit of police reform, to ensure safety and security of persons and properties in Nigeria, this means repair and rehabilitation of infrastructures, this means creating more favorable economic, social and political environments, it also means, job creation, law reform, the entrenchment of the rule of law and due process, the enforcement of rules and regulations as they currently exist, and the modifications of laws/rules/regulations as necessary. the lists of what Nigerians and the government of Nigeria need to do for Nigeria, is endless, but, these efforts are not mutually exclusive, one effort, does not necessarily trounce or trump the other, all efforts are necessarily complementary.

We as Nigerians should rededicate ourselves to the cause of Nigeria, such efforts at re-orientation towards everything that constitute Nigeria's national interests, should be an affair that is the monopoly or exclusive preserve of Mr. Chikelu and Mr. Obasanjo. All Nigerians, at home, abroad, in government or in the private sector, owe it a duty, to make Nigeria into the wonderful country that we all seem to yearn for.

Nigerians ought to commend Minister Chikelu's humility and very humble determined efforts, we must quit the barrage of attacks, that have been visited upon him, since the inception/launching of the Nigeria Image Project; We should help the Minister refine and fine-tune the assignment, instead of continuing to ridicule, denigrate and belittle his best efforts! Why do we just seem to sit there proclaiming why nothing will ever work?

Making a success out of Nigeria, fulfilling NigeriaÂ’s full promise and potentials turned into reality, should catch all our passions, our dedications and commitments. All Nigerians should heed the clarion call to remake Nigeria's image, to project Nigeria positively between ourselves and to the outside world. Nigeria's renaissance begins now!

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