By Jon West
In recent Nigerian banking parlance, de-marketing is a process used to destroy the perception of the viability of a bank by its competitors in the banking market place. It is a tool that has had to be deployed in the shark-infested waters that is the Nigerian finance industry. De-marketing is also a veritable tool used by competitors in the international economic and business market place to undermine the perception of potential competitors in the eyes of the business, social or political community.
It is quite interesting that Nigeria spends humongous amounts of resources on improving the international perception of the country as a place to do business. Our Presidents and politicians are always airborne to all the four corners of the compass, on a permanent mission to sell the business viability of the Nigerian economy and attract the permanently elusive foreign investors.
President Buhari is on the basis of time in office, the most travelled Nigerian President and perhaps the most travelled, per time, in global history. However, while the travels may or may not have resulted in an inflow of Foreign Direct Investment, events inside the country have always conspired to rubbish whatever dividends may accrue to the country from this investment in international travel.
In the area of security, there is the Boko Haram insurgency, for which “technical” victory has been declared by the Government, in what now appears to be a virtual reality civil war. This scenario is compounded by several low intensity civil conflicts in all parts of Nigeria; from the constant spectre of marauding Fulani and Moslem alien mercenaries and herdsmen in the Middle Belt and Southern States, the cattle rustling gangs and female abductors of the Northwest and Northeast, the militants of the Niger Delta and the now ubiquitous ethnic clashes , the foremost of which was that of Mile 12 axis of Ikorodu road, Lagos state in March this year.
What all these negative security situations portend, is a de-marketing of Nigeria as an investment destination and, worse still, as a place of any modicum of tourism, which is itself the easiest source of FDI for any country. It appears that those entrusted with selling the country’s potential in the global market place do not understand the requirements of the job. That is why whenever the global spotlight shines on Nigeria, the opportunity to get across a positive message is wasted or worse still used to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Nothing illustrates this tendency to convert an opportunity for positivity to a disaster as the events of last week, on Good Friday, in Kaduna State.
A high profile football match between the Egyptian and Nigerian national teams was scheduled in, of all places, Kaduna, in a Northern Nigerian state that has serious internal security challenges , having been a hot bed of the Boko Haram insurgency and constant ethnic and religious conflicts. This choice was made, basically on the Nigerian propensity for pleasing certain interest groups to the detriment of the general good. Reading and watching the international news of the uncontrolled surge of over 40,000 people into a stadium designed for 25,000 made my skin crawl. Pictures of people hanging from all sorts of platforms in the stadium, from floodlight fixtures and telecommunications towers to stadium walls, exposed to the global news audience the lawless nature of the Nigerian society.
That the situation did not deteriorate to a calamity of global sporting proportions is something to be grateful for. What would have happened to Nigeria’s global reputation, if Boko Haram attacked the stadium and killed or abducted our footballers and their Egyptian counterparts? Did anyone really think about this possibility? When the Kaduna State Government opened the gates of the Ahmadu Bello stadium to all-comers free of charge, did they consider the possibility of a stampede that could have cost thousands of lives, knowing the tendency of the citizenry to be disorderly without compulsion? And why were the Nigerian police, whose responsibility it is to maintain public order and ensure compliance with global crowd control procedures, unable to play its role. Why did they relinquish their responsibilities to the Kaduna State Government?
However, the question is whether it was even necessary to hold this football match in Kaduna when there are better and safer venues in Abuja, Lagos, Uyo, Calabar, Enugu etc. This constant tendency to appease the North to the detriment of the rest of the country has cost Nigeria dearly. In 2006, Nigeria lost the opportunity of a place in the World Cup held in Germany, when in deference to the then Chairman of the Nigerian Football Association and Kano businessman, Alhaji Galadima, a critical qualifying match between Nigeria and Angola was held in Kano and we lost the opportunity to go to Germany at that match.
A Nigerian team, composed of wholly foreign based players was compelled to come from the wintery conditions of Europe to play in 40 degrees centigrade heat and extreme humidity of Kano, against an Africa-based and climate-conditioned Angolan team. The exhaustion on JJ Okocha’s face as he laboured to recreate his magic dribbles and passes was obvious to all spectators.
You would think that having made that mistake in 2006, our football and security officials would be wiser ten years after. But like an American president once said “History never repeats itself; men repeat history and then blame history for repeating itself”. We never seem to learn from even recent history in this country and keep making the same mistakes in the hope of achieving a different outcome; the social definition of insanity. If we finally lose a place in this Gabon 2016 AFCON competition, the role of the Kaduna stupidity should haunt our football and security people forever, but knowing them it won’t, as shown by the refusal to learn from the Kano debacle ten years ago.
––Jon West, Otuoke, Bayelsa State.