Experts Reel Out Strategies to Enhance Nigeria’s  Image 

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Raheem Akingbolu
Following the recent allegation of fraud against some Nigerians in the United States, which has been described as ‘one of the largest cases of its kind in US history’, branding and perception management experts have urged Federal Government to apply “positive shock therapy” with action that is fact-based and attention grabbing to sanitize the country’s image. The experts who spoke in separate interviews with THISDAY also advised Government and the media to begin rewriting the country’s story by playing up the beauties of the country as well as celebrating Nigerians who are doing well globally.
As a result of the announcement by US authorities last week on the charges against 80 people, most of them Nigerians, in a wide-ranging fraud and money laundering operation that netted millions of dollars from victims of internet con jobs, concerned Nigerians have expressed their concern over the likely stern measures the US and other countries would start to take against Nigerians.
A former President of the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN), Mrs. Bunmi Oke, in an exclusive interview with THISDAY urged government to adopt action like in Rwanda that had a 360 degree turnaround effect on  her image as “a war torn country ” now being celebrated as a tourist attraction!!My image revamping therapy & prescriptions are action based.
Oke also called on the current administration to develop a road map for Nigeria in 2020 and beyond based on the foundations of the incumbent government to generate positive news and create inroads to seamless re-branding.
To Communicate Govt Programs, the former AAAN President also called on the Hon Minister of Information, Lai Muhammed, to hire marketing communications experts across the communication mix to work with key departments in his ministry as consultants in conjunction with the information officers.
“A major reorientation campaign on citizens’ rights and responsibilities and governments responsibilities in addressing the SDGs must be communicated in campaigns across all strata,” she stated.
Current Vice President AAAN, Steve Babaeko, aptly captured the debate by quoting Chinua Achebe, who once opined “If you don’t like my story write your own,”
“Truth is that as beleaguered as Nigeria is, it’s still one of the countries with the most potential in the world. The vibrancy of our culture which is fast becoming mainstream global especially in the areas of music, films, cuisine, and fashion can be explored. These are pillars we can package to change the narrative,” Babaeko said.
According to him, for every fraudulent Nigerian out there, there are a thousand pushing the boundaries and excelling in different fields of human endeavour: Business, medicine, tech etc.
“The western media will never cease projecting the negative narrative about Nigeria but the onus is on us as a people to change the narrative and tell in the most eloquent way possible, the story of our people doing the country and the world proud,” he added.
Another top Advertising practitioner and President, Outdoor Advertising Association of Nigeria (OAAN), Emmanuel Ajufo, admitted that the need for effective perception management cannot be overemphasised in Nigeria at this point in the country’s national development.
While calling on all the stakeholders in the Nigeria project to work on the country’s image from so many angles simultaneously, Ajufo emphasised the essential of revisiting the country’s core values as they were in the past years and the need for the media to play its role well.
He said: “The Media should help project the goodness in us and try not to celebrate only the negatives. Our educational system must be rejigged to bring out graduates who are fit and proper to face the challenges of nationhood. Government should also encourage job creation so that our teaming youths are gainfully employed.
Besides, people must begin to ask questions on sources of wealth. The near worship of wealth must stop. This is where our Traditional and Religious Institutions have great roles to play. Special recognitions must not be based only on wealth. We must learn to reward hard work. Government must also insist and allow our anti-graft agencies to work. National honours should be given to people that can be sources of inspiration to the young minds,”
On how to approach Nigeria’s external communication, the OAAN boss called on government to put up a well-defined stance that would give global community the assurance that Nigeria government is actually against corruption practices.
“Government must make sure that any person that is caught embarrassing the country is punished and publicly shamed. The International community must see that government is serious about discouraging this kind of anti-social behaviour. In the same vain, government must defend any of our Nationals anywhere in the world that is treated unfairly. We must create value for our citizens anywhere we are and doing honest work,” Ajufo stated.