Today, history was made. We successfully closed a business deal that will become the biggest business in a particular industry in Africa. I have, by God’s grace been able to close a business deal to be an exclusive business partner for a high profile business for the entirety of Africa. About two months ago, the same deal was closed for almost all of West Africa, but in the course of the last two days in the UAE, we have the whole Africa covered. I’m still steaming from the movie of the secret that I watched, but I can understand the dynamics of our chemistry working, somehow I believe that things have worked so easily because the laws of the universe were in alignment, and God was in control.
In the course of the meeting however, something stood out for me, and made me feel bad about my homeland. I had a meeting with two German guys, we had to move to a number of places so I could see their factory and their sales offices. We moved in between my apartment and their offices and back, so they could drop me off, while they attended another meeting and later come back to pick me. It took almost two hours to come back in their Ford Explorer to pick me up. When they came, we chatted and laughed as we had somehow gotten our chemistry and flowed well together. In the course of our chit chat, they relayed to me an incident that happened in their last meeting. They wanted to close the meeting quickly so they told the person ( a Dubai Citizen), that they had to go back to the hotel to meet with their partners from Nigeria. The person they were meeting, blurted out almost instinctively – “Nigerians? – Be Very Careful!” That’s painful, and really heart renting.
The general word and sentence hanging over the head of every Nigerian out there today is “be very careful”. For how long will the world be careful in dealing with us? For how long will we cope with this image? For how long will we wait as a nation to understand that we need to invest in the brand perception and development of our country? For how long will we be seen as dangerous, toxic, corrosive or repugnant? For how long, will we stomach being perceived and treated like people with no modicum of integrity? I don’t know how long you want to wait, but I am tired of waiting, I’m in favour of doing! I am in favour of taking responsibility, I am in favor of being different and redefining the right standards.
It sounds bad, but can you really blame them? Have we not brought these perceptions upon ourselves? Do you have an idea how much our economy is losing by not having the right brand perception? Do you know what will happen if people for any reason perceive that they need to be very careful drinking coke? It will adversely affect the economy of coca cola company Ltd. We are losing a lot, and yet all that fuel our perception as a nation, are the handy work of few.
Here are some of the rankings we have received as a nation. They are saddening, but at least good enough to give us an idea of what we are up against and the actions we need to take.
N0 3 Worst Abuses of Diplomatic Immunity in Britain based on unpaid traffic fines. UNESCO report 2002
No 5 Most Active Drug trades operations in the world. CIA Factbook.
No 7 World Worst Explosions – Ikeja Cantonment – Jan 27, 2002.
No 3 In Nations living with HIV/AIDS. CIA Factbook 2002
No 2 Most corrupt Nation in the world. Transparency International, 2007
No 9 Highest Kidnapping Rate. Between 1992-1999
No 2 Countries with greatest percentage earning less than $1. World Bank 2001
No 1-3 Country in Online Scamming
We don’t need a cosmetic approach to the revamping of the image of Nigeria and Nigerians. We need serious body work and thorough facials. We need to help the miscreants amongst us to change. We need to make ourselves available as positive role models, we need to be vocal about our values and the things that we stand for. We need to show the world that we are ethical, principled and good. We also need to show the world that we are many like this.
Another thought that ranked highest in our further conversation into the night, is the perception of the German about him/herself. The Germans believe that their word is their bond and that when they say yes, the must live up to it, even at their own risk or hurt. A lady in this meeting complained bitterly about how she had committed herself to work somewhere and she could not not go there, because she has said yes. She also said that it was German to stay with what you have said yes to.
It is true that it is bad people that mess up good people. The way we are perceived as a nation regularly kills opportunities for sincere Nigerians at home and abroad. You can almost hear an audible alarm go up in foreigners hears when you answer the question, “where are you from?” Thankfully, this has not affected us in any way, we had demonstrated that we can be trusted and we were seen on our own merit, not as typical people from any nation. While all this is going on however, it is imperative that we tackle this national menace and work with the right agencies to drive the Nigerian Brand. We need to take responsibility for how our country is perceived, and it starts from us, from you, yes, you.
I long for the day, when we will advertise the New Nigeria Club on CNN. I can see the caption already – “If you want to do business with Nigeria, ask your partner, “are you a member of the New Nigeria Club? Together we will get there!