CRAZY ENOUGH TO CHANGE BRAND NIGERIA?

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“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in square holes, the ones who see things differently, they are not fond of rules and have no respect for the status quo.
You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them but the only thing you can’t do, is ignore them because they change things.
They push the human race forward and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius because the people, who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
– Extract from an Apple advertisement
Change is hard. Change is necessary but it was an ancient Greek philosopher who postulated the theory of flux which literally explains that the only constant in life is change. Heraclitus believed that you cannot step on the same water twice in a river. He used the analogy to explain human behavior and attainments. I have heard a lot of Nigerians lament that ‘we are not moving forward’. What this really means is that we are moving backwards.

Because it is usually easier to destroy than to build, change agents for regression, corruption, abuse of power, murder and beastiality are in greater numbers in Nigeria. In the 1970s a robbery operation in a manufacturing firm in Ikeja, Lagos was reported in the press with banner headlines. The amount was humongous for that era. It was a princely eighty thousand Naira! People talked about it for months. Today negative change agents have ‘improved’ on that record, they steal in billions and as the subsidy scandal has revealed even in trillions. Unfortunately we do not have as many determined change agents on the positive side who are desperate to make a change for the better. A lot of Nigerians wish for a better Nigeria but are unable or unwilling to give their all to make their wish come true.

Unfortunately mere wishes do not build a great country; visionary, concerted and consistent actions do.

Anybody who has encountered great achievers will realize that they think crazy and act crazy. They see a world that ‘normal’ people don’t see and an approach or solution that everybody else thinks is weird or impossible. But in truth ‘crazy’ people shape the world.

Crazy people build brands out of nothing. ‘Crazy’ people alter the template. Nigeria is in dire need of positively ‘crazy’ people. We need people who are crazy about Nigeria to compete with other great nations of the world. Our docility as a people has ensured that the negative change agents have pulled the country backwards for decades and they are having a field day at the expense of our collective well-being. We know what they are doing; we know who we are but they have been able to convince us that positive change is impossible in Nigeria. But is this really the case?

Let us take a few crazy examples of positive change agents and we can appreciate why we need more of them: In President Olusegun Obasanjo’s first term in 1999, he unilaterally cancelled all GSM licenses previously issued by the Abacha administration. Most of the the licensees took it in good faith, Motophone owned by the Chagouris went to court. Obasanjo did the next crazy thing of fixing the reserved price at USD 200 million up from the miserly N38 million the Abacha licensees paid. He was scoffed at by the international experts and media. However, in the end the Bid Price went up to USD 285 million. That crazy decision is what has led to telephony boom in Nigeria today as the successful bidders knew they had to invest even more funds to make their investments worthwhile.

Back in 1979 Alhaji Lateef Jakande was invited by his predecessor to inform him categorically that his (Jakande’s) free education programme could not work. He was shown a memo which the ministry of education forwarded to the military governor requesting an increase in the prevailing school fees due to paucity of funds. Jakande thanked him for his concerns but insisted that he will deliver free education to all Lagos citizens. He had a blue print which eventually ensured that generations of Lagosians, most of whom may never have had the opportunity, were adequately educated.

In Governor Babatunde Fashola’s first term, he did what even tough military administrators couldn’t dream of for Lagos: a sane Oshodi with zero tolerance for illegal shops, the rampaging gangs of touts, illegal coversion of 90% of the expressway into markets all laced with a dysfunctional culture of mayhem and chaos. I have no doubt that some of Fashola’s aides would have wondered if their boss was crazy. But indeed he was and he achieved that crazy goal without much ado. Today, Oshodi is a spectacle to behold.

In Cross River state, Governor Liyel Imoke seeing that his predecessor had achieved a lot in urban redevelopment set his sights on rural development. His friends and foes alike must have wondered where he would get the money from, especially after he lost the 78 oil-wells to Akwa Ibom. But putting together a robust plan and with the support of multilateral agencies Imoke’s craze for rural development has become manifest in over 60 % of the state with grade ‘A’ roads, electricity and water in most of the communities.

Unfortunately, we do not have enough of these positively crazy Nigerians. We must all become enemies of ‘the usual’. We must all be genuinely crazy about the greatness of Nigeria through our actions and deeds whether we are leaders or followers. We must be crazy about creating great Nigerian brands and sustaining them through official and personal patronage of those brands. We must be crazy about a change of our institutions for the better. Let us start from our little corners. It is better late than never. Let’s get crazy for Nigeria!

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