(First Published in BRANDPOWER in October 2011)

He is Goodluck by name and acclaim. He is Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan. His trajectory to the dizzying heights of political triumphs smacks of fairy tale stuff. But he is presently facing the litmus test of his public leadership career. Violent crime, inter-ethnic strife, a struggling economy, decayed infrastructure, endemic corruption and a despondent citizenry means Jonathan has his hands full. But developing a successful political brand has never been a walk in the park. Ask OBJ or IBB.

President Goodluck JonathanThe circumstance of his ascendancy to Presidency did not provide for the definitive establishment of the Goodluck Jonathan brand in the minds and hearts of Nigerians but according to Ralph Waldo Emerson ‘Wise men put their trust in ideas, not in circumstance’. Yes we know he has been lucky, humble, loyal and genteel, all great assets when one is struggling with the hawks in the courtyard of power that oftentimes support the perceived weak in order to exploit the ‘support’ to cruel advantage. Being over-bearing and appearing too ambitious could be one’s nunc dimittis, a lesson a certain Peter by the riverside learnt the hard way several years ago.

President Jonathan urgently needs to launch his Presidential brand identity. I do not know of a good president who is humble or one who people ascribe his success to luck. Nigerians and indeed the world are asking ‘can the real Dr.Goodluck Jonathan please stand out’? President Jonathan coasted to victory on too many promises but one thing he is recognized and respected for today is his manifest sincerity for and the measured success at organizing free and fair general elections this year. He achieved this to wide national and international acclaim although the Congress for Progressive Change absolutely does not share that view.

Mr. President ill advisedly got himself visibly involved in the single-term 7-year tenure debate rather early in his administration. This is an unnecessary distraction. Remember the third term misadventure, Sir. What is paramount at this time is to capture the essence of the Goodluck Jonathan brand and begin to deliver it to the good people of Nigeria. I will make some recommendations presently.

President Jonathan can capture his key policy thrusts into a ‘Transformation into Excellence’ package. Whereas the ‘Transformation Agenda’ has been hyped as the cornerstone of his administration, it is pertinent to note that the desired transformation destination must be clearly defined and communicated lest we could transform into a different level of mediocrity or even worse. The message should be ‘let us transform Nigeria into a country of excellence’. Transforming into excellence is clearly a mantra that is understandable, memorable and realizable. This can then be anchored on an equally memorable quadrant: Promotion of Excellence; Race to Excellence; Acquisition of Excellence and Youth for Excellence -PRAY.

PRAY will, simply put, ensure that those in positions of authority and privilege work hard to encourage excellence over mediocrity among their team members. It will encourage the institutionalization of the rule of law, lead to the strengthening and professionalization of key institutions of governance and instill badly needed worthy values among our children and youth so they can look up to the future with hope, faith, dignity and loyalty to their fatherland.

The PRAY campaign may appear rather simplistic but it is not. If President Jonathan commits totally to the promotion of excellence, it will affect all spheres of life in the country. Benchmarks for success will be set and timelines drawn up. Ministers, heads of agencies who meet the set targets will be rewarded, those who miss theirs queried and/or penalized. Imagine what an excellence drive will do to the entire system, the civil service, the police, the organized private sector, the armed forces, the educational system, the investment climate, the Nigerian psyche, our national image. I can just see Nigerians singing songs of spontaneous praise for a true hero. The PRAY campaign will trigger a set of positive chain reactions from one agency to another, from one sector to the other. If the law enforcement agencies do their jobs excellently, crime and corruption will reduce and resources will be available to execute projects that will positively impact the larger society. We all know what benefits are to be derived if we have excellent electricity supply and excellent healthcare. Business boom, enhanced social security and high quality of life will be guaranteed.

A successful PRAY campaign requires a frenzied sense of urgency and a healthy dose of impatience for results. No Sir, you do not need 7 years to deliver, some have had 8 and fell short. The best way to deal with this is to actually act as though you have only 3 years in office. Nigerians are, after all, great at performing at the 11th hour. Let all appointees know that the 11th hour is here and watch them perform wonders. This induced shortened tenure will create the requisite sense of urgency necessary to galvanize all actors into delivering on the Goodluck Jonathan brand promise, Nigeria must be an excellent country: to live in; to do business; to holiday in, to die for. Examples abound even in Nigeria of leaders at different levels who made their mark in less than four years. Why not Dr. Jonathan?

If the transformation into excellence campaign must succeed President Jonathan need be reminded that the only true friends he can have now are those who can deliver the Goodluck Jonathan brand promise eloquently. Mr. President has affirmed his zeal for excellence with some key appointments beginning with Professor Atahiru Jega for INEC and recently bringing back Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to the Finance Ministry. But then, an officer is only as good as his commander. Mr. President must suffer fools gladly or lose his brand value. A positive transformation of the environment is good, a positive transformation of the mind is better but a positive transformation of both is best. Nigerians need a national brand hero, badly. The success of the Goodluck Jonathan brand is the success of today’s Nigeria. Go on Goodluck Jonathan, let us PRAY!

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