THE WIND OF CHANGE AND THE EMERGING BRAND NIGERIA

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On that winter day, December 21, 1989, the Romanian dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, folded in his flurry fur coat, stood on the balcony of his mansion, his abode for over two decades.  He had gathered the crowd, as he had done since 1965 when he started ruling Romania. This was his last desperate effort to save socialism and save his hold on power.  His backer, the Soviet Union, was no longer the headmaster of socialism as the system crumbled all around Eastern Europe.

So Ceausescu bellowed out to the people in familiar refrain… ‘comrades, comrades’ but the response was as shocking as a bolt out of the blue sky. Just a single voice rang out and silenced the uneasy crowd; it was a boo and it was directed at the maximum ruler.  Something had changed and Romania would never be the same again.

And it was all there live, on television.

Fast forward 21 years after, December 18, 2010 in Tunisia. 26-year old Mohamed Bouazizi had just set himself ablaze in protest against rising unemployment and shabby treatment at his vegetable stall by officials of the local authority. The fire that consumed him was the spark for the Arab Spring that saw to the fall of many presidents and changed the face of the Arab world.And the social media, like television had done in 1989, brought the moving change, but this time more intimately.

June 2019. Has the change finally arrived on the shores of Nigeria, with the change harbinger, the social media, leading the charge?

Truth is that things are changing across the land. Yes, they are. You had better believe it. But it is not the kind of dramatic change of drop in corruption – we are still among the most corrupt countries in the world. We have not lost our place as the poverty capital of the world. No, these are not the kind of ‘change’ that has happened. The battle to reclaim the ‘soul’ of Nigeria is underway.

Our tipping point has arrived. Has it?

MalcomGladwell in his bestseller, The Tipping Point,talked about how little things can make a big difference, even when unplanned.  We can take solace in the fact that our baby steps in changing things are actually the way to go for the big changes that we desire.

First, a powerful pastor who has been serially accused of sexual inappropriateness finally stepped down.  A Senator who seemed unable to control both his libido and anger was made to publicly apologize and eventually face the law after he was caught on tape hitting a woman in a sex-toy shop.

And the big one. The people’s loud voice was heard when a surreptitious plan by the federal government to seize lands across the country and hand them over to herdsmen was ‘suspended’.

Indeed, the change we thought would come from the politicians are coming from the people. And the simple reason this has happened is because the change we want must come from us, if we do one fundamental thing: cooperate.

Yuval Noah Harari in his second book, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow,narrates that the greatest success by humankind has been due to the fact that ‘homo sapiens is the only species on earth capable of cooperating flexibly in large numbers’.

Either with the Romanian revolution in 1989 or the Arab fall that followed two decades after, the key driving force was cooperation, and with cooperation came another key factor: ‘words’, described by Rudyard Kipling as ‘…the most powerful drug used by mankind’.

They spoke, and in cooperation.

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Rosa Park also spoke out ‘my feet hurt’, as she refused to stand up from her seat in defiance of a racist policy.

In all instances, change happened. We must cooperate and speak out.

But for change to take root in a brand environment, especially for a damaged brand like Nigeria, three key elements must be present: consistency,frequency and anchor (either rational or emotional).

To build the brand Nigeria we desire, we must be consistent in our collective call for things to be done differently. There must not be divided voices about a matter as simple as condemning a Governor who was caught on tape taking bribes.

Nigeria has been tethering on value dissonance for years. What we taunt as ‘our value’ is probably a leftover from many years ago. How much of it survived the military and the current crop of politicians?

However, we represent the value we want; we must be consistent in promoting it as the key ingredient in building the new Nigerian brand.

It is not every time that a people revolt against oppression. Hardly around here, with so much that divides us than unites. If we are not pandering to our clannish or tribal interest, it is religion or politics that shows where our bread, literally, is buttered. The once revered opinion leaders have lost their voice. As we say around here, ‘it is bad manners to speak when you are eating’. They once led the way, mobilizing against tyranny and bad governance. Now they either keep quiet or speak from two sides of the mouth. But we must look beyond them and resolve to never let down our guard and continue to speak truth to power. The frequency and vehemence of our voice will show determination for a true change.

The anchor, association if you like, is found neither in our leadership nor our institutions. Both represent brand ‘eroders’ for the country. So we must begin to identify or create anchors that best position our new Nigerian brand.

For our redemption as a people, and for the emergence of the great Nigerian brand, we must do away with the old belief that our leaders can never do wrong. We must stop worshiping pastors and imams who have become gods of men. Our venerations of ‘elders’ must come with conditions; we should be able to separate those who have made a career in stealing our commonwealth from genuine nationalists and elder statesmen.

Perhaps, the time for the new Nigeria, the much-awaited brand that has been in the works since the advent of democracy has dawned.

But we must also interrogate the new creature. What kind of brand Nigeria do we really want? What does the ideal brand Nigeria mean to people from across the different divides: political, cultural and religious?

Should this new Nigeria come with a new structure, for example?  Can we truly and sincerely operate a new brand Nigeria using old matrix? Can a freshly baked brand Nigeria work when it will be mired in unworkable, feeding bottle styled, unequal federation?

The wind of change is coming, quick and furious.  Whether it brings good or evil for our country Nigeria is hidden in our expectations. But we must not relent in our resolve to march together to speak with one voice like they did in the Romanian revolution and the Arab Spring.  Our march may have started in June as the winds that bring rain, bring hope.