Nigeria’s P.R Engine-Chasing the Spotlight.
Nigeria has long been an African nation in the spotlight. Since its independence from the British in 1960 the bar was set high; a nation plentiful in resources and manpower the West African state was expected to soar. 54 years later, after a period of military dictatorships, the country finally appears to be coming of age. But behind the glitz and glamour of this new emerging market lurks “eye-wateringly” rudimentary problems, which begs the question – Is Nigeria´s PR surge all smoke and without fire?
Home to over 172 million people and countless oil reserves Nigeria is readily recognized by the international community. It is not only the economic prosperity of the nation that draws in spectators worldwide, but also its arguable role as a leader and innovator in the African culture du jour.
The hustle and bustle of the densely populated Lagos has often lent it the name as the most quintessentially African megacity. Often cited in music and film it is dubbed the entertainment capital of Africa. Despite the fact many, if not most Nigerians would not contest such statements, these beliefs have often led to overly self-confident remarks from the Nigerian political establishment. It was rather difficult to turn a blind eye to Governor Babatunde Fashola’s zealous promotional video coining the popular phrase Eko o ni baje. Or, the confident words in typical Okonjo-Iweala style – “If you’re not in Nigeria you’re not in Africa.”
Granted, such statements do hold some weight. Nigeria has become the economic hotspot of the Continent. Not only is it the biggest oil producer in Africa, but as of April of this year, Nigeria’s economy surpassed that of South Africa, making in the largest economy in Africa. Not to mention the most recent World Economic Forum, held in Abuja in May of this year.
Nigerian politicians are all but too keen to magnify the image of an economically prosperous nation. The promotion and advertisement of Lagos’ new Ikoyi or Banana Island, Eko Atlantic, has been jubilant and loud. A city aimed at attracting foreign investment and increasing sustainability, the promotional videos depicting the finished product do not look too dissimilar from the likes of Hong Kong, Dubai or Abu Dhabi; sky-high skyscrapers and ostentatious bridges, it is a city designed to draw in the super rich. Indeed, already, some forecasters are predicting you will need to fork out a whopping 300,000 Naira for just one square meter of property on the new island.
Of course, such an ambitious and modern project was used in order to flatter Nigeria’s image in the international community, with figures such as President Bill Clinton attending the much publicized dedication ceremony of the island in February of 2013.
Nigeria’s PR engine is slowly but surely building an image of herself as the land for the mega-rich. As flattering as such a description may be, it is dangerous. Facts could not be further from the truth. Of course, names such as Dangote and Adenuga are symbols of the wealth and glamour of Nigeria. Undeniably, such figures have contributed greatly to Nigeria’s economy and development, such achievements, we can only praise.
However, Nigeria seems to have backed herself into a corner, she has trapped herself in the web of her own glory. With her booming economy, new futuristic Eko Atlantic and abundance of billionaires, just one slip-up could have detrimental effects, and cause all to question her growth thus far.
We need not wait with bated breath for such slip-ups. It has arguably already happened.
After the kidnapping of the Chibok girls and international scrutiny of the Nigerian government during the #BringBackOurGirls campaign it was evident that there are some ghastly problems afflicting not only the political establishment in Nigeria, but also the society as a whole. Nigeria’s PR could not rectify or salvage her image. The damage had been done. Instead of a nation known for it’s wealth and will to drive forward, Nigeria was recognized for its seemingly irrevocable internal security problems, cultural and religious divisions, as well as a nation run by rather apathetic political leaders.
However, it is not only the much publicized Chibok kidnapping that has many questioning Nigeria’s carefully constructed image, but also some rather rudimentary issues. Granted, Nigeria’s GDP may have surpassed $500 billion USD in April of this year, but that takes nothing away from the poverty of much of the population. According to the Nigerian statistics agency, over 50% of Nigeria’s population is living in absolute poverty. Not to mention the widespread corruption that plagues the nation. According to Transparency International, Nigeria ranked 144th out of 177 countries regarding political and economic transparency.
The Age-Old phrase, ‘Don’t walk before you can run’ is pertinent at this stage. Why embark on grandiose projects, or hold international conferences when the country has not tackled elementary issues? Unfortunately, in an attempt to chase the spotlight prematurely, Nigeria may have unintentionally exposed her own flaws for the whole world to see.