By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, I flew out of Nigeria two days ago on one of my latest preferred airlines, Rwandair, with some of the Ovation Crew of seasoned photographer, TV cameraman and interviewer and TV producer to attend Jimoh Ibrahim’s latest venture, the International conference on Infrastructure Development for Africa, taking place in Dubai between 25 August and 27 August 2018 at the iconic Burj Al Arab hotel. The long journey to Dubai through Kigali gave me time for some deep reflection and I came to the conclusion that we must change our negative attitude urgently or collapse Nigeria totally. As soon as we took off and gained some altitude, a video was played showing the awesome beauty of Rwanda and someone was shown marketing the country so passionately and admirably. I can’t remember his exact words but he went thus, “my name is Paul Kagame, I’m the Chief Tour Operator on this journey through a country that suffered some of the worst tragedies in human history but through genuine reconciliation, our people have reunited today and we have put our ugly past behind us…”
I was stunned at the ease with which President Paul Kagame was selling his country to the world. Having visited Kigali several times in the last one year, I am a living witness not just to the remarkable transformation of Rwanda, but also to the great marketing of the potentials and prospects of the country by virtually everybody from top to bottom. The marketing is not just through advertisements. It is the simple things that the Government and its people do. It has become a way of life.
On my recent visit to Kigali, just weeks ago, and as I was heading to my hotel, I heard some shrilling sirens out of the blue, and my driver quickly branched into a nearby petrol station, and she informed me their President was on his way. Within minutes the convoy sped past. There was what must have been a Range Rover in the middle somewhere and my obviously excited driver said “that’s our President driving himself…” I asked her, as if for definite confirmation, your President drives himself?” She answered in the affirmative. “Wonderful,” I exclaimed. I was immediately reminded of President John Mahama who not only sometimes drove himself around Accra, but also rode his power-bikes on occasions for relaxation and getting around town speedily. This simplicity and unobtrusiveness endeared him to his many ardent fans and supporters, in just the same way that Kagame is much loved in Rwanda today.
Seeing is believing, Rwanda is a twenty-first century wonder. The country is wonderful to me, not because of its serenity but for the incredible way it has successfully converted its tragic past to a magical present. All my friends in Rwanda are marketers of their country. As a matter of fact, they do it so well that I have joined them in marketing Rwanda to anyone who cares to listen to me. I’m sure there must be some ugly things going on in Rwanda that are not so obvious to visitors like me, but the citizens, and in particular their media, have cleverly downplayed those negative things. They must have realised that they stand to gain nothing if they expose the ugliness of their country to everybody. Their attitude is simple and straight forward. The best and easiest way to keep their economy growing, and visitors coming, is to give the impression that all is well, even if all is not perfect. So, to their credit, whilst negative news is still good news and must be highlighted, greater prominence is given to news which show the spectacular non-violent revolution that has taken place in Rwanda and the ensuing beauty and peace of the country.
From Kigali, we flew immediately to Dubai and landed yesterday morning. There is no point describing the beauty of Dubai. That would almost be an exercise in futility because words do not seem adequate to graphically capture and depict the sensation that is Dubai. In fact, to say that Dubai is the mythical Eldorado could almost amount to an understatement. Dubai has achieved this distinction because it has been well marketed and superbly positioned as one of the countries every soul should visit in a lifetime. Those behind the philosophy and principles upon which the Dubai fantasy is based are not only constantly developing ideas which create superlatives in buildings, resorts, hotels, environment, and more importantly people, they are also busy showcasing these accomplishments at every opportunity. This is done not only locally but also on a world-wide stage through the effective and exceptional use of public relations stunts. The PR starts from the media within. As in Rwanda, they have found a way of downplaying the negatives like falling property prices, scandal of the bouncing cheques, the liquidation of one of the largest equity funds, Abraaj to mention a few. Instead, they have even used these potentially grave setbacks to interest investors and visitors about how very efficient Dubai is and how things work. As they say it has never been a more profitable time to invest in and visit Dubai with things becoming cheaper than before. You can see the media at work both domestically and internationally in a concerted effort to raise the profile of Dubai and its people rather than to bring them down.
I then turn my mind to my dear country Nigeria and what do I see. Negativity, negativism and negative ideas, feelings and people. I realised that for far too long, we have never seen anything beautiful in ourselves. Indeed, it dawned on me that this was one of the reasons that motivated me at the time to establish Ovation Magazine. In 1996, when we founded Ovation International in London, we decided we were only going to publish positive stories about Africa, our rich culture, taste, values, wealth, intellect and people.
Our intervention gave rise to many Africans and African countries getting to meet and know and appreciate our respective countries, the attractions and the diversity yet similarity of culture as well as the powerful iconic figures and worthy Ambassadors in all areas of human endeavour. We demonstrated to the world that we are truly blessed in Africa and, although we have not yet made the necessary transition in leaving the Third World appellation behind, we have the human, natural and material resources to excel on the globe. Many countries and their people have taken advantage of our platform. Many still do! The countries include The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Dubai, Liberia, Commonwealth of Dominica, Ghana, Benin Republic, United States, France, United Kingdom, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Tanzania, Barbados, India, Cameroon, Gabon, Seychelles, Kenya, Ethiopia, and so many others, directly or indirectly. We have introduced and linked up the people of those countries to one another. We caused a fashion revolution globally to the extent that our Designers, their designs and even our fabrics are now well recognised and patronised globally and there is a growing clamour for our African fashion to take its rightful place in the centre stage of world fashion.
Our events coverage has ignited and provided jobs for millions of Africans all over the world in music, events planning, music, comedy, disc jockeying, MCs, security, catering, food and beverages, photography, media, equipment rentals, technicians, events centres, decorators, newspaper distribution and so on. We are extremely proud of our humble and modest contributions to the staggering economic growth of the entertainment/showbiz industry even if it is very easy for some people to think otherwise. The essence of this is that we must learn to think positively about ourselves.
The biggest danger facing our country today is that of the exponential explosion of unemployment which has given rise to the mass hysteria we are experiencing from children of anger. Politicians have also greatly mismanaged the situation. Rather than encourage our youths and offer them hope, they have decided to manipulate them into seeing every successful man as the cause of their failure. From street thugs they’ve been converted to social media trolls who lament endlessly and attack everyone without any modicum of evidence or facts about supposed crimes committed.
The sad thing is that unless our leaders get more imaginatively creative, the condition of our young ones would never improve. Due to acute frustration and desperation, they would be forced to take to hard-drugs, Yahoo Yahoo scams, prostitution, child and adult trafficking to foreign lands, violent crimes, and all manner of dastardly acts. The politicians may succeed in the short run in using our unsuspecting youths as their cannon-fodder to abuse and attack their opponents for a mere pittance, but these kids will someday turn against their masters. The level of despicable intolerance I see is unprecedented in my 58 years on earth. I shudder to think what will happen if these enraged youths spill over their vitriol and venom from the fantasy and imaginary world of the Cloud into the real and visible world of the streets. Yet these young ones and their anger can be turned into something positive and profitable if their talents and tools are properly harnessed to market the nation and its people. For them to do this, there must be something powerful they can sell. Whilst these abound, the climate of negativism prevents such marketing.
We must begin the process of re-orientation urgently. Something has to be done about the collapse of education. History must be made compulsory in our schools. We are among the greatest people on earth. Many unsung heroes have sacrificed a lot for Nigeria. There are legions of Nigerians doing great things at home and abroad. Nobody hears anything about them because our media is addicted to regaling us with tales of woe, instead. These great Nigerians have never taken contracts from any government. They have never belonged to any mainstream political parties. They have had to struggle for every kobo they made. Thinking that some people found life to easy and rosy is a fallacy that must be scrapped. Assuming that you can’t make it in life unless you turn to begging shamelessly must be discouraged.
Our great men and women must endeavour to work hard and write their true and accurate biographies for posterity sake. Our Historians have failed to do their duty in this regard. They have failed to properly and adequately chronicle our past and our personalities and personages. I feel very sad about many prominent and eminent Nigerians who have died without any trace that they ever existed. It is such a monumental tragedy. But the situation has become desperately urgent to write about our greatness. We should not allow our children to get so brainwashed into thinking there are no good people around or that it is not worth it to be honourable and have integrity. The poverty mentality that they have been fed must be purged by all means. The ignorance that has become the in-thing must be exterminated. We must tell stories of heroism because we want to say our true stories and not because we just feel like romanticising ourselves or massaging egos.
In literature, medicine, law, science and technology, music, sports, entertainment, entrepreneurship, academic, fashion, and other facets of human endeavour, we have been phenomenally brilliant. We should stop destroying ourselves and demeaning, denigrating and decimating our best. Those who have no properties don’t care about outbreak of wars or natural and artificial disasters. The children of the politicians are somewhere enjoying themselves. All without exception are living large while using the children of the poor to use their own heads to break coconuts. This must be eradicated. The only way to do so is to engender positive thoughts and feelings about ourselves. Let us raise the bar of acceptable conduct and standards by focussing more on stellar achievements. Constantly shouting about evil does not help if good and righteousness are not promoted. The more we relegate negativity to the background and foster and nurture positive thoughts, ideas, principles and success, the more likely we are to gradually draw away from certain darkness and doom and emerge into the glorious dawn and light.
It is time for my brothers and sisters in all variants of the media to see themselves as advocates and chroniclers of a brighter, happier Nigeria. Today should be the start of that day. Let us put a positive spin even on negative events. We will be amazed at the transformation that this will bring to our national ethos and our advancement and progress as a country.
God bless Nigeria!