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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Who manages Nigeria’s image?

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SIR: The above question was posed for debate on the occasion of the 50th birthday of Nigeria’s leading perception manager Yomi Badejo Okusanya (YBO). To tackle the poser, his outfit CMC Connect staged a colloquium for the citizens to jaw-jaw.

To ex-military governor and one-time foreign affairs minister, Major General Ike Nwachukwu (rtd), “the promotion of material self interest by the elite and the ruling class to the detriment of the welfare of the people… is a threat to the management of the image of Nigeria.”

Nwachukwu condemned what he termed “ the primitive acquisitive tendencies” of the “ leadership group” and “monetization of the politics” of our age and said they “ impede social development.”

The retired General coupled these with the “violence all over the place,” and held that Nigerians are not treated well abroad because of our poor image; leadership group should work on it for a positive change; media should examine its strategy of reporting negative trends while not covering up criminality and impunity; they must strike a balance ; government alone can’t be saddled with managing the country’s image ; individuals should imbibe right values and be “ good” ambassadors of Nigeria abroad.

The debate reignited can’t be a one – affair because of its inherent dynamics and the interconnectivity of perception and reality. As ex-Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party Audu Ogbeh said during his famous war of words with former President Olusegun Obasanjo “perception is reality.” So it is an on-going debate. We must agree with that dictum if we are to seriously address the image dilemma in Nigeria. What we see and hear and read in the media – local or foreign – has a powerful impact on our inflection and actions. And no matter the texture or nature of these reflections and actions, we must be careful not to fix our gaze in the direction of the media for blame. For, the journalist can’t but be faithful to his job: reporting what he sees faithfully.

So the kernel of the dialectics at work is to “tamper,” as it were, with what goes on in the society, since what goes on in society is what the reporter sees to report. He can’t manufacture or concoct what is not there. True he sometimes exaggerates. But again you embellish what is on the ground. You don’t adorn what isn’t happening.

Those who gathered at Muson Centre, Onikan Lagos to consider the issue as they honoured YBO were aware of this link between (mis)governance and image and therefore submitted that image management is not an abstruse enterprise disconnected from reality. In that case it must be said that what we refer to as reflection or image is noting but the totality of what the citizen derives (benefits) from his government. It is equally the reaction of that citizen to governance. Vice versa, it is government’s reaction to the citizen’s perception of its actions. Who manages this friction – laden intercourse? Or isn’t it more instructive and practical to ask: how do we manage the inevitable friction?

• Banji Ojewale

Ota, Ogun State

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