Centenary Celebration: Platform For Resuscitating Cultural Legacies (1)

(By Oni Femi)

Scholars have tended to conclude that the role of imperialism could not be de-emphasised. Some scholars believe that colonialism was a system of racial oppression, all more insidious, because of its impact as well as physical distortion of attitudes and behaviour. It is indubitable that Nigeria’s contact with the western world has robbed her of great potentials both in human and material resources, but must we continue to ponder on the evils of colonialism or slavery years after independence? Does it mean that Nigeria has not even an atom of positive socio-political achievement that it can sell to the outside world years after independence? 

SOCIAL order determines peace and stability in any political clime, its absence jeopardizes peace and harmony and close avenues for any investment, patronage and development. It is worth mentioning that due to the Eurocentric nature of the types and system of government adopted by successive Nigerian leaders coupled with the theories of governance that have its provenance in western culture, the country has tended to suffer grave social collapse and this has brought to the fore the urgent need to re-brand the nation in order to be able to project the country’s image in a more appealing way for development.

   Nation branding implies those measures which are targeted at projecting the image of a nation in a better and more promising limelight. It is a social process of re-engineering public and international perception of nations, people and investors about a nation and its people. It is a way of aiding investments from foreign investors because it determines the strength of the nation in attracting people to either live or work/study in a nation. Nation branding was popularised by Simon Anholt in his nation brand index project in 2005. It is practised by both developed and under-developing nations. It should be noted that Nigeria has made several attempts at nation branding and re-branding from the inception of the fourth republic, with her information ministers attempt to project the image of Nigeria in a better limelight due to the battered image emerging from the long years of military rule.

  Some scholars also conceptualised nations branding as a form of national soft power, a form of public diplomacy. Branding is a marketing strategy associated with products and services of a corporations and an organisation in an attempt to distinguish their products and services from that of other organisation and to attract more customers. Many countries have adopted this procedure to shore up the image of their country internationally, particularly in this era of globalisation when goods and service are measured in international standards, coupled with the fact that no nation want to be isolated. This has resulted to increase competition among nations on how to attract foreign investors to meet international standard in trade, tourism and investment.

   With the hindsight of happenings in the political landscape of the country, one begins to wonder if the country really has any positive achievements to project to the outside world since the amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates. And must we go on branding rather than look for peace which will actually attract investors and create enabling environment for business to thrive?

Scholars have tended to conclude that the role of imperialism could not be de-emphasised. Some scholars believe that colonialism was a system of racial oppression, all more insidious, because of its impact as well as physical distortion of attitudes and behaviour. It is indubitable that Nigeria’s contact with the western world has robbed her of great potentials both in human and material resources, but must we continue to ponder on the evils of colonialism or slavery years after independence? Does it mean that Nigeria has not even an atom of positive socio-political achievement that it can sell to the outside world years after independence?

  Paradoxically, Nigerians have enjoyed significant peaceful co-existence before her contact with the outside world. These were times when Nigerian cultural values were undiluted and untainted with any foreign influence whatsoever. Those were days when trade and communal relationship were built on trust, ably assisted by the various norms and indigenous value systems that any offender or people with anti social behaviours were sanctioned by their various communities through well spelt out and defined laws. Though a majority of these communal laws were unwritten, but every member of the society must have undergone the process of social integration through initiation ceremony where these values were taught and everyone was made to understand the consequences of going against any of the societal values and norms. Though, laws and norms differ from place to place depending on the people’s culture or religion, the people held them important and attend to them in awe, until their contact with foreign culture, which dispossessed them of their valued system. Hence, there was hardly any need for nation branding, because peace and hospitality was primary to inter-personal relationship in Nigeria and these are also very important to branding.

    Before the advent of foreign culture, the dimension of Nigerian indigenous culture and values created a kind of social order that respected other people’s rights and values that are geared towards attaining the common good theory within the society. These were days when people held position of authority without pilfering the community coffer for personal aggrandizement, when people held the commonwealth of the people with utmost sanctity. Days when local politics was not a do or die affair. Days when men in power knew that they were not only accountable to the people they governed but also to Olodumare, their Creator. Succinctly put, leaders were accountable and more responsible to the people they governed and thus enjoyed ‘people’s sovereignty’ as part of the peoples moral responsibility.

   With recourse to the days of yore, hospitality used to be an integral trait of every Nigerian community. It is believed in Nigeria that visitors should be provided for properly, honoured and reverred because he /she might be an agent of Olodumare, hence Nigerians make sure that new faces around their communities are well treated. In fact, it is a taboo in some culture not to have food at home for a visitor who might visit at dawn.

    I cannot but begin to wonder at the sudden hostility that is gradually becoming a normal occurrence in Nigeria. Life is no longer sacred! People kill and maim themselves because of religious, political and ethnic differences. Plane crashes and hundreds of lives were lost and one sees the Minister of Aviation visiting the site of the crash loudly dressed! Guerrillas visit place of worship to unleash terror at worshippers. Place of worship is no longer a safe haven for worshippers. Worshippers are frisked at church entrance before they can be allowed access to worship. Innocent teens are murdered in their sleep and the only solution our leaders can proffer is the urgent need for national confab. Haba! We are talking of human lives. I recalled when the First Lady lost her mother in a tragic road accident; newspapers were awash with condolence messages from both players in the private and public sectors. Where are those condolence messages when those innocent teens were murdered in their sleep? Maybe, the newspapers are yet to publish them. Haba! Can someone tell these contract seeking private sectors to stop playing to the gallery. The fact that the siblings of those innocent teens have no road contract to award does not denote that they should be treated with disdain. I recalled when some Nursery school pupils lost their lives in a ghastly road accident on the Ondo-Ore road some years back, our humble Dr. Reuben Abati was the first to publish an article in The Guardian condemning the convivial ambience that pervaded the Federal Executive Council meeting days after the nation lost innocent Nursery pupils. Dr Abati, now you know that it is easy to stand with a crowd but it takes courage to stand alone!

To be continued.

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