The Federal Government’s decision to celebrate Nigeria’s centenary early this year attracted strong criticism from various quarters, but with well coordinated activities designed around the key concepts of unity and espousing of the nation’s potentials, the celebration is fast becoming a positioning tool, Raheem Akingbolu writes
When the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, appeared before the National Assembly two months ago, to take the lawmakers through the concept of the ‘Nigeria Centenary Project’ conceived by the Goodluck Jonathan administration to showcase the country’s appeal in her 100 years of existence, not a few members of the public condemned the celebration as unnecessary.
Among other things, its timing was faulted, based on the insecurity insurgence and many political crisis rocking the country. But having done their home work and weighed the pros and cons of the proposed celebration, the organisers stood their ground, arguing that its essence was to chart a better future for Nigeria.
In the concept document of the celebration, which was accessed and assessed by THISDAY, it was stated that the event would present an opportunity for Nigerians to count their blessings as a nation, celebrate their dexterity and resilience as a people, and resolve to launch into the next century with renewed determination, hope and expectation.
However, if there was anything that appeased those opposing the initiative, it was the assurance by the government that it would be a private sector-driven initiative, anchored on three main pillars: enduring legacy projects, the commemorative events and the history and heritage programme.
Touch of Professionalism
Unlike similar projects in the past, from the onset government didn’t play any overbearing role, hence it hired a leading marketing communications company – DDB Lagos – to handle the marketing media strategy, publicity and other important areas of the project.
Accordingly, to give it the professional touch it required, the agency had assembled a consortium of professionals to anchor various segments of the celebration. If there was anything that pointed to the excellent performance of this consortium of experts, it was the meeting the president held with the CEOs of leading business organisations in Abuja recently.
In a build up to the executive luncheon, the experts had rolled out many strategies to market and connect stakeholders in the Nigerian business community. Aside advertising, which was ran in different media, they also deployed direct marketing and third person endorsement through essential public relation tools to sell the idea. At the end, the event paraded top personalities in corporate Nigeria at home and in the Diaspora.
In a way, the performance of DDB simply demonstrated that the agency understood the concept document, which stated that the publicity strategy of the Nigeria Centenary Project would appropriately make use of strong local and international media, with emphasis on unity, diversity, strengths and promise of the nation.
In line with the concept, the agency successfully used international press conferences and media engagements; TV series and talk shows; Radio programmes and commentaries.
Modern-day Nigeria came into being on January 1, 1914, with the formal amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates of the former British colony. Therefore, January 1, 2014, marks 100 years of the union. According to the organisers of the centenary celebration, it would offer a unique opportunity to focus global attention on Nigeria, her history, peoples, achievements, and aspirations.
Though the broad framework of the celebration was designed around the key concepts of unity, indivisibility, virility, progress and promise of the Nigerian federation; the theme ‘One Nigeria: Great Promise’ summarised all that government was out to achieve.
It was against this background that the vision statement; to project a united, vibrant, progressive and respected nation eager to lead in world affairs, was put forward as nodal anchors for its delivery.
Speaking on its objective during a press briefing addressed along the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Chief Edem Duke, in Lagos, the SGF, Senator Anyim, emphasised that the celebration would reinforce hopes and express shared values among Nigerians, to strengthen national consciousness and patriotism.
He said: “The project was conceived to celebrate Nigeria’s history and unity, celebrate our diversity, hopes and great promise that inspires our people and preserve our heritage, and document our history, achievements and progress.”
The SGF also stated that government would, through the project, institute legacy projects as a lasting reference for the centenary.
Tool for Branding and Positioning
As enumerated in the concept document of the celebration, some experts believe that proper implementation of the concept would help in the repositioning of the country.
Those who think it would be another opportunity for Nigeria have premised the argument on the promise that it would, among other things; promote enterprise development, wealth and job creation and promotion of women and youth empowerment. It was also stated that it would be an opportunity to showcase Nigeria’s sports and tourism potentials as well as promoting her national image and enhance her prestige.
A Media Relations practitioner, Mr. Deji Seriki, who said the initiative would offer a good branding platform for Nigeria, called on players in the private and public sectors, who are involved in the process to handle it cleverly. Seriki, who works with Lagos-based Right Hand Media, however commended DDB and others that have worked so far on the project.
According to him: “I have never, for once, criticised the project because I took time to study its offering, but my fear has always been in the area of implementation. However, considering the fact that this is not an exclusive government affair, I think the cooperation among stakeholders would drive it well.
“Beyond the glitz of the celebration, the event will present an opportunity for us to launch into the next century with renewed determination, hope and expectations. Accordingly, to use the words of the people who put its concept together; the centenary celebration would offer us a unique opportunity to affirm the obvious truth that Nigeria is not a historical accident, rather “the product of a long and mature consideration.