Thank you for forwarding to me the comments of Hon Minister of Information & Communications on the Human Rights Watch report on Nigeria. Here are my comments:
i) Both the Minister and HRW have valid comments that should not be treated with disdain and ignominy.
ii) It is true that the political system in Nigeria encourages corruption as stated by HRW but the corruption is not limited to issue of money but shameful conducts of most Nigerians including the religious bodies, human rights groups and the entire public. For instance, any careful and objective viewers of Yori on Channels TV will agree that he and all his armchair critics can not absolve themselves from systemic corrupt practices. I challenge Yori and other civil rights groups to publicly declare their incomes, sources, taxes paid, NEPA and Water bills paid etc. We must tell ourselves the truth that HRW should take the issue of corruption in Nigeria from the holistic approach and not lampooning of the Government and the political class alone. I have not absorbed both of them but the truth must be told.
iii) What is HRW saying about the £50 million sleaze scandal involving Tony Blair and some members of his Government with the Saudi Monarchs? It is on record in the British media that Tony Blair and his men promised the highly embarrassed Saudi Royals to cover them up and ensure that the scandal is not investigated. Let us hear from HRW on this.
iv) I believe that HRW can sincerely partner with the Government, the political class and the generality of Nigerians in exorcising corruption from our culture and character just as they owe UK and USA similar obligations.
v) Finally as I said even before Yar’Adua won the election, he is not a push over but history will judge him rightly. It is too early to do a post mortem on him on populist actions that are probably not deep and could be counter-productive.
This is inspired by the statement of the Minister of Information on the Human Rights Watch report and the subsequent comment by Mr Tunde Martins.
Even if the position of Human Rights Watch is prejudiced and unfair as suggested by Mr Martins, we as a country should take the blame. Reason: HRW is only responding to the ceaseless rash of negative information coming out of the country. I don’t want to go into the endless and dispiriting debate over the many things wrong with the country, including corruption. Rather my focus is on the PERCEPTION of the local and international audience regarding the current status of the much advertised war on corruption.
This is my observation: Nigeria’s image has not benefited from the successes recorded so far. Rather, the overall impression is that the rot is so deep that no progress is being made. The implication, unfortunately, is that the war is an endless and possibly unwinnable one. This is unfortunate. No wonder battle fatigue is setting in.
The message we should be giving the world is this: we’re fighting corruption with all seriousness AND we are making progress. We should be telling the world that Nigeria is becoming cleaner as a result. If at th end of the day EFCC earns the respect of the world for its gallant efforts but the image of the country continues to get worse, what has been achieved. HRW and the rest of the world are only responding to the negative slant of the information and impressions emanating from Nigeria.
If South Africa is not defined by violence and rape and the US does not automatically evoke images of teen killers running amok in schools, then we need to find a way to fight corruption without putting the country’s reputation into a locked, water tight cage with the keys thrown away…
Looking forward to ideas and comments.
Paul C Nwabuikwu
I quite agree with Paul. Though he didn’t identify himself as the Former SA (Media) to Minister of Finance (and foreign Affairs), Madam Okonjo Iweala. He is amongst PR persons who not only defend their principals professionally while in office but also after. He has consistently protects even before her new appointment with the World Bank. With her unceremonious exit from the government, she too still takes the pain to promote our image to the outside world. That is by the side.
Back to the issue raised by the HMIC and the comments by the last contributors. I believe it is high time we start to PR Nigeria in the real sense: Promote her, propagate her and protect her integrity to the outside by highlighting the positive strides and achievements being made lately. CNN, BBC and other such foreign media, no matter the bad situations in their countries they always want the outside world to see them as progressive nations.
Most members of the forum have through off-list (mails outside the group) and phone calls suggest a situation where we admonish our policy-makers on the right steps, like some forumites have done successfully here, without neglecting our responsibility as citizens to promote our nation. Nigeria is our country, which is not only meant for Yar’Aduas, Marks or even Ettehs alone. Many Nigerians, who have opportunities of traveling abroad, always take the pain to convince foreigners that the situations here are not as scary as they are projected. Just imagine the many different tribes, ethnic groups and religions, yet other nations with less of such diversities and population have been on war with higher poverty level.
I believe and support the need for national PR strategy on fighting corruption which is the major cankerworm staring us on the face. This is where the AGF and EFCC must reconcile their differences for the sake of our great nation and sincerely work towards fighting the ill pervading our nation. Once corruption is tackled all other will be in right place: hostage-taking, unemployment, prostitutions, robbery even sabotage in energy can be the things of the past.
Reading the Report of HRW, I just wonder if they are not referring to the past.
I agree with you folks that we need to work out a PR strategy for the Federal Government’s Anti-Corruption War to leverage on. This would be the PR practitioners’ contribution to the ongoing war against corruption in the country. The call for this strategy has come at a time our Communications consultancy in association with relevant stakeholders is planning a Global Communication Summit for February 2008. Its focus will be on Corruption and Communication. Deliberations are expected to look at the challenges of communication in sensitizing the African society on the anti-corruption war. Prominent communication specialists from across the globe will be here to discuss the issues. Details of this summit will be made available through this channel as soon as discussions with relevant partners are concluded.