The desperate drive by Nigerian leaders to corruptly enrich themselves is negatively affecting Nigeria’s image abroad, a former foreign affairs minister, Ike Nwachukwu, has said.
Mr. Nwachukwu, a retired Army General and Chairman of the Governing Council of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, said anyone watching the goings-on in the country would conclude that the leadership in Nigeria suffers from primitive acquisitive tendencies and believes solely in the accumulation of wealth at all costs.
“This attitude severely impedes Nigeria’s socio-economic development, with statistics showing that tens of millions of Nigerians live on less that $1 (N158) a day” he said on Tuesday in Lagos at a colloquium with the theme: ‘Managing Nigeria’s Image: Whose Responsibility?”
He said Nigerian’s dwindling reputation abroad is not only hinged on isolated cases of some dubious Nigerian’s abroad, but also on corruption, which has become an all-pervasive feature in Nigeria’s institutions.
“Instead of efficiently utilizing public funds for the development of the country, unscrupulous politicians use the financial resources of the state as private means” he said.
Mr. Nwachukwu said it appears that the leading notion guiding the leadership at all levels in Nigeria is the promotion of material self-interest to the detriment of the collective well-being of the people and the nation-state.
“The result is a complete disavowal of the norms of good democratic practices such as transparency, accountability and responsiveness to the needs of the population” he said.
According to him, what is particularly worrisome is not simply that there is corruption in Nigeria, but the dilemma is that some people try to promote its acquiescence.
“Nigeria as a nation-state operates on an unstable balance of essentially antagonistic ambitions in the sense that the leadership group in Nigeria is not motivated by a deep sense of patriotism and service to the nation, but is primarily concerned with political survival by clinging to power.
“It resorts to all means, including the monetization of politics, which is distorting the nature of the country’s newly adopted democratic processes, just to ensure that it continues to have access to public funds,” he said.
Many Nigerians are not treated well, both at home and abroad, which points to the persistence of a negative image of the country, he said.
He listed other consequences of the unfavourable image to include targeted persecution and maltreatment of Nigerians in different African countries, restrictive labour policies aimed strictly at Nigerians, among others.
Media must help build image
Mr. Nwachukwu, who presented the lead paper at the event, said in order to change this state of affairs, the nation’s leadership group and the media should make concerted efforts to promote a positive image of Nigeria that will translate into palpable benefits for its citizens.
“The Nigerian media needs to examine its strategy regarding the laundering of our image. It is true that the media is to inform the general public, and mould public opinion, but it must do so with the aim of protecting the image of the country” he said.
He urged that as a nation, we should acclaim our citizens who are making positive waves across the world.
“In every field of human endeavour, there are Nigerians at all levels, who are rolling back the frontiers in learning and in commerce. These positive occurrences should be highlighted” he said, adding that while there are bad Nigerians, there are millions more of very good Nigerians to be acknowledged and presented to the world as the true face of Nigeria and her citizens.
He said that government alone cannot and should not be saddled with the responsibility of making our image.
“Since parenthood is an offshoot of the individual, it is also important that parents ensure that the individuals that make up the families, imbibe the right values for good citizenship” he said.
While speaking, a former Minister of Information, Dora Akunyili, said the world has a very negative perception of Nigeria, which has gone unchallenged for so long that it is beginning to stick in the consciousness of most people around the world that most Nigerians are criminals or fraudsters.
“I am convinced that in the highly competitive world in which we live, Nigeria will have no choice than to present a compelling and coherent image to the world if we want to be taken seriously.
“We have to believe in ourselves so that we can define who we are and tell our story by ourselves” she said, adding that Nigeria has success stories which can be presented to the international audience.
Mrs. Akunyili said while it is the job of the Federal Government to drive the process of managing the country’s image, all Nigerians have roles to play in the process.
“We can all play this role by engaging in conduct that would promote, rather than denigrate Nigeria’s image” she said.
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