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Honourable Minister, this is bad PR

Minister for Finance, Kemi Adeosun PHOTO: SUNDAY AGHAEZE/STATE HOUSE

Apparently, the Ministry of Finance has engaged a foreign PR consultancy to work with the Debt Management Office on its Eurobond program. This ironically is bad PR for the ministry. Expectedly, the Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria, PRCAN kicked against this appointment. But rather than own up to this error and apologise to Nigerians, the ministry released a statement trying to justify what is an unforgivable blunder. In a statement credited to the ministry’s Director of Information, we were told that the foreign firm will earn N28.9m for three years. The statement further informed us that due process was followed and the criteria for selection included “company track record and credentials; evidence of valid licence to operate in the market or jurisdiction in which they are domiciled; global presence, transaction history with the Federal Government or any of its agencies; experience in similar transactions in the international capital market…” An all too familiar tale. That statement is disrespectful to Nigerian PR consultants.

I know some of them and I know them to be highly qualified, experienced and competent. It is, therefore, unfair to suggest that they are not qualified.

In my book, The Seven Dimensions of Branding, I ask bank MDs who engaged foreign brand consultants a simple question; since you think these foreigners are more experienced in branding than us, why don’t you appoint Europeans to run your bank since they’re also more experienced in banking than you can ever hope to be? By the same token, if my Minister thinks I am not competent enough in my profession to handle her assignment, then she is indirectly telling me she is not qualified to be my minister. After all we are all Nigerians. We may as well appoint the British to run our ministries since they are eminently better at governance.

This act typifies the attitude of our public officials who often treat us with condescension. The earlier we change this attitude the better for our nation. In my book, I talk about the economics of branding. We cannot successfully build our economy without building our own brands. Worse still, we are destroying our economy and impoverishing our own people when we build foreign brands with our resources. Given how much we suffer as a result of incompetence in government, it is unpardonable for our government agencies to empower foreigners where our own people could have been empowered. The foreign PR Company may have an office in Nigeria but it is still a foreign brand. It is even more unfortunate that this error is coming from our ministry of FINANCE, which is supposed to be playing a pivotal role in our economic development.

Our decision makers have this perception that foreigners are better than our own people in almost every way. I have experienced this problem in my business for many years. And this is why many of our consultancies run abroad to look for ‘foreign technical partners’ so that when they are bidding for business they go with a white person to impress the idiots who believe everything a white man tells them. Often, it works, but I have refused to do it. When we began the brand revolution in this country and started preaching the immense values of the branding process, many scoffed at us. We made presentations to many banks without success. But the same banks eagerly embraced white South Africans who later came to tell them the same things we were telling them. And of course, they paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process!

While you may even rationalise this in the private sector, there is no rational argument to justify it in government, because you are asking us to work like slaves in an environment you have made unconducive for business, taxing mu, and using that money to empower foreigners who come and take away our business. It’s near impossible to justify. For too long we have lived with incompetence in government. We are paying a huge price for it. We endure unnecessary hardships because our leaders are grossly unqualified for the jobs they claim to be doing. Meanwhile, we patiently endure and hope for improvement. But the same government officials now tell us that our PR Consultants are not good enough to implement their brief!

After receiving a delegation of PRCAN members The honourable Minister of Information assured them that government will work with Nigerian PR Consultants. The characteristic “I am doing you guys a favour” attitude we so often get from our public officials. Why is it that when they give assignments to local consultants, sometimes they owe for months before paying? We have to beg for the job and beg to be paid for the job. We suffer these indignities all the time, and it makes us cry to be treated this way in our own country! Meanwhile, foreign consultants are never treated this way. We look down on our own people and use our resources to empower foreigners. We have no respect for the dignity of our people and the sanctity of their lives. This is the attitude we see in government. It is shameful. It has to stop. We must do away with all these negative practices that have held our people down in poverty and want for so many decades. We must banish these archaic mannerisms and characteristics. Some would even argue that it is a black man’s disease. This attitude that makes a fellow black your enemy and a white man your friend.

As the world’s largest black nation, I believe Nigeria should lead the way and change this mindset. We should be a nation that blacks all over the world would be proud of. We must take our destiny in our own hands and develop our people. We must build our own brands and empower our people. I know that good Public Relations is about doing the right thing and doing things the right way.



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