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1.1 Background of the Study
A country’s image and reputation are as important as the country itself. Evidently, no country, the world over, toys with her image, reputation and identity. Everything is done both locally and internationally to preserve, protect and project those virtues and symbols that promote national honour and dignity. The burning of the national flag or the tainting of the national colour of a particular country by protesters on the streets of a foreign country or within the precinct of her foreign mission’s building as often witnessed during some unresolved socio-political crises, to a large extent, portends a bad omen or a sign of hate or outright rejection. And that could signal a bad image and reputation for such country.
Nigeria as a country is part of the larger heterogeneous global community. Before, during and after her independence on October 1st 1960, it has been engaging in various forms of diplomatic shuttles and representations to enhance her international reputation profile. Unfortunately, with her ugly civil war experience early in her independence years, a lot more effort had to be engaged to reassure the international community that the country is indeed a force to reckon with in the global enterprise.
Relying on her conviction of making African continent the centre-piece of her foreign policy thrust, Nigeria has, over the last four decades, contributed immensely in promoting peace and economic development in the sub-Saharan Africa. The outbreak of internecine wars and political upheavals in some West African countries like Liberia, Sierra-Leon, Ivory Coast, to mention a
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few, in the early 1990s and late 2000s brought out the true influence of Nigeria in the sub-regional affairs.
The country, alongside other viable member states, established the ECOMOG Force (ECOWAS Monitoring Group), which has now transformed to ECOWAS stand-by force, charged with the responsibility of quelling political unrests and other forms of undemocratic tendencies by some antisocial elements in the sub region. The ECOMOG, literally under the dominance and control of Nigeria, eventually navigated those above-mentioned countries back to the path of peace and political stability.
Nigeria’s voice in the African Union (formerly Organization of African Unity- OAU) is not only loud but equally vibrates across the globe. The United Nations, the European Union and the United States of America have collectively and variously attested to this fact when they described Nigeria as a “strong voice in Africa and reliable ally in global peace initiative...,” Egwu (2007).
At the world level, Nigeria, no doubt, has actively participated in the search for lasting peace and socio-political development of different countries. All these tremendous efforts (which often cost a fortune) were channeled through peace-keeping operations. At various times, the country’s military and police personnel were dispatched to different countries under the tutelage of the United Nations to partake in various operations. And fortunately, the nation’s armed forces have at various times given good accounts of themselves thus elevating the reputation profile of the country.
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This seemingly endless search for good international image and reputation by the country over the years has equally led to the establishment of the Technical Aids Corps Scheme in 1987. The establishment of this unique scheme according to the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ‘‘was borne out of a desire by Government to streamline the nation’s hitherto uncoordinated foreign aid and technical assistance policy.” Since its establishment, it has become a veritable tool of the nation’s foreign policy, playing a pivotal role in consolidating relations with friendly countries of the African, Caribbean and Pacific regions of the world.
The country’s journey to building good and sustainable international image and reputation over the years has equally led to her participation in different forms of international/bilateral agreements with different countries and international organizations/agencies. To promote internal societal-approved conduct, good moral and ethical behaviour among her citizens as well as projecting acceptable image to the international community, the country initiated some vibrant domestic legislation. These include: Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act, 2004 (EFCC Act, 2004); Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000 (ICPC Act, 2000); Code of Conduct Act, 1989; Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006, etc.
At international level, we had some Bilateral Treaties signed by the country. Such as Law Enforcement Cooperation Agreement with the United States of America, 2001; and Nigeria/South Africa Bilateral Treaty on Criminal Matters, 2001. Nigeria is also a signatory to some regional treaties like the ECOWAS Treaty on Exchange of Information on Criminal
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Matters; and African Convention on Prevention and Combating Corruption. Some of the international treaties signed by the country to show her commitment to transparency and good conduct with a view to boosting her international image and reputation are : United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), signed in 2003 and ratified in 2004; Schemes Relating to Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters within the Commonwealth (including amendments made by Law Ministers in April 1990, November 2002 and October 2005); the London Scheme for Extradition within the Commonwealth (incorporating the amendments agreed at Kingstown in November 2002); United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (signed in December 2000, ratified June 2001).
This convention requires member-states to criminalize participation in an organized criminal group and the laundering of the proceeds of crime, to criminalize corruption and to adopt measures to combat it, to freeze, confiscate and forfeit assets, to extradite offenders, to render mutual assistance in transnational criminal matters and to foster cooperation in law enforcement.
Flipping through her chequered history of post-independence 50 years, one can confidently say that Nigeria has come of age. It has pulled through the thick and thin of life and toiled the foibles of national development. So many odds have directly confronted the nation even to the extent of threatening its cohesion and corporate existence, yet in unity it stands, and with faith in God, it forges ahead with impressive equanimity.
In spite of this enviable and determined march towards national Eldorado, a handful of vices and perspicacious omen have erupted along the path to, not only blight her image and reputation, but
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equally threaten her self-esteem and conspicuous position among the comity of nations. This, no doubt, has largely accounted for the passenger seat the country has been consigned to in global affairs for over two decades now. The several years of military rule in the country has not helped matters either. At a point, due to the oppressive, aggressive and repressive template of the military’s misrule, the country was even treated as a pariah nation, which evidently crippled our collective psyche, the fledgling economy, social esteem, sense of pride; and literally pulverized what was left of our international image and reputation (precisely between 1994 and 1996 during the reign of the late Gen. Sani Abacha).
Successive governments in the country have in various ways made concerted efforts at shoring up the image rating of the nation but a brick wall seems to always be in direct confrontation, as a lot of water appeared to have been allowed to pass under the bridge over the years. So many vices have surreptitiously crept up under the cloak of lasting maladministration and visionless regimes that were foisted on the country for a very long time. With the advent of democratic governance, some breath of fresh air or so seemed to have been regained. But that too was not to last long as corruption and other modern-day social vices like terrorism were quickly packaged and detonated on the political arena, thus setting the nation once more on a journey backward.
Between 1999 and 2010, two major image crystallization programmes were launched on the world scene with a view to, once again, putting Nigeria on the ladder of global reputation ranking. Frank Nweke, a former Minister of Information and Communications in the early 2000s introduced an image promotion programme christened; ‘Heart of Africa Campaign.’ The underpinning intention of this programme was to sell Nigeria to the global community as “a
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richly endowed and beautifully adorned bride that regulates the pulse of Africa” (Nweke, 2005). The world attention was, to some extent, directed towards Nigeria to see what good that could, as promised, come from it. Upon her appointment as Information and Communications Minister in the administration of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in 2008, Professor Dora Akunyili also tinkered with the idea of crafting an attractively robust international image and reputation for Nigeria. In driving her dream through, she came up with the “Rebranding campaign.”
However, the rebranding campaign came under heavy knocks from many Nigerian elites within the country and in the Diaspora. It was criticized for lacking in substance and direction as well as promoting the successes and image that only exist in the imagination of the promoters. That notwithstanding, Osagie (2011) observed that the campaign has offered the world a window through which they were able to peep at Nigeria and all what obtains therein.
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