national unity

The industry, I mean the integrated marketing communications industry,  was thrown into frenzy as news filtered in  early this month that the Federal Ministry of Information, Arts and Culture under the honourable minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has given its nod to the muted ‘national unity campaign’ by the creative advertising industry.

At first, it sounded like one of the huff puffs in the country. It was not because it can’t be true but because many would agree that any campaign- ‘national’ or ‘international’ gears towards improving country’s reputation or foster unity may be premature.

On June 25, 2021 when Segun Adeyemi, Special Assistant to the President (Media), Office of the Minister of Information and Culture released a statement announcing the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed’s satisfaction with the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN) planned national unity campaign, it was obvious that the industry was going to chase another shadow again.

According to Mr. Adeyemi, Mohammed described the planned campaign as a ‘very patriotic move’ on the part of the association.

The minister, who gave this commendation at a meeting with the AAAN officials in Lagos, was told that the association would launch the campaign on October 1,. 2021.

Prior to this current campaign launched I will like to remind us that this is not the first time that AAAN will be bankrolling a campaign aimed at tailoring the country’s image. Apart from AAAN’s efforts, successive governments at the federal level have continued to keep mute while rolling out campaigns that have little or no importance on the nation’s image.

In 2017, as part of the AAAN’s corporate social responsibility initiative, or so they said, the association launched advocacy campaign to further support government’s efforts in achieving a unified Nigeria. Mark the word ‘unified or united’.

The then unity campaign, which emphasized peaceful co-existence and unity among the citizens, started being exposed on both offline and online media platforms across the country.

The stakeholders regarded the campaign as an effort aimed at unifying the country especially in the face of bigotry and massive divisions among ethnic nationalities in the country.

The campaign, tagged #StrongerTogether, was also part of symbolic gestures designed to mark Nigeria’s 57th Independence Day in collaboration with Advertisers Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), media organisations and other relevant stakeholders to save the country from imminent danger.

The then President of AAAN , Mr. Koyade Oluwasona, believed that the essence of the campaign was to create improved political tolerance, national reconciliation, unity and social cohesion among Nigerians. “The rationale behind the campaign is also to promote national co-existence and development which is achievable through national unity.”

Three years down the line, it seems the country is even more divided following the attendant evidence that abounds everywhere. The import of the previous campaign looks completely absent. The purpose failed. The aim unfulfilled.

Instead of another national ‘unity’ campaign, which I doubt if AAAN has the capacity to implement, there are quite a few essential items that should dominate the association’s agenda whenever it has the opportunity to dialogue with the minister.

First of all, I will recommend that anytime creative advertising industry stakeholders, be it AAAN or any sectoral group, reconstitution of APCON council should be pushed. Lack of APCON council for advertising companies is like lack of Central Bank of Nigeria board for financial institutions.

The minister must be made to get tired of listening to it. All resources should be mobilized to ensure the presidency takes action on the council. According to Steve Babaeko, incumbent president of AAAN, “We never missed an opportunity to remind the honourable minister about this. And if it is in his power to constitute the council, he would have done it,” Babaeko said on their efforts towards the council formation.

Secondly, AAAN should dialogue with the minister and other government functionaries that would lead to a directive that every government communication is handled by AAAN agency (ies). Like Babaeko appealed to the minister to give the advertising industry a pride of place, especially in accessing some intervention funds in the Central Bank of Nigeria and also the benefit to enjoy tax holiday like other players in the creative industry.

The group must now take it beyond mere appeal, and begin to lobby for these spaces. All hands must be on deck if these must be achieved. Obviously this is beyond Babaeko and his team.

The industry beacons such as Dr. Biodun Shobanjo, Mr. Lolu Akinwunmi, Mr. Enyi Odigbo, Sir Steve Omojafor, Chief Udeme Ufot, Mr. Funmi Onabolu, Mr. Kola Ayanwale and other illustrious sons and daughters of the advertising profession must reunite and rescue advertising at this trying times.

Therefore, to this end, the least the industry desires is the planned national unity campaign. If this must be done, it should be treated as a secondary issue.

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