Recently, the Federal Ministry Of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, teamed up with a group of private Individuals and corporate bodies under the banner ?Nigeria: Our Heritage Project? with the primary aim to creatively engender a positive global perception for Nigeria.

One of the leading members of that team is no less a person than Professor George Obiozor, a former Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) and until recently Nigeria’s Ambassador to the? United States of America, USA.

Prof Obiozor spoke recently on why and how this new onslaught will reorder the perception of Nigeria. Below are excerpts from that very long discussion.

What is Nigeria: Our Heritage Project all about?

Nigeria Our Heritage Project (NOHP) is conceived as an enduring movement to engender a?

positive global perception change for Nigeria such that Nigeria would be enabled internally?

and externally to realise her full potentials. It will be activated by 100 proudly Nigerian?

public and private organisations that will catalyse the strategic repositioning of Nigeria?

as a more welcoming nation. With the official endorsement by the Federal Ministry of?

Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, this project is better poised to achieving a?

positive perception change through a well-coordinated exposure of OUR HERITAGE and?

the legendary NIGERIAN SPIRIT for proper appreciation of the world. We intend to create?

a reputable machinery to attract trust and confidence in Nigeria as a global economic?

power.?

This unique project will chronicle Nigeria’s past, evaluate her present challenges?

and institutionalise progressive initiatives for a glorious future through publications, events,?

promotions, etc., as strategic platforms to aggressively redress the negative perception?

we currently have. NOHP will ultimately establish Nigeria as a leading nation through a?

multi-year, multi-media branding scheme and create easy access for global interests in the?

opportunities that exist in Nigeria.

Sadly, Nigeria is far behind on the latest Country Branding Index ranking due to extremely?

low appreciation of her real worth. Our dear country is not on the list of the top 25?

country brands. She is not on the list of 15 future country brands. Happily though, we were?

recognised as one of the top 3 rising African country brands behind Namibia.

Nigeria holds a great promise for lasting economic growth and indeed the liberation of?

Africa. To maintain that leading position, she must continuously project her uncommon?

attributes and endearing ideals for better appreciate. NOHP is all about how and where?

we want to see Nigeria in the next century. As you know, we just marked our first one?

hundred years as a nation.?

I?believe the centenary presents us with a significant milestone for a wholesome re-positioning of the country. This project therefore offers the definitive platform for redirecting the convoluted perception of Nigeria and Nigerians. We shall?strategically promote the very best of Nigeria — her rich heritage, resilient people,?boundless potentials, etc. with a view to positively changing the wrong perception about her and take necessary actions towards ensuring that she realises her full potentials. The?time is ripe for all concerned institutions and committed Nigerians to rise in unison to?reclaim our glory and pride.

How do you intend bring this dreams to fruition?

Nigeria: Our Heritage Project (NOHP) is being mid-wifed as a national movement which will?

outlive all of us who are presently involved in birthing it. As a national movement, it would?

continue to grow year-on-year. It has a soul, and that is, the vision of Nigeria as a member?

of the top global country brands in the shortest possible time.

?As you know, every great accomplishment across the world, be it individual or corporate, started as a dream. The?same way ours has started. The problem usually is not with the dreaming bit, but rather with the actions we take or the inactions we settle into. In our own case, we have taken a?searching look around, and indeed, a long forward look. Economic and business planners?call it, ?macro environmental scan?.?

Our findings tell us that despite the fact that we as Nigerians, most often times, focus?

heavily on our shortcomings as a nation, Nigeria has all the hallmarks of being a great nation?

and we believe it will happen. Nigeria is the largest market in Africa and one of the top 10?

in the world. In spite of its economic and social challenges, she is still respected as a nation?

with great potentials.?

It is interesting that we came to the conclusion that we must work towards realising the nation?s potentials by becoming one of the top five economies in the world by 2114, shortly before Jim O?Neil (the man who coined BRICS group of economic?giants) came up with the projection that Nigeria can be one of the world?s top 13 economies?

by 2050. It was comforting for us to note that our dreams were not far-fetched. If somebody?

like O?Neil is saying that Nigeria can be in the top 13 world economies in thirty-six years??

time, then, it should not be much of a problem for us to get into the top five brackets?

in ninety-nine years? time!!

?It will also be interesting for you to note that we arrived at that position long long before the Ministry of Finance and the Federal Office of Statistics?announced the re-basing of Nigeria?s GDP. We must believe in this great nation again.

Historically, Nigeria has a very rich heritage which is reflected in the cultural diversity of?

over 250 distinct ethnic groups making her the greatest concentration of the black race?

worldwide. The country is blessed with numerous places of historical significance alluding to?

her vibrant heritage. With these in mind, we are putting structures in place, bit by bit. Very?

soon the NOHP movement will gain traction with a couple of activities and programmes this?

year, and we will continue to build on them as the years go by.?

What are these programmes?

Very soon, we shall formally announce this project to Nigerians and friends of Nigeria and?

that event, we shall unveil the full action plan of the project. However, I will share some of?

the activities and strategic outings with you so that you can appreciate the level of work we?

have done so far.?

Come?August 7?in faraway Washington DC, President Barack Obama shall?

be hosting the US-Africa Summit for a select group of African leaders. We have concluded?

plans to utilise the eminent platform to commence the reconstruction of the Nigerian?

narrative.?

During the summit, we will have a global launch of the project as a side event for?

constructive engagement. This will be held at the prestigious Kennedy Centre for Performing?

Arts. We are hoping that such exceptional gathering of political and business leaders gives?

us the right atmosphere to formally flag-off the project and place Nigeria on the global?

stage.?

We are in the process of securing lasting partnership with the highly respected centre?

which will be of great benefit to our partners and the country.

Other activities we plan to roll out this year include the National Heritage Forum which?

shall bring together stakeholders and partners to review, articulate and implement?

protocols on the strategic positioning of Nigeria?s heritage, which in actual sense, represents?

our commonwealth.?

This will be organised in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation. The forum shall provide the framework for?the continuous reinforcement of brand Nigeria and promote all the touch points of our commonwealth. Sometime in the last quarter of the year, we shall organise the Next?Century Nigerian Forum which is an annual platform for top Nigerian post graduate and?undergraduate students from 40 top global universities to feel the pulse of top Nigerian companies and institutions.?

It is specifically developed as an immersion programme to?address re-integration challenges as well as education-workplace transition of diaspora?Nigerian students. The objective is to provide them with networking opportunities with influential Nigerian business leaders thus creating well-informed global ambassadors for the?organisations and Nigeria.

?We have also concluded plans for the maiden edition of Innovate?Nigeria Conference and Expo which will launch Nigeria into the league of nations driven by innovation. The event will attract internationally acclaimed innovators, inventors and?designers who will share experiences with our IT and creative practitioners thereby creating?global access to Nigeria and for Nigerian goods.?

In addition to that, we shall organise the Women of Influence Conference which will stand as an advocacy platform to broaden?the quest for uplifting the girl-child and women advancement. Funnily?enough, this was?conceived long before the unfortunate Chibok incident mainly because we have identified that segment of our society as vulnerable.?

The conference shall attract highly inspirational?personalities like Oprah Winfrey, to share insights on stemming the subjugation of young?women in developing economies. We plan to establish academies for young females across West Africa as a way of forging integration, security, and the propagation of Nigeria?s?leading position in the sub-region and Africa

Quite laudable, what more are you doing or planning to do?

I was just getting to that. We have just talked of about a few briefly. As we speak, we are?

in the process of producing a spectacularly monumental book. The book is titled Nigeria:?

Our Heritage ? The Past. The Present. The Promise. This book is an exquisitely produced?

grand book on Nigeria?s heritage, sites, values and natural assets. It will give a panoramic?

insight about Nigeria, individually numbered and presented to the public in the most?

majestic manner.?

Electronic copies of the book shall be available online on various web platforms. Only 100 copies of the spectacular book will be produced and distributed to?partner organisations as a top-notch exclusive keepsake. There is also the Fascinating?Nigeria documentary series. This documentary series shall highlight Nigeria?s rich heritage, enchanting scenery and potentials through syndicated media networks to a wide global?audience. All these are created to keep Nigeria constantly in the minds of people across the?world for better appreciation of what?she is all about.

The list is quite…

I am not done yet. The National Heritage Medal Award is a yearly reward platform for partner?

organisations that have demonstrated unwavering commitment to the redirection of the Nigerian?

narrative and powering the perception change movement. Each year, worthy organisations will be? recommended to the President by the NOHP board for this esteemed award. To ensure maximum exposure of our exciting art and crafts, an annual international travelling exhibition of Nigeria?s ancient and contemporary arts is a key element of the package because the art of any nation says a lot about its history and people. Through that window, Nigeria?s rich historical pedigree will be adequately captured and highlighted. We have a long term strategic partnership with CNN for the effective exposure of our initiatives globally.

Lastly, is what you may wish to call the key building block – the NIGERIA: OUR HERITAGE?

FOUNDATION (NOHF). It is specifically set up with the onerous mandate of institutionalising?

all the initiatives of the project.

Against the background of all the failed ?visions? we have had in the last twenty years, what makes you think that this will survive and endure?

There are so many reasons why we are positive. One is the quality of people involved. Number two, Nigeria is at a point where only decisive actions are urgently needed to restore our national pride and dignity. It is a critical situation that needs every passionate Nigerian or company or institution to get involved.?

We have been able to assemble a few like-minded and committed individuals to birth this idea. With the strong involvement of the private sector, this project is certain to succeed. Instances abound in countries where public-private efforts in country branding have led to lasting economic gains. It happened in Costa Rica with the siting of Intel’s first Latin American plant in 1996. Likewise, Colombia is today not so directly associated with?

drugs simply because of the successful marketing campaign for Colombian coffee. Some?

years back, India was principally known for spirituality and poverty, but today it’s software;?

it’s highly educated people and medical tourism. I?m sure you are very familiar with how?

countries like Macedonia, Croatia, Malaysia, Japan, etc. sell their respective countries on?

international media networks. Nigeria?s voice needs to be out there too!

The whole ethos behind the project is about quality at a world level and being sensitive?

to capacity issues economically, socially and otherwise. We aim to achieve increased?

investment spend, encourage ‘sensitive exploration’ of the country as well as access to the?

whole country. The project will promote appreciation and enjoyment by all with focus on?

certain segments to strengthen the appeal of the country. You can begin to get a sense of what I am talking about by looking at the quality of things that we have lined up for this project. We are?constantly looking out for the best for Nigeria, our commonwealth. Take a look at our marketing?brochure for example. When last did you see something of that quality? It is just the beginning.

Do you mind telling us who else is involved in this initiative?

Like I pointed out earlier, this is a movement. Membership is growing by the day. Take our?

Editorial Board, for instance, I forgot to mention earlier when I spoke about the legacy, that we have what can easily be described as some of the best minds in their fields. It is a rare collection of distinguished academicians and administrators.?

Sitting on the board are Prof. Sam Oyovbaire, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, Prof. Isawa Elaigwu, Prof. Jide Osuntokun, Prof Bukar Bukarambe, Prof. Collins O. Gardner, and my humble self. The production team comprises of the brightest young writers, researchers and designers you can gather within this land. I am satisfied the way the whole project is turning out and taking a life of its own.

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