The Independence Day speech we want
57 years after the British packed up their stuff and left our corridors of power, I can’t but reflect on the state of our nation and ask if indeed we are independent. During this period, we have learnt that while self-rule is desirable, even more important is being able to do a good job of it. While we have attained political independence, we have made a mess of governing ourselves. Our minds have remained in the shackles of colonial mentality. Our economy has remained mired in the cesspit of western imperialism. Our leaders are perpetually tied to the apron strings of foreign powers who pull those strings while our leaders move to their every whim like puppets. Our current state can hardly be described as independent.
This yearly ritual of Independence Day has become tedious, boring, and simply meaningless. I have waited forever, for leadership that will give meaning to this independence thing. I am still waiting. Each year, we are fed with the similar empty, uninspiring speech. We are bored with the same clichés about unity, and the potential of our nation. We are tired of government after government trying to solve the same old problems that just never ever seem to go away. Inflation, Power, Security and the Economy. These are the same issues we confront year in year out. “Fellow Nigerians…power remains a huge problem…we are determined to eradicate corruption…blah blah blah”. The same story is recycled every year and read out shamelessly to a hapless populace.
“Government is working round the clock…government has remained pro-active…government has diversified…blah blah”. Who is government? Who are the writers of these speeches? When Mr President speaks to us, he should speak with authority and he should take ownership and responsibility. Instead of “Government is working round the clock”, he should tell us “we are working round the clock”. Besides, this is cliché. We are not interested in whether government is working round the clock, rather we want to see and feel the positive impact of that work on our lives. You cannot give a speech about nothing. When you have nothing tangible to say, this is the kind of speech you get. If government has nothing to tell us, let government stay quiet on Independence Day.
For Independence Day to have any concrete meaning, this is what “government” should do. Concrete objectives should be set and specific milestones tied to Independence Day, so that we really have reasons to celebrate. Let me give a few examples. Stop telling us how hard you are working trying to solve problems, and actually solve problems. Use the occasion to set goals and celebrate the attainment of those goals.
“Fellow Nigerians, on this day last year, we promised you that by today, we shall celebrate our people’s independence from generators. I am happy to inform you today, that we have ensured uninterrupted power supply for the past one month and shall keep working to sustain this achievement. Happy Independence Day. God Bless Nigeria.” If this is the only paragraph that makes up the presidential speech on Independence Day, I believe Nigerians would be very satisfied.
“Fellow Nigerians, on this day last year, we promised you that our nation would no longer depend on imported petroleum products. I am pleased to inform you that as we speak, our local refineries are working at near capacity and we no longer import petroleum products. In another couple of months, we shall commence export to several countries who have signed agreements to buy from us”. One paragraph with substance is much better than 20 paragraphs of emptiness.
Given our nation’s desperate need for development in virtually all aspects of our lives, commemorative days must take on a much better significance and hold greater importance than just another day of empty speeches. Every Independence Day should symbolize another milestone in our collective journey towards true independence.
“Fellow Nigerians, on this day last year we promised you that our nation would soon stop our dependence on foreign medical care. In the last six months, we have commissioned thirty six world class facilities in all the states, manned by some of our very best medical professionals. I am happy to inform you that these facilities now carry out most of the complex medical procedures our citizens hitherto travelled abroad to undergo”.
In the realm of brand management, anniversaries are usually taken as opportunities to launch new products, or introduce a new service. A nation should also be managed as a brand because it is indeed a brand that encapsulates and sums up our collective existence. When we celebrate independence, we should be celebrating independence from all those things that hold us back. Our journey should be signposted with significant milestones that announce each important step we take as a nation.
We must give meaning to independence by setting achievable goals and working ‘round the clock’ to attain those goals. Mr President must be able to give us tangible reports of important milestones instead of these same old recycled speeches that say so much without saying anything. If you don’t do something tangible you won’t have anything tangible to say. We must focus on things to do before the next Independence Day. Identify things we depend upon, such as imported food, imported fuel, generators, etc, and commit to eliminating these dependencies one after the other. If on Independence Day you ask us to celebrate our independence from any of these things, then you would have given real meaning to independence.
• Muyiwa Kayode is CEO at USP Brand Management and author, The Seven Dimensions of Branding. Brand Nation is a platform for promoting national development based on the universal principles of branding.
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