Uncle Lai, ‘Bring Back Our Flag!’
Shortly before the nation’s Golden Jubilee in 2010, I remember meeting with the then Minister of Information and Communications, John Odey, to discuss with him how that milestone could be used as a platform to save our national flag from the persistent denigration to which it had long been subjected. I told him the Golden Jubilee would provide an excellent opportunity to redesign the national flag and unveil it with a proper public enlightenment campaign. Because to begin with, our green-white-green flag is simply flat, boring and uninspiring.
It had long served its purpose and should have been discarded for something much more exciting and representative of our very vibrant and colourful identity as a people. What if we had added a splash of gold to this boring green-white-green on that Golden Jubilee? Rather, what we heard was some silly celebration that cost a lot of money without anything of enduring value that anybody could point a finger to. Even individuals mark their Golden Jubilee by setting up foundations and other things of lasting impact talk less of a gigantic nation like ours!
A flag is one of the most important symbols of a nation’s brand identity. It makes a definitive statement about who we are and what we stand for. It is an item that should evoke very positive feelings of nationalism and patriotism. Unfortunately, what we have is a nation where the citizens treat their football club flags with more respect and dignity than the national flag. It is, indeed, tragic and calamitous that even at the highest levels we see the flag being humiliated. Right there in Abuja where our overpaid legislators and senators sit (or pretend to sit) and deliberate over matters of national importance (or pretend to so do!), you will see our flag looking tattered. Across our major cities the flag adorns many building and company premises, including bank branches. The sorry state of these flags perhaps reflects the sorry state of the nation itself.
We see the flag in different shapes and sizes and dimensions and different shades of green. In most cases, the white is more brownish than white and the green could be any shade between olive green and army green. No minister in recent memory has come to tell us which shade of green is the correct one, or which is the correct dimension. There is a certain agency called The National Orientation Agency. It is hidden somewhere within the Ministry of Information. I have been trying to figure out precisely what this agency does without success. But I was informed that this national flag matter is supposed to be the responsibility of the agency.
When the flag was designed in 1959, it was meant to symbolize the birth of a new nation. The green represents our natural wealth and agricultural diversity while the white represents peace. It served the purpose and without disrespect to the designer, Mr. Michael Taiwo Akinkunmi, who by the way was never properly honoured for his work, the flag is no longer compelling and doesn’t project our national identity in a globally appealing way. The flag is the single most important element of our visual brand identity and should properly represent what we stand for as a people. I am happy most corporate bodies now take branding very seriously. The flag is to the nation what logos and colours are to a company. Somewhere in the archives of some ministry, we may find some rules guiding the use of the national flag. It should not be hoisted if torn and tattered. It should be flown at half-mast during state funerals and times of national tragedy. But these are fairly basic. What is fundamentally wrong is the state in which we find most flags being hoisted across the country. It is bad enough that we have an uninspiring national flag. It is a national shame that we subject such an important symbol of nationhood and sovereignty to so much indignity.
Those in the position to educate and enlighten the people on the flag have simply refused to do so over the years. And just as our national values have eroded over time, our flag is just an indication of this progressive decline. If our nation was a human, the flag is like her apparel. But sadly, we are a nation whose public officials wear the most expensive clothes yet the nation they claim to serve is dressed in rags. We need an urgent intervention, at least now that we are in an era of change! We must take immediate and decisive steps to restore pride in our national flag. We must indeed revamp our national identity, with the flag regaining its glory and playing its proper role as a symbol of national identity and pride.
When it was claimed that Nigeria was being re-branded, the basic elements of brand identity were ignored, while they rushed to the media to run campaigns. The whole thing was simply about sloganeering. “Good People Great Nation”, they claimed. Before then, it was “Nigeria, Heart of Africa”. How could any serious branding programme ignore the basic visual elements of brand identity? They should have called it what it was – advertising campaign.
And that’s exactly what we now have with “Change Begins With Me”. I am glad they are not calling this campaign ‘rebranding’. The relevant ministry or agency must now go back to the basics and save our national flag. We must redesign this flag. We need a flag that’s bright and colourful. Our country is so bright and sunny all year round, with very colourful festivals going on everywhere! Our skies are bright and our land is fertile. Our people are vibrant and there is so much energy in our diversity. Our flag doesn’t capture our identity in the least.
In short, our flag falls short!
• Muyiwa Kayode is CEO at USP Brand Management, and Author, The Seven Dimensions of Branding
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