By Jeremiah Agada
It was cheery news recently when President Mohammadu Buhari unveiled the ‘Nigeria @ 60’ logo in Abuja for the celebration of Nigeria’s 60th Independence Anniversary, coming up on October 1. What made the news cheery for the Integrated Marketing Communications industry is the fact that the thinking, strategy and creation of the design was done by a consortium of marketing communications and productions companies comprising Chain Reactions Nigeria, a Public Relations and Integrated Communications Consulting firm; the Temple Management Company, a talent and event management agency and TBWA Africa, an advertising agency.
Explaining how the logo came into existence, Buhari had explained: “Operating within the limitations placed by the COVID-19 pandemic we created an internet challenge for Nigerians to make a choice from a set of four pre-selected logos that would appropriately define the theme. Of these four options, Nigerians from all walks of life participated in making a choice and I am happy to let you know that the logo I would be unveiling is a product of choice from the Nigerian people.”
The logo has a white background with figure 60 superimposed on a green map of Nigeria. “Together” is written in all caps below the 60 to the right. Explaining the logo, Buhari had revealed, “I am informed that the selected option depicts our togetherness, a country of over 200 million people whose natural talent, grit and passion glitter like the precious DIAMOND we are. This, to me, is a special appreciation to our most precious asset – our people. Everywhere you go, Nigerians are sparkling like diamonds in the pack, whether in Academia, Business, Innovation, Music, Movie, Entertainment, Fashion and culture.
“Furthermore, I am also made aware that the neatly encrusted Diamond on the Nigerian Map symbolizes our age of treasure, the worth of the Nigerian people with our sparkle to the admiration of the world. In the same vein, the pear green and dark green colours should respectively remind us of our warmth, welcoming spirit and love as well as the abundant wealth inherent in our human capital and the richness of our land. All these properties make us unarguably the most prosperous black nation in the world and Africa’s largest economy,” he had explained.
Giving the creative rationale behind the logo, the Lead Consultant for the consortium and Managing Director, Chain Reactions Nigeria, Israel Jaiye Opayemi, had explained that the diamond is from the root word Adamas, which means invincible or unconquerable and enduring.
Opayemi said: “These are the dominant traits of the Nigerian Spirit.We are invincible, unconquerable and enduring.The imagery of the diamond is in celebration of the resilience our people are known for.”
This development is remarkable because it goes against what use to be the norm with government which has this penchant for using non-Nigerian agencies for its national rebranding campaigns. Managing Director of SO&U Advertising Agency, Mr. Udeme Ufot had years ago described this action as “government’s preponderance for using foreign agency at the expense of Nigerian ones.”
Udeme had captured the problem with this approach when he explained that most communications by these foreign consultants could not be understood by Nigerians because they did not reflect the local parlance of the country. “When Nigeria government do communications, they will go and hire people from New York and Paris, a strategist who has never step foot in Nigeria will write strategy for Nigerian communication programme. Sometimes, it could be nice strategic framework but execution is the problem, you cannot talk to a man that you don’t understand, the same way, you engage a man when you speak his own language and by that you relate with him, even when I speak to you in English there is a way my English connects with you as a Nigerian than an ‘oyibo’ man, ‘oyibo’ comes and speaks English to you, it will not be the same as I am speaking to you or more or less a Ghanaian”
Quite unfortunately however-but not surprising, the logo design has come under serious attacks from some quarters as a work of plagiarism. Why it is not surprising is the fact that controversies and criticisms have followed initiatives like these in the past. The latest being under the Alhaji Lai Mohammed-led Ministry of Information, ‘Change Begins With Me’ campaign which generated a flurry of controversies among marketing professionals, PR consultants, and patriotic Nigerians alike. It also faced an accusation of plagiarism raised by Akin Fadeyi, a media consultant. Fadeyi had claimed that the ‘Change Begins With Me’ concept as unfolded by the government is a replica of a proposal he (Fadeyi) submitted to the office of Alhaji Lai Mohammed in 2015 – an allegation that the minister vehemently denied.
This is no different from the Nigeria @ 60 logo. As bandied about on social media and some notable news platform, the consortium was accused of ‘lifting’ the logo design from a Russian gold mine company’s logo which has been in existence since 2017. The traducers of the consortium argue that at the centre of the ‘0’ in 60 of the logo is the picture of the Dynasty diamond which was unveiled in August 2017 by Russian government-owned named Alrosa.
“The Dynasty is the largest polished diamond with the best clarity characteristics throughout the Russian jewelry history,” Alrosa said on its website.The 51.38 diamond is a part of a collection also called Dynasty. The collection includes the Sheremetevs, a 16.67-carat round brilliant-cut diamond; the Orlovs, a 5.05-carat oval diamond; “The Vorontsovs,” a 1.73-carat pear-cut diamond and the Yusupovs, a 1.39-carat diamond.They were all cut from a 179-carat rough diamond named “Romanovs,” which was recovered from a diamond mine in the Republic of Sakha in northeast Russia in 2015.
The argument is that the “Dynasty” logo looks exactly the same as the 60th Anniversary logo launched by President Muhammadu Buhari. “The names Dynasty for the collection and Romanovs for the rough that created the collection were chosen because they are connected with the company’s intention to revive the traditions and memory of renowned Russian jewelers famous for their craftsmanship and filigree,” Alrosa said. The company further said specifically that it honors Peter I, the Russian Tsar of the House of Romanov, who is credited with founding the country’s first cutting and polishing factory early in the 18th Century and the Romanov dynasty known for its appreciation of diamonds and jewels.
In addition to the claim of plagiarism, intellectual property theft and criminal act alleged, traducers/critics feel that the design must have cost the nation a fortune. However, the consortium has come out to strongly refute the claims in a joint statement made available to the press.
The co-creators said, “Few hours after the unveiling of the logo, myriads of reviews poured in from different stakeholders across the country as expected. As envisaged, the views expressed are symbolic of our diversity as a nation. In fact, it captures what we are celebrating. The theme of the Diamond Jubilee Anniversary, TOGETHER, is all about how we have stayed together as a people despite our diversity.”
While stating that it is commendable that the Nigerian government has done the right thing by engaging the services of Nigerian professionals to develop the thematic direction, campaign strategy and the logo for the Diamond Jubilee celebration pro bono, an action unheard of in the past where the Nigerian government would have engaged the services of some foreign agencies for some nerve-cracking and ridiculous sum of money, he cleared the air on the plagiarism allegations.
“The primary allegation of plagiarism on the unveiled logo deserves a quick dissection. To Plagiarise, according to Oxford Language Dictionary, is to take someone else’s work or ideas and pass them off as one’s own.” Interestingly, the emptiness of this narrative lies in the fact that peddlers perhaps do not understand the meaning or they feigned ignorance so as to drive their usual hatred for the Nigerian government.
“To meet the qualified meaning of this definition, it means the Nigerian professionals who designed the campaign picked another logo that is exactly like this or similar to this and delivered it to the Federal government. Have they shown Nigerians the logo that looks exactly like the Nigeria @ 60 logo from another jurisdiction?” Opayemi asked rhetorically.
He said, “Instead of saying that the diamond looks similar to the one they have found on the internet, they have disingenuously alleged that Nigeria plagiarised her 60th Anniversary logo. What a convenient narrative but a disservice to our fatherland. A quick check on the internet shows that there are thousands of diamonds with crystals that look alike. The images on the Internet are there in any way for creative usage and purposes. Some are backed by rights and paid for while others are free.”
Reacting to the outrageous costing narrative being peddled about, the chief executive officer of Chain Reactions Nigeria stated that “Without an announced budget or costing being declared from the Presidency, some social media commentators have hastily concluded that the logo was designed with an outrageous amount. According to him, “Should we put the perpetrators on a national media to justify this claim with verifiable evidence, we will be offered with silence and mischief. The Nigeria at 60 logo was designed pro-bono out of sheer zeal and patriotism for Nigeria by a consortium of Nigerian marketing communications and talent management companies.”
“This controversy is a great disservice to these Nigerian professionals who have invested their time into giving Nigeria a beautiful identity in commemoration of her 60th anniversary,” the statement concluded.
Regardless of the of th allegation however, experts and professionals in the industry have expressed optimism of a better working future with government at all levels, going forward. Infact, it is believed if government had fully involved the IMC industry in Nigeria on many of its campaigns and rebranding initiatives including ‘The Change Begins With Me’ campaign, Ethical Revolution, Green Revolution, War Against Indiscipline (WAI), Heart of Africa and, Good People Great Nation initiative under late Professor Dora Akunyili-led Ministry of Information and Communications, they wouldn’t have failed to achieve their objectives as they will not be driven by advertising only.