What happened to #BuyNaijatoGrowtheNaira?

Senator Ben Murray Bruce

The famous American rock star, Bruce Springsteen, once said “Getting an audience is hard. Sustaining an audience is hard. It demands a consistency of thought, of purpose, and of action over a long period of time.” Here is the import of that statement: to sell any product demands that you get an audience. To maintain continuous sales requires that you sustain your audience. Have you ever wondered why the biggest brands in the world spend so much on advertising? Have you asked why a brand like Coca-Cola that is present in over 200 countries spends billions of dollars on advertising? The reason is simple – to retain brand awareness and attain what is called top of the mind.

One of the most innovative ideas the current administration supported, arguably, is #BuyNaijatoGrowtheNaira. The hashtag was invented by Senator Ben Murray Bruce in 2016 to trigger national interest in local products. Soon the government adopted it and even promised to launch a portal to support locally made products. Such was the pervasiveness of the campaign that it practically became a significant determinant of buying decision. I remember going to the supermarket with a relative to buy a product that had both local and foreign versions on the shelf. She opted for the locally made version with the comment “you know we need to buy Naija to grow the Naira”. The government and promoters of the idea were probably unaware of the gradual behavioural shift in the society. There was a consciousness to consider patronising locally made products. Sadly, just when the campaign was beginning to take root among Nigerians, we relented.

The government needs to realise that many Nigerians have become xenocentristic in our taste. Wearing, using and flaunting imported products in our homes, offices and everywhere we go is our way of making a statement. It is how we show to our co-workers, families and neighbours that we have made it. What’s more, our exposure to imported products over the years has created a subconscious preference for anything foreign. We even thoughtlessly, sometimes, believe that if it is not imported, it cannot be good. This disposition is further reinforced by the avoidable, but glaring shortcomings of local imitation of foreign products. Then again, the smart businessmen amongst us have also recognised our appetite for foreign products as a business opportunity to exploit. So they go to China, ask the manufacturers to produce substandard products, they bring them into Nigeria and sell to Nigerians. Yet some of these products can be produced locally with better quality. This is not to disregard the fact that some foreign products are better than locally produced ones. But the truth is our local manufacturers can as well produce superior standards if they have the right kind of support from the government, including local preference for local goods, which is dominant in the foreign countries we patronise. This is what the #BuyNaijatoGrowtheNaira campaign was meant to achieve before the government relented in its campaign.

The harsh reality is that Nigerians will not swiftly alter their preference; that will be achieved through consistent reminder. There are too many reasons to buy locally made products. We need to sustain the campaign to let people know that they contribute to the growth of the Nigerian economy with every local product or service that is patronised. On the contrary, for every foreign product or service that is bought by a Nigerian, a job is created abroad and at least an individual is thrown into the labour market in Nigeria. Buying locally made goods is the only way to achieve favourable balance of payment and attain a strong naira. The Nigeria that we all dream of cannot become a reality if we continue to assist other countries grow while we make ours poorer. Moreover, there are also many health challenges to the foreign products we consume. Nigeria is perceived as a dumpsite in the international market. However, the responsibility is also on local manufacturer to strive for higher standards and quality in their product and service. The tiny little details can make all the difference between the T.M. Lewin shirt and the MT Lawani shirt created by the young man in Igbosere. More importantly, the government needs to revive and sustain the campaign. It is an important step in effecting the behavioural change we want in Nigerians. To sustain the campaign is one thing; to lead by example is yet another thing. It is what separates true leaders from mediocre leaders. For starters, can our leaders begin to wear locally made shoes and clothes? That is the least our leaders can do. The initial audience that we created with the campaign is gradually depleting. We need to sustain and expand that audience. Let’s continue to #BuyNaijatoGrowtheNaira.