I was having a conversation with a friend that I hadn’t seen in quite a while and we were talking about Nigeria and made-in-Nigeria products. I was quite vocal about supporting Nigerian products because that’s the only way we can build our country and strengthen our economy. He looked at me quietly, and then said something about Tokunbo cars that knocked me back on my behind and left me speechless.
My friend agreed with the sentiment I just expressed, but then, he questioned how realistic and practical it was. He knows he can buy even fairly-used SONY or HTC or Apple phones and other appliances because those companies build with the international market in mind, therefore, they consider hundreds of safety and other standards. Those companies know they cannot get away with anything subpar; anything that can put the company in jeopardy. Apart from lawsuits, they have a brand name to protect.
And then, he looked at me and asked: “Can you say the same about Nigerian products in the same category?”
My response was for us to try, and that if we never try we would never know; that all those foreign goods too sold themselves to us. We gave them a chance and they proved themselves. How would Nigerian products ever sell themselves to us if we never gave them a chance?
He agreed too and then we moved on to other things. But long after we parted, his words echoed in my mind.
While I may be a champion for Nigeria and Nigerian products, I also try to be as objective as possible. As sentimental as I can be about my country and related things, I know enough to admit there’s a lot wrong with it. And until we accept that, there’s no going forward.
We celebrate mediocrity (I have discussed this in a previous article) because we’re so used to “nothing” that when we get “something”, even if it’s nonsense, we’re so happy and grateful. Anything is better than nothing, we tell ourselves. But what this creates is an entitlement mentality, a thinking that says that just because we showed up we should be celebrated and applauded. Just because I wrote something, people should read it.
Excuse me, but who are you and why should I buy from you? Why should I buy Nigerian products?
I would appreciate a time when people will tell me to buy something because they used it and it performed exceedingly well; then say: “By the way, it is a Nigerian product”.
I would gladly pay good money for such.
So I went to Yaba market a while ago, long before ex-governor, Babatunde Fashola cleaned the place up. I was in there for a pair of jeans and I was finicky about what I bought with my money. Immediately I walked past a particular store window, I came running back. I ran back because something caught my eyes. A pair of jeans was hanging on the window with the label prominently displayed. Wriiten on that label was “Igbo Jeans”. I was intrigued. To cut a long story in half, I went home with that pair of jeans.
Regrettably, they were too small for me around the waist so I sold them to a friend of mine who used them for years and then turned them over to his younger brother who wore them for a while too.
For a while after that, I went to the market looking for Igbo Jeans and sadly I couldn’t find. I think they went out of business. Maybe people were reluctant to put their money on something they didn’t know.
Honestly, I get the fear about made-in-Nigeria stuff. I also don’t like using sentiment to sell things – that whole “just because” mentality. I don’t like the idea of using sentiments to get somewhere or something. Nothing annoys me more than “if it wasn’t for so or so person, you wouldn’t be here”.
I think any good product should be able to defend itself in use; after all they say “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”. The fact that something is made in Nigeria and we’re trying to build a stronger economy should only come into play when said product has proven itself. Sentiment is not objectivity. While it’s clear that for the most part, purchasing is done mostly based on sentiment, it is also clear that a good product is different from a bad one.
I will like our builders (I hear there’s a car builder here in Nigeria) to hold public tests. Invite people to test drive your vehicles on long stretches of road and on different terrains. Show that your car is built to international standards and can hold its own against any of these other brands. And then, I challenge my people to rise up so we can support each other. There is a lot of good locally made stuff that slip past us on a daily basis simply because we would rather not take a chance.
We can make Nigeria great. WE. Not Buhari.