EVALUATION OF THE EFFECTS OF NIGERIA’S INTERNATIONAL IMAGE AND REPUTATION MANAGEMENT ON FOREIGN NATIONALS’ PERCEPTION OF THE COUNTRY
The management of image and reputation had over the years been restricted to corporate organizations. This trend has assumed a different dimension as most countries now evolve various strategies of building good image and reputation that can attract better relationship among the comity of nations. In spite of the efforts so far made by Nigeria, there still exists a general global discontent with the disposition of other countries of the world towards her. The damaged image and reputation occasioned by long dictatorial military rule, corruption among various organs of the society, the perennial lack of electricity supply that affects the production potentials, among several other problems have become the lot of the country since her political independence in October 1960. All these have been exposed by foreign and local media publications to the knowledge of other nations. The perception of other countries about Nigeria had not been the best considering these adverse publicities including unpleasant diplomatic commentaries and warnings about foreign nationals visiting Nigeria, especially the American prediction of the country breaking up in 2015. The dangers posed by terrorism, kidnappings, armed robberies and the activities of advanced fee fraudsters commonly referred to as “419” have all added to the ugly sign-post. The international community had related with Nigeria under fear, doubts, suspicion and distrust. This situation had prompted some of the agencies of the federal government including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, diplomatic missions abroad, officials and students in foreign countries, customs and immigration officials, among others, to be more conscious about their actions and activities in dealing with foreign nationals and other matters of national interests. However, the present state of affairs has changed, judging by the current events around the world prompting ther government to be increasingly concerned and conscious of her reputation relative to other countries. Nigeria had established and maintained diplomatic missions and representations in different countries of the world and made concerted efforts in the use of technocrats and career diplomats as her representatives. The essence of this approach was to ensure that these representatives provided better knowledge and understanding about her people, culture and economic potentials to other countries of the world, in an attempt to create better image and reputation for the country. Expectedly, with these robust efforts, including the engagement of the services of experienced public relations professionals to assess, build and effectively manage her image and reputation, the government and people of Nigeria seemed to be confident that the nation’s image and reputation in the international community remained positive and that other nations are having good disposition towards her. The effectiveness of these image laundering efforts had not been evaluated. The objectives of this study were to: (i) examine the extent to which foreign nationals’ perception of a country affects her image and reputation, (ii) assess the contributions of the various diplomatic representations managed by the relevant federal government agencies, (iii) determine the effect of public’s perception of a country’s image and reputation problems on government’s effort at solving them, (iv) examine the role of the media in projecting the image and reputation of a country, and (v) assess the extent public relations was used by federal government agencies to create favourable image and reputation for the country. The study adopted the survey design. The population of the study was 568,841 consisting of selected 13 federal government agencies, members of the diplomatic corps/expatriates and government-owned Media houses. The sample size of 400 was determined, using Taro Yamane’s formula. Peer-review method was used to test the validating of the research instrument. Cronbach Alpha was used for reliability test with a value of 0.88 and an inter-item of coefficient of 0.94. The five hypotheses formulated in the study were tested with Linear Regression for hypothesis 1, Wilcoxon signed ranks test for hypotheses 2, 3, 5; and Friedman Chi-Square test for hypothesis 4. The results of the study are that foreign nationals’ perception of a country has significant (< 0.05) effect on her image and reputation. The various diplomatic representations managed by the relevant federal government agencies have not contributed significantly (< 0.05) towards a positive image and reputation for the country. The public’s perception of a country’s image and reputation problems has significant (< 0.05) effect on government’s efforts at solving them. The media reports about a country have significant (< 0.05) influence on her image and reputation. Federal government agencies do not make significant (< 0.05) use of public relations in creating favourable image and reputation for the country. With these results, a number of specific recommendations were made, which were subsumed under the broad recommendations offered by two models: SPAROW-LEE Image and Reputation Elevation Model and OAK TREE Image and Reputation Management Model. These, no doubt, will help in addressing the nation’s current image deficit and equally boost the knowledge and understanding of both scholars and professional image managers on nations’ image and reputation management the world over.