National Honours Award: Marketing Perspective to Reverse Declining Value

National Honours AwardThe national honours award recently conferred on 155 Nigerians attracted a lot of criticisms which clearly portray a decline in the value Nigerians attach to it. In line with marketing efforts, as applicable to rekindling attention towards a product or service with declined consumers’ interest, what should be done to reverse this trend? – J. Mbakwe   

A well known brand of insecticide dominated the market in the past. Within the last one and half decades its quality has so declined that when applied, according to a consumer, “it only stuns mosquitoes for a while, even makes them stronger and more vicious after”. Of course, with the abundance of various shades of competitors, of even better quality, this brand hardly comes up in consumers’ reckoning these days.

A brand of corn flakes (breakfast cereal) used to adorn most breakfast tables in the past. It featured so prominently in many homes that children easily chanted its brand name, in line with its popular broadcast commercial. Recently, consumers feel ‘short changed’ going by the wide space within its inner (transparent) packaging – A clear reduction in quantity, while the weight inscribed on the outer pack has not changed, even accompanied by a price increase. As typical Nigerian consumers are not stupid, many (including myself) have shifted to a competing local brand that offers a preferred deal.

A quick service restaurant (QSR) brand used to be the toast of families sometime ago. That I belonged to often gave its kids “Saturday Treat” in one of this brand’s few outlets then. It was so much of ‘everybody’s delight’ that business people often preferred having business lunch in this QSR’s nearest outlets. With the in-road of innovative competition and a fall in its ‘special attention’ to the customer, this brand lost its prime position in the market.

A common thread runs through the above three scenarios – Decline in consumer value, to create room for a shift in attention towards any available alternative. This is indeed the current plight of Nigeria’s National Honours Award (NHA), as its significance is rapidly waning among Nigerians, due to a perceived ‘watering down’ of the quality of recipients.

An argument among customers of a QSR I was trying to patronize brought to the fore the level of regard Nigerians have for the honours award. While this year’s National Honours Award Investiture was shown, ‘live’, on a wide-screen television within this QSR, majority of the patrons (from the echo of their voices) preferred viewing something else, and requested for a switch to another channel – In the words of one, “I don’t want to spoil my lunch with this…”.

Those who preferred viewing the award ceremony lost out eventually, as the management of the place had to accede to the voice of the ‘majority’. This kept me ruminating about the level of decline in the value Nigerians now attach to this award.

The Nigerian National Honours are a set of orders and decorations conferred on Nigerians, and friends of the country, annually in recognition of their significant contributions and patriotism to the country. Nevertheless, in recent times these awards seem to have shifted from the direction which portends merit, a deviation from what the concept was originally intended for. They were instituted by the National Honors Act No. 5 of 1964, to honour Nigerians who have rendered service to the benefit of the nation. Although political office-holders still dominate categories in the national honours list, other grouping remain also open to Nigerians outside of government who have distinguished themselves in various areas of professional calling.

As regards the place of marketing in rekindling the value which Nigerians (consumers) attach to the national honours award (product), that seems to be in continuous decline as the years roll by, the aspect of value which consumers place on a product or service (as stated above) is applicable to this situation. To reverse this trend, it is vital to initially highlight these issues about the NHA which Nigerians have been complaining about. Hints on rectification come after:

– It should be conferred in recognition of outstanding achievement, not those connected to the government.
– Too many awardees. It should be reduced to fewer than 50 at the same period.
– The frequency of award should be extended beyond becoming an annual ritual, for value enhancement.
– It has now become a rite performed to decorate and reward political friends and party devotees.
– Conferment on those executing jobs they are paid, and even in government (e.g. ministers).
– Conferment on serving Supreme Court judges implies gestures for ‘future collaboration’ of awardees.
– Money and power seem to be at the centre stage, spiced with a zonal arrangement (previously Dangote, this time Adenuga, next time will be for an Igbo-speaking businessman)
– Supposed to inspire the younger generation to excel for the country, but with the advent of those proven to be ‘bad guys’ making the list, where lies the encouragement for the youths?
– Occupants of certain offices having automatic qualification (President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Assembly, Chief Justice, Service Chiefs, Inspector General of Police, etc.), gives an impression of NHA being stage managed.
– Rejection of NHA by the likes of Professor Wole Soyinka, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Professor Chinua Achebe, and Femi Gbajabiamila (clearly perceived as respectable) gives Nigerians cause to take it with “a pinch of salt”.

As regards hints to reverse declining value Nigerians have for NHA, the government should give consideration to rectifying areas of lapses stated above, along with these: (a) A complete review of the entire process of awarding national honours should be carried out, to ensure impeccable quality of recipients. (b) There should be an amendment to the National Honours Act with a view to subjecting the awards to confirmation of the National Assembly, while the Executive nominates candidates for such conferment. (c) President Jonathan’s promise of withdrawing privileges from any recipient whose “current credibility is questionable” must be fulfilled.

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