I just had the most exasperating conversation with a friend. I'm posting the chat transcript here. Names have been changed.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
HIM: long time, remember me?
ME: yes.from the bank. Access bank
HIM: yes I actually moved to ecobank 18 months ago
ME: good for you
HIM: been over two years now since I saw u
Me: why did you move? Well I've been in school for two years. That would explain a lot
HIM: am also out from ecobank
ME: i thought you were in ecobank
HIM: I just set up an IT consulting firm called Kaplan consult last two weeks
ME: isn't there already a company with that name?
HIM: not in nija. Something close to that in uk though, but its us in nija. Why not, u have anything against the name?
ME: it doesn't really make sense for a Nigerian company to have an obviously American/English name
Spanish companies always have Spanish names
Arabian companies always have Arabic names
A Nigerian company with an English/American name just seems....pretentious
HIM: I get ur point, but it works differently here, people accept u more when u seem foreign
ME: well those same people are the same reason why the slave trade happened. Nigerians need to be proud of Nigeria
HIM: now ur going too far. We are proud of us.
ME: running around trying to "be foreign" makes us the laughing stock of the world and makes people respect us less. I'm not going too far. The truth is, Nigerians aren't proud of Nigeria or other Nigerians
Americans are some of the most patriotic bastards on earth
Americans will drive 50 miles out of their way to buy a damn apple just because they know it was grown in America rather than buying the apple imported from China down the street
HIM: i see
ME: and it's the same with most countries. Nigeria is the only country where it's the exact opposite
HIM: not nija
ME: we shun Nigerian affiliated products. I'm not for stupidly or blindly buying Nigerian all the time but if the product is world standard then it's an equal choice but Nigerians will ALWAYS choose the foreign product even if it really is substandard and if you're wondering what my point is in all of this it is that Nigerian companies giving themselves foreign names are contributing to our already rock bottom national self esteem
HIM: what can I say, guess it’s the way things have gone from bad to worse here. U can’t seem to trust any Nigerian anymore
ME: when a Nigerian company targeted at Nigerians does not think that a Nigerian name would be profitable, then you know there is a problem and Obama isn't going to fight our battles for us either. We are responsible for the way the world views us
And we seem to have a very spineless common patriotism meaning we're with it when it's good and we can't stick it when it's bad
HIM: we are an evolving race, we will get there, but not until we all change our way of doing things
ME: it's your company and you can call it what you want, but if I didn't know you, I would totally think "what the hell is wrong with that company and why on earth are they called Kaplan?" The same goes for companies called Andy Best, Wellington, and all other related things. As far as I and a growing number of Nigerians are concerned, foreignness does NOT impress. It's only there to dazzle the uneducated Nigerian masses that don't know any better
HIM: at the moment the name suits Nigeria, cos this is where we are doing business and we must brand to fit in, we can’t change the whole country and their perception, at least not while we are just starting
ME: how does naming your company Kaplan help you to fit in? It does NOT make sense. It really does not, and it is sooo going to bite you in the ass in the end
HIM: its gives an impression that it’s foreign, Nigerians embrace foreign. That’s not my making
ME: when they hear Kaplan they are going to expect white people, and when they see you they are going to get pissed off, and how does that help you?
HIM: they will see black reps
ME: no, they will see black people pretending to be white. Has it really come to that?
HIM: no way
ME: that you have to pretend to be white in YOUR OWN COUNTRY. Because that is what you are doing
Whether you realize it or not, by naming your company Kaplan
HIM: they will see black reps doing things the white man way, that’s the way the country is for now
ME: there is NO white man way
How can you not see this? Success is success. the colour of your skin has fuck all to do with it there are just as many white failures as there are black failures you are implying that running a successful business is the "white man way" and running an unsuccessful one is the "black man way"
HIM: success comes doing things the right way with God on your side. We have learnt from the western world.
ME: I CANNOT believe you just said that. I really CANNOT believe I just read that. This is PRECISELY the reason why that country is getting fucked in every hole by her OWN PEOPLE! So by your reasoning, Mike Adenuga is white or at least should be
HIM: u miss the point.
ME: no I don't. YOU miss the point. The point is whether you like it or not, YOU are a BLACK AFRICAN, you live in a BLACK AFRICAN country, you CANNOT pretend to be a white person because you think that it makes your company better by being white or white affiliated, and by doing this
HIM: Mike couldn’t have done it without following the right way and using the best brains, both white and black
ME: YOU are undermining an entire country of people. Yes. BUT YOU SAID that doing stuff well is "THE WHITE WAY" that is what you said implying that black people and specifically Nigerians are incapable of being successful at anything not a literal meaning of that
ME: implying that Nigerians need the crutch of whiteness to help them succeed
HIM: I mean the western way, implying the professional and right way
ME: implying that if you do not give your company a name that will cause most people to think that it is white owned that it will fail. THE WESTERN WAY IS NOT THE PROFESSIONAL OR RIGHT WAY
HIM: hats not what it is
ME: ALL COUNTRIES HAVE PROFESSIONAL AND RIGHT MODES OF BEHAVIOUR AND BUSINESS but YOU are trying to imply that the only correct way of doing anything must come from the west
HIM: Not Nigeria, try doing business here and u would know the difference
ME: and I CANNOT BELIEVE that you sincerely think this way, and by the way, companies have social responsibility
HIM: I do
ME: what do you think of that huh? Your company has a social responsibility to the Nigerian people
HIM: yes I agree to that
ME: to not attempt to brainwash them any further than they already have been
HIM: we are not brainwashing them
ME: because a Nigerian company was too afraid to operate under a Nigerian name. Yes you are. You and every Nigerian company out there called John Adams or whatever. Every one of you are destroying the self esteem of generations of unborn Nigerian children
HIM: Know the truth, we can’t change Nigeria just yet, no matter how good and strong your views are the country will not change just yet for the two of us
ME: but I am against effacing your own culture because you don't think it's good enough
HIM: no wahala. I get ur point and I have noted them
ME: which is exactly what happened to us when the British and the slavers came and it's happening again just not so violently .I'm not saying this to you because I want to pour sand in your garri. I say it to everyone. I say it on blogs, when I write articles, when I talk to people
HIM: hmmm, ur really passionate about this whole thing.
ME: every time Nigerian artists, as they are doing right now, populate their videos with white girls, they are sending a message to little Nigerian girls; your daughter, your sister, your cousin, your friend
HIM: it sells there videos
ME: that they are NOT GOOD ENOUGH .that is what they are saying to these children>don't bother, EVEN IN YOUR OWN COUNTRY you are NOT, and WILL NEVER BE GOOD ENOUGH. Is that something you would like your baby sister or your daughter growing up believing? That she is not good enough for even the people in her own country? That she is worthless because she is not white? If you are okay with that then hey, but I am not. People might say "oh that sells their videos" but have you stopped to think WHY that is what sells their videos?
HIM: madam, I think we should continue this talk when I come to Yankee
ME: have you stopped to think WHY black people would rather see a white person on TV than another black person?
HIM: i need to leave my office now
ME: it is because every day they run into companies, Nigerian companies called Kaplan. I'm fine
HIM: hope ur fine and school is ok
ME: go think about what I said long and hard
HIM: I won’t
ME: can't force you. It’s your call. But know it's not just a name. Every name has a meaning. Think about the meaning of yours
HIM: there is credit crunch, am thinking about one tin only, MONEY
ME: fine. If you want to sacrifice your children's future then have fun naming your company Kaplan but I know I will respect Dangote more
HIM: IT’S BEEN DONE, THE NAME CANT BE CHANGED
Me: it's DANGOTE sugar I see on the box. Maybe, but in five years, if you are successful I would change it if I were you
HIM: will think about that, but not until five years time
Me: fine, let your conscience be your guide
HIM: what’s the name of ur school? Anyway, I need to run. Talk again later. Take care
All I have to say is: When Etisalat decided to expand to Nigeria, they didn't even think about changing their name to sound more Nigerian in order to appeal to their new 140million strong Nigerian market. Come on, don't shake your head, everyone knows that LOADS of companies are known by very different names in different countries, and they do this in order to appeal to their local markets in each country. Given that Nigeria is by population, about half the size of the United States, you'd think we'd warrant companies making a few exceptions for us. But they don't, because we the Nigerians are already bending over backwards to divest ourselves of our Nigerianness to please foreigners. We're almost as bad as the Africans that do tribal dances whenever the Vogue crew comes around for another photo shoot and uses tribal chiefs as living props for some hungry-ass model. I’m just sitting here shaking my head. Maybe there really is no hope and I should just give up and go and study for my finance exam instead.