Nigeria has launched a new branding campaign aimed at changing Nigeria's image as a nation of fraudsters and cheats, in perpetual crisis and where nothing works.  Many Nigerians feel their country is unfairly maligned because of the criminal activities of a few citizens.

Information Minister Dora Akunyili says the campaign is an attempt to correct what she describes as a "faulty perception and assault" on the reputation of the ordinary Nigerian.  She says the country's image problem means Nigerians are selectively targeted around the world.

"Today, many of us cannot take our Nigerian citizenship to the bank.  At different international airports, in the trains, shopping malls and almost everywhere, every Nigerian is a marked person.  We are pulled aside for questioning," Akunyili said. "We are seen as potential drug pushers and fraudsters.  Very unfortunately we are denied the benefit of the doubt."

The government's position is that a skewed world view will not allow people outside to see the real Nigeria.

While acknowledging the country's problems, Akunyili characterizes Nigeria as a country with countless opportunities.  She says the new branding effort will be a people-oriented national campaign.

"A critical stage of this campaign will focus on creating awareness and the use of a participatory process to involve all Nigerians.  In the next few weeks and months, we will visit virtually all states and some local government councils to hold meetings with stakeholders, to discuss rebranding.  We intend to involve our children in this campaign, so as to catch them young.  We intend to set up rebranding clubs in secondary schools and tertiary institutions across the country," she said.

The government plans to spend more than $1 million for the "Nigeria: Good People, Great Nation" campaign.

The initiative has been criticized in the local media as another opportunity to fritter away the nation's scarce resources, after it emerged that a previous campaign consumed millions of dollars without a commensurate result.

Other say the government has its priorities wrong.  They want the government to focus on improving the nation's security and its collapsing infrastructure.