The Federal Government of Nigeria needs a public relations rescue after landing in deep waters over the long-standing drama about the Dubai visa ban on Nigerians and the unpaid trapped funds to Emirates and other airlines.
The new President Bola Tinubu still scrambling for public goodwill seemed to have pulled off a huge public relations coup after his UAE visit, and announced to the world the lifting of UAE visa ban on Nigerians and the immediate resumption of flights by the high-profile Emirates Airlines and Etihad.
President Tinubu was basking in public relations splendor as the great news about the Emirates flight resumption was splashed in over 500 media channels in Nigeria and around the world within 24 hours.
The public relations mileage and the advertising value equivalent of the positive media coverage would have been over $500 million
But the public relations euphoria for brand Nigeria and President Tinubu’s new administration was short-lived.
Soon after the much-trumpeted historic announcement, the United Arab Emirates contradicted the claims made by the Nigerian government about lifting the year-long visa ban on Nigerian travelers.
An official from the Gulf state told CNN: “There are no changes on the Nigeria/UAE travel status so far.”
Emirates Airlines also kept sealed lips on the reported visa restoration and resumption of flights from Nigeria to Dubai, which used to be one of its most lucrative routes in the world.
An earlier statement by the UAE government had also questioned the Nigerian government’s claim. It said both leaders had during the meeting, “explored opportunities for further bilateral collaboration with the hope of reinforcing ties between the UAE and Nigeria,” but did not mention lifting the visa ban or flights restarting.
In a follow-up statement, Nigerian government spokesman Ngelale said officials from both countries needed more time to finalize agreement details, contradicting his earlier statement.
Dubai, the elites’ playground
There was much jubilation from excited Nigerians when it was announced that the visa ban was lifted.
Dubai is a popular destination for thousands of Nigerian tourists and its business class. It is also a haven for real-estate investors from the country. CNN reported that before the pandemic, Nigerians ranked among Dubai’s largest foreign real-estate investors, with investments valued at nearly $2 billion.
Before the ban, Emirates Airlines operated two daily flights from Lagos, Nigeria, to Dubai, and one daily flight from the capital Abuja to Dubai.
Until the UAE diplomatic tangle is resolved and the Nigerian government swims out of the deep public relations muddy waters, the Dubai playground will still be out of reach for the Nigerian elites and travelers.
Public relations last word
The Nigerian and UAE debacle and the dropped ball by the Nigerian government’s media machinery confirms another public relations truism: PR hype can fly you high. But truth and reality can quickly crash you down