Considering the myriad of challenges plaguing the country, Dr. Bisi Olawuyi of the Department of Communication & Language Arts, University of Ibadan, and a hands-on PR Consultant has advocated that the principles of public relations can, and should be deployed as an integrative tool for effective governance in Nigeria.
Dr. Olawuyi who was speaking on the theme: Public Relations in/and for Governance: Towards an Integrative Relational Approach, was the guest lecturer at the Quarterly Lecture of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (Oyo State) chapter at the Banquet Hall, Premier Hotel, Ibadan.
The don noted that PR can indeed become an integrative tool when the PR professionals who work for government as consultants and those who discharge PR functions in-house, come to leverage the 21st century understanding of the role and definition of public relations that suggests that “PR provides a new level of leadership for management to integrate relationships inside as well as outside an organization using a wide range of management strategies and tactics including communication”
According to Olawuyi, currently, “public relations is a cheaply abused profession in Nigeria”, hence the bastardization, misconception and wrong practice of PR in Nigeria need be corrected to enhance the practice. “PR in many organizations is either misunderstood or deliberately misinterpreted to claim mastery of the profession,” he said.
It is important to restate that the primary task of public relations professional is to facilitate the “establishment and maintenance of mutual understanding between an organization and its publics.”
Within the context of government, he told the capacity filled hall, the organization of PR should be one that engenders government-citizen engagement and it is worthy of note that governments were among the first organisations to need, and to practice, public relations as a way of maintaining appropriate relationships with their citizens.
Therefore, it is instructive to note that the chief duty of PR in government is in the adoption and application of the core values of the profession in promoting good governance in achieving equity, participation, pluralism, transparency, accountability and the rule of law, in a manner that is effective, efficient and enduring in the running of institutions of government, he affirmed.
Expatiating on the misconceptions and problems ravaging the country such as Boko Haram, kidnapping, insurgency , economy recession and others, he claimed some self-inclined individuals are ill bent on dividing the country, hence their consistent claim that the amalgamation of the regions by the colonial masters is responsible for the various forms of insurgency and problems.
For him, the debate on Nigeria, whether to be or not, has been excessively exaggerated by the political elites in order to advance their selfish desire.
Citing Professor Obaro Ikime, in a lecture entitled “In Search of Nigerians: Changing Patterns of Inter-Group Relations in an Evolving Nation State” affirmed making of Nigeria by the colonialists is not the cause of our failure to evolve into a nation-state.
“Years after independence, many Nigerians still explain our inability to forge a truly united nation in terms of the fact that Nigeria is an artificial creation of the British. In taking that attitude, we assume that our situation is peculiar. Of course, we must know, deep down, that it is not. Most nations of the world are artificial creations, in so far as they are the products of accidents of history,’, the guest lecturer noted.
He furthered his argument, “U.S.A is also a product of artificial creation and it is evidence that artificiality of the original coming together of diverse groups does not constitute an insurmountable barrier to the building of a united nation-state”, adding that “If we in Nigeria have thus far failed to evolve policies and strategies that can lead to the emergence of a truly united nation, let us not blame it on our past. Rather let us take a hard look at our policies and our strategies’’ he advised.
He lamented that CEO, business owners and top-level management don’t understand the role and value of the practice, and they don’t view PR practitioners as legitimate members of the strategic decision-making circles.
For the lecturer, “PR in/and for governance” means “the process of managing purposeful communication and action by an organization or individual actor for political purposes in an attempt to influence, establish, build, and sustain mutually beneficial relationships with its key publics in order to gain their support and achieve its goals on the bases of accountability, transparency, responsiveness, rule of law, stability, equity, inclusiveness, empowerment, and broad-based participation”.
In view of the above, he noted that Public Relations in/and for government is invaluable. “A democratic government is best served by a free two-way flow of ideas and accurate information so citizens and their governments can make informed choices. A democratic government must and be accountable to the citizens it serves while citizens as taxpayers have a right to government information – but with some exceptions”
“The profession has more to offer than is currently known to those in government as well as prospects”, he submitted, adding that the practice of PR in the 21st century is far more evolving and the dynamics have changed. “The public can no longer be fed with news you dictate to them because they have the power, enlightenment and more orientation on things around them”.
For public relations to lead the charge in the integrative relational approach that could give fillip to governance in Nigeria, the professional must come to the full consciousness that “power and influence are crucial to getting things done inside organisations” but quite, unfortunately, many of them confess to lacking that appropriate power to make things happen, he regretted.