PR Practitioners Suggest Strategies For National Cohesion
By Azeez Disu
In the face of Nigeria’s poor image and disunity among its people, practitioners have called for deployment of Public Relations strategies to change the narrative.
Recall despite series of campaigns launched by the federal government (past and present) like Ethical Revolution, Green Revolution, War Against Indiscipline (WAI), Heart of Africa, Change Begins With Me and among other initiatives, the image of the country continued to get worsen and on the call of the name “Nigeria” the thought of poverty-stricken nation, insecurity, corruption and other vices appear in the mental map of foreigners and the negatives is also prominent in the utterance of its citizens.
However, Stakeholders at the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) Annual Conference/ Annual General Meeting (AGM) tagged “Abuja 2019” held at the International Conference Centre Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory said all hope is not lost as they called for National cohesion in the interest of changing the narratives. The theme of the event was “Optimizing Public Relations Strategies for National Cohesion.”
The Guest Speaker, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Sokoto said religious bias and ethnicity are some of the challenges confronting the nation, adding that the world sees the country as a dangerous place to live with no electricity and high rate of insecurity.
In another vein, he said the bureaucracy of Nigerian government does not make the information and communications ministry to function properly. He added that discrimination, youth neglect and government’s penchant for picking nonprofessionals are some of the challenges the country is also facing.
Meanwhile, he stated that until the negative perception is corrected, marketing the country will be an effort in futility.
On this point above, PR Practitioners at the panel session stated that the change of perception about the country has to start from within, pointing that the people, government and media have a role to play.
One of the panelist, Ayeni Adekunle; Founder and CEO, BHM Group, said telling a good and positive story is important for the brand Nigeria considering that people consume content and as such the content created should be inspiring to trigger a paradigm shift for a positive thought about the country.
He explained further that people from the entertainment industry; musicians and actors in Nollywood and others should endeavour to generate positive content that would inspire greatness. He pointed that China was known for substandard products but today it has been able to change the narrative especially with its quality products and proudly China trade mark.
He added that there are many lessons Nigeria can learn from China and America who have built a great reputation over time. Ayeni pointed out that sports, music and movies can be a great media to be deployed to change the country’s negative narratives.
Similarly, Nkechi Ali-Balogun; Principal Consultant/CEO, NECCI Limited said the country has failed to sell its values to the world, citing that America has been able to promote its values that every man is born equal through its America’s dream and it consistently promoting the concept of patriotism of its citizens and the greatest of its country through its movies.
Sadly, she said Nigeria’s movie industry “Nollywood” tells negative stories of kidnapping, ritual killings, prostitution and other vices which further worsen the perception of people about the country and its people. She therefore advocated that Nollywood storytelling and media houses should change and promote more of positive happenings than concentrating on negative stories.
Also, she said the education system has a role to play in re-orienting the students on the country’s history, core values and the need to join hands to solve the challenges of the country, judging from the fact that people are living their own dreams and not a national dream.
Hence she urged PR practitioners to help government develop a communication programme that would put the country on a positive light.
She said “It is high time Nigeria came up with a programmes that would bring about progress and once that is done, marketing Nigeria will be easy.”
Also speaking, Professor Umaru Pate; Dean’s Office, Faculty of Communication, Bayero University, Kano called for strengthening of the existing institutions and urged all to stop hate speeches and individually contribute their own quota to nation building.
Asides the deliberation, interestingly, Mallam Mukhtar Sirajo, President, Chairman of Council, NIPR was conferred with the Fellowship of the institute for his outstanding contribution to the growth of Public Relations practice in the country.
It would be recalled that Sirajo at the press conference held to announce the activities of the conference/AGM said “It is important that we as people should begin to take issues of national unity very seriously given the key position it occupies in meeting the expectations of citizens and promoting national development.
“No entity grows or develops in disunity. Let’s go back to our unique culture of love for one another, strong bond of brotherhood that know no tribe or religion, habit of hospitality that does not emphasise state of origin, and let’s embrace tolerance as an option for co-existence.”