By: Charles Ikedikwa Soeze, fhnr, fcida, fcai, cpae, son, emba, ksq
The British Institute of Public Relations (BIPR) in 1964 defines PR practice as a “deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding between an organization and its publics”. While the author of the book Practical PR, Pitman defines PR as “the establishment of two-way communication to resolve conflicts of interest and the establishment of understanding based on truth, knowledge and full information”.
However, Nigerians heaved a big sigh of relief when the nation on the 29th of May 1999 commenced a democratic structure after many years of military rule. Events unfolding since the birth of the ‘baby’ have seriously challenged the hope of survival. It is a truism to say that the dawn of democracy in Nigeria has seen the nation swim in the multiple issues and events that have threatened the entire socio-economic and political fabrics of Nigeria. It is crystal and abundantly clear that problems have paved way for problems; some are rooted in conflict interest between or among various institutions in the social structure while others suffer under ineffective communication between the government and her relevant publics. One may believe that the ‘forces’ fueling the fire that makes the situation of the nation more of a cauldron have not ceased to exist.
In view of the fact that reputation is an essential top management responsibility, so is public relations, in other words, not an optional extra, nor a function that can be delegated to amateur administrators. Policy must be decided and supported from the top. The best public relations policies to manage reputation will not be developed by instinct alone, though it may play a helpful role; there is no room for the enthusiastic amateur in the sensitive and critical area of human relations. What it means here is that a good public relations needs thought, planning and organization. No manager can claim to have ‘natural’ public relations skills any more than a natural talent for law, personnel, finance, or production. The development of a worthwhile public relations policy needs as much thought, attention and professional skill as does the financial, personnel or any other business discipline. In essence, public relations must be a two-way activity; listening to what the publics think, as well as projecting and protecting the organization’s messages using relevant media, print, broadcast, in-house magazine among others. It follows that public relations efforts can only be effective where the aims of the organization are compatible with the expectations of the public.
It is quite obvious that a few actions and activities have passed unexplained, thereby creating unnecessary communication gap and palaver between the government and the people. These can make any nation not to survive democratically. The recent public investigation of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) by the Capital Market Committee (CMC) of the House of Representatives showed at a glance that corruption has eaten deep into the fabric of the nation. What baffles one is that the legislative organ that is being expected to wipe out corruption has been allegedly be involved in corrupt practices. Where then do we go from here? In a situation where someone allegedly spent poor tax payers money any how when Nigerians are suffering from abject poverty calls for questioning. Hon. Herman Hembe, immediate past chairman of the CMC accused Ms Arunmah Oteh, the Director General of SEC as follows: the use of N66.1m to rent an official apartment for herself in Abuja after she had spent N30m on hotel accommodation in eight months. She was further accused of spending N42.5m to procure three Toyota vehicles without following due process and contrary to the Public Procurement Act 2007 and for spending N850,000.00 on food in just one day. Astonishingly, Ms Oteh fired back to the chagrin of Nigerians thanks to the media for disseminating the information.
Ms Oteh alleged that Hon Hembe asked the SEC to contribute N44m for a televised public hearing on the workings of the Commission. In addition, the SEC paid Hembe’s fare and estacode to attend a conference on emerging markets in the Dominican Republic. Hembe neither attended nor refunded the money. The alleged corruption at the top echelon is alarming and calls for thorough investigation because it has not only dented but denigrated the image of Nigeria locally, nationally and internationally. Probably, that was why at an open discussion at the newspaper depot in the oil city of Warri with some elites over this controversial issue, they were forced to ask do we now have law makers or ‘thief makers’. The emergency elite friends pointed out that legislators do hijack budgets and get compensated through fictitious contracts or “Ghana Must Go Bag’. The rate of corruption at this period when many things have degenerated including our hospitals from mere consulting room to ‘executive’ mortuary, if only there will be regular power supply to such hospitals. We don’t see this as problems since poor tax payers money can be used by the top echelons to go to abroad for medical check-up. There is need for the Oteh and Hembe imbroglio to be thoroughly investigated and the poor tax payers be informed of the outcome. This is because many Nigerians who put their money in the stock market lost such investments and have been in financial mess. The money allegedly demanded by the House Committee, was it their legitimate right? Was that a special allowance that would not be made public? There should be need for massive investigation so that we will know the truth of the matters raised. What about the police pension funds and many others? It is most unfortunate that those who served the Federal Republic of Nigeria meritoriously and retired honourably can no longer get their retirement benefits as a result of greed and irresponsibilities of some Nigerians.
While many Nigerians are happy with the on-going probes by the House into the activities of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), it should continue to be an open investigation with the media in attendance not in camera because we are in democracy not under the junta when military tribunal can try someone in camera and provide the accuse with a lawyer. There is the need for the electorate to know more about their elected members in preparation for a future election. There is no doubt that many things can elude Nigeria if the timely communications of government moves on sensitive issues of public interest are delayed because misunderstanding comes from lack of communication, misinformation or disinformation. We must therefore not exhibit sheer self-deception of the highest magnitude if our government claims ignorance of the fact that, the almost countless catalogue of “catastrophic” conflict of interests threatening the unity of the nation have their root in the constitution of the nation. Finally, dissemination of information under democracy must not be put in oblivion.
Charles Ikedikwa Soeze, fhnr, fcida, fcai, cpae, son, emba, ksq is a
Mass Communications scholar cum professional public relations
practitioner based in Warri, Delta State, Nigeria. 08036724193